While the Big Island of Hawaii doesn’t have as many fine sandy beaches as the other islands (it’s a young island geologically), the following are some of the best beaches for family activities.
Kahalu’u Beach Park is on Ali’i Drive at Keauhou Bay just three miles south of the town of Kailua-Kona. The beach is covered in black- and white-speckled sand. This is a popular swimming and snorkeling site with lots of reef fish for youngsters to enjoy close up, and good near-shore snorkeling and scuba diving.
Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park is being developed, but is worth a visit. It’s located three miles north of Kailua-Kona, adjacent to the Honokohau Boat Harbor and offers up natural and historic sights. The park covers a two-mile stretch of the Kona Coast with many nice sandy beach areas. There are historic and natural resources, old Hawaiian village ruins, fish ponds, marine tide pools, a water bird sanctuary and more.
Kekaha Kai State Park is located two miles north of Kona International Airport off Highway 19. There’s a high sand dune backing the beach, generally small surf, and nice tide pools for snorkeling and swimming.
Getting into the Hawaiian spirit on Hapuna Beach.
White Sands Beach Park is located on Ali’i Drive four miles south of Kailua-Kona. This is one of the few white sand beaches along this coastline; it’s small and always busy. Winter storms wash the sand out and bring it back later, giving it the local name, Magic Sands Beach. Small surf action provides good swimming and body boarding.
Anaeho’omalu Beach is one of the nicest beaches on the Kohala Coast. This a lovely crescent of golden sand with a stand of graceful coconut palms next to the old royal fish ponds: Ku’uali’i and Kahapapa. The generally quiet water is good for swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, wind and board surfing. The beach includes a concession stand.
Hapuna Beach State Park is the Big Island’s largest stretch of fine white sandy beach. Located off Highway 19 on Puako Road, the shallow waters slope gently to deeper offshore waters. The beach offers good swimming, snorkeling, body and windsurfing. Quiet cove pools at the north end are ideal for small children.
A man tries his luck at coastal fishing at Spencer Beach Park.
Kauna’oa Beach, also known at Mauna Kea Beach after the famous hotel that sits immediately behind it. It’s located off Highway 19 on Mauna Kea Beach Drive. There’s public access but limited parking for this beautiful sandy crescent. The fine white sand beach provides good swimming, snorkeling, board and bodysurfing.
Spencer Beach Park is located near the village of Kawaihae and below Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Park just off Highway 270. This is a very nice sandy beach with gentle surf—perfect for small children. Good swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving.
Hamakua Coast and Hilo
Leileiwi Beach Park is located off Kalanianaole Street in the Keaukaha area of east Hilo. There is good swimming, snorkeling and surfing here, as well as lots of rocky outcroppings and quiet water pools for snorkeling. It’s next to Richardson’s Ocean Center, which has some aquatic and marine education displays and aquariums of local marine life.
Beach Safety Tips
When you’re at the beach, be sure to follow some simple rules for both you and the youngsters under your supervision for a fun day in the sun:
- Never turn your back to the ocean. Large waves may surprise you.
- Never swim, snorkel or dive alone—use the buddy system.
- If you don’t swim well, use a life vest or inflatable vest.
- Go under breaking waves before they reach you.
- If caught in a current, swim across it rather than against it to avoid tiring.
- Be aware of sharp edges on coral rocks and that certain marine life sting and bite.
- Use the proper equipment for snorkeling and diving.
- Avoid water fatigue and get out when you are tired.
- Hawaii’s sun is strong. Be aware and use protection, sunscreen, hat, and light clothing cover-ups, especially for the youngsters.
- Supervise your youngsters at all times.
Onekahakaha Beach Park is located just off Kalanianaole Street in the Keaukaha area of east Hilo and the airport. The park has a protected, shallow, sandy-bottom swimming area blocked by large boulders for youngsters. It’s a great spot for tide pool exploring.
Punalu’u Beach Park is located five miles south of Pahala town off Highway 11 at Punalu’u on the Big Island’s south end. This is a long, fine, black-sand beach backed by low dunes and coconut palm trees. Swimmers and snorkelers should be aware of the strong currents sweeping the bay. This is not a safe swimming beach for children, but they’ll be excited by the numerous Hawaiian green sea turtles that are easily seen as they surface and feed close into shore, where they graze on seaweed.
For additional information on beaches and related activities on the Big Island of Hawaii, check the Big Island Visitors Bureau Web site: www.bigisland.org