The Big Island, although the youngest of the Hawaiian Islands, has some of the clearest waters in all of Hawaii along its northwest coast. While the stretches of sand may not be as expansive as some of the older islands’, (due to less time for development), they are still some of the most spectacular and unique “pocket style” beaches that Hawaii offers. Many people conjure up images of black, volcanic, rocky coastlines with little or no beaches when they think of the Big Island. But we’re here to shed some light on that myth and give you a guide to some of the island’s best sandy spots. On today’s show, we’re going to highlight some of our favorite Big Island beaches, and give you some tips and pointers about each one. Our first highlight is the very loved and very popular, Hapuna Beach State Park, an excellent location for beach enthusiasts.
Hapuna is toward the northern tip of the island and offers up a relatively long stretch of sand. Beach combing, swimming, snorkeling, body surfing and boogie boarding are all perfect daytime activities at this spot. Wide and long, the soft sand at Hapuna is an ideal place for an all-day beach day. With a lifeguard on duty, and mostly temperate ocean conditions, it’s a perfect beach for the kids too. Shady spots are limited here, so make sure to claim your spot early if you intend to stay all day.
Four Seasons Beach
Named after the resort along its sand, is unique for the tide pools that are big enough to swim in. When the waves are mellow, this beach is great for soaking and swimming. The Four Seasons Resort is accessible for drinks and lunch as well, which gives this beach a resort community-esque feel to it. One pointer for the rockier beaches: be cautious of your footing underwater. Wana (sea urchin) is known to nestle in the nooks and crannies of the reef and is sure to put a damper on your vacation if you step on it. Tip for wana stings: soak the infected area in vinegar. This helps loosen and dissolve the spikes in the skin, making it less painful and a quicker heal time. And when you don’t have vinegar on hand, well, there’s always the old trick of peeing on the stings!
Black Sand Beach
The Big Island is probably most known for its one-of-a-kind colored sand beaches, one being Punaluu, or Black Sand Beach. This black sand was created from crushed up lava rock, and is likely one of the most renowned beaches in Hawaii. Decent for swimming, but mostly just a novelty landmark, this beach is worth checking out simply for its exclusive coloring. Many people like to take a pinch of the sand home to bottle as a memento, but one (superstitious) word of advice: the Hawaiians believed that taking anything off the island was considered bad luck, especially lava rock. While the sand isn’t technically lava rocks, it did derive from rocks, and therefore might make you a bit wary of packing it up in your suitcase.
This is a great place for families because of its protected swimming area. The reef that shelters this bay from waves also offers great snorkeling. While the shoreline might be a little murky for underwater visibility, the outer portions of the beach and reef are ideal for sights of tropical fish. Many people rent or bring lounge chairs to this beach, and with such ample shade from the palm tree-lined sand, Anaehoomalu is ideal for relaxing.
Mauna Kea Beach
This beach is known as one of the best beaches on Big Island. The sandy bottom makes it perfect for swimming, and the reef along both sides of the beach offer incredible snorkeling as well. A lush backdrop gives this beach a very tropical feel to it, plus the waters are turquoise and clear, a picture-perfect beach. Because of the lush vegetation here, we recommend trying this local secret for optimal snorkeling: the Naupaka plant can be found growing out of the sand along most Hawaii beaches. It is a green, waxy plant with small white flowers and its leaves are shaped like skinny ovals. Before submerging your mask, pluck 3-5 leafs from the naupaka vine and coat the inside of your mask with it. This works great as a natural anti-fog when you’re snorkeling, and is a trick the locals have used for centuries.
Green Sand Beach
is another of Big Island’s colorful sand beaches, also known as Papakolea. The green color comes from the olivine crystals (now semi-precious stones) that are created from volcanic eruptions that happened years ago. The stones are crushed too fine at this point to be considered gems, but it makes this beach extremely rare and very unique. One of two green sand beaches in the entire world, Papakolea is accessible only with an off-road vehicle or by hiking 2.5 miles along lava fields. Located at Big Island’s southern tip just west of South Point, the waves and current can become strong here. Swimming is still popular however, just stay close to shore and use good judgment. This beach is great to visit if you’d like to blend an adventurous hike with a rewarding view and an exclusive beach day.
More commonly referred to as Kua Bay, is simply stunning. Soft white sand and insanely clear waters rival the Caribbean. Swimming and snorkeling are very popular here, and it’s known to be one of the prettiest beaches on the Big Island. Sun worshippers will love this spot, so if you tend to need shade during your beach day, make sure to bring an umbrella. The Kona heat and wind shelter from the rocks makes this a hot spot that is sure to give you a good dose of sunshine. It is located just north of Kona and the airport, making it an easily accessible place to get to.
Kekaha Kai Beach
This beach is made up of two parts; the main beach with the public facilities (restrooms, parking, showers, etc.) and the other beautiful stretch of sand that is a 5-minute walk north of the main beach. There is plenty of shade along this coastline, and it’s great for swimming. This quiet beach is easily accessible and just barely off the beaten path, making it a getaway from the other crowded beaches. Sharp sloping waterlines make this a fun place for body surfing; just make sure to be cautious of big waves. This beach is along the Kona coast, so you’ll enjoy the iconic clear waters and golden sand that make the Big Island so desirable.