Hāpuna beach is one of the best family beaches on the Big Island. The white-sand beach is half a mile long, almost always sunny, and has a continuous shore break that is GREAT fun to play in for all ages. The lack of rain (only 10 inches of rain annually), availability of shade (the beach is lined by trees and has a shaded picnic pavilion) and professional lifeguard on duty year-round further cement our love for this beach.
Read on to find our tips on beach activities (swimming, snorkeling, and hiking) and practicalities (beach rentals, where to get food and drinks, and directions).
Things to do at Hapuna Beach
As we already mentioned we are quite fond of Hapuna Beach, and we are not the only ones. As the largest of the white sand beaches on the Big Island Hapuna is a standard contestant on the many ‘best beaches to visit in Hawaii’ lists you can find all over the internet.
The only drawback of this popularity is that the beach quickly becomes crowded. – especially on weekends. Make sure to arrive early to find a good parking spot and a shaded place on the beach. If you want to avoid crowds, you can also try Waialea beach (also know as beach 69) just south of Hāpuna.
Sunbathing here is almost always an option but, depending on the ocean conditions, there are more things you can do while visiting the beach:
During calm seas Hapuna is a very good place to go swimming. As soon as the surf picks up a bit you can also join the many people playing in the waves but please be careful with high surf. High waves (waves over 3 feet/1 meter high) are considered for experts because of the dangerous rip currents and pounding shore breaks during these periods.
Snorkeling is good at Hāpuna beach if the water is calm. The best places to go snorkeling are at either end of the beach. You can either go snorkel around the small cliff to the north of the beach or around the rocky point on the South of the beach.
Visibility in the water is typically low because of mixed-in sand and an occasional freshwater layer on the surface so you’ll need to swim out a bit to get to the more interesting snorkeling parts. We recommend that you do not go alone as you will not be in sight of the lifeguards.
Read more about snorkeling at Hapuna on the Tropical Snorkeling website.
Hiking: the Ala Kahakai trail
If you don’t like staying on the beach as much as you are into hiking and discovering some of the more pristine shorelines of Hawaii, Hapuna’s got you covered!
Hāpuna is part of the Ala Kahakai coastal trail, which follows the coastline over ancient trails and roads. Following it will lead you by some of the most pristine shoreline remaining in Hawaiʻi, as well as numerous anchialine ponds (a landlocked body of water with a subterranean connection to the ocean). Note that the trail is poorly signed and maintained.
If you are interested in following this trail, we suggest you have a look at the official DLNR resource: Ala Kahakai Trail (Kawaihae-Anaehoomalu).
Hapuna is an easy beach to visit for several reasons. Its easy to reach, has a large parking lot, and has on-site facilities to rent beach gear and to buy food and drinks.
Food, drinks and beach rentals
You can buy food and drinks or rent beach gear at the Three Frogs Cafe (yelp) located on the park premises. This cafe has a wide selection of lunch options and also offers beach rentals of boogie boards, beach chairs and umbrellas, and snorkeling gear.
Three Frogs Cafe is open daily from 10am-4pm, and you can find them a short walk from the beach at the northern side of the parking lot.
Hāpuna Beach is located north of Kailua Kona close to mile marker 70 of Hwy 19 in the south Kohala district. Turn Ma Kai (towards the ocean) at the sign for Hāpuna Beach State Park and continue for 1/4 mile to the large parking lot. Do not leave valuables in your car!
Parking + Entrance Fee
Visitors need to pay an entrance fee and a parking fee to help maintain the park, both fees are waived for Hawaiʻi residents that can show a valid state ID or DL.
- The entrance fee is $5.00 per individual
- The parking fee is $10 per vehicle
You can find up-to-date information about ongoing improvements, beach closures, etc., on the DLNR website.