🏝 25 Best Beaches in Kona: World Famous + Local Secrets

Best beaches in Kona blog cover image.  Text overlaying an aerial image of a white sand beach in Kona, with vibrant blue ocean and lush greenery surrounding it.

Time in the sand is an essential element of any Big Island vacation, and you will find the best beaches in Kona. In fact, there are less than 10 sand beaches found outside of the west coast!

With time being the most precious commodity on every Big Island itinerary, it is important to spend it in the right places.

After visiting every beach on the Kona side, we put together this helpful guide with maps, photos, descriptions, and rankings of each to assist you in planning your big getaway.

Be aware that these are just the best beaches in Kona! You can find the complete list of the best beaches on Big Island here.

🏝 Best Beaches in Kona Overview

Before we start listing the best beaches in Kona, it is first important to clear up some confusion most first-time visitors to the Big Island have.

What is Kona? Is it a town? A region? A side?

The term “Kona” can be used to reference the town of Kailua-Kona, the Kona region, or the Kona Side of Big Island.

In other words, there is a town called Kailua-Kona also known as Kona Town. There is also a region called Kona which can be broken down further into North Kona and South Kona, with Kona Town being the unofficial landmark separating the two.

And, just to make things more confusing, many people refer to the entire western half of the Big Island as the “Kona Side” (with the east being the “Hilo Side”).

Map of the different regions on the Big Island of Hawaii
The Big Island regional map above illustrates the confusion and distinction between Kona Town, Kona Region, and Kona Side.

For the sake of this guide, we assumed that most people, like ourselves, care less about invisible borders and just want to find the best beaches in and around Kona.

In that spirit, we have ranked the best beaches on the Kona Side of Big Island, which includes destinations along the incredible Kohala coast as well.

What are the best beaches in Kona?

  • People playing in the water at Kau Bay Beach in Kona Big Island during a golden sunset.
    1. Kua Bay Beach

The best Kona beaches to visit are:

  1. Hapuna Beach
  2. Kua Bay
  3. Magic Sands
  4. Mauna Kea Beach
  5. Waikoloa Beach
  6. Kukio Beach
  7. Kikaua Point
  8. Makalawena Beach
  9. Mahai’ula Beach
  10. Pauoa Bay
  11. Ho’okena Beach
  12. Alulua Beach
  13. Pine Trees Beach
  14. Kamakahonu Beach
  15. Pu’uhonua O Honaunau
  16. Two Step
  17. Kahalu’u Beach Park
  18. Keiki Beach
  19. Honl’s Beach
  20. Spencer Beach Park
  21. Puako Bay Beach
  22. Lone Palm Beach
  23. Kiholo Bay
  24. Mau’umae Beach
  25. Shoreline Park
Hapuna Beach in North Kona from a drone on a Big Island itinerary.
Hapuna Beach is the best Kona beach to visit.

What are the best snorkeling beaches in Kona?

  1. Captain Cook Monument
  2. Two Step
  3. Kahalu’u Beach Park
  4. Spencer Beach Park
  5. Beach 69

What are the best secret beaches in Kona?

  1. Makalawena Beach
  2. Keiki Beach
  3. Puako Bay Beach
  4. Lone Palm Beach
  5. Mau’umae Beach

πŸ—Ί Best Beaches in Kona Map

Below you’ll find a map of all the best beaches in Kona. Open the interactive Google Map in a new tab by clicking here or on the image below.

Map of the best beaches in Kona, Hawaii

πŸ– 25 Best Beaches in Kona List

1. Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area

  • Region: North Kona
  • Strengths: Excellent facilities, good snorkeling, best for families and groups.
  • Weaknesses: Always busy.

Hapuna Beach is widely considered the best beach in Kona. Not only is it incredibly scenic and tropical, but its status as a State Recreation Area means the facilities provided for visitors are ample and well-maintained.

