Best beaches on the Big Island

Guide to Big Island Beaches – Best Places To Visit

The shoreline is the centerpiece of every Hawaiian beach vacation. With a diverse assortment of white and black sandy stretches as well as volcanic shores, Big Island is home to the archipelago’s most breathtaking spots. No matter what your priority is, swimming, snorkeling, surfing or just enjoying nature, you will have an epic time at the best beaches on the Big Island!

Kauna’oa Beach (Mauna Kea Beach)

It’s easy to see why this palm tree-fringed Kohala Coast strand is considered one of the best beaches on the Big Island. The brilliant blue waters of the North Pacific Ocean and eggshell-colored sand converge in pristine perfection at this crescent-shaped shoreline making for postcard-worthy views.

Mauna Kea Beach - Big Island - Hawaii

Moreover, a sandy bottom and shallow water make Mauna Kea safe for a beach trip with the kids. Relax on the sun-drenched shores or build sandcastles with your children. Take a dip in the refreshing waters. If looking for adventure, go snorkeling at the two rocky flanks of the beach.

Best of all, the fun doesn’t have to end when the sun goes down! Manta Ray sightings after sunset offer an unforgettable experience. Due to limited parking, this beach is rarely crowded. Arrive early to snag a parking spot.

Mauna Kea Beach and Hotel

Featuring a golf course, supervised children’s activities and a number of top-rated spa services, the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, Autograph Collection offers an unusually wonderful beach retreat.

Hapuna Beach

Positioned along the northwestern Kohala coastline, this expansive sweep of beach boasts a half-mile of white, cotton-soft sand and aquamarine waters. No wonder Hapuna Beach frequently turns up on lists of the world’s best beaches!

Crystalline waters at Hapuna Beach

In addition to relatively gentle surf and a gradual slope, this family-friendly beach is awash with amenities such as picnic tables, barbecue grills, restrooms, and showers.

Along with some of the island’s best swimming, it also offers plenty of shallows for young ones to frolic in. Snorkelers can find underwater excitement at either end of the beach where rocks and small cliffs attract diverse marine life. Boogie boarding is another popular option.

What’s more, during the winter migration season, you can spot breaching whales offshore. Back on dry land, hiking the Ala Kahakai Historic Trail yields sights like ancient trails and ponds along Hawaii’s pristine coastline.

Hapuna Beach - Westin Resort

Right on the prettiest beach of Big Island, The Westin Hapuna Beach Resort is a property worth checking out!

Anaehoomalu Bay Beach

Enliven your senses with a trip to this scenic shoreline along the South Kohala coast! Easily one of the best Big Island beaches, this salt and pepper sandy crescent is fronted by a calm, protected bay with minimal waves. This coupled with its shallow bottom makes it the best place to swim for children.

The northern edge of the bay provides some good snorkeling and scuba diving for watersports enthusiasts. What’s more, you can sea turtles not only in the water but on the sand too.

Resting sea turtle on the shore of a beach on Big Island - HI

When the breeze picks up, this sandy stretch, locally known as A-Bay, is known for some of the best kitesurfing on the island! You can also rent gear right on the beach and go kayaking, canoeing, or hydro-biking.

With two ancient fishponds and a trail with petroglyphs and archaeological sites that teach Hawaiian history and culture, Anaehoomalu also doubles up as a cultural sight too. Should you look for exceptional accommodation nearby, the Marriott’s Waikoloa Ocean Club is what you need to look at!

Waialea Bay Beach

What’s not to like about this beach that always finds a spot in the top 10 Big Island beaches? Rugged character and peaceful charm entice with idyllic shores perfect for spending some quality time with the family at Waialea Bay Beach (also known as Beach 69).

The calm waters and the gently sloping beach make it a safe place to cruise the day away, particularly if you have young kids. Abundant and diverse marine life at the bay, on the other hand, makes for some incredible snorkeling.

Large Kiawe trees on the beach offer respite after a day in the sun. Make your beach day more fun by using these ancient trees to support a hammock or ropes to swing. One of the best beaches on the Big Island, this waterfront destination tucked in a bay just north of Puako is best visited during the summer months when the surf is low.

Manini’owali Beach – Kua Bay

Epic white sands and stunning blue waters form the backdrop for this portal to a tropical vacation on the largest of the Hawaiian Islands. The shores of this sunny paradise beckon you to just plop onto the sun-kissed sands and laze the day away.

