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.

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. But 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

North Kona

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. Visit Makalawena Beach.

Hapuna Beach

South Kohala

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. Even tour buses bring visitors here. From the north end of the beach you can view the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel. There are several covered pavilions to enjoy an afternoon picnic and restrooms, albeit rather pitiful ones, are available. There is occasionally a life guard 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. Visit Hapuna Beach.

Kua Bay Beach

North Kona

Also called Manini'owali Beach, this lovely little pocket of sand 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. Visit Kua Bay Beach.

Spencer Beach

South Kohala

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. Visit Spencer Beach.

Green Sand Papakolea Beach

South Hawaii

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 number five beach based purely on how unique it is. I mean really, where else can you visit a Green Sand Beach? Visit Papakolea Beach.

Article Edited/Contributed by: John C. Derrick

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