• Lisa

Top 10 Beaches on the Big Island of Hawaii

Updated: Jun 30

When you think of Hawaii you immediately think of white sand beaches, palm trees, and ocean waves. The Big Island of Hawaii is no different, except you get so much more than that!


There are Black Sand Beaches, Green Sand Beaches, and more! You'll find beaches along the highway, beaches that require a hike, and beaches that are hidden away from the world. There are so many different and unique beaches to explore on this island. I'm posting the Top 10 Beaches below.




1. Hapuna Beach

Kohala Coast


Perfect For: Boogie Boards, Surfing, Sunbathing

Accessibility: Easy - there is a paved path to walk down from the parking lot to reach the beach.

Amenities: Life Guards, Restrooms, Showers, Parking, Picnic Tables, Small Concession Stand


Hapuna Beach is often voted Top 10 Beaches in The World - and it's easy to see why! This white sand beach stretches along the West coastline and offers the perfect condition for swimming and sunbathing. There is a $5 fee to park for all non-Hawaiian guests with plenty of parking options. This beach has life guards, restrooms, picnic tables, and a small concession stand. There are typically waves on this beach that can range from small to quite large. In fact, there are days the lifeguards will not allow anyone into the water.



It is the most popular beach on the island so it can certainly get crowded in the afternoon and on weekends/holidays.


PS: There is only one resort on the Hapuna Beach. Check out my blog post about the Top 5 Resorts on the Big Island to find out which one!

2. Mauna Kea Beach

Kohola Coast


Perfect For: Sunbathing, Swimming

Accessibility: Easy - there is a 0.2 mile walk to get down to the beach but it is on a paved path.

Amenities: Restrooms, Parking, Life Guard


Mauna Kea Beach is a bit of a hidden gem to Tourists. It is behind a guardhouse so most people think you can't enter. However, Hawaii doesn't allow for any Private Beaches on the Island so you are entitled to enter. The guardhouse is operated by the Mauna Kea Resort. While they can't stop you from entering, they do control traffic and only allow a certain number of guests to enter (due to limited parking). I recommend going to this beach EARLY in the day for your best chance to get in.



This beach is in a cove, making it ideal for snorkeling and smaller children. The waves are minimal. Since this is shared with the Mauna Kea Resort Beach, half of the beach is filled with resort chairs and amenities (not available to the public). You can however, opt to paddle board or snorkel.

3. Punalu'u Black Sand Beach

South


Perfect For: Searching for Sea Turtles, Seeing Black Sand Beach

Accessibility: Easy - directly next to the parking lot

Amenities: Restrooms, Parking


Punalu'u Black Sand Beach is located on the very South tip of the island. As if seeing a Black Sand Beach isn't enough, you're almost guaranteed to see Sea Turtles too!!

4. Polulu Valley Beach

Kohola Coast


Perfect For: Hiking, Great View, Seeing Black Sand Beach

Accessibility: Medium - this will require a 30-45 minute hike down to the bottom of the valley.

Amenities: Small Parking Area (can fill up quickly).


On the completely opposite side of the Big Island, you'll find Pololu Valley. Many come here to admire the valley from the comfort of the lookout. However, the beach is located after a 0.6 mile hike down the cliff (1.2 miles roundtrip).


The Hike: The hike is medium to strenuous depending on the weather conditions. It tends to rain a lot in this area of the island which makes the downhill trek very slippery and difficult. Even on a dry day, the incline can be tricky. Go slow, and take your time.



The Beach: When you reach the bottom, you'll be rewarded with a black sand beach that is essentially all yours (and a small handful of other hikers). There are no amenities down in the valley whatsoever. Some people head into the jungle where others have made rope swings - you can feel like Tarzan! Others just sit and rest on dry wood along the shore admiring the ocean waves.

5. Papakolea Beach / Green Sand Beach

South


Perfect for: Hiking, Green Sand Beach

Accessibility: Strenuous

Amenities: None


I've mentioned white sand beaches and black sand beaches - now it's time to talk about the Island's GREEN sand beach. This is one of FOUR Green Sand Beaches in the World - the others are in Guam, Galapagos, and Norway. Green sand is made of olivines. People argue that the color of the sand is more of a golden hue, but it is mesmerizing nonetheless.