With the right conditions, the short shore break at this beach makes it ideal for surfing and boggie boarding. If you’d rather, enjoy a swim. The crystal-clear waters make for some good snorkeling. During the summer months, marine life at the bay is quite a draw with frequent turtle and dolphin sightings.

White sandy Maniniowali Beach - Kua Bay

Alternatively known as Kua Bay, this beach near Kona International Airport is also a great place to catch a mesmerizing tropical sunset. Access to an array of facilities such as restrooms, showers, and picnic tables makes it easy to have fun.

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Honokohau Harbor Dog Beach

If you want to bring your furry friend on your jaunt to the beach, the Big Island has you covered! Not only a beach that allows dogs, this seaside haven nestled in the resort area of Kailua-Kona also allows them to run freely without a leash!
You can also go for a relaxing walk or have a blast racing your pooch along its soft sand shores. Romp in the tranquil waters. An accessible reef close to the shore offers excellent snorkeling and scuba diving. What’s more, sunsets are wonderful here!

Woman lying on shore during sunset at Kona Beach

Also called the Kona Dog Beach, this is one of the best Big Island beaches for pet lovers. However, it lacks the trimmings of other beaches. So be sure to come prepared.

Makalawena Beach

Escape the crowds at this secluded white sandy wonder with dunes and coves! Accessible only by foot or an off-road vehicle able to negotiate a rough lava rock terrain, reaching the shores of Makalawena is an adventure in itself. But this veritable oasis is well worth the effort!

Go swimming when the waters are calm. For more action, go snorkeling along the lava rock outcroppings that run along the multiple coves. Home to Opae’ula Pond, a critical habitat for coastal birds, this beach along the Kona coast is a treat for bird watchers.

The quiet sandy stretch is devoid of amenities, but what it lacks in amenities, it makes up for in serenity! Just plan to bring everything you need when you visit. Unarguably one of the best beaches on the Big Island of Hawaii for those who wish to escape the crowds, Makalawena is an absolute must-see!

Papakolea Beach

A bizarre and beautiful natural marvel, Papakolea is one of the only four green sand beaches in the world! Its distinctive coloring from olivine, fine green sand produced by the breaking down of the surrounding cinder cone, this is one breathtaking beach you shouldn’t miss on your Hawaiian vacation.

Papakolea green sand Beach - Hawaii

Sure, getting to this remote beach near the southern tip of the island is a bit of a trek, but your efforts will be rewarded with stunning vistas of turquoise waters juxtaposed with green-flecked sand. Lounge on the shore and enjoy the scenery. Or wade into the waters. Swim only if the waters are calm.

Needless to say, Paplokea is a photographer’s paradise. And yes, be prepared to leave with a sense of awe!

Punalu’u Beach

A black sand beach? Yes! Believe it or not, Punalu’u has shimmering, onyx-tinted sand! Owing to the unique hue of its sand to volcanic activity, this rare wonder along the south-eastern Ka’u coast captures the true spirit of the Big Island and is truly a sight to behold.

Black sand at Punaluu Beach

You can swim and snorkel at this beach when the waters are calm, but the real prize is its picture-taking potential. There’s a natural freshwater tidepool along its shoreline that’s perfect for wading and cooling down.

Honu green sea turtle relaxing on the Black Sand Beach

A place to see sea turtles, Punalu’u Beach is also one of the few places in the world where large green sea turtles come out of the water to bask in the sun. With luck, you may even spot the endangered Hawksbill turtle. Remember to pack a picnic to enjoy at one of the many picnic tables.

Onekahakaha Beach Park

This bayfront park near Hilo along the east coast of the Big Island has all the elements for a fun beach day with young kids. Resting in a sheltered, sand-bottomed cove, Onekahakaha is separated from the open ocean by a boulder break.

The shallow water free of swells not only makes it ideal for budding swimmers but also the best beach for toddlers. Enjoy beautiful views of the Hilo Bay as you splash in the water with the kids. Or simply sprawl on a towel under one of the shady trees and enjoy some shoreline zen. Several tidepools surrounding the main bay offer opportunities for snorkeling too.

Amenities are abundant at this small sandy beach and include lifeguards, picnic areas, restrooms, showers, and ample parking. It’s no surprise that Onekahakaha is always featured on this guide to Big Island beaches!

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