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Top 5 Beaches on Big Island

Some of the world’s only green sand beaches

Top Beaches on Big Island

The beaches on Hawaii’s Big Island are very different from all the other islands’ beaches as Big Island is by far the youngest of the Hawaiian Islands. Big Island has some of the world’s only green sand beaches as well as black sand beaches and white sand beaches and some very new beaches formed from lava rocks.

With such remarkable differences, your beach experience on Big Island will be full of variety, varying with each type of beach you choose. You can drive from coast to coast, discovering the beautiful beaches and all they have to offer. Whether you want to sunbathe, snorkel, surf or walk along the beach simply soaking up the sun, Big Island’s beaches will always be well worth the time spent creating unforgettable memories.

The highest concentration of beaches — including world-famous beaches like Hapuna Beach and Mauna Kea Beach — can be found along the northwest coast. The beaches around Kona on the west coast are known for their clear water, which makes them the best snorkeling experience on Big Island. Just take your rental car up to one of the glorious beaches or even plan a day trip where you drive from beach to beach. Some of the most popular snorkeling locations are Honaunau Bay, Kealakekua Bay, Kahaluu Beach Park, and Maikaiwa Bay.


Top Beaches on Big Island


Big Island’s Top 5 Beaches

Hapuna Beach

Hapuna Beach

Hapuna Beach (Hapuna White Sand Beach) is located at Hapuna Beach State Park and can be easily reached by car from the city of Kona.

Hapuna Beach
Hawaii 96743, USA

Maniniowali Beach

Maniniowali Beach

Further up north, in the Kua Bay, you will find beautiful Maniniowali Beach, which is sometimes called “The Caribbean of Hawaii”.

Manini'owali Beach (Kua Bay)
723990 Mamalahoa Hwy, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740, USA

Makalawena Beach

Makalawena Beach

Further up north, in the Kua Bay, you will find beautiful Maniniowali Beach, which is sometimes called “The Caribbean of Hawaii”. With its perfect white sand and its crystal-clear waters, it is very popular with bodyboarders and snorkelers.

Makalawena Beach
HI-19, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740, USA

Mauna Kea Beach

Mauna Kea Beach

Mauna Kea Beach is located north of Hapuna Beach. Hop into your car and it will only take you five minutes to get there.

Kaunaʻoa (Mauna Kea) Beach
62-100 Mauna Kea Beach Dr, Waimea, HI 96743, USA

Waialea Bay

Waialea Bay

Waialea Bay with the beautiful Waialea Beach is very easy to access and therefore a perfect holiday destination for families.

Waialea Bay
Hawaii 96743, USA

Hapuna Beach

Hapuna Beach

Hapuna Beach (Hapuna White Sand Beach) is located at Hapuna Beach State Park and can be easily reached by car from the city of Kona. The beach is a half mile long and it offers perfect swimming conditions with wonderful clear water and soft sand. It is very popular with both locals and visitors — and reaches a spectacular 200-foot stretch of beach sand inland from the water during the summer months. At its south end, it offers perfect opportunities for snorkeling. The surrounding area of the beach, Hapuna Beach State Park, provides gorgeous lush greenery that can be enjoyed from the beach.


Where is Hapuna Beach?

Take a look on Google Street View: Check it out

Maniniowali Beach

Maniniowali Beach

Further up north, in the Kua Bay, you will find beautiful Maniniowali Beach, which is sometimes called “The Caribbean of Hawaii”. With its perfect white sand and its crystal-clear waters, it is very popular with bodyboarders and snorkelers. The beach can be easily reached by car from Kailua-Kona. You can also bring your own picnic meal or barbecue with you, as it provides many picnic tables and barbecue spots. Nature enthusiasts will love spotting the famous green turtles.

Where is Maniniowali Beach?

Take a look on Google Street View: Check it out

Makalawena Beach

Makalawena Beach

Another beautiful northern beach is Makalawena Beach. It can only be reached by hiking a 20-minute walk across the lava, making it a very special adventure. It is also uncrowded and feels like an untouched tropical paradise. The soft sand and clear water is perfect for sunbathing and swimming and you can explore the beautiful coral reefs by snorkeling through the shallow waters. It is the perfect secluded spot for enjoying a beautiful day in the sun.

Where is Makalawena Beach?

Take a look on Google Street View: Check it out

Mauna Kea Beach

Mauna Kea Beach

Mauna Kea Beach is located north of Hapuna Beach. Hop into your car and it will only take you five minutes to get there. It is also known as Kaunoa Beach and is one of the most spectacular beaches of Hawaii. The white sand stretches for almost a quarter of a mile, surrounded by beautiful natural rock reefs.

The small, gentle waves are perfect for swimming and spending a relaxing day in the water. Nearby Mauna Kea Hotel turns on underwater lights at night to attract manta rays.

