8 Must Visit Beaches on the Big Island of Hawaii.

When you think of Hawaii, you think traditional, never ending, white sand beaches. Right? The thing about the Big Island that you have to understand is that these beaches exist, but they probably won't be right outside your hotel door. On the Big Island, you will find yourself having to drive to discover the amazing beaches. Most of them are white sand but also have lava rock as part of their landscape. This arguably makes these beaches even better! The landscape is much more stunning. I have compiled a list of must visit beaches for your next trip to the Big Island.


Punalu'u Black Sand Beach

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

  • Google Maps


Kekaha Kai ( Mahai'ula) Beach Park

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

  • Google Maps


Makalawena Beach

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

  • Google Maps (parking site)


Kua (Manini'owali) Bay

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

  • Is your stuff on the rocks? Take some sandals down with you to the beach. Your feet will thank you

  • Free parking on site

  • Short walk down to the beach from the parking lot

  • Google Maps


Hapuna Beach State Park

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

  • Google Maps


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

  • Google Maps (trailhead)

  • Google Maps (beach)


City of Refuge (Pu'uhonua o Honaunau)

This was the first beach / historical site we visited on our trip. There are two parts to this site: a historical site where most of the sites date back 500 years. There is no sun bathing or even going in the water at this part of the sacred site, but there is also a public beach site where you can spend the day! I highly recommend visiting if you want to learn a bit about the history of Hawaii.

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

  • $15 per car to visit the City of Refuge (this fee is good for a week of visits)

  • $5 per person to walk in to visit the City of Refuge

  • Free parking to visit the public beach

  • Restroom facilities on site

  • Google Maps (City of Refuge)

  • Google Maps (public beach)


Lapakahi State Historical Park

If you are looking for more Hawaiian history, then you have to visit this state park! Not only do you get amazing beach views, but you can explore a large area of ruins from an ancient Hawaiian fishing village! This is a partially restored example of what life was like back then.

  • About 1 hour away from Kailua-Kona

  • Free parking on site

  • Restroom facilities on site

  • Google Maps


Richardson Ocean Park

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

  • Google Maps


Are there any beaches that you recommend on the Big Island?


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