AROUND THE ISLAND BEACH TOUR
The Island of Hawaii is the youngest island in the archipelago, indeed, it is still growing as the island’s active volcano continues to add land mass every day. Hawaii has not had time to develop the coral sand beaches that encircle the other older islands. With the exception of the Kona Kohala Coast most of the beaches consists of black lava that has been ground into sand by the ocean.
Despite the island’s youth, we have more than 41 beaches around the island.
Some of the beaches are very difficult to access. Waimanu valley in particular is a long dangerous hike, or can be reached by helicopter or, on calm days, by kayak. Some beaches have dangerous surf or rip tides, and swimming is not advised.
The Hawaiians did not have a written language. To compensate they developed prodigious memories, and a system of mnemonics. Place names, in particular, were descriptive of the place, or would recall some famous legend associated with the place. We have included one translation of the Hawaiian name for the beaches. Most Hawaiian words have multiple meanings – many of those meanings are kauna or secret and often there is a humorous or sexual connotation to some of the words. If you visit a beach see if you can recognize the why the beach bears its name. (For assistance, consult "Place Names of Hawaii" by Mary Kawena Pukui, Samuel H Elbert & Esther T. Mookini. A copy of this book is on the shelves in each of our homes.)
We suggest that one think of our beaches as located in six geographical areas:
Along Alii Drive - the 7 mile drive where our homes are located
North of Kona
East Hawaii - Hilo
The Mystical Valleys of Hamakua
Decide whether you are interested in snorkeling, swimming, swimming with dolphins, body surfing, boogie boarding, surfing, kayaking, paddle boarding, shore diving (scuba), outrigger canoeing, sailing, and whether there is a nearby restaurant for lunch or dinner, hotel, shopping, golf or historical sites and plan your trip accordingly.
Heading South from road's end to Highway 11
Pololu (long spear): If you are in good health and up to the hike, the trip down the valley, while a real work out, will reward you with great photo opportunities of spectacular black sand beach, a glorious green valley and bright blue ocean. Caution: Strong currents & rip tides swimming not recommended
Kokea Beach Park (white sugar cane): A rocky beach where locals surf & boogie boar. Restrooms & picnic tables.
Mahu Kona Landing (leeward stream): No beach but great snorkelling & clear water, particularly on calm days. Access is easy from ladder at end of the pier. Underwater you will see the remnants of days when the harbor was a busy hub.
Lapakahi State Park (single ridge): Site of a 600 year old Hawaiian fishing village. No real beach but great snorkeling. Amenities include outdoor showers and toilets.
Spencer Beach Park @ Kawaihai (wild water): Soft white sand beach and reef-protected waters. Safe for swimming year-round. Not great for snorkeling. Nearby is the Pu'ukohola Heiau National Historic Park.
Mau'umae (withered grass) This beach is one of the Big Island's hidden gems. The beach is usually quiet during the week and a great place for a picnic. A nice walking trail leads to Mauna Kea beach. Snorkeling is usually marginal.
Mauna Kea Beach Hotel (white mountain): Great beach, great golf, great hotel. Beach access is limited unless you golf or eat at the hotel.
Hapuna Beach at Hapuna Prince Hotel (spring, pool): Bodysurfing, body boarding in summer but undertow can be tricky in winter. Just be aware. Snorkeling excellent around the rocks at either end. Strong currents when the surf is up. It is possible to rent water sport equipment and get food at the concession stand at the Hotel. Free parking.
Waialea Bay (AKA Beach 69): Great for sun, shade and snorkeling. Beautiful beach, and water is usually calm and clear for snorkeling. Restrooms.
Fairmont Orchid Hotel at Waikoloa: Nice beach, great hotel, 2 great golf courses (see Golf), restaurants
Maka'iwa Bay at Mauna Lani (mother-of-pearl eyes [as idol]): Maka'iwa Bay is a charming little beach within the Mauna Lani resort. The bay is a favorite for beginner scuba divers and great for snorkeling. This is also the location of the Maka'iwa Bay Fish Pond. A great beach walk leads nearly all the way from Puako, past this beach and down to the Waikoloa resort.
