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Pololu Beach - Kohala Region

Best Beaches on the Big Island

Big Island Beach Guide

If variety is the spice of life, then get ready for the "spiciest" Hawaiian beach getaway imaginable! The Big Island offers up not only some of the loveliest beaches in the state but also some of the most varied.

Though the Big Island may be the newest island in the chain and has the fewest major beaches, the island still has some of the best beaches in the world. Here you'll find everything from enchanting green sand and black sand beaches, family-friendly beach spots, and rugged and remote beaches for the adventurous types. We should also say that Big Island includes several "run-of-the-mill" white sand beaches; however, there's really no such thing here. The Big Island of Hawaii offers up some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

Some of the Big Island's beaches are accessible only by trail (as you'll see below) - but most are easily available to all visitors. There are beaches full of drama with crashing waves while others are calm and tranquil. Some of the Big Island's beaches are nice all year round while others fade away in the winter months, leaving nothing but black rocks behind. Choose your perfect slice of paradise from our picks for the top Big Island beaches.

John Derrick
Published on: 07-20-2020
Published by: John C. Derrick

This entry includes resources for the Big Island's Top Beaches, including tips, advice, beach rankings, maps, and more.

Top Big Island Beaches Map

Top Big Island Beaches Map

Hawaii's Big Island Top Beaches - All on one map...

Updated with a new high-resolution map of the Big Island. Includes each of the Big Island's top beaches, all major routes, landmarks, and a key with colored icons for help selecting the perfect beach.

Top 10 Big Island Beaches

Which beaches are the very best on the Big Island? Which are worth a visit and which can be skipped? Our ratings consider several key things; sand quality, waves, year-round consistency, crowds and popularity, accessibility, and the beaches' surroundings as a whole. Let's take a look at the Big Island of Hawaii's best beaches.

Makalawena Beach

Kohala Region
#1 Rated Beach on the Big Island

Like anything worthwhile, Makalawena, or Mak, Beach makes you work a little bit to enjoy it. It's about a 20-minute walk across the lava to the beach, but don't worry, the path is well worn through the a'a flow.

This secluded white sand beach is a crescent broken up by rocky lumps of lava. Palms and other trees rim the dunes near the northern end where you are greeted with picnic tables and some wild chickens.

It's not likely that you will run into many people here and thus you'll likely be able to enjoy the most scenic beach on the island in solitude.

Makalawena Beach

Hapuna Beach State Park

Kohala Region
#2 Rated Beach on the Big Island

This is an extremely popular beach for both locals and visitors. Conde Nast Traveler magazine has often ranked it as one of the top beaches in the US. It is hard to argue with this half-mile stretch of pristine golden sand and crystal blue water.

There are several covered pavilions to enjoy an afternoon picnic and restrooms, albeit rather pitiful ones, are available. There is occasionally a lifeguard on duty...despite the "no lifeguard on duty" sign.

Don't expect a lot of shade on this beach. Consequently, the golden sand heats to an unbearable temperature on a sunny day. During the summer months, the sand reaches 200 feet wide, so unless you want steaming toes wear sandals or water shoes. In the summer, the water is generally calm, but in the winter the surf can be treacherous. Be sure to monitor conditions carefully before entering. For snorkelers, the south end of the beach provides a variety of fish and coral.

Hapuna Beach State Park

Manini'owali Beach at Kua Bay

Kohala Region
#3 Rated Beach on the Big Island

Kua Bay, also called Manini'owali Beach, is a lovely little pocket of sand that used to be very difficult to access, but since a multi-million dollar road has been paved right through the lava- it's a snap to enjoy this Big Island gem.

Kua Bay beach has full facilities including restrooms and showers, water, barbecues and picnic tables. It is very popular on the weekends, not to mention parking can be a nightmare, so you might want to aim for the weekdays.

When the water is calm, swimming is great here - some of the best in Kona. However, if the waves are going, stay out because it can be extremely dangerous.

Manini'owali Beach in Kua Bay

Spencer Beach Park

Kohala Region
#4 Rated Beach on the Big Island

Samuel M. Spencer Beach Park's reef-protected waters offer child-friendly swimming and a relaxing atmosphere. Plenty of amenities at this beach, including a lifeguard, picnic tables, and barbecue. Camping is allowed with a permit.

