If you dream of clear skies and white sand beaches, the Kona Coast region of Hawaii is the perfect place to vacation. Located on the Big Island of Hawaii, Kona is home to great hotels, endless activities, and some of the prettiest beaches in the world.
Ready to explore the west coast of Hawaii Island? We’ve put together a list of the best Kona beaches, along with a few treasured spots beyond the district as well.
We’ll take you from the northern stretches of the Kohala Coast to the rich beauty of Kaʻū to discover some of the best places to explore, swim, or simply relax. So read along and get ready to experience Hawaii Beach Days unlike any other.
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COOLEST PLACES TO STAY IN KONA
- Best for Pool Lovers: Outrigger Kona Resort and Spa offers a multi-level fantasy pool with a 200-foot water slide, manta-ray viewing, and sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean. The luxurious Ho’ola Spa offers oceanfront services in its private, outdoor treatment rooms.
- Best for Foodies: Courtyard by Marriott King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel features two onsite restaurants. Honu’s on the Beach Restaurant is open daily for breakfast and dinner, and the Billfish Bar is located near the pool and features refreshments and a light menu.
- Best Luxury Experience: Located along the Kona-Kohala coast of Hawaii Island, the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai features swimming areas, five dining options, and ocean views. An 18-hole Jack Nicklaus signature Hualalai Golf Course is on site. Private, white sand beaches are available at the Four Seasons Resort Haulalai with calm waters for easy swimming.
Read more: Should You Stay in Kona or Hilo on the Big Island?
BEST SNORKELING BEACHES
KEALAKEKUA BAY STATE HISTORICAL PARK – ONE OF THE BEST SNORKELING SPOTS IN KONA
If you dream of an idyllic Big Island snorkeling experience, Kealakekua Bay Historical Park is the place to go. This wildlife sanctuary has so many tropical fish in its coral reefs, and it’s a popular spot for spinner dolphins.
The area’s calm waters make it one of the top beaches for snorkeling, but it’s also an important historical site.
A Heiau still stands at the park, which was once a significant place of worship for Hawaiians. Western explorers first made landfall at Kealakekua Bay, and Captain Cook died here on his third visit to the Hawaiian Islands.
To drive to the bay, look for Nāpō’opo’o Road in South Kona. You can snorkel near the parking area, but the best conditions will be closer to the Captain Cook Memorial. It’s a sunny, 2-mile hike to that part of the bay, so many adventurers will rent a kayak to access it by water.
A boat tour can also take you directly to the pristine locale while providing snorkel gear and guidance.
MANINI’OWALI BEACH (KUA BAY) – SOFT SAND AND CRYSTAL CLEAR WATERS
The northernmost beach within Kekaha Kai State Park is Manini’owali Beach, also called Kua Bay. It has soft white sand and great snorkeling conditions in the summer.
The sandy ocean floor makes it a nice beach for young children to swim, and green sea turtles often pass by not far from shore.
Kua Bay has a separate entrance from the other Kekaha Kai sandy beaches. You’ll find this entrance between mile markers 88 and 89, and then it’s about a mile on a paved road to get to the parking lot.
Arrive early since there is limited parking. Manini’owali Beach has a lifeguard stand, picnic tables, and toilet facilities. One thing it doesn’t have? Shade. So bring along an umbrella if you plan to stay a while.
Looking for more fun in Kona? Try one of these amazing Kona adventures!
- Enjoy Voyagers of the Pacific Luau with Buffet. Transport yourself to ancient Polynesia and experience Hawaiian culture in an enchanting oceanfront setting on Kailua Bay. Delight in an island-inspired buffet complete with a captivating luau show and thrilling Samoan fire-knife dancing.
- Take an Eco-Friendly Twilight Manta Ray Adventure. Swim with the gentle giants of the Kona Coast on the Big Island of Hawaii. This must-do tour is something you won’t soon forget. Just a short boat ride from the manta snorkeling location, you’ll be able to embark on a safe and thrilling experience.
- See the sunset on a Sunset Stargazing Adventure. View the sunset from the peak of Mauna Kea and learn about the stars and planets during this unforgettable stargazing experience. Enjoy snacks, drinks, and free photos.
BEST BEACHES FOR A HIKE
MAKALAWENA BEACH – THE BEST SECLUDED BEACH
If you love the thrill of finding hidden gems and secluded beaches, visiting Makalawena Beach should top your Kona itinerary. This quiet, white sand beach is difficult to access – hiking is the best way to get there. But that’s part of the fun!
Makalawena is one of the three white-sand beaches that make up Kekaha Kai State Park, which is just a couple miles north of the Kona Airport.
Look for the entrance to the park between mile markers 90 and 91 on Queen Kaahumanu Highway, then drive to the end of the unpaved road. From there, it’s about a mile walk to Makalawena, one of the island’s most beautiful beaches.
