4 Great Beaches on the Big Island of Hawaii

There is no shortage of beautiful beaches on the island of Hawaii.  In fact, it’s easy to feel like there are almost too many to choose from when planning a trip, but chances are you won’t go wrong with whatever you decide.  Whether you’re looking for a place to play in the waves or a relaxing spot to spend the afternoon, there’s definitely something for everyone.  And while a full list of the “best” beaches on Hawaii would be endless, here are my top 4 favorites, which are each located in a different part of the Big Island and each with its own reason love it.

1. Punalu’u Beach

If you’re looking for black sand…then look no further than Punalu’u Beach.  This postcard-perfect beach boasts jet black sand (the result of lava flow from thousands of years ago that rapidly cooled and shattered when it reached the ocean water), rows of coconut palms and green sea turtles in a protected area.  It was the perfect place to unwind after a long and hot day of hiking at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.  And despite being one of the most famous black sand beaches on the Big Island, it surprisingly wasn’t too crowded on the afternoon we visited.

Location: Ninole Loop Road, Naalehu, HI 96772 (19.1358, -155.5049)
How to get there: 
From Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, head south on highway 11 and turn on Punalu’lu Road to reach the parking area
Costs: Free
Portable toilet, food truck selling pizza and other snacks and lifeguards on duty
Helpful hints:
There are currently no permanent facilities so be sure to plan accordingly before you visit

2. Waialea Beach

If you’re looking for a secluded hideaway…then head to Waialea Beach.  Also known as Beach 69 after the number 69 utility pole close to the parking lot, this gorgeous beach located near a small residential area in Waialea Bay was quite possibly my favorite beach in Hawaii.  While most people head to the nearby Hapuna Beach – the island’s largest white sand beach boasting half a mile of white sand and good conditions for swimming, bodyboarding and snorkeling – we opted for a quieter on the Kohala Coast.  We found that with Waialea Beach, with its aqua-green water, smooth white sand dotted with black lava rocks and coral and weather-worn trees along the shoreline providing respite from the mid-day sun.  The bay is part of a marine life conservation district so it’s also a good place for snorkeling or tide pooling.

Location: Old Puako Road, Waimea, HI 96743 (19.9814, -155.8286)
How to get there: 
From Kona, head north on highway 19, turn onto Puako Beach Drive to reach the parking area
Costs: Admission is $5 per person for non-residents and $10 for parking for the day, which also allows access to the nearby Hapuna Beach State Park
Restrooms and outdoor sand showers
Helpful hints: 
Look for the food trucks on the corner of highway 19 and Puako Beach Drive selling things like coffee, shaved ice and Hawaiian donuts

3. Maniniʻowali Beach

If you’re looking for a white sand and waves…then head to Manini’owali Beach.  Blue skies meet turquoise water at this picturesque white sand beach just north of Kona.  Located in Kua Bay, you’ll find terraced area of lava rocks to sunbathe on and ideal conditions for bodyboarding and wave jumping.  It’s worth noting that the waves got increasingly stronger and the beach got more crowded as the afternoon progressed, which is something we notice in general at beaches that don’t charge an admission or parking fee.  Nonetheless, all ages will find enjoyment at Manini’owali Beach.

Location: Kalaoa, HI 96740 (19.8106, -156.0062)
How to get there: 
From Kona, head north on highway 19, turn onto Kua Bay Access Road to reach the parking area a short walk from the water
Costs: Free 
Restrooms, outdoor sand showers and lifeguards on duty
Helpful hints: 
There are no trees or shade so bring an umbrella or plan to arrive early to beat both the heat and crowds

4. Onekahakaha Beach

If you’re looking for a shallow spot to swim…then head to Onekahakaha Beach.  Just east of Hilo, this kid-friendly beach park is set within a lava rock seawall and features a ton of amenities.  Its crystal-clear water is warm and great for wading or exploring the various tidal pools that form among the black lava rocks.  Plus, the shallow ankle- to knee-deep water makes it easy to reach further out areas of rocks where you could easily sit, relax and take in the ocean views.

Location: 74 Onekahakaha Road, Hilo, HI 96720 (19.7381, -155.0395)
How to get there: 
From Downtown Hilo, drive east on Kamehameha Avenue to Kalanianaole Street and make a left on Onekahakaha Road to reach the parking lot
Costs: Free 
Restrooms, showers, picnic areas, playground and lifeguards on duty
Helpful hints: 
The rocks in the water can be very slippery so water shoes are recommended


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