The beaches on the Island of Hawaii, come in many shapes and colors. Discover volcanic black sand, white or even green sand beaches, or enjoy the drama of a rocky shoreline. Whether your favorite water activity is swimming, snorkeling, surfing, scuba, or boating along the coast, there is a perfect spot for everyone on the Big Island.
West Hawaii (from North to South)
Next to Puukohola Heiau near Kawaihae is this sandy, shallow beach which is a great spot for families. Ideal for picnics, camping (with permit), BBQ, and splashing in the usually calm water. Kawaihae Harbor is within sight of the beach. Just put your chair under one of the shady trees, grab a book and cold beverage and daydream away.
Located in front of the Mauna Kea hotel is this little piece of paradise with its 1/4 mile crescent-shaped white sand beach. Public beach parking is limited and entry is through the hotel grounds. Some say it is the most beautiful beach on the island and the occasional Manta Ray encounter is a breathtaking perk. At night guided Manta Ray snorkels are organized through the hotel.
A few miles south you’ll find one of Hawaii’s finest beaches. Hapuna Beach is the largest white sand beach on the island. At its northern end you’ll see the Hapuna Beach Resort, the southern part is dominated by a small cliff. All along the beach are great conditions for swimming and bodyboarding. Snorkeling is limited to around a few larger rocks. It is a sandy beach and there are no corals in the shallower areas. During the winter months, you may be able to see humpback whales passing by.
Waialea Beach is a picturesque place with trees growing close to the water, giving shade and creating cozy spots to set up one’s beach chair. Waialea Beach is also called “69 beach” because of the number 69 utility pole next to the road.
The calm waters of this beach invite you for long swims or just floating around near the shore. The bay has a sandy bottom with some rocks and along the edges are nice coral fields that make for a decent snorkel adventure, depending on the currents and visibility. Ocean Sports run a kiosk with beach toy rentals and this is also the launching place for some of their cruises. Anaehoomalu Bay is a favorite spot for watching sunsets and it is flanked by Lava Lava Beach Club on the south and the Marriott Waikoloa resort on the northern side. Parking is usually good and there are clean restrooms and showers.
Do you want to see the bluest water on the island? Maniniowali Beach has it. The combination of white sand, black lava rocks, and the turquoise to azure waters are just breathtaking. Be aware of the shore break and strong currents here, which often increase during the winter months. On calm days it is a thrill to swim here and to play in the (small) waves. Be especially careful when you see that the waves are getting stronger. Parking is limited.
This small beach in front of the King Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel is a unique place that needs to be experienced. Where else in the world can you swim next to an ancient heiau (temple) and the area that was once the political center of the island under King Kamehameha’s rule? The beach is sandy and in the water, there are smooth rocks. It is not deep at first but will get deeper past the heiau. Watch the lines in the water for the swimming area.
This is the famous launching spot for the swimming part of the Ironman World Championships and perhaps for your own morning swim. Buoys mark the course at the 1/2 mile marker, the 3/4 mile marker, and at 1.2 miles. Stay on the left side of these and let the boaters have the rest.
A snorkel heaven and also a great surf spot for beginners and advanced. Climb over smooth rocks to access this underwater wonder teeming with tropical fish and beautiful corals. To the right at the ocean entry in the seawall, the waves invite you to get on your board and hang ten. Please follow the reef rules and for your own safety and the health of the marine world, don’t step on coral or take anything out of the water.
This beautiful bay with its big history is best accessed by boat. It is the place where Captain Cook first landed on the island and also found his demise shortly after. A monument still reminds of him. It is a prime snorkel spot and there is a good range of boat tours offering trips from Kona.
Next to the Puuhonua o Honaunau historical park, you’ll find what is called the best snorkel spot on the island. It is also known as “2-Step” after the two natural rock steps that are used as the entry point into this underwater wonderworld. Water entry can be tricky depending on the tides. It is recommended for experienced snorkelers. The underwater landscape is magnificent and teeming with colorful marine life.
A unique park with a shallow pool protected from the ocean waves by a line of rocks and edged by a man-made concrete wall with steps going into the water. The bottom is fine white sand and at high tide, it is possible to swim laps. The water depts range from knee to hip deep. It is a great place for children and for a family picnic.
Coves, lagoons, an island, turtles, and the clearest water. What need we say more. This enchanted place has kept its magic and needs to be seen and experienced. The bottom of the water is fine white sand, all surrounded by black lava rocks. There are very cold spots in the water resulting from natural freshwater springs.
Meet the turtles! One of the best snorkeling spots on the island with a small but colorful reef, protected by a wall of large rocks in the ocean. A small black sand is the entry into the ocean paradise which also boasts a magnificent view of Mauna Kea on a clear day.
South Hawaii Island and Puna
Black sand, protected green sea turtles basking in the sun, swaying palm trees, and an ancient pond are the most memorable parts of this amazing beach. Swimming is limited due to many rocks, but at the northern end of the beach, you’ll find decent entry into the water. Be very careful as the currents can be strong in that area. The visibility is too low for snorkeling.
Since the 2018 Kilauea eruption, Isaac Hale Beach Park, aka Pohoiki boat ramp, is a big brand new black sand beach. Changing currents make swimming challenging and please heed the safety warnings and check with the lifeguard. Good for experienced (!) surfers. The old boat ramp has been closed off by lava sand and you’ll find a small naturally heated pond there. Be aware of bacteria that might be present.