Anaeho'omalu Beach (AKA A-Bay) (mullet): This beach, fronts the Waikoloa Beach Marriott. Very accessible to the public with free parking. A well protected bay great for swimming, snorkeling, windsurfing and diving. It is possble to rent kayaks, boogie board, snorkel gear, arrange for glass bottom boat charter, etc. Restaurants.
Kiholo Bay (fish hook or shark hook): One of the great secret spots on the island. A two mile hike from the highway but well worth it!
Four Seasons Hotel: Nice Beach, restaurants, limited access
Kukio (small pool or settled dregs) : Kukio Beach is a long beach, often with many turtles. Unfortunately rocks and murky water make it less suited for swimming and snorkeling.
Kekaha Kai Beach Park : This Park has two beaches. The beach park is accessed by a poorly maintained but driveable dirt road that takes at least 15 minutes (instead of the 3 that it would take if it was a "normal" road) to navigate. This is also the access point for the most impressive Makalawena Bech, an additional 15 minute hike north.
Makalawena (glow or flirtatious eye contact) : A 15 minute walk north of Kekaha Kai Beach Park. One of the island's finest beaches - hard to get to - drive to Kekaka Kai Beach Park, walk 15-20 minutes north. Usually uncrowded. Swimming, snorkeling, clear water.
Manini'owali @ Kua Bay (weak little fish ref. a child):About 12 miles north of Kailua-Kona, part of Kekaha Kai State Park. Beautiful beach of fine white sand, and clear water. Excellent swimming. Watch for rocks if body surfing or boogie boarding.
Wawaloli (rumor of change): The main attraction on this small beach is the sand-filled tide pools, which are protected from high surf by rock walls. These shallow basins are nice play areas for children and offer a cool retreat for adults. Wawaloli Beach Park is operated by the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii (NELHA) and the Hawaii Ocean Science and Technology (HOST) Park. They provide convenient facilities to spend a day, such as picnic tables, barbecue grills, showers and restrooms.
Old Kona Airport This beach is generally clean, and dotted with rocks and coral pieces. Calm waters make for good snorkeling and a few accssible small coves of white sand offer safe water entry and tide pools for children. Shady areas are good for picnics. Just, an offshore surf break, known as Old A's, is popular with local surfers. Showers, toilets and free parking.
Alii Drive heading South
Kamakahonu (turtle's eye) : In Kailua town, next to the pier. Site of King Kamehameha's residence in Kailua. 2.5 miles north of Kona Beach Houses. Good for distance swimming as well as taking an easy break. Many restaurants nearby.
Honi's (John Honi, charter boat cap't.): Just 1 mile north of Konabeachhouses - Surfing, boogie boarding
Kona Beach Houses lagoon! Just stay "home"! Swimming (at high tide), snorkeling and spending time with the honu!
La'aloa (very sacred): Also known as "White Sands" and "disappearing sands" because the beach retreats in the winter. 1 mile south of our Kona Beach Houses - local body surfing. Usually crowded. The ruins of Haukalua Heiau are on the point just south of the beach.
Kahalu'u Bay (diving place): Two miles south of our Kona Beach Houses, black sand beach. Usually quite crowded. Swimming, snorkeling, surfing (surf lessons available), paddle boarding, restrooms, historic site.
Keauhou Bay Beach Park (new era or current): Swimming, snorkeling, paddle boarding (good place to learn as it is quite sheltered), sailing, canoeing, golf, historic site. 3 miles south of our Kona Beach Houses. Valerie used to swim across this bay to visit friends when she was much younger.
Kealakekua Bay (pathway of the god)
Napo'opo'o Beach Park and Manini Beach - Mostly rocky with small sand beach/channel for access to water. Located at the South end of Kealakekua Bay. Views of the Kealakekua cliffs and the Captain Cook Monument across the Bay. Commercial activity available to get to monument and kayak rentals. Good swimming, snorkeling, swim with dolphins, kayak, paddle board. Burial place of great chiefs.
Pu'uhonua O Honaunau-two step (place of refuge): This is a National Park - entry fee required. Easy entry to the water from smooth, flat rocks. Excellent snorkeling or SCUBA with beautiful fish and coral. Enjoy Hawaiian historic sight seeing and cool off afterwards in the Bay. You may see spinner dolphins in the deeper water. Port-a-pottys, no concessions.
Miloli'i (swirling current) : Old fishing village, as near to "old Kona" as it gets. Locals not welcoming of disrespectful tourists. Please comport yourselves accordingly.
