Beaches on the Big Island are unlike the beaches you can find back home. The island of Hawaiʻi is geologically speaking very young and there are long and pristine white powder-sand beaches as you can find on the other, older, Hawaiian Islands.
Instead, our beaches are made out of pitch black sand, crystal green sand, coarse white sand, coral, and even out of newly formed lava rocks!
Our guide to Big Island Beaches is structured as follows:
Table of contents
Table of Contents
- Beach map
- List of beaches
- Beach safety
- 7 Hawaiian Beach tips
- Beach activities
Many of our readers have similar questions about the (best) beaches on the Big Island, so to make your reading experience easier we have compiled the most frequently asked questions about them below. Just click a question to get the answer!
The Kohala Coast is home to the nicest resorts, the most beautiful weather and the most famous white-sand beaches. Scroll down to some of our favorites here.
You probably already know there are plenty of beaches with white sand on the Big Island, but did you know there are also famous black sand beaches (where the sand is made out of crushes lava rocks), and even a green sand beach (where the sand is made out of olivine crystals)? You can find our favorite white, black, and green sand beach here.
Map of Beaches on the Big Island
These are the most visited beaches on the Big Island. You can zoom and navigate the map directly and explore by region and click on the icons to get more information on each beach. You can also find these descriptions in the list above.
List of Big Island Beaches
A short description of the most popular beaches on the Big Island beaches as can be found on the map above. The order of the list is determined by location of the beach. We start with the most Southern beach in the United States (green sand beach), and then proceed counter clockwise through the beaches near Hilo (east), Waimea/Kohala (north), and Kona (west):
- West coast: Beaches near Kona
- South coast: Beaches near Volcano
- East coast: Beaches near Hilo
- North coast: Beaches near Waimea and the Kohala (resort) coast
Beaches near Volcano (South coast)
There are only a few beaches on the rugged south coast of the Big Island, but boy, do they count!
Our favorite green (Papakolea) and black (Punalu’u) sand beaches on the Big Island are both on this side of the Big Island! Read more about our Hottest Beaches on Hawaii.
Green Sand Beach / Papakolea:
One of the two green sand beaches on the Big Island. Difficult to reach through a 1.5+ hour hike, but definitely worth it. Visit our article on green sand beach for directions:
Punaluʻu County Beach Park:
Punaluʻu black sand beach is the most famous black sand beach on the Big Island! It is located between Kona and Hilo, and most easily accessible from Volcano Village.
If black sand beaches are your thing we recommend that you have a look at our 7 favorite black sand beaches in Hawaiʻi.
Beaches near Hilo (East coast)
The following are the most popular beaches in Hilo and the larger Hilo area. You can also read more in details about the beaches *in* Hilo.
Kaimu Beach Park
New black sand beach with strong current and unpredictable waves. This beach was covered by 15 meters of lava in 1990, and is a very interesting place to visit.
Isaac Hale Beach Park / Pohoiki
Very popular surfing destination in east Hawaii and, since the 2018 LERZ eruption, also the location of the stunning Pohoiki black sand beach. Picnic tables and a playing ground are also present.
You can also find volcanically heated hot ponds at Isaac Hale Beach Park
The Ahalanui beach park was covered by lava in July 2018 :(
Also know as Puʻalaʻa County Park. No sandy beach but thanks to volcanic energy the water here is warm. Perfect for a warm swim on a cloudy day. Stay away during weekends because the pool gets crowded and the water dirty.
Read more about the Ahalanui hot springs on our website.
Kapoho Tide Pools (destroyed by the 2018 LERZ eruption)
The Kapoho tide pools were covered by lava in 2018 :(
No beach, but a perfect place for snorkeling! These are deep (up to 10 ft) tide pools with lots of fish in between the lava rocks. Take shoes for walking to the water because you will be walking over sharp lava.
Read more about the Kapoho tide pools on our website.
Richardson Beach Park
Richardsons is the black sand beach closest to Hilo, and the #1 place to snorkel south of Hilo. There are showers, bathrooms, picnic areas, and a lifeguard. The beach and swimming area are protected by a natural lava rock breakwater.
