Looking for the best beaches to catch some sun and surf on the Big Island? Read below to find out the top white, black and green sand beaches on the Big Island of Hawaii.
The Big Island of Hawaii has one of the most diverse selections of beaches in the world. There’s something for sunbathers, swimmers, surfers, snorkelers, and animal lovers. Not only are there white sand beaches, but there are black sand and even green sand beaches too.
Table of Contents
- Best Beaches on the Big Island
- 1. Kamakahonu Beach
- 2. Papakolea Green Sand Beach
- 3. Kikaua Point Beach Park
- 4. Hapuna Beach
- 5. Punalu’u Black Sand Beach
- 6. Kehena Beach
- 7. Pohoiki Isaac Hale Beach
- 8. Ai’opio Beach
- 9. Kahalu’u Beach Park
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Best Beaches on the Big Island
The Big Island of Hawaii is well-known for its diverse selection of beaches, most found on the western and southern shores of the island. Here are all the details to help you pick which beach to visit.
Before you go, you’ll want to make sure to pack reef-safe sunscreen as it’s a requirement to protect the fragile reefs around the island. For one of the best options, buy it here.
1. Kamakahonu Beach
Kamakahonu Beach is a white sand beach in the heart of Kona. It’s known by a few different names including King Kam Beach and Kid’s Beach. This small beach is only about 200 feet long but ideal for sunbathers or those who want to swim and snorkel in a sheltered area. It’s the perfect place to stop for a couple-hour visit with family or friends.
The nearby ‘Ahu’ena Heiau Temple sits on a raised rock platform in the bay. It was reconstructed in the 1970s and is the sacred location where King Kamehameha spend his final years in power.
Facilities: The beach is perfectly situated in the middle of Kona with access to all amenities. There are public restrooms and outdoor showers nearby. There’s an on-site gear rental shop that rents paddleboards, surfboards, e-bikes and can arrange tours and trips around the island. A short walk along the street takes you to several great restaurants for food and drink.
Parking Tip: If you park in the Marriott King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel lot and pick up shave ice at Ululani’s, you can ask to get your parking validated while you sneak a quick trip in at the beach.
2. Papakolea Green Sand Beach
Papakolea Beach is one of only four green sand beaches in the entire world. (Guam, Galapagos Islands and Norway are home to the other three). This makes Papakolea an incredibly unique beach to visit and a once-in-a-lifetime experience when you’re on the Big Island.
The headland is made up of olivine which is a common component of lava. Over time, the rock-forming mineral breaks down through weathering and the crystals collect on the beach as sand. You’ll have to hike 10.2 km / 6.3 miles return under Hawaii’s hot sun to reach the beach. While it’s not the easiest beach to visit, it’s worth the effort for a bucket list experience.
Facilities: Located close to Ka Lae in the south of the Big Island, there is a parking lot at the trailhead. The vehicle is not accessible by rental vehicle (check the fine print), so you’ll have to hike in on foot. While you’ll see locals offering rides in their 4×4 jeeps and trucks, there is no commercial access and they are not operating legally. These vehicles are also responsible for the degradation of the sensitive ecosystem here so please don’t take a ride with them.
When you arrive at the beach, there is a metal ladder descending partway down into the bay. There are no facilities and no lifeguards at the beach. Be careful if you choose to swim as waves are big and currents can be strong. For specific details on the hike, read more here.
READ MORE: Best Hikes on the Big Island
3. Kikaua Point Beach Park
A hidden gem, Kikaua Point Beach Park has some of the best white sand beaches on the Big Island. The cove is man-made and public access is through the Kukio Golf Resort. The shoreline is framed by palm trees and lava rock creating a calm lagoon. There’s even a small sea arch close to shore that’s easy to swim out to. It’s a great spot to lounge around in floaty toys and is very family-friendly. There is also a nearby grassy patch with shade from large trees. On the north side of the lagoon, there are often surfers catching waves just off the rocks.
Facilities: Kikaua Point Beach is 17 miles / 27 kilometres north of Kona. Because all beaches in Hawaii are publicly accessible, you can ask at the security gate for a visitor pass, if there is space. From the parking lot, follow the paved walking trail to the beach. It’s both wheelchair and stroller-friendly. There are restrooms, an outdoor shower and drinking water. There is no lifeguard on duty.