Whether you want to picnic under shade and shelter, lay in the sun, go snorkeling, and/or celebrate an occasion with friends and family, Hapuna Beach has it covered.

2. Kua Bay (Manini’owali Beach)

  • Region: North Kona
  • Strengths: Silky soft sand, amazing sunsets, excellent for water activities, no resorts.
  • Weaknesses: Busy and has limited parking & beach space.

Manini’owali Beach at Kua Bay is home to the softest sand in the Kona region, perhaps on the entire Big Island!

Most of the island is littered with scattered lava rock and coral reefs which, though beautiful, make swimming straight off the beach problematic. Kua Bay, however, has almost no lava rock nor reefs to contend with allowing beachgoers to enjoy a swim or water activities such as boogie boarding.

Some final elements that make Kua Bay Beach so special are that all basic facilities are provided, (including a lifeguard), the sunset views are incredible, and there are no resorts or developments distracting from this tropical paradise.

3. Magic Sands Beach Park

  • Region: South Kona
  • Strengths: Proximity to Kona Town, ease of access, tropical vibes, good for swimming.
  • Weaknesses: Small and busy.

Magic Sands Beach is a favorite family oasis right on the edge of Kailua-Kona. The coarse white sand is decorated by swaying palm trees which combine with tropical blue and green water to complete a picture of paradise.

This beach is exceptionally easy to access, particularly by Big Island standards. It is not necessary to take a side road nor even a short walk separating you and the sand. This is highly irregular on this particular island!

Combine the beautiful scenery, reef-free shoreline, proximity to town, and ease of access and the result is one of the most popular and best beaches in Kona at Magic Sands.

4. Mauna Kea Beach (KaunaΚ»oa Beach)

  • Region: Kohala Coast
  • Strengths: Ample parking, easy access, large white sand beach, great swimming, good for families.
  • Weaknesses: Next to resorts, poor snorkeling, limited shade, semi-coarse sand.

Most of the best beaches in Kona and the Kohala coast are situated next to high-end resorts and hotels. However, all the beaches of Hawaii are public and while these properties often maintain and service the beaches, anyone is free to enjoy them.

KaunaΚ»oa Beach, aka Mauna Kea Beach, is next to the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. This is either a good thing or a bad thing depending on whether you prefer something remote and secluded or busy but maintained.

The great thing about this particular spot is that the water is crystal clear and the beach has plenty of space even on the busiest days. It is perfect for families as well as it is free of lava rock and coral reefs, requires no hike or rough roads, and provides all necessary facilities nearby.

5. Waikoloa Beach (Anaeho’omalu Bay)

  • Region: Kohala Coast / Waikoloa Region
  • Strengths: Sand in shade available, great snorkeling, facilities available, amazing sunsets, great for people staying in the Waikoloa area.
  • Weaknesses: Fairly coarse sand, busy beach, expensive area.

Most visitors who come to the Big Island for vacation choose to stay near Kailua-Kona or in the Waikoloa region. This is the most expensive place to stay on the entire island, but also has access to some of the best beaches on Kona side along the Kohala Coast. None is more conveniently located and easier to access than Waikoloa Beach, aka Anaeho’omalu Bay (locally referred to as A-Bay for short).

This stunning beach has everything you could want. The tropical setting boasts every postcard-worthy feature, from the decorative palm trees to the blue and turquoise water, and even a bit of a coral garden to attract aquatic wildlife.

While Waikoloa Beach can suffer from very large crowds, there is still plenty of space and ample facilities.

6. Kukio Beach

Region: North Kona
Strengths: One of the quietest Kona beaches with idyllic tropical beauty.
Weaknesses: Lava rock shelf makes swimming challenging, coarse sand.

Despite being one of the most beautiful beaches in Kona, Kukio Beach is always quiet. In fact, on a recent visit in 2022, we shared an epic sunset with no one other than an endangered Hawaiian monk seal!

