Popular beaches along the Kohala Coast

Beach in Kona Coast, Hawaii

As you drive north from Kona International Airport, leave behind the bustling airport and the modern amenities of Kailua-Kona. The rugged lava fields dominate the scenery, their ancient, jet-black and rust-red hues contrasting starkly against the deep blue of the Pacific Ocean to the west. Although your gaze may be fixed on the road ahead, it’s worth knowing that hidden amidst these barren lava fields lies the Kohala Coast, where you’ll find some of the loveliest beaches on the island. 

Kohala Coast Beaches

Hāpuna Beach State Park

The Kohala Coast is a sun-drenched region that receives only about nine inches of rainfall annually. This low precipitation rate creates a near-perpetual summer atmosphere, making it ideal for sunbathing and beach activities year-round. Hāpuna Beach State Park, one of the island’s largest expanses of white sand, exemplifies this coastal paradise. Here, the sparkling sands stretch out beneath the relentless Hawaiian sun, inviting visitors to bask in its warmth and serenity.

As you approach Hāpuna Beach, the landscape gradually softens, giving way to rolling hills and swaying palms. The sight of this expansive white-sand beach, framed by the deep blue ocean and backed by lush greenery, is truly mesmerizing. It’s a reminder of the raw beauty and diversity that characterize the island of Hawaiʻi—the juxtaposition of rugged lava fields against the inviting allure of golden beaches.

At Hapuna Beach you’ll find visitors swimming, boogie boarding, body surfing, playing in the waves, and relaxing in the powder soft sand

Mauna Kea Beach

North of Hapuna beach you’ll find  Mauna Kea Beach on the Mauna Kea Beach Resort. Although this is a public beach, visitor parking is limited so arrive early to ensure a spot.  As you approach this renowned stretch of coastline, you’re greeted by a sight that epitomizes paradise—a wide expanse of soft, pristine white sands stretching out towards the glistening turquoise waters of the Pacific Ocean.

Venturing into the crystal-clear waters reveals another facet of Mauna Kea’s allure. The tranquil sea, gently lapping against the shore, invites swimmers and snorkelers alike to immerse themselves in its refreshing embrace. The gradual slope of the beach makes it an ideal spot for families and adventurers of all ages to dip into the sea safely.

Mauna Kea Beach offers a range of activities that cater to different interests and preferences, making it a popular destination for beachgoers seeking relaxation or adventure. This is a great spot for swimming, snorkeling, whale watching and beach sports as well as relaxing and sunbathing

Beach in Kona Coast, Hawaii

Beach 69 / Waialea Beach 

Beach 69—also known as Waialea Beach—beckons those seeking a secluded and tranquil escape. Tucked away in a more remote area near Puako, this hidden gem offers a quieter alternative to the bustling tourist spots, making it ideal for those yearning for a more intimate beach experience. The beach’s nickname, “Beach 69,” is derived from the number 69 painted on a utility pole near the parking area, adding a touch of local charm to its secluded ambiance.

For those seeking relaxation amidst nature’s embrace, Beach 69 offers ample opportunities. Large trees along the shoreline, provide private, shaded areas ideal for setting up a picnic or simply lounging with a good book. On any day visitors will be able to find their own quiet spot to set up their own space.

Kiholo Bay

For more adventure, a hike into Kiholo Bay offers a rewarding expedition into the island’s natural wonders. Kiholo Bay is a pristine marine sanctuary known for its turquoise waters, lava rock formations, and resident wildlife. The hike to Kiholo Bay typically begins near the highway and leads through a rugged landscape dotted with ancient lava flows and coastal vegetation. There are no amenities at Kiholo Bay so remember to pack in water, reef-safe sunscreen and snacks.

Whichever direction you arrive from, you will be  rewarded with the chance to explore its scenic shoreline, relax on secluded beaches, or take a refreshing dip in the bay’s crystalline waters. The bay is also known for its large population of honu (green sea turtles) that can often be spotted basking on the shore or swimming gracefully in the bay’s clear waters.

To reach Kiholo Bay, there are two primary routes you can take. One option is to access the bay via a dirt road situated between the 82nd and 83rd mile markers on Highway 19. Follow this road towards the ocean for about a mile. As you approach a fork in the road, continue straight instead of veering left. At the road’s end, park your vehicle and proceed on foot straight ahead until you reach the shoreline. From there, head north (to your right) along the beach to reach Kiholo Bay.

Another approach is to take a shorter trail from Highway 19, located just south of the 81st mile marker. This trail leads directly to the northern end of Kiholo Bay. Begin your hike here and trek across approximately 20 minutes of barren and exposed pahoehoe lava flow. Despite the rugged terrain, this trail offers a more direct and scenic route to access the bay’s northern section.

All state parks charge park visitors $10 per vehicle 

So, as you explore the many beautiful Kohala Coast beaches, take a moment to appreciate this remarkable transformation—from desolate lava fields to a tropical paradise. Allow yourself to soak in the sun, unwind on the soft sands, and immerse yourself in the natural splendor that defines the Big Island’s west coast.

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