Mauna Kea Beach
Mauna Kea Beach is a popular beach located on the Big Island of Hawaii. It features white sand and clear blue waters and is known for its excellent snorkeling and scuba diving opportunities. The beach is surrounded by lush green vegetation and several nearby resorts and hotels for visitors to stay at. It is considered one of the most beautiful and picturesque beaches in Hawaii, making it a popular spot for tourists and locals alike.
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2023 Big Island Visitor Guides
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Directions to Mauna Kea Beach
The sandy cove of Kauna'oa Bay lies adjacent to Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. Mauna Kea Resort guests have exclusive access to most of this picturesque beach. Yet, others can access it for a fee.
Crossing miles of winding roads, follow Queen Kaahumanu Highway until you pass the Waikoloa Resort Area and Hapuna Beach marker. After mile marker 68, you will see the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel entrance on the left.
Non-Resident Mauna Kea Beach Parking & Fees
Follow the road until it ends at the resort's parking lot; ask to obtain a beach-access pass if you're stopped at the guard shack, then pay $20 for parking (usually via the kiosk machine) as of this writing. Once parked, walk through the gate into an open field and follow a path to a secluded beach.
Amenities at Mauna Kea Beach and Mauna Kea Resort
At Mauna Kea Beach
- Changing Rooms
- Limited Parking
At Mauna Kea Resort
- Beach Bar and Restaurant (Check out the popular Manta Restaurant)
- Concession Stand with Beach Rentals
Essential Tips for a Great Visit to Kauna'oa (Mauna Kea Beach)
Be aware that there are strong currents in some spots, so oversee the kids, mainly because there are no lifeguards.
Plan and bring everything you need, especially water and sunscreen! Please note parking can be limited, depending upon when guests arrive.
Having Fun at Mauna Kea Beach
Fun Activities and Sights at Mauna Kea Beach
Whether you desire to relax and enjoy the sun, surf, or swim, head to Kauna' Oa (Mauna Kea) Beach, this destination holds many activities, including:
Swim, boogie board, and kayaking: With powdery sands and calm turquoise waters, this beach is a perfect spot for swimming, snorkeling, boogie boarding, and kayaking. The reef that protects the shoreline makes it one of the best beaches on the Big Island for water sports. The bay's south end is a small cove with a sandy bottom where kids can safely splash around. You can rent kayaks and stand-up paddleboards at the beach park; snorkeling gear is available from the nearby Mauna Kea Resort.
Snorkeling and scuba diving: Snorkelers can explore the waters just offshore, where sea turtles like to lie in shallow sandy areas. Paddle past the rocky point to find colorful tropical fish and vibrant coral reefs.
Exploring Manta Rays at nighttime: Manta or devil rays are one of the world's most graceful and alluring sea creatures. The gentle giants live in the world's tropical and subtropical seas, including Kauna'oa Beach. These gentle giants come near shore at night to feed on plankton that gets disoriented by lights. It's a fantastic experience to swim alongside these creatures, which can have a wingspan of up to 18 feet! To see them, divers shine their flashlights in the water, attracting plankton and Manta Rays. Once they arrive, they swim very close to the water's surface so you can see them well. You'll find a few tour companies that offer nighttime snorkeling at Kauna'oa Beach, or you can rent snorkel equipment and do it on your own. The best time to see manta rays is between May and October, during their mating season when they congregate in large numbers near shorelines. So enjoy this beach at night.
Nearby Attractions and Sights of Mauna Kea Beach
Nearby, you can find plenty of sights, including:
Pu'ukohola Heiau National Historic Site: The Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site is also near Mauna Kea Beach. This national park preserves the ruins of an ancient Hawaiian temple and contains exhibits about Hawaiian history. There are also beautiful ocean views from this site.
Puako Petroglyph Archaeological Preserve: A few hundred yards south of Mauna Kea Beach lies an ancient Hawaiian site with thousands of petroglyphs carved into the lava rock. These ancient carvings by Native Hawaiians depict a wide variety of imagery. The Puako Petroglyph Archaeological Preserve gives visitors a rare glimpse into Hawaii's past, offering an opportunity to view authentic petroglyphs up close and personal.
Mauna Kea Golf Course: The Mauna Kea Golf Course was originally built in 1964 by Robert Trent Jones Sr., who was tasked with creating a course that would make international golfers gush about its beauty and challenge. The result is easily among the world's most beautiful golf courses, and it's also a challenging course that has been rated among the best practices in the country for decades.
Waialea Bay Beach: Just two miles from Mauna Kea Beach is Waialea Bay Beach, which received a top ranking as one of the best beaches in the United States. It's known for its soft white sand and calm water, perfect for snorkeling or scuba diving. There's plenty to do here, from paddleboarding to kayaking. If you don't want to get wet, hammocks are also available for you to lounge on. This beach has a very relaxed vibe, ideal for a family vacation or a romantic getaway with your significant other.
Hapuna Beach: Hawaii Island's "other" legendary white sand beach is just a short drive north of Mauna Kea Beach. Hapuna Beach is the perfect place for a picnic or an afternoon of snorkeling and swimming, with Hawaii State Parks providing facilities and lifeguards to ensure safety. We recommend this place as a great place to learn how to boogie board in Hawaii, with mostly calm waters.
Snorkeling in Puako: At Puako Bay, you can explore a beautiful coral reef and see colorful fish, turtles, and eels. The water here is calm and shallow, making this an excellent choice for young children. There is no beach access to Puako Bay except by private boat or kayak, but several rental companies in nearby Waikoloa Village offer boats and kayaks for rent.
Family Activities at Mauna Kea Beach
The beach is calm and safe for swimming and has soft white sand and clear blue water. Bring your goggles and let your kids explore life underwater with a snorkeling tour of Kauna'oa Bay. Enjoy breathtaking views of lava rock formations and colorful reef fish with plenty of time to explore tide pools and swim to shore when ready. Though the surf is gentle enough for children, take precautions because there are no lifeguards here.