READ MORE: Best Food to Try on the Big Island
4. Hapuna Beach
Hapuna Beach is one of the most popular beaches on the Kohala Coast. Because of this, it can get very crowded, especially on weekends. But with good reason. This white sand beach is a half-mile long and is great for bodyboarding and is very family-friendly.
Facilities: There are several large parking lots, showers and restrooms. There is limited shade, so bringing a pop-up tent or umbrella is a must. Lifeguards are on duty during regular business hours.
5. Punalu’u Black Sand Beach
Punalu’u is one of the most famous black sand beaches on the Big Island. It’s located between Kona and Hilo and not too far from Volcanoes National Park.
Not only can you experience black sand (careful – it’s hot!) and go snorkelling in nearby Ninole Cove but you’re likely to see green turtles sunning themselves on the beach or swimming in the water. The turtles are protected under the Endangered Species Act. Make sure to give them at least 10 feet of space and never touch or feed them.
The volcanic sand and rocks can be both hot and sharp to walk on – make sure to wear appropriate footwear.
Facilities: There is ample parking with a picnic area, restrooms and an outdoor shower area. There are lifeguards on the beach during regular business hours.
6. Kehena Beach
Kehena Beach is a black sand beach that has an unofficial “clothing optional” policy. The beach is long and narrow but there are both palm and ironwood trees that provide ample shade. The beach was formed by the 1955 lava flow. In 1979, an earthquake broke off the concrete stairs that lead down to the beach and the entire beach dropped three feet. Occasionally, Spinner dolphins can be seen from shore so locals also call the beach “Dolphin Beach.”
Facilities: The beach is located on the eastern shore of the Big Island in the Puna district on mile marker 19 on Highway 137. There is limited parking in the small parking lot and along the road. The best place to access the beach is from the lookout point. The descent to the beach is steep with sharp rocks and tree roots to navigate around. The beach is open to the ocean and waves can be big with strong riptides. There are no facilities and no lifeguards.
7. Pohoiki Isaac Hale Beach
As one of the newest black sand beaches on the island, Pohoiki beach at Isaac Hale Beach Park has a unique mix of a stretch of coarse black sand dotted with several hot spring ponds. The beach was created in 2018 when lava spilled into the ocean. When the hot lava mixed with the cooler water, it solidified and exploded into small fragments, forming the black sand on the beach.
The nearby hot pools are nestled in the sand, close to the treeline. Thermal energy underground heats the water that flows into the pools. While swimming in these pools is possible, the Hawaiian Department of Health advises caution, particularly if you have open wounds.
Facilities: The 2018 lava flow edges onto the parking area at Isaac Hale. There are picnic tables and portable toilets for use. There are lifeguards on duty during regular business hours. The shore break is dangerous and swimming here is at your own risk.
8. Ai’opio Beach
Ai’opio Beach (and Honokohau beach a quarter-mile further) are part of the Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park and archaeological site. Ai’opio beach is protected from ocean waves by its offshore reef. This makes the gentle waters a great place to spot dozens of green turtles who hang out here feeding on seaweed and algae-covered lava near the shoreline. There is a thatched roof heiau (Hawaiian temple) and palm trees that provide shade and relief from the hot sun.
Facilities: A sandy path leads from the parking lot to the beach area. There are restrooms on site but no lifeguards. The water is calm and safe to swim in for families with small children.
9. Kahalu’u Beach Park
Kahalu’u Bay is a popular spot for snorkelling as well as watching nearby surfers right in Kona. The water and coral reefs are separated by a short sea wall. The water is calm in the bay. This makes the reef close to shore great for snorkelling and is one of the most popular locations on the island to snorkel. It’s common to see yellow tang, sea urchins, eels and sometimes even octopus in the water here. Water shoes or surf socks are recommended as the lava rock is sharp and hard to walk on. Outside the bay is where experienced and beginner surfers can catch a few waves. If you walk the length of the bay, you’ll also find a little blue church that dates to the late 1800s built right on the shoreline.
Facilities: There are restrooms and showers as well as picnic tables including a covered picnic pavilion. An on-site BBQ can be rented. There are a few shady spots on the beach from the palm trees overhead. Free street parking is available here. The beach is a close walk to town if you’re looking for snacks or a drink.
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