Most of the visitors are guests from the Four Seasons hotel which is located adjacent to the beach.

The reason this stunning scene is seldom busy is that the lava rock shelf at the water’s edge makes water activities like snorkeling very difficult, and things like boogie boarding impossible. It is one of the best places to come enjoy the sunshine, but not as great for kids or people who want to spend time in the water.

7. Kikaua Point Park

  • Region: North Kona
  • Strengths: Protected cove for wading, lush palm trees, top sunset beach in Kona.
  • Weaknesses: Coarse sand, very small beach, facilities available nearby but not on location.

Kikaua Point Park is really an extension of Kukio Beach, found at the south end. A palm tree grove within a grassy knoll provides shaded seating areas that serves as an amazing foreground for photos. Additionally, there is a small sandy cove protected from incoming waves by a lava rock breaker that is perfect for wading.

The cove is the big draw to Kikaua Point Beach, providing two reasons to visit. First, it is a picture-perfect place to experience a classic Kona beach sunset with volcanic scenery. Second, it forms a natural wading pool that is ideal for small children or calm water soaks.

8 & 9. Makalawena Beach / Mahai’ula Beach

  • Region: North Kona
  • Strengths: Incredibly beautiful, very remote, monk seals are often spotted.
  • Weaknesses: Difficult to get to, closes early with tickets issued!

Mahai’ula Beach and its sister Makalawena Beach are perhaps the most iconic beaches on the Big Island. That is, they have all of the features that make the island unique, from the lava rock bundles on top of coarse white sand to crystal clear water, towering palms, and thriving greenery. They are also popular hangouts for the endangered Hawaiian monk seal.

You will find Makalawena and Mahai’ula Beaches located within Kekaha Kai State Beach. A gate near the main highway at the start of the very rough dirt road indicates the park boundary. Be aware this road is going to be rough on typical commuter cars and the indicated open hours are enforced. You are allowed to be at the beach any time as all beaches in Hawaii are public, but your vehicle may be ticketed if it is located within park boundaries after 7pm.

Also note that beyond the rough road, some walking over lava rock is also required. You will definitely want some beach shoes for Kekaha Kai State Park, which are handy for many of the beaches of Kona.

10. Pauoa Bay

  • Region: Kohala Coast
  • Strengths: Sheltered cove with palms, clear water, great for swimming and snorkeling.
  • Weaknesses: Highly developed, coarse sand, often busy with lots of families.
A female swimmer lies in the water at Pauoa Bay Beach on the Big Island.

Considered one of the best beaches in Kona for families and sunbathers, Pauoa Bay is a half-moon cove with clear, calm water and sand access free of rock and coral.

The Fairmont Orchid Hotel provides ample amenities and facilities for beach guests, even if you are not staying.

Between the ample parking, manicured beach, tropical scenery with aloha vibes, and calm water, Pauoa Bay has become one of the most popular destinations on the west coast of Big Island.

11. Ho’okena Beach Park

  • Region: South Kona
  • Strengths: Very soft sand, good snorkeling, dolphins, no resorts or tourists.
  • Weaknesses: Remote, limited parking

Ho’okena Beach is a truly special beach in South Kona that most tourists never know they’re missing out on.

This remote, secret Kona beach is a favorite for locals due to the silky soft sand and day-trip facilities. These include covered picnic areas, showers, restrooms, and BBQ pits. More importantly, it is very secluded from the resorts and touristy areas.

Two things make Ho’okena Beach magical. The first is the otherworldly grey sand, and the second is the resident dolphin pod that lives in the bay and will often swim with morning visitors. You are not allowed to swim within 50 yards of spinner dolphins, but you can admire them from afar and it is not uncommon for them to curiously swim up to you!

12. Alula Beach / Aiopio Fish trap

  • Region: North Kona
  • Strengths: Great for sea turtle (aka honu) sightings and fishing.
  • Weaknesses: Very coarse sand, tough conditions for swimming, limited facilities.

