10 Beaches To Check out on the Big Island of Hawaii

The Big Island has some beautiful and diverse beaches. However, a lot of them won't be found right in the middle of downtown Kona or Hilo. You will have to drive to find some of the amazing beaches the island has to offer. If you want more suggestions for things to do, be sure to check out my Ultimate Guide to the Big Island of Hawaii.

✈️Traveling to the Big Island in 2021

Travel requirements are changing rapidly, so I always recommend checking this site for the most current requirements for traveling to the Big Island. I am simply sharing what was required for me and how it went upon arrival.

The State of Hawai‘i requires that all guests - even those that plan to quarantine - have a Safe Travels profile with trip details and a completed health questionnaire. You will not be able to exit the airport in Hawai’i without this. What was required for me to enter the Big Island (March 2021):

  • I created a Safe Travels profile

  • I added all flight details and lodging info to the Safe Travels site

  • I took a Covid-19 test with negative test results within 72 hours of travel (Hawai'i is very strict with where you can take the test. Be sure to carefully review the approved list)

  • I then uploaded the negative test results from a trusted testing partner as a PDF to the Safe Travels site.

  • 24 hours before my flight, I received an e-mail to take a mandatory travel health questionnaire on the Safe Travels site. I was then provided a QR code that allowed Alaska Air and the state of Hawaii to see that my Safe Travels site was filled out correctly.

  • It is also recommended to bring printed copies of your test results and lodging confirmation with you. I ended up bringing 3 copies of my test results and one copy of my lodging.

Upon my arrival on the Big Island:

It was all very organized and we were able to get through within 10 minutes.

  • We were first handed a little laminated colored dot. We weren't sure what they were for until we had our temperature checked. As long as you don't have a temp you will hand back that dot after the check.

  • Next stop was to fill out a form with our information

  • We then got into another short line where we then showed our QR codes

  • We were directed to another table where they took the sheet we had filled out and then gave us labels with our names and DOB

  • We then took those labels outside where we then were given a shallow nasal swab rapid test.

  • We were informed that if we didn't hear from them without roughly 2 hours then we tested negative for the rapid test as well.

As mentioned, this is simply my experience in March 2021. This could change any time, so please be sure to check the current requirements on the GoHawaii website.

🚗How to get around the island

The Hawai'i Island (also referred to as the Big Island) is the largest of the island chain. The Big Island is also the most diverse as it has about 12 different climates on the island. With that being said, if you really want to be able to experience the entire island and all that it offers, then you need to rent a car! Even from the airport, Kailua-Kona is about a 15 minute drive. We ended up using our car every single day. If you like to hang out at the beach, you will want a car to be able to drive to the beaches.

I always recommend renting a car from Costco travel. We booked about four months in advance with this most recent trip and ended up only paying $333 for a 7 day rental. This is an insane deal. We paid over $600 for our trip in 2019!

Travel Tip: It is highly recommended to book your car ahead of time. Car rental companies cleared out a lot of their rental fleet in 2020 so inventory is currently limited. Just walking up to a counter without a reservation will not guarantee you a car.

10 Beaches to check out on the Big Island of Hawaii

Kekaha Kai ( Mahai'ula) Beach Park

Address: HI-19, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740

If you don't feel like hiking, this beach is a great place to spend the day. It isn't far from downtown Kona. Beware, the 2 mile drive to the parking lot can get pretty rocky and bumpy. If you aren't in a slightly lifted 4WD vehicle, drive slowly. There is only a short walk to get to the beach. I love that the beach isn't too crowded and the water is pretty calm. You will find a nice, sandy beach here.

  • About 15 minutes away from Kailua-Kona

  • No hiking involved

  • No bathroom facilities

  • Free parking on site

Makalawena Beach

Address: HI-19, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740

This was one of my favorite beaches on this trip. The best part is that it either requires a mile walk across a lava field or requires a raised 4WD vehicle to cross the super bumpy road to get right to the beach. These two options usually filter out a majority of the people thus you will find a pretty empty beach! Keep in mind there are no bathroom facilities and you have to pack out your trash. Make sure you wear your tennis shoes. Those lava rocks are no joke.

To get to this beach: walk through the gate through a lava field. You will come to Kekaha Kai beach. Walk on the beach side of the red buildings. You will walk through some palm trees and up to the right toward the lava field. Now walk for about 20 - 25 minutes until you reach the sand dunes. You have arrived! Walk about ten minutes further and you will come to a part of the beach where you can go in the water.