There are no lifeguards at this scenic locale, so only go in the water if it’s especially still. On calm days, it’s a great spot for swimming or snorkeling. If there is high surf, rough waves, or it simply seems iffy, stay out of the water and enjoy the sights from shore.
KIHOLO BAY – VIBRANT, TURQUOISE WATERS
Kiholo Bay is one of the most beautiful places in Kona. The mix of fresh and salt water gives the water a turquoise hue, which looks even more vibrant against the stark black lava rock. There are calm lagoons and tide pools here, and it’s a popular place for sea turtles to feed and rest.
Kiholo Bay features a black sand beach, a camping area, a hiking trail, and a protected lagoon.
How do you get to this unique and treasured shoreline? You’ll need to hike here no matter what, but there are a couple different options for your journey.
If you are one to enjoy the journey and want to catch the most sights during your trek, park closer to the shoreline by turning at mile marker 82 on Queen Kaahumanu Highway. Most cars can handle the 1-mile unpaved drive, and from there you’ll walk a while toward the right to reach the swimming lagoon, or there is a black sand beach a little nearer toward the left.
Another option is to turn at Mile Marker 81, where there is parking right off the highway. This is a better option if your car can’t reach the other lot, and the walk through the barren lava field will take you directly to the lagoon.
Your adventure at Kiholo Bay will have a strong sense of wonder, as you stand at the foot of one of the world’s most active volcanoes, seeing how its force can affect landscapes, communities, and ecosystems.
HONOKOHAU BEACH – A CULTURAL TREASURE
One of the best places in Kona for sea turtle sightings is Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park, about four miles south of the airport. This protected area was once home to a Hawaiian settlement, complete with fish traps, an ancient heiau (temple), and a traditional hale structure.
Your visit to the park will begin at the visitors center, and then you can either hike or drive to Honokohau Beach, which features calm waters and an abundance of marine life. Admire the resting sea turtles or hop in and swim with the many tropical fish.
The Aiopio Fishtrap is at the southern end of the beach, which creates exceptionally calm waters for swimming, and serves as a testament to Hawaiian’s ingenuity and traditional practices.
PAPAKŌLEA BEACH – A RARE GREEN SAND BEACH
Big Island Lava is rich with olivine, a green crystal often called “Hawaiian Diamonds.” Nearly 50,000 years ago, a Mauna Loa eruption created a cinder cone and beach steeped with this lava. The unique positioning of the beach caused lightweight ash and sand to wash away, leaving behind the heavier olivine.
The result? A Green Sand Beach with unparalleled beauty on the Big Island’s southern point.
Though you’ll have to travel outside the Kohala and Kona districts to reach Papakōlea Beach, it’s well worth the journey. There are only four green sand beaches in the world, so this Hawaii site is a treasured location.
To get to Green Sand Beach on the Big Island, head toward the Kau district. Turn from Highway 11 onto South Point Road (between mile markers 69 and 70). The parking lot is toward the left at the bottom of the road near the boat ramp.
You’ll need to walk over two miles on a dirt road to reach the beach. This is a sacred area with a lot of cultural and environmental significance, so walking to the shoreline will ensure you’re accessing the beach in the most respectful way possible.
BEST ALL-AROUND BEACHES
HAPUNA BEACH – THE BEST BEACH FOR SWIMMING
Hapuna Beach offers the classic Hawaii Beach experience: sunny skies, white sand, and swaying palm trees. It’s a busy spot, thanks to its convenience and beauty. Come and share a wonderful island experience with other visitors and locals who come to play in its waters and enjoy the idyllic setting.
Conditions at Hapuna Beach vary day to day. On calm days it’s a peaceful swimming and excellent snorkeling spot. When there is a good shore break, kids (and kids at heart) splash around in the waves. And then there are days when it’s too dangerous to enter the water – check with lifeguards when you arrive to get expert advice.
There’s a parking and entrance fee here, and on weekends you’ll want to arrive early for the best parking availability. Morning is also the best time for swimming too.
There are BBQ grills in a nice grassy area, along with four-person shelters available for overnight rental.
Hapuna Beach is regarded as one of the best Kona Beaches, though it’s actually in South Kohala. Look for it at Mile Marker 70 off of Queen Kaahumanu Avenue.
KAUNA’OA BEACH – THE BEST BEACH FOR MANTA RAY SIGHTINGS
During the Day, Kauna’oa Beach is a postcard-worthy sight: turquoise water, white sand, and a manicured resort vibe. During the night, it’s one of the best places for Manta Ray sightings.
So how should you plan your visit to this pristine location?
You could stay at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, which fronts the shoreline and maintains its full facilities. You won’t have to worry about parking and can take advantage of its special manta ray viewing area.
But you don’t have to stay at the resort to enjoy Kauna’oa Beach (also called Mauna Kea Beach). About 40 public parking spaces are available for a fee, so get here early to get a spot and enjoy a great beach day in this world-class setting.
Kaunaoa Beach at Mile Marker 68 off of Queen Kaahumanu Highway.