Papakolea is located at the southern point of the island. It is about 1.5 hours from both Kona and Hilo.


Hike: To reach the beach, you'll need to hike an hour from your car to the actual Green Sand Beach. It is roughly 2.8 miles one way. The hike itself follows the coastline and is over a mixture of mostly flat terrains (generally sand, mud, or grass). There is no shade on this hike so it can get hot quickly. Once you reach the beach, you'll have a gorgeous view from above. To actually get down to the beach, you'll need to get down a very steep cliff to the actual sand.

Note: Locals will sit in the parking lot and offer to drive you to the green sand beach on a 4 Wheel Drive. This is illegal as it ruins the terrain.


Beach: Some people enjoy swimming in the ocean waves here or sunbathing on the green sand.


(I went on a very gloomy, wet day, so the "green sand" looks a bit like dirt here)

6. Anaeho'omalu Bay (A Bay)

Kohola Coast


Perfect for: Swimming, Sunbathing, Snorkeling, Paddle Boarding, Sunsets

Accessibility: Easy

Amenities: Restrooms, Parking, Showers, Activities & Rentals (A Bay Beach Hut)



This salt and pepper beach is a favorite of both locals and tourists. The beach, often referred to as "A Bay" is inside of a bay, which makes the waves here almost nonexistent. The water is very calm and sometimes crystal clear! The beach has an area of palm trees that provides shade for those that don't want to sunbathe. One of the downsides of sunbathing here is that there always seems to be a few pesky knats around.


A Bay is also one of the most popular spots on the island for sunset pictures. Be sure to arrive 20 minutes early to stake out your sunset viewing spot.

Bonus: This beach also features my favorite restaurant on the island - Lava Lava Beach Club. You'll need a change of clothes from the beach to enter the restaurant. It often has a long wait for dinner, and can be slightly pricey. However, it's so worth it when the sun begins to set and you have a front row seat to the beautiful scene.


7. Richardson's Ocean Park

Hilo


Perfect for: Swimming, Kids, Snorkeling

Accessibility: Easy

Amenities: Lifeguard (from 7AM to 7PM), Restrooms, Showers, Parking, Picnic Tables, Telephones


Richardson's Ocean Park is very close to Hilo and is a huge attraction for locals on the weekends. I advise going during the week. Richardson’s Beach Park is part of a series of beach parks along Kalaniana’ole Avenue. The other beach parks are Carlsmith Beach Park, Lele’iwi beach park, James Ke’aloha Beach Park and Onekahakaha Beach Co Park.


I've also spotted turtles here!

8. Kua Bay (Manini'owali Beach)

Kona


Perfect for: Sunbathing, Surfing (Fall/Winter)

Accessibility: Medium

Amenities: Lifeguard, Restrooms, Showers, Limited Parking


Kua Bay is a white sand beach north of Kona. It is part of the Kekaha Kai state park. The road to get here is very bumpy so some people walk it instead of drive. People have said to see whales, dolphins, and sea turtles from this beach - I haven't been as lucky.

9. Kamakahonu Beach (King Kam Beach)

Kona


Perfect for: Kids, Snorkeling, Sunbathing

Accessibility: Easy

Amenities: Activities and Rentals (Kona Boys Beach Shop)


This beach is located in the heart of Kona. To me, it's not worth stopping here but it is perfect for small kids since it's located within a cove preventing waves. People come here to snorkel. I find it to be far too crowded and don't enjoy the close proximity to town. When I'm at a beach, I want to relax, and not see the traffic on the highway next to me. That being said, I know others enjoy it for the convenience!


Read more about my favorite things to do in Kona!


10. Spencer Beach Park

Kawaihae Harbor


Perfect for: Kids, Picnics, Camping

Accessibility: Easy

Amenities: Parking, Restrooms, Showers, Picnic Tables


Spencer Beach Park is a shaded, white sand beach that is perfect for a family picnic, or relaxing afternoon. The water is usually calm and the reefs are great for snorkeling. People often camp out near this beach (permit required).


There you have it - the Top 10 Best Beaches on the Big Island of Hawaii!!! How many can you check off your list during your trip?!


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Read the related Hawaii posts on Wanderlust With Lisa here:

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