Where is Mauna Kea Beach?

Take a look on Google Street View: Check it out

Waialea Bay

Waialea Bay

Waialea Bay with the beautiful Waialea Beach is very easy to access and therefore a perfect holiday destination for families. It is one of the more popular beaches and is also called “69 Beach”. The sand makes a gentle slope into the ocean which makes it easy for young children to access the water. In the bay, you will find a great variety of marine wildlife, which makes it the perfect spot for snorkeling or scuba diving.

Where is Waialea Bay?

Take a look on Google Street View: Check it out

Black Sand, White Sand, and Green Sand Beaches

Big Island is world-famous for its wide range of black sand, white sand, and green sand beaches. Green sand beaches are especially rare and you will find two of them on Big Island. The green sand beach, Papakolea, is located on the southern coast. It is very remote and secluded and will be a very unique experience. Once you reach it after a 1.5 hour hike, you will be mesmerized by its beauty.

The green sand is actually green glassy olivine crystals, which gives the beach its characteristic green color. These crystals date back to a volcanic eruption from over 49,000 years ago. The best way to reach this beautiful beach is to plan a road trip. Take Highway 11 to the small harbor and park your car there. From there, it is a three-mile hike to reach the cliffs above the beach. Then, with proper safety precautions, safely climb down the appropriate cliff to access the idyllic and remote beach. 

Make sure to also visit Big Island’s unique black sand beaches, whose sand is made out of tiny lava fragments. The black lava parts were created when lava entered the water, solidified and then shattered into tiny fragments. Black sand beaches are perfect for turtle spotting. The turtles use the warmer black sand to build their nests.


Punaluu black sand beach

Papakolea Black Sand Beach

Punaluu on the southern coast is the most scenic and most popular of Hawaii’s black sand beaches. It is located between Kona and Hilo and the best way to reach it is by driving up to Volcano Village. Overnight camping — with a permit — is allowed there, making it the perfect spot for travelers in search of an adventure. It offers a huge variety of activities such as swimming, snorkeling and coastal hikes.

Another black sand beach, Pololu Valley Black Sand Beach is more secluded and more difficult to access. You reach it via a 400-foot vertical footpath where you can enjoy the breathtaking views.

Big Island’s white sand beaches are composed of marine shells and coral fragments which were brought to the beach by waves and marine animals. One beautiful white sand beach — Hapuna Beach — is located about 30 miles north of Kailua-Kona and was even voted one of the best beaches in the world.

Papakolea green sand beach

Punaluu Green Sand Beach

Beach Destinations by Region

Beach Destinations near Kona

Near Kona on the west coast you can find many beautiful beaches to spend the day at, or to drive from one beach to another. Great beaches in this region are Kiholo Bay, Kukio Beach, Kikaua Point Beach, Mahaiula Beach, and Makalawena Beach.

Beach Destinations near Hilo

Hilo on the east coast is a great place to start for your discovery of Big Island’s beaches. Having a rental car will give you the independence you need and make it easy for you to reach any beach you want. One of the iconic black sand beaches is Kaimū Beach Park and is always worth a visit. Or check out Isaac Hale Beach Park if you want to give surfing a go. Richardson Beach Park is the perfect place to snorkel. If you are looking for a great family beach, Kealoha Beach Park is the perfect destination for you.

Kohala & Waimea Beaches

Up in the north, Kohala Beach and Waimea Beach are great travel destinations. If you love hiking, you will enjoy the trip to beautiful beaches such as Waipio Black Sand Beach and Pololū Beach. There are also several other beaches that are more secluded and rougher.

Spencer County Beach Park and Kapaa Beach Park are great for barbecues and picnics and just spending a relaxing day in the sun. You can also visit Hapuna Beach, Mauna Kea Beach, Waialea Beach or Anaeho'omalu Beach.

South Beaches

In the south of Big Island, you can find the famous green sand beach, Papakōlea, and the renowned black sand beach, Punaluu.

What travelers say about Big Island Beaches

Travelers love Big Island’s beautiful and diverse beaches as they offer something to enjoy for everyone. Whether you want to just relax or try outdoor activities such as snorkeling or diving, Big Island’s beautiful green sand, white sand, and black sand beaches are simply perfect. 

All coasts of Big Island have plenty to offer and which is the best side to stay depends on which activities you have planned. Landing at either Kona International Airport (KOA) on the west coast or Hilo International Airport (ITO) on the east coast, you can pick up a rental car as soon as you arrive. This will give you the freedom to explore the island at your own pace and discover its hidden gems.

The only red sand beach of all the Hawaiian Islands is Kaihalulu Beach on Maui. It is also simply called "Red Sand Beach".

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