MAHAI’ULA BEACH – MODERATE SECLUSION WITHOUT A FAR WALK
If you want to escape the liveliness of the resort areas without having to hike far, Mahai’ula Beach could be great for you. This is the southernmost shoreline within Kekaha Kai State Park and is much closer to the parking lot than its neighbor Makalawena Beach. So you can enjoy the scenic atmosphere but with only a short hike.
This is a spacious, crescent-shaped beach that can be great for swimming as long as the water is calm. Just be careful, because there are sudden drop-offs where the water turns deep, and the waves can pick up fast.
Mahai’ula isn’t as quiet as its neighbor Makalawena, but still much more peaceful than many other Kona Beaches.
This beach is at the end of the unpaved road between mile markers 90 and 91 on Queen Kaahumanu Highway. It’s a short walk (five minutes or less) to the shoreline.
KAMAKAHONU BEACH – A SMALL BEACH WITH A LOT OF HISTORY
There’s a lot to love about Kamakahonu Beach in Kona. Located right in the hustle and bustle of Alii Drive, this small beach has virtually no waves, onsite rentals, and a historical significance.
King Kamehameha lived the final years of his life here before passing in 1819, and it’s where the first Christian missionaries from New England made landfall in Hawaii in 1820.
The Ahu’ena Heiau was the central landmark for these significant moments, and a reconstruction of it sits just offshore at Kamakahonu Beach.
The calm waters at the beach make it a perfect spot to swim with small children, practice stand-up paddle boarding, or access the more expansive waters on canoe. Snorkeling is best done within the protected area, as you’ll encounter boat traffic farther out.
Kamakahonu Beach is located behind the pier by King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel. It’s also called Childrens Beach or King Kam Beach.
LA’ALOA BEACH PARK (MAGIC SANDS) – A LIVELY BEACH IN KONA
Though there is undeniable beauty in secluded, peaceful settings, there is something special about lively, bustling La’aloa Beach Park. Located right on Ali’i Drive in downtown Kona, it definitely earns its nickname Magic Sands Beach.
Any beach day here feels magical. In the summer months, there are great swimming conditions close to shore. Southern swells bring fun boogie boarding opportunities. And there are all kinds of shops and restaurants within walking distance.
But it’s the unique tidal patterns that actually lend La’aloa its nickname. Winter swells wash away the sand at the beach park, leaving lava rocks exposed on the shoreline. And then, in summer, the sand returns, creating a soft, peaceful setting for Kona’s visitors and locals alike.
There is a free parking lot for Magic Sands across the road, along with limited street parking. There is a volleyball net, restrooms, a couple of picnic areas, and lifeguard stands. You could easily spend the day here when it’s calm.
Be aware that the water does get very rough in the winter (it does wash away the sand, after all), and the beach is often home to sea urchins.
OLD KONA AIRPORT BEACH – FUN VIBES & GREAT SUNSET VIEWS
The Kona International Airport opened in 1970, taking the place of the small airport that once served the community. No longer needed for transportation, the site was converted into a recreation area a few years later.
Now it has lots of parking, covered pavilions, a swimming pool and tennis courts, and walking trails.
Old Kona Airport Beach is located in the heart of Kona off of Makala Blvd. Parking is on the old airstrip that runs parallel to the beach.
Grab dinner to-go at one of Kona’s amazing food trucks and take it over to Old Kona Airport Beach, which is a prime sunset viewing spot.
There is a good place to swim with little kids past the south end of the beach. To reach small, kid-friendly “Keiki Ponds,” park near the Kona Community Aquatic Center on Kuakini Highway. Here, tide ponds and shallow water create a fun atmosphere for little ones.
SPENCER BEACH PARK – FAMILY FUN NORTH OF WAIKOLOA
Spencer Beach Park is a family-friendly area away from the hustle and bustle of the resort area. There is lots of parking with easy access to the water, it’s super scenic, and it’s typically calm even when nearby Big Island beaches are windy and rough.
Camping is allowed here with a permit, but it’s also perfect for a fun day trip. It’s about a 20-minute drive north of Waikoloa. If you’re staying closer to Downtown Kailua Kona, make it part of a sightseeing adventure to Waimea and Waipio Valley overlook.
Puʻukohala Heiau National Historic Site is next to Spencer Beach Park as well.
The main stretch of shoreline at Spencer Beach Park is Ohaiʻula Beach. There are lifeguard stands and good swimming conditions. In the winter months, it’s a popular surf spot.
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO HAWAII
- YOUR HAWAII VACATION
- KONA: 16 Things To Do In Kona Hawaii (And The Kohala Coast)
- HAWAII BEACHES: 14 Best Beaches In Hawaii For Fun In The Sun
- KAUAI BEACHES: 16 Awesome Kauai Beaches You’ll Absolutely Love
- OAHU BEACHES: 17 Best Beaches In Oahu You Definitely Can’t Miss
WHERE TO STAY IN KONA
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