Directions and pictures of Richardson Beach Park:
Leleʻiwi Beach Park
A rocky shoreline, many picnic tables, tide pools and abundant sea-life make this a prime snorkeling destination if you are spending time in Hilo. Don’t forget to bring lunch for a nice picnic.
Carlsmith Beach Park
Protected white sand lagoon lined by black lava rocks. Restrooms and a picnic area are available. A good beach to come swimming, snorkeling, fishing or a picnic.
James Keʻaloha Beach Park
Good family beach with lots of open space and a rocky shoreline. Good for surfing, snorkeling, swimming and fishing, with a large picnic area and restrooms. Be careful in the water because there can be strong rip currents during high surf!
Onekahakaha Beach Park
A good place to bring your family. With picnic areas, grassy areas, shallow waters shielded by breakwaters, and even the occasional ice cream stand. There are also tide pools that you can explore with a snorkel.
Mokuola (Coconut Island) is a small island in Hilo bay with a few small beaches and a large grassy area with several picnic tables. Access is easy and you can spend a few hours easily relaxing and swimming in the protected bay, enjoying the views and of course looking at all the kids making a show off jumping from a nearby 20 ft tower.
Beaches near Waimea / the Kohala resorts (North coast)
The stunning white sand beaches on the Kohala coast come very close to what we call paradise. Throw in a few black sand beaches surrounded by 1000+ ft high cliffs and you know why this part of the Big Island is the beach lover’s favorite!
Waipiʻo Valley Black Sand Beach
Difficult to access. The beach looks beautiful and is a very good place to relax after coming down into the valley, but take care with going into the water. This beach is known for its rip currents and high surf, making it a dangerous place to go swimming especially during the winter months
Read more about this beach in our guide to Waipiʻo valley.
Pololu Valley Black Sand Beach
Difficult to access, secluded, black sand beach with great views. The beach more often than not consists of large (fist-sized) stones, the water is often murky so there can be strong currents. This all means that this is not a good beach to go swimming or snorkeling.
To get to the beach from the parking lot you have to descend 400 vertical feet to get to the beach. The path down to this beach offer GREAT views and for this reason is one of our 5 favorite hikes on the Big Island. We also have dedicated a complete page to Pololu Valley.
Kapaʻa Beach Park
Rocky beach good for snorkeling and diving. In the park you can also find restrooms, picnic tables, and BBQ grills. Great beach for a sunset BBQ!
Mahukona Beach Park
Technically an abandoned harbor and not a beach. This is a good spot for snorkeling and diving. You can find old sugar mill equipment on land and a few abandoned shipwrecks in the water.
Samuel M. Spencer Beach Park
This beach is protected from high surf by an offshore reef and the harbor just north. This makes it a great family beach. In the beach park you can also find a picnic area, camping (with permit) and BBQ facilities.
This beach is also right next to a national park and a national historic trail!
The first minutes of the following video show the beach and camping spots at Spencer Beach Park:
Next to the Spencer beach park you can find one of our four national parks on the Big Island: the Puʻukohala Heiau National Historic Park, and this beach park is also the starting point of a 15 mile stretch of the Ala Kahakai National Historic trail, which leads to the gorgeous ʻAnaehoʻomalu Bay.
Also know as Mauna Kea Beach. Perfect, 1/4 mile crescent shaped white sand beach in front of the Mauna Kea Beach hotel. Good snorkeling, body surfing and swimming. More information about Mauna Kea beach:
Hapuna Beach State Park
Hapuna Beach is one of the best beaches on the Big Island for swimming. This 1/2 mile white sand beach is regularly voted among the ‘best beaches in the world’.
There is a wide (in the summer months up to 200 ft) white sand beach that slopes gradually into the ocean – perfect for playing in the waves. On the north and south side of the beach are good snorkeling spots around the rocks.