  • About 15 minutes away from Kailua-Kona

  • 1 mile hike from Kekahi Kai Beach Park

  • Wear appropriate shoes to walk 1 mile over lava rock

  • Not a shaded hike

  • No restroom facilites

  • Pack out your garbage

  • Free parking on site

Kua (Manini'owali) Bay

Address: Kalaoa, HI 96740

I was taken here by my friend who moved to the Big Island a year ago. He said it is where his boyfriend proposed so he was excited to show it to me. As most beaches are on the Big island, the beach area in the winter is small but the landscape and views are stunning. You can sit in the lava rock and still get plenty of sun! This was my favorite spot to take photos!

  • About 20 minutes away from Kailua-Kona

  • Restroom facilities on site

  • Free parking on site

  • Short walk down to the beach from the parking lot

Pu'uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park

Address: State Hwy 160, Hōnaunau, HI 96726

Entrance Cost: $20 per vehicle. Save the receipt - your entrance is good for 7 days. If you plan to visit Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park, Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park and Haleakalā National Park then purchase the Hawaiʻi Tri-Park Annual Pass for $55.00.

Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau is an important Hawaiian ceremonial site bounded on its southern and eastern sides by a massive L-shaped wall, known as the Pā Puʻuhonua (Great Wall), and on its northern and western sides by the ocean. In addition to the Great Wall, within the Puʻuhonua are several other important ceremonial structures including the Hale o Keawe, ʻĀleʻaleʻa Heiau, and the Ancient Heiau. The grounds are great to wander around. They have structures on site that you can wander in to see how the people lived back in the day.

Punalu'u Black Sand Beach

Address: Ninole Loop Rd, Naalehu, HI 96772

Of all the beaches I have visited in my lifetime, this was the first black sand beach I have seen in person! It was just as amazing as I could have imagined. Because of the constant volcanic activity, the sand on this beach is black! There are picnic benches, bathrooms and... TURTLES! On this trip, this was the only time I got to see turtles. They are here all the time and can usually be found in the same spot as there are now rocks placed as a human barrier to give the turtles space. Punalu'u is best visited if you are already down in the South Point area or making your way from Kona to Hilo via the scenic, long route.

  • About 1 hour and 45 minutes away from Kailua-Kona

  • No hiking involved

  • Bathroom facilities

  • Picnic area

  • Not safe to swim or snorkel

  • Free parking on site

Green Sand (Papakōlea) Beach

In my opinion, this beach is a must. This is one of four known green olivine sand beaches in the entire world! There are two ways to get to this beach: hike two miles each way on sometimes rough terrain with no shade. The views are amazing, which make it worth it! The second option is to get a 20 minute ride in the back of a 4WD vehicle. There are people who have created an unofficial business by doing this. Expect to pay $20 per person round trip. The landscape and views make this beach worth it! The waves are insane so be cautious if you aren't a strong swimmer.

  • About 1 hour and 30 minutes away from Kailua-Kona

  • Free parking on site

  • Portable Toilets at the parking lot

  • No bathrooms at the beach

  • Pack out your garbage

  • Bring lots of water and sunscreen if you are hiking

  • Cash is required if you are catching a ride

Richardson Ocean Park

Address: 2355 Kalanianaole Ave, Hilo, HI 96720

This is my lone recommendation for the Hilo side of the island. I have been here about 10 times and every time enjoyed snorkeling. More often than not, I would see a turtle while snorkeling! There is plenty of beach (black sand!) and even park space to hang out for the day and have a picnic. This is also a beach frequented by the locals so it can get crowded.

  • About 2 hours 20 minutes away from Kailua-Kona

  • Free parking on site

  • Restroom facilities on site

  • Picnic area on site

Hapuna Beach State Park

Address: Hawaii 96743

This trip was my fourth time to the Big Island and my third time to Hapuna Beach. I have memories of volleyball and man-o-war jellyfish warnings. I took my hubby here to give him the white sand beach experience. This will be the most crowded beach you will visit.

  • About 40 minutes away from Kailua-Kona

  • $5 parking on site unless you are a HI resident

  • Restroom facilities on site

  • Short walk from the parking lot to the beach

  • Picnic facilities on site

Spencer Beach Park

Address: 62-3461 Kawaihae Rd, Waimea, HI 96743

We stumbled upon Spencer Beach Park on our way back from our hike at Pololu Valley. We had over an hour to kill while we waited for Big Island Brewhaus to open. This is more of a local beach park with a nice, shallow beach area.

ʻAnaehoʻomalu Beach

Address: 69-275 Waikoloa Beach Dr, Waikoloa Village, HI 96738

We visited this beach at Waikoloa Village on our last full day. It has a nice bathroom facility and also is different than many of the other Big Island beaches. There is a more narrow part of the beach where one side is a small pond (that you can't swim in) and the other side is the beach. You get a nice breeze so the sun doesn't feel to hot. Be careful though, the sunburn can creep up quick if you don't keep applying sunscreen.

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