What makes a perfect beach day? Ask around, and you’ll likely get a bunch of different answers. Do you prefer wading in calm waters or the thrill of waves crashing at the shoreline? Would you rather a beach bursting with activity where your kids can run and play or a serene and quiet setting dominated by the sounds of the ocean?
Whatever your preferences, there’s one thing most everyone can agree on: sunny skies. Whether you enjoy them from under an umbrella or spread out on the sand so you can soak up every ray, the cheery rays of the sun make any beach day better.
The Kona coast of the Big Island is a great destination for beach-going. Due to the weather patterns on the Big Island, it’s almost always warm and sunny in Kailua-Kona and the surrounding areas. If you happen to be a beach lover and a sun worshipper, the Big Island’s western coast is your perfect destination.
To help you enjoy the best of the beaches you’ll find in and around Kona, we’ve put together this list of our 8 favorites. Use this list as a roadmap to discover your perfect Big Island beach. As you’ll discover, there’s one for almost every kind of beach-goer.
#1: Hookena Beach Park – Captain Cook
Wake Up to the Soothing Sound of the Ocean
Rumored to be a favorite of Queen Liliuokalani—and now one of the last active Hawaiian canoe-fishing villages in Hawaii—Hookena Beach Park has a lot to offer. If you’ve always dreamed of waking up right next to the ocean, Hookena offers beach camping, complete with showers and restroom facilities. If you don’t have camping gear with you, you can rent a set right on site.
The park also rents kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, snorkel gear, and boogie boards so you can enjoy the bay’s gorgeous water from every possible angle. Finally, note that the sand at Hookena is a mix of black and white. The result is a gray-ish shoreline that can get warm as it absorbs the sun’s rays. Keep your flip flops close at hand!
#2: Kahaluu Beach Park – Kahaluu-Keauhou
Enjoy Your Beach with a Side of Snorkeling
Green sea turtles, plentiful fish life, and calm waters make Kahaluu Beach Park an excellent spot to snorkel. Additionally, if snorkeling isn’t your thing, there’s a small stretch of beach for you to set up your chairs and enjoy the view. This beach is popular, so it does tend to get crowded. However, there are lifeguards, restrooms, showers, and a good truck usually parked at the beach—plenty of amenities to make for a great day near the water.
#3: White Sands Beach Park – Kailua-Kona
When You Want to Be in the Middle of It All
Some days, you might wake up thirsting for a grand adventure to a remote, out-of-the-way beach. And then there are those days that you just want to park yourself in on the sand with minimal muss and fuss. For those days, head to White Sands Beach Park, right in Kailua-Kona.
You might know this beach as “Magic Sands” or “Disappearing Sands.” When the surf is high, it tends to move most of the sand on the beach offshore. However, when the beach replenishes itself, you’ll find a lovely stretch of white sand, dotted with palm trees. No need to four-wheel it down a steep road. No need to hike. Just roll on up and enjoy. Plus, if you want to cap off your beach day with a bite or a cocktail, you’ll find yourself a stone’s throw away from Kailua-Kona’s many restaurants and bars.
#4: Kamakahonu (King Kam) – Kailua-Kona
Enjoy a Little History
In 1813, King Kamehameha the Great moved the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom to Kona. He set up his personal residence at Kamakahonu, which means “eye of the turtle” in Hawaiian. Near the beach, you’ll find reconstructions of the buildings and the personal i￼ If you’re interested in exploring this fascinating slice of Hawaiian history, you’ll find a self-guided walking tour in the area.
Once you’ve taken it all in, take some time to enjoy the beach and bay where King Kamehameha spent his final years. You’ll find a small stretch of white sand, with snorkel gear and kayak rentals so you can explore the calm waters.
#5: Makalawena Beach – Kekaha Kai State Park
For the Adventurous
Remember that grand adventure to a remote beach we mentioned earlier? When you want to get away from it all, Makalawena Beach is waiting for you. Located in Kekaha Kai State Park, you’ll need to hike either a mile or two to get to this beach, depending on whether you come from the north or the south. (We think the southern approach is easier.)
What Makalawena Beach lacks in convenience, it more than makes up for it in pristine coastline. Think: a long stretch of powdery white sand with blue waters lapping at the shore. Keep in mind that there are no facilities, no lifeguard, and no drinking water, so you’ll want to prepare accordingly. And don’t forget your camera! Makalawena is a picture-perfect destination you’ll want to remember for years to come.
#6: Maniniowali Beach – Kalaoa
The Beach That Has (Almost) Everything
The perfect beach may not exist, but Maniniowali Beach gets pretty close. Maniniowali has all the elements of the classic Hawaiian beaches you’ll see captured on postcards: turquoise waters, brilliant white sand, and jet black lava rocks—all set against deep blue skies. It’s also an excellent place to swim and snorkel, plus you’ll find lifeguards, bathrooms, and showers at this beach. Just make sure to pack your sunscreen, hats, and sun shirts because, if there’s one thing this beach doesn’t have, it’s shade.
#7: Kukio Beach – Kailua-Kona
Kick Back and Relax
You’ll have to access this beach through the Four Seasons Hualalai Resort entrance. As a result, you might not expect to find a calm and quiet spot like Kukio Beach beyond the security hut. However, because the beach is a bit removed from the main resort area, you’ll enjoy a relatively peaceful stretch of sand fronting a calm swimming area. That’s why it gets our nod for most relaxing beach in Kona. It’s also a great spot to enjoy a famous Kona sunset!
Now, if you’re willing to drive a little farther north to the Kohala Coast, we’ve got one more beach you don’t want to miss.
#8: Hapuna Beach State Park – Waimea
It’s Popular for a Reason; Enjoy the Whole Day (and Night!)
Hapuna Beach regularly graces the top of the “best of Hawaii beaches” lists—and with good reason. At Hapuna, you’ll find a wide, white sand beach that’s nearly half a mile long with plenty of room for the whole family. There’s ample parking and shade, as well as showers, food vendors, and an ample swimming area. If your plan involves posting up and enjoying the entire day at the beach, Hapuna Beach is an excellent choice. Note that there is a $5 entrance fee per car. Hawaii residents can enter for free.