From Magic Sands to Makalawena, Where to Beach it in Kona
Kona is the Big Island’s favorite beach town. From world class snorkeling and diving, to heavy beach breaks, surf breaks, to rugged remote spots, Kona is a beach lover’s paradise. Pack up the cooler, and grab your teeniest bikini, because it’s time to hit the sand. Good news, sun-worshippers: Kona’s dry, clear weather means pretty much every day is a good beach day! From convenient beaches in town, to North Kona beaches, here is a list of our favorites. Don’t forget your reef-safe sunscreen. See a Google map of the beaches highlighted in this blog here.
You don’t have to venture far to find a great beach in Kona. These beaches are located within 4 miles of My Hawaii Hostel. No rental car? No worries. You can get to these beaches from our doorstep via the Kona Trolley, bike, or on foot.
Magic Sands Beach Park
Magics Sands, also called La’aloa Beach Park, is just a few minutes down the road from the hostel. White sand, aquamarine water, and a fun (and sometimes insanely huge) beach break make this beach a favorite for Kona locals and visitors from all over the world. In the winter time, big surf carries a portion of the beach’s sand out to sea, exposing rocks. In the summer, the sand returns with calmer waters - hence the name ‘Magic Sands”. This beach is good for body surfing, body boarding and swimming. You can often spot sea turtles in the water enjoying the waves too.
Important on safety: the waves here can get enormous in high surf conditions. Observe the waves before you go in the water. Exercise caution and pay attention to announcements by lifeguards. Always dive under crashing waves, do not attempt to go over them, or turn your back and run. Facilities: Lifeguards are on duty. There are bathrooms with changing rooms and an outdoor shower. When to go: early morning and sunset. When the sun comes over the mountain around 8 am, the water is at its most brilliant blue, and the beach isn’t crowded yet.
Kahalu’u Beach Park
Just down the road from Magic Sands is Kahalu’u Beach Park. Kahalu’u Bay is known for snorkeling on its southern end and surfing on its northern end. It’s a great place to take a surf lesson, or rent a board and catch some waves. With its crystal clear waters, you can see the beautiful reef and colorful fish beneath you with the naked eye. Make sure to help protect the reef by not touching or walking on the reef, and using reef-safe sunscreen. The mobile Kahalu’u Bay Education Center is parked at the beach daily with snorkel gear for rent and helpful volunteer staff to answer questions. Kahalu’u Surf and Sea in the orange house across the street offers snorkel gear, surfboard, and paddle board rentals in addition to surf lessons. Kona Town Surf Adventures and Hawaiian Lifeguard Surf Instructors also give lessons daily in the bay.
Important on safety: Be mindful of the current in Kahalu’u Bay which can pull you north and out to sea when there is high surf. Don’t touch or walk on the reef. Look out for Wana, the Hawaiian Black-spined Sea Urchin which can stick you. Facilities: There are bathrooms, outdoor showers, a large covered picnic pavilion, and BBQ’s. There is also a food truck parked at the beach. When to go: early morning around 8 am before it gets crowded and the water is glassy.
Old Airport Beach Park
The site of Kona’s original airport, Old A’s is more popular with locals than tourists. It’s great for an ocean side BBQ and long walks along the beach. There are many tide pools up and down the beach for a quick dip, especially nice around high tide. There is a skate park and a community garden with a walking trail on the mauka (mountain side) of the park.
For more adventurous and experienced swimmers, a swim hole on south side of the park is wonderfully refreshing when the water is calm. You’ll find the path to the swim hole to the right of the hockey rink, in front of the last ocean front home. To enter the water, you jump in off the rocks. The water is crystal clear and ice cold, with some natural spring water mixing in. You can often spot a resident sea turtle here.
For less experienced swimmers, or during high surf conditions, Keiki Ponds is another option for swimming nearby. It is located south of Old A’s in front of the beach front homes. It can be accessed by walking south (towards town) along the soccer fields, and then turning right at the sign for shoreline access between the homes.