There is also a large beach park with restrooms, showers, picnic tables, snorkel rental, BBQ, and food concession stands. More information about Hapuna beach:
Waialea Bay Beach
Secluded white sand beach, also known as 69 beach. If the surf is calm this is a good place for swimming and snorkeling. Somewhat crowded on weekends. More information about Waialea Bay Beach:
This beach is protected from high surf by an offshore reef. It is great for swimming, diving, and snorkeling. The sand is ‘salt-and-pepper colored, and the beach is located on the ocean side of the outrigger Waikoloa Resort.
Beaches near Kona (West coast)
The west coast of the Big Island is blessed with lots of sunshine, some rain, and lots of warm weather. Great weather to go out and play! These beaches all are good places to do so:
Beach highlights: see our list of 10 best Kona beaches to see where we like to hang out.
Beautiful salt-and-fresh water bay with good swimming. Most of the ocean access is private property, but there is a public access beach. If the tide is out the bay is dotted with tide pools that are perfect for snorkeling.
Kukiʻo Beach is a long, white sand, beach with many green sea turtles. Many lava rocks above and below the water make it not a good beach to go swimming.
Kikaʻua Point Beach
Protected beach best suited for families with young children. Actually no beach but a lagoon that has virtually no current or waves. No snorkeling.
Kekaha Kai State Park
This State park includes 3 beaches: Mahaiʻula Beach, Makalawena Beach, and Kua Bay, each discussed below. The beaches are secluded and beautiful and offer a great day-trip from Kona. They are white sand beaches with blue-green water and are surrounded by pitch-black lava fields.
Access is difficult and not for the faint of heart (lava fields and rocky winding road). If you have rented a car you should check with the rental company to see if you can go here.
Kua Bay Beach
Also known as Maniniowali Beach, one of the prettiest white-sand beaches on the Big Island. Fine white sand and crystal clear waters make this is a great place for snorkeling and swimming. Be careful is the surf is high! More information on Kua Bay Beach:
Pretty white sand beach lined with coconut palms. A lava shelf just offshore makes this beach not an easy place to swim, but if you are planning to relax and enjoy a picture-perfect beach, this is a perfect place!
One of the prettiest white-sand beaches of Hawaii. Only reachable by a strenuous 1-mile hike beyond Mahaiʻula Beach Park.
Aiʻopio Beach is a small beach with protected, calm waters. It is part of the Kaloko-Honokohau National Park and most easily accessible from the Honokohau small boat harbor. If you have booked a boat tour that departs from this harbor you should try to arrive early and have a look at this small beach.
Old Kona Airport Beach Park
The first Kona airport closed in 1970 leaving a runway that now serves as parking lot for this beach park. The ocean is often rough here, but if you stay in Kona, this is the perfect place to bring food and watch the sunset!
Kamakahonu (King Kam) Beach
This small sandy beach is in front of the King Kamehameha hotel and is therefore often nicknamed King Kam beach. It is in the center of downtown Kona on the north side of Kailua Bay and offers pretty good snorkeling opportunities. More information on King Kam Beach:
White Sands Beach Park
Also know as Magic Sands because the sand disappears temporarily from the beach with rough surf. There is a good shore break for surfers here, and a lifeguard is always on duty. Showers, a bathroom, and volleyball net are present.
Kahaluʻu Beach Park
Dark-gray sandy beach with a reef just offshore and a very good place for snorkeling. Parking, showers, picnic tables, and restrooms are present, as well as some shade. This is one of our 3 favorite snorkeling spots on the Big Island.
Read more on our website about snorkeling, surfing and going to the beach at the Kahaluʻu beach park.
Kealakekua Bay Park
There are two small beaches on the eastern coast of Kealakekua bay: a small rocky beach in the Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park called Napʻopoʻo Beach and Manini beach, 0.3 miles to the south. Manini beach has a little bit of sand and a lawn that is very well-suited for seeing the sun set, but neither neither is a very good place to go swimming.
Kealakekua bay however is a very popular destination for snorkeling and kayaking. Spinner dolphins often visit the bay and you can visit the monument erected to remember Captain Cook via a challenging trail or with a kayak or boat tour over the water. A permit is required for kayaking.