From the south end of the beach, you could follow a coastline trail, Ala Kahakai, all the way to Hapuna Beach. An ambitious project currently under the jurisdiction of the National Parks Service, Ala Kahakai theoretically will be a coastal trail running 175 miles from Upolu Point in North Kohala to the eastern boundary of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Spencer Beach Park

Papakolea 'Green Sand' Beach

South Kau Region
#5 Rated Beach on the Big Island

Known as Green Sand Beach or even Pu'u o Mahana, Papakolea Beach, is well-deserving of its name. The olive-like color of the sand comes from the presence of a greenish, semi-precious stone named, appropriately enough, olivine.

The erosive force of the ocean washing into the base of Pu'u o Mahana cinder cone has extracted olivines out of the cinder. These are deposited on the sand, giving the sand a green tint.

This beach is very difficult to reach but wins points as our #5 beach-based purely on how unique it is. I mean really, where else can you visit a Green Sand Beach?

Green Sand Beach - Papakolea

Kona Coast (Kekaha Kai) State Park

Kohala Region
#6 Rated Beach on the Big Island

Kona Coast or Kekaha Kai State Park is 1,600 acres of beautiful sand and pristine blue waters. There are actually several beaches in the park which is accessed via a 1.5-mile road located between the 91 and 90-mile markers on Highway 19 north of Kona.

Once you reach the first parking area you can take the path to your right and north to Mahai'ula Bay a lovely crescent of white sand and clear waters. This is a popular beach with people and honu who choose nice warm spots to sunbathe.

Kona Coast Kekaha Kai State Park

Punaluu Black Sand Beach

South Kau Region
#7 Rated Beach on the Big Island

Punaluu- the most easily accessible black sand beach on the island- is a little gem tucked just off Highway 11 near mile marker 55. The thick, coarse grains of volcanic black sand, created by the crashing of waves against lava, encrust the waters of this bay.

Graceful coconut palms enclose the beach, creating a rich strip of beach irresistible to sunbathers of the human and turtle variety.

During your visit, you are likely to see green sea turtles (honu) lounging on the warm sands or floating in the little crevices near the shore.

Punaluu Black Sand Beach

Kauna'oa 'Mauna Kea' Beach

Kohala Region
#8 Rated Beach on the Big Island

Located on the sunny West Coast, Mauna Kea Beach (also known as Kauna'oa Beach) has been ranked as one of the Top US Beaches; a spot well deserved.

The soft white sand beach is one of the loveliest you’ll ever see, it’s relatively uncrowded, and on a clear day, you can spot the impressive Mauna Kea volcano. Best of all, it’s conveniently located directly in front of the luxurious Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, complete with perfectly-manicured grounds.

The calm azure waters sparkle by day and twinkle magically at sunset.

Mauna Kea Beach

Pololu Valley Beach

Kohala Region
#9 Rated Beach on the Big Island

Pololu Valley Beach will take a short hike to access the beach, so prepare for a little adventure. This black sand beach which separates the beautiful Pololu Valley from the ocean is a lovely stretch of fine black sand rimmed with black lava rock and shockingly emerald green beach ground cover. 

Awini Trail leads down to the black sand beach takes approximately half-an-hour to hike. The dirt and root trail can be steep in places, but the various views of the valley along the way make even part of the walk worth it. You will find the trailhead near the parking lot.

Pololu Valley Beach

Isaac Hale Park & Pohoiki Beach

Puna Region
#10 Rated Beach on the Big Island

Just about a mile down the road from Ahalanui at the junction of Highway 137 and Pohoiki Road in Puna is one of the most popular beaches in the area. 

Due to the most recent lava flow of Kilauea in 2018, the *new* Pohoiki Black Sand Beach (the area in front of the Pohoiki boat launch to be exact) was formed. This beach park was extremely fortunate to have survived the lava flow activity.

Pohoiki Bay was almost filled with lava, but the flow stopped just 230 ft. from the harbor.

Isaac Hale 'Pohoiki' Beach Park

All Big Island Beaches

Categorized by Region

Need Help? Check out our Big Island of Hawaii Regions Guide →

Kohala Beaches

Kohala Big Island Beaches Guide

South Kau Beaches

South Kau Big Island Beaches Guide

Recommended Big Island Tours