Alula Beach is the best beach in Kona to see the Hawaiian green sea turtles, also known as honu. Most times of day, visitors are nearly guaranteed to see at least a couple either resting on the shore or swimming in the very shallow waters within the Aiopio Fish trap.

Another noteworthy feature of Alulua Beach is the historic fishing hut that occupies the shoreline. This provides shade and shelter, and is also an important relic of the once-sacred grounds here.

For an extra-special visit, try to come at sunset to watch the turtles swimming about in the golden light of sunset.

13. Pine Trees Surfing Beach

  • Region: North Kona
  • Strengths: Excellent surfing, ample space, remote and undeveloped, great for picnics and beach days.
  • Weaknesses: Coarse sand, no tropical vibes, tough swimming.

As the name suggests, Pine Trees Surfing Beach is one of the beaches in Kona for surfing. Also as implied, there are no palm trees but rather pines and other greenery adorning the coastline.

Because it is remote and not surrounded by resorts nor popular for tourists, while still being easy to access, it is a fantastic beach to visit with groups for a full day beach trip. Just drive up, claim your spot, and settle in for the days. Restrooms and portapotties are available.

The downside to Pine Trees Beach is that the sand is very coarse and the ocean access is limited. You can swim, but it is not a great spot to do so compared to some of the other best Big Island beaches.

14. Kamakahonu Beach

  • Region: Kailua-Kona Town
  • Strengths: Proximity to town, hidden in plain sight, beautiful scenery.
  • Weaknesses: Small and crowded, no feelings of seclusion, some homeless seem to congregate at the public restrooms here (though all were friendly, there were some dodgy dealings occurring).

Kamakahonu Beach is the most central beach in Kona to Kailua-Kona town. Somehow, it is still kind of hidden as it is off the main strip with limited parking and signage.

Most first-time beachgoers are surprised to find this beautiful tropical beach complete with soft white sand, turquoise and aqua water, and towering palms right in town.

The great thing about Kamakahonu Beach is that you can quickly walk to get anything you need nearby with shops and an ABC store less than 5 minutes away.

The bad thing is that it can get quite crowded as the beach is small and the large bathroom seems to be a hangout for some of the locals with some minor illegal activities occurring in plain sight. It is worth noting all were friendly during our encounter and we never felt endangered, but some tourists might be uncomfortable.

15. Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park

  • Region: South Kona
  • Strengths: Incredibly photogenic, rich culture & history.
  • Weaknesses: No swimming allowed, limited beach, requires NPS pass.

The National Park Service (NPS) manages and maintains the rich culture and history of the royal grounds at Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park. This means there is ample parking with tons of fun information available in an impossibly beautiful setting, but it also means you require a parks pass to park and enter. It also means there is no swimming allowed.

The primary appeal of visiting Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park is to engage in the Hawaiian history the NPS has preserved here. However, the beach is also stunning, surrounded by a palm tree haven and historic replicas.

Be sure to read the fascinating story of these sacred grounds and save some time to swim at the adjacent Two-Step snorkel spot, considered the best snorkeling in Kona.

16. Two Step Beach

Region: South Kona
Strengths: Top snorkel beach in Kona.
Weaknesses: The beach itself is fairly lackluster.

Located directly next to Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park is a very small beach with perpetual crowds. Two-Step is famous for being the best beach in Kona for snorkeling.

The name comes from the two steps it takes to get from the rock shelf into the water. This can pose a challenge for people with mobility issues or small children.

While the snorkeling is incredible, the beach itself is mediocre at best. Still, the popularity of Two Step demands a place on the top beaches list.

17. Kahalu’u Beach Park

  • Region: South Kona
  • Strengths: Top snorkel beach in Kona.
  • Weaknesses: The beach itself is fairly lackluster.