Hoʻokena Beach Park
This is the historical site of one of the last Hawaiian fishing villages. They color of the beach is gray and it is made out of lava and coral. It is possible to camp overnight. Restrooms, picnic tables, and showers are available at the park.
Water and Beach Safety
Take care of yourself and you family while you are in or close to the ocean!
As peaceful and inviting as the ocean may look, and often is, serious accidents can happen at the beach. Strong, hidden currents can overpower even the most seasoned swimmers. Walking on coral may harm your feet and damage the coral. Sea urchins also live in crevices between rocks and coral, and you don’t want to step on one of those! Never turn your back to the ocean, and always follow posted signs.
More practical tips are:
- Some beaches may be closed because of high surf and/or dangerous currents. You can find up-to-date information on possible hazard ratings of the Big Island beaches at this website of the county of Hawai’i.
- The Hawaiian sun can be very strong! Be sure to apply sunscreen generously and often to prevent a heavy sunburn, Wear a shirt if you go out snorkeling.
- though the crime rate in Hawaii is low visitors should be as cautious as they would be at any other destination. Do not lock valuables in your vehicle. If you must, pack items out of sight before parking.
- Please make sure to clean up after yourself.
7 tips for going to the beach in Hawaiʻi
Hawaiian beaches can be different than the beaches you know from back home: local laws can be different, our sun tends to be stronger because we are closer to the equator, sand on our black sand beaches (made out of lava!) can be VERY hot, and, most importantly, all Hawaiian islands are surrounded by beautiful but fragile coral reefs.
These 7 tips will make sure that you are well prepared for your visit to our paradise-like beaches!
- Use Reef Safe Sunscreen! Chemicals found in most sunscreens cause coral bleaching and kill our reefs. The most harmful chemicals are: Benzophenones, Parabens and Cinnamates. Learn more in this reefsafe sunscreen 101 guide.
- Bring a hat to protect your face and your eyes. Sunburns can cause premature aging and UV rays can also damage your eyes. Prevention is the key.
- Bring a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated and minimize plastic waste.
- Wear shoes or flip flops. Sand on our beaches gets HOT (especially the black sand!) and sometimes sharp pieces of shells and coral can cut your feet.
- The Hawaiian sun is intense. Lip balm with a high (30+) SPF gives extra protection to your most vulnerable pieces of skin such as your lips, earlobes, etc. (this tip also features in our list of 11 mistakes most tourists make in Hawaiʻi)
- Smoking and drinking alcohol is illegal on beaches and in state parks. If you want to enjoy any of those things, please don’t do it on the beach.
- Know before you go! Some beaches have more amenities than others, and, especially if you are coming with young children, making a double check for available bathrooms is wise.
Things to do on the beach
Beaches on the Big Island are not as crowded as for example the beaches on Oʻahu or the beaches on Maui. Especially if you go to the more remote beaches during weekdays it is possible that you find the beach all to yourself. Being more remote also means that some beaches have limited basic facilities, so be sure to bring plenty of water and sunscreen.
Take your snorkel gear and spend your time under water swimming between fish in every color of the rainbow. The waters around the big island are teaming with beautiful life, make sure not to miss it! Read more on snorkeling and buying or renting gear. If you like playing in the waves, why not go body surfing or take along a bodyboard, SUP board or surfboard?
You will never have to get bored on the beach – even if you travel in a big group! If you are not the sun worshiper your travel companion is, bring a book (any of the books on our list of 18 books to read on Hawaiʻi would be a good fit), good food and drinks, snorkel gear, or whatever you enjoy doing, and do your thing.
Beaches on the Big Island are gorgeous, but ask any resident and they will tell you that our beaches here are “mwah” and that you should go to Maui or Oʻahu to enjoy the beach. Ignore those people! All our beaches are unique, and we promise you that you will also find paradise-like beaches on Kauaʻi or the Big Island.
Have a look at our other beach guides to get to know our favorite beaches in Hawaiʻi: