The Big Island is home to the newest and some of the most unique beaches in Hawaii. The vibrant green palms surrounding black sand coastline and lava rock bays are all indicative of the volcanic legacy that continues to shape the beaches of Big Island.
As Hawaii’s youngest island, most shorelines are still works in progress with coarser sand than you will find on the older sister islands. But this raw, savage beauty is also what makes them so special.
From world famous destinations like “Green Sand Beach” and the golden coastline of Kona, to secret beaches hidden away in remote coves, this guide will take you on a photographic journey through the best Big Island beaches.
In it, you will learn exact locations, relevant information, and everything you need to know for visiting.
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🏝 About the Big Island Beaches: Quick Guide
You will notice that nearly all of the best beaches on Big Island are on the west coast, particularly in the Kona region. This is because the Hilo side of the island has only a lava rock shelf, meaning there really are no true beaches on the Big Island’s eastern coastline.
There are also few hidden gems tucked away in other corners of Big Island, such as Green Sand Beach in the Ka’u region or Waipi’o Beach in the north, but these are few and far between.
Due to the relatively young nature of the beaches on the Big Island, it is worth packing a pair of beach shoes. Even the softest sand beaches on the island may have some lava rock and coral present which can be painful to tread on.
Below is a list of the top ranked beaches on Big Island along with a photo gallery slideshow of each one.
The Top 25 Best Beaches on Big Island are:
- Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area
- Kua Bay Beach (Manini’owali Beach)
- Magic Sands Beach Park
- Mauna Kea Beach
- Waikoloa Beach (A-Bay)
- Kukio Beach
- Kikaua Point Park
- Makalawena Beach / Mahai’ula Beach
- Papakolea Green Sand Beach (aka Mahana Beach)
- Punalu’u Black Sand Beach
- Pauoa Bay Beach
- Ho’okena Beach
- Alula beach (Aiopio Fish Trap)
- Pine Trees Surfing Beach
- Kamakahonu Beach
- Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park
- Kahalu’u Beach Park
- Keiki Beach Queens Bath
- Spencer Beach Park
- Four Mile Beach (Hilo)
- Waipio Black Sand Beach
- Lone Palm Beach
- Puako Bay Beach
- Shoreline Beach Park
- Mau’umae Beach
- Captain James Cook Monument
- Two Step
- Beach 69
- Kahalu’u Beach Park
🏄 Top 20 Best Beaches on Big Island Complete Guide
From green sand to golden, from white sand to black, each of these incredible beaches showcases the otherworldly beauty the Big Island has to offer.
The beaches on this list have been ranked with consideration to physical beauty, sand quality, ease of access, popularity, and the overall experience provided to beachgoers.
☀️ 1. Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area
The amazing Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area is a great choice for everyone. However, it is specifically the best destination for families with children and larger groups looking to spend a full day on the beach.
Located along the Kohala coast north of Kona, Hapuna Beach is the most popular of all the beaches on Big Island.
The shore is free of lava rock and coral, and the cove is mostly sheltered. This provides an ideal place for swimmers and snorkelers of all ages.
Full services are provided including ample parking, a lifeguard, and a large covered picnic area for escaping the sun and eating, as well as clean restrooms and showers.
🍍 2. Kua Bay Beach (Manini’owali Beach)
Kua Bay Beach is home to the softest sand and most inviting water in the Kona region. While most of the beaches on Big Island are littered with sharp lava rock and pebbly sand, the beach at Kua Bay is mostly powdery and gentle.
What’s more, the beach park provides all facilities from restrooms to showers, picnic benches, and a lifeguard. Perhaps the best part is that this magical shoreline has no resorts or developments to be seen, providing a feeling of seclusion.
✨ 3. Magic Sands Beach Park
The white sand cove at Magic Sands Beach is the most popular beach destination in Kona. Its proximity to Kailua-Kona town, ease of access, and crystal clear waters beckon in visitors of all ages.
Magic Sands is particularly good for families and people with mobility issues. There is ample parking nearby with no hike required and full facilities, including a lifeguard, are available. Most importantly, the sandy access to the ocean makes it easy for anyone to go for a splash.
🌺 4. Mauna Kea Beach
Many of the best Big Island beaches are located directly adjacent to high end resorts, which is a good and bad thing. While you lose the feeling of seclusion, the resorts maintain the beaches and provide useful services.
Mauna Kea Beach is located at the base of the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel which offers beach chairs, beverages, and a variety of other services for guests. However, anyone can stop in and enjoy this beautiful stretch of coast, and everyone should!
🤿 5. Waikoloa Beach (A-Bay)
The Waikoloa region is located along the northwest coast and is the most popular place to stay outside of Kona. High-end shops, restaurants, and resorts occupy most of the space, lured in by one of the best beaches on the Big Island.
Waikoloa Beach, also known as Anaeho’omalu Bay or “A-Bay” for short, features a large green lagoon that is separated from the Pacific Ocean by a thin golden sand spit.
A dense palm tree grove offers shade for those who seek it and the lengthy expanse of shoreline allows everyone plenty of space even on the busiest days.
🍹 6. Kukio Beach
Kukio Beach should be one of the most popular beaches on the island, but somehow it is always quiet. Like so many others, this beach is also maintained by a resort with the Four Seasons laying unofficial claim.
The downside to Kukio Beach is the rocky shelf at the entrance to the water which makes swimming challenging, but the upside is pretty much everything else.
The beach is almost always quiet, giving the feeling of a private beach – although you may have to share it with resident turtles or perhaps an endangered monk seal!
Additionally, there is ample shade available with the lush vegetation lining the sand, full services, and even a beautiful walking trail through a thriving lagoon just behind the sand.
🐠 7. Kikaua Point Park
Located at the southernmost end of Kukio Beach, Kikaua Point Park is a palm tree haven with a sheltered cove and unbeatable sunset views.
A lava rock shelf breaks the incoming tide and creates a shallow pool perfect for children. The vista is due west and ideal for watching the sun go down while enjoying a quiet evening, perhaps even a picnic, for a magical night in paradise.
🦭 8. Makalawena Beach / Mahai’ula Beach
Makalawena Beach is probably the most famous beach on the Big Island of Hawaii, despite its difficulty of access and relatively obscure location.
You will find both Makalawena Beach and its sister shore of Mahai’ula Beach located within Kekaha Kai State Beach. To get to the water, you must either drive a few miles down a very rough dirt road or park outside the gate and walk all the way in.
Even upon arrival, some walking will be required over, around, and through no shortage of jagged lava rock. Therefore, this is one beach you’ll definitely want some beach shoes for.
The reward for the effort is an idyllic stretch of beach with palm tree groves and crystal clear water.
Pro Tip: Be sure to leave Kekaha Kai State Beach by 7pm as indicated as they frequently ticket here! If you wish to stay longer, all beaches in Hawaii are public but you will have to park outside the gate and walk in to avoid fines.
💚 9. Papakolea Green Sand Beach (aka Mahana Beach)
Papakolea Green Sand Beach is one of the best beaches of Hawaii in many ways.
For starters, its unique tint, though arguably not as green as advertised, still makes for a fun and unusual visual experience.
Beyond that, the sand is powdery soft; easily the nicest, softest sand on Big Island.
Getting to this treasured destination requires a bit of effort. It is located along the south shore of the remote Ka’u region. From the parking area, visitors must either trek 3 exposes miles in or catch a ride from one of the ATVs that shuttle people to and from the cove.
Still, the experience is well worth including on any Big Island itinerary, especially in conjunction with a visit to Punalu’u Beach and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park nearby.
🖤 10. Punalu’u Black Sand Beach
The Big Island has more black sand beaches than any of the other Hawaiian islands. Among those on the island, Punalu’u is probably the best, and definitely the most famous.
You will find this turtle sanctuary near Green Sand Beach in the Ka’u region.
It is incredibly photogenic thanks to the natural contrast created by the lush, tropical greenery that thrives in the volcanic soil.
The best part is the adorable company you will nearly always have from resting honu, aka sea turtles, who like this beach as much as we do!
🌅 11. Pauoa Bay Beach
The beach at Pauoa Bay is a sheltered slice of paradise kept immaculately manicured by The Fairmont Orchid hotel and resort.
This is one of the best beaches on Big Island for families with small children as the cove receives gentle tides with a long, shallow bay for splashing around in.
Additionally, the resort provides all amenities necessary for an enjoyable day with the whole family.
🐬 12. Ho’okena Beach
Known more as a destination for locals than tourists, the unusual gray sand at Ho’okena Beach is not as appealing to the eyes as it is to the feet.
Indeed, this is some of the softest sand you will find on the Big Island and has all of the tropical vibes you imagine on a postcard.
The best thing about Ho’okena Beach, however, is the resident dolphin pods that call this bay home. If you arrive for sunrise, you are almost guaranteed to see some of the fun-loving spinner dolphins splashing about who may even join you for a swim!
🐟 13. Alula Beach (Aiopio Fish Trap)
Two things make Alula Beach one of the best Big Island beaches to visit; the guaranteed turtle sightings and the historic, traditional fishing hut that still exists on its shore.
This once-sacred site is not exactly ideal for spending a day at, but is instead a destination for fishing and sunsets.
What makes it magical is sitting in the sand and watching handfuls of turtles bobbing up for breath as the sun sets splendidly in the distance.
🏄♀️ 14. Pine Trees Surfing Beach
As you may have surmised from the name, Pine Trees Beach is one of the best beaches on the Big Island for surfing, though it is also a popular local hangout due to the amount of space and shade available.
It does not offer particularly fine sand nor do the pine trees provide the same tropical vibes as palms.
However, the seclusion, shade, distance from resorts & developments, and surfing opportunities combine to earn it a spot on the list of best beaches.
🛖 15. Kamakahonu Beach
Many would argue that this beautiful little cove hidden away in plain sight deserves a higher spot on the list.
Indeed, Kamakahonu Beach has all the aloha feels one could ask for. Additionally, it could not be more conveniently located in proximity to Kailua-Kona town.
From the shore, beachgoers have access to a protected cove with gentle, clear water and a view of the (reconstructed) residence of King Kamehameha I.
There is also a pleasant, shaded grassy knoll for those who prefer not to sit in the sand and restrooms, ABC stores, and other shops nearby.
The downside to most is the upside to some, in that it is basically set in the midst of the bustle of Kona town. This can make it a bit tougher to relax and get swept up in tropical getaway vacation vibes.
🗿 16. Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park
The Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park is an area managed by the National Park System (NPS) which protects the cultural and spiritual legacy of this palm tree haven and the incredible beach and garden within.
This 180-acre region was once home to the royals as well as, ironically, a place for Hawaiian lawbreakers.
The story of the sacred grounds at Pu’uhonua O Honaunau is fascinating and worth a read for anyone visiting the island.
The beach here is small and coarse but absolutely picturesque in every way. It is one of the best places for photographing the Big Island, especially at sunset.
Unfortunately, swimming and beach chairs are not permitted which prevents it from being a beach-day destination.
🏊♀️ 17. Kahalu’u Beach Park
Admittedly, the reason to visit Kahalu’u Beach Park is less for the beach and much more for the snorkeling.
There are, of course, a few coarse-sand patches for relaxing out of water. But, it is the incredible coral reef and abundant aquatic wildlife that puts this place on the map.
Kahalu’u Beach Park provides all facilities including showers, restrooms, lifeguard, and an information area, as well as ample covered space with picnic tables if you prefer to stay out of the sun.
💦 18. Keiki Beach Queen’s Bath
Keiki translates to “child” in Hawaiian, so it should come as no surprise that Keiki Beach is one of the best beaches on Big Island for families with small children.
The reason it is special is the geological feature known as Queen’s Bath. An ocean shelf blocks and breaks the incoming waves and the water that does stream in fills a natural wading pool.
This “bath” is a great place for soaking in the water and for kids to splash around without having to worry about currents and tides.
Finding Keiki Beach can be a challenge. It requires walking through a park and following the public access path through the residential area next to the beach.
This longer walk and the feeling of being in someone’s backyard are the only things that prevent a higher place on the list.
🏝 19. Spencer Beach Park
Spencer Beach Park is another golden sand beach in Kona that is more renowned for the snorkeling and underwater adventure than for the beach itself.
As you can see in the photo above, the beach sits in direct alignment with one of the most incredible coral reefs on the Big Island.
It is also in a fairly remote setting and provides all basic services for visitors.
🌤 20. Honl’s Beach
Another of Kailua-Kona’s best beaches is the understated Honl’s Beach. As the photo above shows, the beach is surrounded by development and the ocean access has numerous obstacles, both on the shore and within the shallows. These are the main knocks against it.
On the flipside, the proximity to town and undeniably beautiful shoreline, decorated by palm trees, makes for a great afternoon in the sand.
There are some picnic tables available and shaded areas as well if you happen to be staying nearby and just want to spend some time on the beach without making a whole day out of it. Additionally, there are public restrooms across the street from the beach.
🌴 Best Secret Beaches on Big Island
🌺 21. Waipio Black Sand Beach
Also known as Pololū Valley Beach or Pololū Beach, this stunning black sand beach is realistically a top 5 beach on the Big Island.
The Waipio Valley might just be the most stunning region of the Big Island. Every new vista feels like discovering a lost land where dinosaurs may yet roam.
The beach itself allows a unique experience as you sink your toes into the jet-black sand, surrounded by tall verdant cliffs and palm trees.
Waipio Valley Road was closed to non-residents in 2022. However, it is possible to visit Waipio Valley via a tour. The Waipio Lookout is still open to all.
Additionally, scenic helicopter tours are still available. This is one of the most enjoyable things to do on Big Island and offers a unique insight into Hawaii’s diverse landscapes.
🌴 22. Lone Palm Beach
Another of the Big Island’s beautiful black sand beaches, Lone Palm derives its name from one lonely palm that adorns the shore. In the distance, funny enough, is a thriving palm tree grove!
Most people drive by this secret beach every day on the Big Island without ever knowing it is there.
To access Lone Palm, a lengthy walk is required over sharp, hot lava rock. Closed toe shoes, even just beach shoes, are recommended over flip flops as it’s easy to cut your feet on the sharp rocks.
Be warned, however, that the “sand” would more accurately be described as small pebbles.
The lack of shade and harsh earth make Lone Palm Beach more of a Big Island photography destination than anything else.
🧘♀️ 23. Puako Bay Beach
Finding Puako Beach hidden amongst a residential community in the Puako Bay can be a challenge, as can accessing the beach itself. During high enough tides, it may be impossible to do so without getting wet.
The reward for those who find this incredible Big Island secret beach, however, is one of the most postcard-perfect locations in all of Hawaii.
It should be noted that the experience is primarily a visual one, however.
There is no real sand at Puako Beach, but rather large and uncomfortable clumps of coral. You are also almost in people’s backyards, which negates the feeling of having this enchanted place all to yourself even when no other people are present.
You will find parking for this secret beach along Puako Beach Dr in the north of Kona. There are a few different public access paths that provide access for the beach. Please use these rather than trespassing through people’s property.
⛵️ 24. Shoreline Park Beach
If you decide to go on a Captain Cook Monument snorkel tour (which you absolutely should), you may actually notice this beautiful, remote beach as you make your voyage.
The secret Big Island beach at Shoreline Park is not advertised or signed anywhere, but public access is always allowed.
Google Maps will direct you properly to your destination where you are unlikely to see another soul, save for the occasional golfer coming through.
The sand is coarse and the ocean is inaccessible, but somehow there is a truly magical energy found in the isolation of Shoreline Park.
🌊 25. Mau’umae Beach
Rounding out the Top 25 Best Beaches on Big Island of Hawaii is one final secret beach hidden away between the two more famous attractions of Spencer Beach Park and Mauna Kea.
Mau’umae Beach is a white sand beach located off a rough dirt road that connects the two aforementioned destinations.
As it is such a remote location, the crowds are typically very small and limited to some snorkelers and anglers.
🤿 Top 5 Best Beaches on Big Island for Snorkeling
While some of these beaches have already been mentioned above, these top 5 beaches are the best for snorkeling specifically.
Some, such as Beach 69, barely even feature enough sand to call it a beach, but all have incredible coral reefs teeming with aquatic life.
- Beach 69 aka Waialea Beach
- Kahalu’u Beach Park
- Captain James Cook Monument
- Two Step
- Spencer Beach Park
🌈 Top 5 Best Beaches on Big Island in Hilo
As mentioned in the beginning, even the best beaches in Hilo leave much to be desired. For starters, most do not have any actual sand. Even the famous Four Mile Beach is mostly lava rock and while beautiful, it is not the type of place you imagine when daydreaming of Hawaii.
Combine this with the very wet climate and you end up with some lackluster days on the coast.
However, there are a few beaches in Hilo worth checking out if you happen to be spending time in the region. The Top 5 best beaches in Hilo are:
- Pohoiki Black Sand Beach (and hot spring!)
- Carlsmith Beach Park
- Richardson Beach Park / Leleiwi Beach Park
- Haʻena / Shipman Beach
- Kehena Black Sand Beach
🗺 Best Beaches on Big Island Map
The map below shows the locations of all the best Big Island beaches mentioned within this blog post. Click here to open the map in a new tab or on the image below.
❓Best Beaches on Big Island FAQs
Below are answers to the most common questions asked about the Big Island beaches. Click the drop down arrows to reveal answers.
What part of Big Island has the best beaches?
The West Coast of the Big Island is home to the vast majority of the best beaches, particularly along the Kona and Kohala coasts.
Are there swimmable beaches on the Big Island?
Most of the beaches on Big Island have lava rock, coral reefs, and sea shelves that make swimming difficult. However, there are a collection of great swimming beaches on the island with the most popular being Kua Bay, Hapuna Beach, Magic Sands, Mauna Kea, and Waikoloa Beach.
Does the Big Island have nice beaches?
The older an island, the softer the sand, which explains why the young beaches of Big Island may not be as popular as the other Hawaiian islands. Still, there are a handful of particularly special, beautiful beaches on the Big Island worth visiting, including the only Green Sand Beach in Hawaii. It also has arguably the best snorkeling beaches in the Pacific.
Are all the beaches on Big Island black sand?
The Big Island has more black sand beaches than any other Hawaiian island, with the majority located along the south shore. However, the west coast is predominantly white sand and gold sand beaches.
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