If you are looking for the best snorkel beaches in Kona, Kahalu’u Beach Park will be at the top of most lists. The coral garden here is absolutely stunning and teeming with tropical fish and other aquatic wildlife.

In addition, it is very easy to access the beach and all facilities are readily available, including covered picnic tables.

Unfortunately, the beach itself leaves a lot to be desired. The sand is very coarse, space is limited, and the setting isn’t much for the eyes. In other words, Kahalu’u Beach Park is really only worth visiting if you plan on spending some time in the water.

18. Keiki Beach QUeen’s Bath

  • Region: Kailua-Kona Town
  • Strengths: Hidden beach featuring a natural wading pool that is great for families with children.
  • Weaknesses: Difficult to find, no services on-site, shallow water swimming only.

Keiki Beach translates to “children’s beach” in Hawaiian, which should give you some indication as to whom this beach is most popular.

A large breaker blocks the incoming waves and creates a shallow wading pool known as Queen’s Bath. This natural pool is perfect for kids as it prevents concern of undertows, currents, or harmful sea life.

Finding Keiki Beach is the tough part. It requires walking through a city park and a small residential area, though the entire walk is less than half a mile. Perhaps the biggest challenge is that the only restrooms and services are back in the parking area, so you need to come prepared.

19. Honl’s Beach

  • Region: Kailua-Kona Town
  • Strengths: Close to town, easy access, plentiful sand.
  • Weaknesses: Poor swimming, right next to the main road.

As with most of the beaches within the Kailua-Kona limits, the proximity to this bustling tourist town is both the blessing and the weakness. Honl’s Beach is beautiful and literally right off the main road, meaning easy access but constant noise and some riff-raff.

Honl’s Beach is one of those places that is perfect if you are staying near enough to walk there, but not worth including in any Big Island itinerary.

There are picnic tables and plenty of sand to sit and enjoy some beach time, but it is not the nicest sand nor would you want to do much swimming from the shore due to the sharp rocks present.

20. Spencer Beach Park

  • Region: Kohala Coast
  • Strengths: Excellent snorkeling, full services, typically quiet.
  • Weaknesses: Small beach with no palm trees or shade.
Aerial drone photo of Spencer Beach Park in North Kona and the fantastic coral garden.

While most tourists swarm the neighboring beach at Mauna Kea, Spencer Beach Park remains mostly quiet except for visitors in the know.

This small but beautiful beach park is a premier destination for snorkeling on the Big Island. As you can see in the photo above, the coral garden at the golden-sand shoreline is spectacular.

What Spencer Beach Park lacks in shade and greenery, it makes up for in underwater adventure.

21. Puako Bay Beach

  • Region: Edge of North Kona / Kohala Coast
  • Strengths: Perhaps the most picturesque beach in Kona, but pleasant for eyes only.
  • Weaknesses: Not sand, but rather craggily coral, no swimming, tough to find and access.

When you see photos from the Kona secret beach of Puako Bay, you may wonder why it is so low on the list of the best beaches and why you don’t hear more about it. The answer is that Puako Beach is one of the best places to photograph on the Big Island, but is actually a very unpleasant beach by all other metrics.

If you can even find access, which is challenging enough, you will encounter craggily coral where you are expecting sand as well as a lava rock shelf at the water’s edge. This coral is extremely unpleasant for sitting and swimming is absolutely not recommended off the shore here.

Conversely, the scenery looks like it was stolen from a postcard! Turtles sunbathe on the lava rock while Mauna Kea towers in the background as a hammock gently sways between palm trees. It is a picture of true Hawaiian paradise.

22. Lone Palm Beach

  • Region: North Kona
  • Strengths: Beautiful and secret.
  • Weaknesses: Tough to get to, not very comfortable shore with no shade.
A girl in a swimsuit strolls the black sand shoreline at Lone Palm Beach, one of the best secret beaches on Big Island.

Lone Palm Beach is one of the best secret beaches in Kona for photography. The striking black sand beach, named for a singular palm tree standing triumphantly, requires some effort to reach but is worth it for the shot!