Important on safety: when the surf is up, the swim hole mentioned above can be unsafe to swim. Watch the waves for a good 10 minutes before getting in. As the sets come in, if there is backsplash against the rocks with lots of spray shooting in the air, the waves are probably too big to safely swim at this spot. Head to Keiki Ponds or a tide pool instead. Facilities: Lifeguards are not on duty here. There are bathrooms with changing rooms and outdoor showers. Picnic pavilions, tables, and BBQ pits can be found along the beach. When to go: Anytime. Busy on weekends.
A beautiful beach is worth a trip. A gorgeous and uncrowded beach is worth a hike...over a lava field. North of Kona’s International Airport is where you can find some of Kona’s most stunning and rugged beaches. Depending on when your flight arrives, you may want to head straight to the sand, and check in later.
Down a bumpy road through the middle of a lava field is lovely Mahai’ula Beach, part of Kekaha Kai State Park. If you love mountains of golden sand, bright blue water, and plenty of shade trees - this is the beach for you! It can be accessed by two wheel drive vehicles, but drive slow, especially if your vehicle is low the the ground. Park at the first parking area and go right through the yellow gates. The beach is a short walk directly ahead. On the northern side of Mahai’ulas are two old abandoned beach houses which date back to the early 1900’s. Informational signs erected by the Kona Historical Society give some interesting insight into the stories behind them. Another cool thing about this beach is you can sometimes stumble upon a rare Hawaiian Monk Seal sunbathing. They are endangered, so make sure to give them plenty of space. If you like long walks on the beach, you can venture south along the coast past Hayden Cove and beyond, to a remote black sand beach. Important for safety: waters are generally calm. Use caution driving in over the unpaved road. Facilities: no lifeguards are on duty. Bathrooms with pit toilets available by the parking area. There are no showers. When to go: Park gates are open 8am - 7pm.
Accessed via a knarly 4x4 road off the highway, or by foot trail, Makalawena Beach is one of the most stunning beaches on the Big Island. Bright white sand meets brilliant blue water. Large sand dunes covered with flowering morning glory vines back up to Ironwood trees and palms. This beach is enormous, and uncrowded as it’s hard to reach. The hike from the north end of Mahai’ulas is 2.2 miles round trip over a lava field with beautiful views of Hualalai Volcano to the east. Alternatively, you can hike in over the 4x4 road and park in the turn out on the side of the highway just south of Kua Bay. This is a great beach to pack a picnic lunch and spend the day. Be sure to pack out all your trash. Important for safety: be careful swimming. Waves can pick up and create a dangerous shore break. Facilities: no lifeguard on duty. No facilities. When to go: gates via Mahai’ulas / Kekaha Kai State Park entrance are open 8am - 7pm. The 4x4 road is always open.
On the northern end of Kekaha Kai State Park is Kua Bay (Maniniʻōwali Beach). Kua Bay is easier to access, with a paved road right off the highway directly across from the Veteran’s Cemetery. You will see Pu’u Ku’ili, a 342-foot high cinder cone, on the makai (ocean side) of the road right before the entrance. Take a quick hike up here for an epic view. The trail head is about halfway down the road to the beach on the left. Kua Bay has beautiful white sand, set against outcroppings of lava rock. It’s a popular beach with locals and visitors. During periods of high surf it offers a beach break for body boarding and body surfing. It’s good for swimming and sunbathing as well. The water is incredibly blue with excellent visibility and a very nice sandy bottom.
Important for safety: The shore break and current can be dangerous when there is high surf. In high surf conditions, do not go out past the breaking waves or attempt to body board or body surf unless you are experienced and have surf fins. Always dive under crashing waves. Facilities: bathrooms with changing rooms and outdoor showers are available. No lifeguard is on duty. There is a food truck, Pono Grindz, parked at the beach some days. When to go: Kua gets packed on weekends. If you can, visit on a weekday. Early mornings are gorgeous with glassy water and few people. Late afternoon to sunset time is also wonderful. Gates are open 8 am - 7 pm/sundown.
For our favorite South Kona beaches and a road trip itinerary, read our Dolphins, Snorkeling, and South Kona Beaches blog. What’s your favorite Kona beach? Share it with us on Instagram and Facebook @myhawaiihostel.
By M the Writer
M is a travel writer and blogger based in Kailua-Kona who loves hitting the beach. Pictured on the trail to Makalawena Beach.