Honomolino (calm bay): A short hike from Miloli'i, takes you to this lovely black sand beach and a feeling of "old Hawai'i". This is another good snorkeling beach. Day use only and no facilities.
Ho'okena Beach Park (satisfy thirst, weary from heavy toil): About 20 miles south of our Kona Beach Houses and down a 2.5 mile road (between mile markers 101 and 102) is this lovely, calm bay that was once a thriving port. Clean soft mix of dark brown and gray sand. Good for swimming, snorkeling, kayaking and diving. Camping allowed. Free parking, showers, toilets and concessions.
Papakolea (plover flats): Located near South Point, the green sand is due to olivine crystals from the eroding headlands. Olivine is a common mineral found in Hawaiian lava and one of the first crystals to form as magma cools. Accessible by walking (about 2 miles) or by jeep or other elevated vehicles (and you are an experienced driver) along rugged, eroded path. Locals will sometimes offer rides for $10-$20/person. Best mostly for the view. Swimming not advised.
Punalu'u (spring dived for): Visually stunning, this beach is surrounded by palm trees and is a favorite resting spot of the honu (do not disturb them as the Green Sea Turtles are endangered). There are strong rip currents and swimmming is not recommended unless you are an experienced ocean swimmer. But it is great for walking. At the northern end are the ruins of Kane'ele'ele Heiau.
Kaimu (gathing at the sea to watch surfing): Beautiful black sand beach. But dangerous and swimming not advised.
Kehena (AKA Dolphin Beach) (place where refuse is burned, dump): While the origin of the Hawaiian name is now a mystery, this is a long, narrow, black sand beach with powerful waves and a strong undertow. Access is down a steep 30' rock cliff. Known as a "power spot", this is a clothing optional beach. Not unusual to see dolphins off shore.
We probably should, but are reluctant to, remove this beautiful spot from our tour. Kaphoho Tide Pools were completely inundated by lava during the 2018 eruption and are no longer in existance. Kapoho Tide Pools (depression, where salt made): (Wai'opae Marine Life Conservation District) Located in a residential area, those pools closest to the ocean were public. These were beautiful tide pools, some heated by the volcano and great for soaking. Some were good for swimming & snorkeling. No sandy beach but it was an easy way to view more than a dozen types of coral and an equal number of types of fish. A devastating loss.
Hilo Bay (after famous navigator) One of the longest beaches on the island, and once one of the most beautiful, this 3,000 feet of black sand beach is undergoing a renaissance following pollution from industrial waste in the mid 1900's. Water is still not clear and fresh water from 3 streams make it one of the colder swimming spot. There are picnic tables, restrooms and showers as well as some concessions.
Richardson Ocean Park - Unremarkable beach, good swimming, snorkeling is just ok, restrooms
Onekahaka Beach Beach Park (plant in wet sand): Not much sand but easy, safe access to the inner pools. Great tide pools for children to explore. Near the end of Hilo Airport.
Kolekole Beach Park (raw, scarred): Located between Akaka and Umauma Falls, the beach is made up of large, water worn lava rocks. The ocean is rough with a rocky shore, riptides and stiff currents, but swimming is good in Kolekole stream. Popular with locals and can get rowdy on weekends.
The Mystical Valleys of Hamakua
The valleys of Hamakua
From the left Waipio, Waimanu and Pololu
Waipio Valley (curved water): One of the most incredible places on the Island, whether you only get as far as the valley look out or have the time and the stamina (and the 4-wheel drive vehicle) to venture down. Cauthion: the road is step, with deep pot holes and mud puddles. There is a shuttle, a mule-drawn wagon, horsback and/or ATV tours and commercial options. Once at the black sand beach, be cautious, as there is rough surf, strong currents and undertow. The View alone, however, is spectacular and a great spot for a picnic.
Waimanu Valley (bird water): Access very difficult, dangerous hike, kayak in calm seas or helicopter
Dawn at Waimanu Beach
And we have come full circle, back to the magnificent Pololu Valley: If you are in good health and up to the hike, the trip down the valley, while a real work out, will reward you with great photo opportunities of spectacular black sand beach, a glorious green valley and bright blue ocean. Caution: Strong currents & rip tides swimming not recommended