To get here, you will need to walk along a path across an exposed lava rock field. Upon arrival, you will grey to black “sand” that is actually hard round pebbles. You’ll definitely appreciate a pair of beach shoes here.

As you may imagine, the lack of shade and pebbles make for better photos than experience. Like so many at the bottom of this list, Lone Palm Beach is better for photographers than beach enthusiasts.

23. Kiholo Beach

  • Region: North Kona
  • Strengths: Visually stunning, host to a geological marvel called Queens Bath.
  • Weaknesses: Terribly uncomfortable pebbly sand with a long walk and rough road to get to. Not enjoyable for a day on the beach except maybe for photographers.

Kiholo Beach is one of those places you see a photo of and imagine to be paradise, only to discover the photo is nicer than the experience. The view from the sky is even more incredible.

As far as beaches go, however, Kiholo leaves some things to be desired. The sand is actually small pebbles that are uncomfortable for walking or sitting on. While the water is incredibly colorful and clear, the shallow reef makes it incredibly difficult to swim or snorkel.

The most notable feature of Kiholo Bay is not the beach, but a natural marvel formed by lava tubes known as “Queen’s Bath” (different from the one at Kikei Beach).

24. Mau’umae Beach

  • Region: Kohala Coast
  • Strengths: Secret beach with sandy ocean access.
  • Weaknesses: No services, greenery, or shade.
Drone photo over Mau'umae Beach on the North Kona shoreline on Hawaii Big Island.

Mau’umae Beach is located down a bumpy road that connects Mauna Kea Beach to Spencer Beach Park. As these two famous beaches distract most tourists, Mau’umae provides a quiet getaway for those who prefer some peace and quiet.

Despite being so close to nearby Spencer Beach Park, the coral garden ends directly in front of the sandy shore at Mau’umae Beach. This is not as scenic for snorkelers, but much better for swimmers as it allows easy ocean access.

25. Shoreline Park

  • Region: South Kona
  • Strengths: Complete solitude.
  • Weaknesses: Very remote (but paved road!) with no ocean access.
An aerial photo of the secret Big Island beach of Shoreline Park in South Kona.

Perhaps the most secret of all the secret beaches in Kona is the lava-lined beach at Shoreline Park in South Kona.

The beach has some picnic tables and facilities near the parking area, but offers little else. It is a fantastic place to get off the beaten path and have a little piece of Hawaii all to yourself. It is not, however, a good choice for anyone who wants to get into the water.

β˜€οΈ Other Big Island Beaches

While the Kona and Kaholo coastlines are home to the vast majority of sandy shores on the Big Island of Hawaii, there are a few other gems dotted around the island.

Time and enthusiasm permitting, you should consider visiting some of these other beautiful destinations, each of which is covered in greater detail in our COMPLETE GUIDE TO THE BEST BEACHES ON BIG ISLAND.

  • Papakolea Green Sand Beach (Ka’u South Shore)
  • Punalu’u Black Sand Beach (Ka’u South Shore)
  • Waipio Valley Black Sand Beach / Pololu Valley Beach (North Shore)
  • Four Mile Beach (Hilo)
  • Shipman Beach (Hilo)
  • Kehena Black Sand Beach (Puna East Shore)
  • Pohoiki Black Sand Beach (Puna East Shore)

πŸ“– More Big Island Travel Guides

Need more help planning your Hawaiian vacation?

Browse some of the popular titles below for other Hawaii travel guides to make sure you don’t miss any of the best experiences the island(s) have to offer.

πŸ€” Final Thoughts on the Best Beaches in Kona

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Written by
Adam Marland is a professional travel blogger and landscape photographer from Oregon. After over a decade of experience as a freelance travel photographer, Adam found national acclaim when he became the National Park Foundation's β€œChief Exploration Officer” in 2021.

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