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11 Best Beaches in Kona

Written by Lura Seavey
Jan 6, 2020

The central portion of the Big Island of Hawaii's west coast is often referred to as the Kona Coast, named for the historic town. Tourists will find a wide variety of beaches to suit different needs, including smaller and calmer areas where little ones can wade safely, larger beaches suitable for a variety of water sports, and scenic beaches that are perfect for romantic Pacific sunsets.

In addition to coffee and shaved ice, the Kona Coast is especially well-known for its coral reefs and excellent snorkeling. Many beaches, even some of the smaller ones, have rental shops set up right on the sand, so there is no need to buy or carry equipment. Tourists can also find rentals and lessons in Kona and other coastal towns for snorkeling, as well as SCUBA diving and boating.

The best time for snorkelers and swimmers to visit the beaches in and around Kona is during the summer, when the water is at its calmest and the currents are not as strong.

For those who want to see the stunning reef landscape and ocean life from the safety and comfort of a boat, there are several tour operators who offer glass-bottomed boat tours, as well as small submarine tours that explore the deeper areas.

Plan your time along the Big Island's coast with our list of the best beaches in and around Kona.

1. Kamakahonu Beach

Kamakahonu Beach

Although this beach is tiny compared to the other area beaches, Kamakahonu Beach is a top choice for beginners who want to try out snorkeling and diving.

The beach sits within a very well-protected cove that is bordered by the large Kailua Pier on one side and an outcropping on the other that is home to the Kamakahonu National Historic Landmark. Each curves around to form a protective barrier, allowing the water within to be some of the calmest you can find anywhere on the island. This can be a great spot for little ones to swim safely, but be aware that it can get very busy on a nice day.

SCUBA and snorkeling equipment, as well as kayaks can be rented at the Kona Boys Beach Shack right on the beach, and the staff is always ready to share advice on the best spots. Thanks to its position right next to the pier, visitors can also rent Jet Skis to take out for a cruise on Kailua Bay. Tourists can also book sightseeing boat tours and submarine tours, as well as SCUBA and snorkeling charters led by experts, all of which depart from Kailua Pier.

This beach is often called King Cam Beach by locals because it sits right in front of the Courtyard by Marriott King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel, a favorite for families. Although the cute little cabanas that line the back of the beach are for hotel guests only, there are basic amenities on the beach, including an outdoor shower for rinsing off. The hotel restaurant is located right on the beach for food and refreshments.

2. White Sands Beach Park

Magic Sands Beach in Kailua-Kona

Located just south of downtown Kona facing La'aloa Bay, this versatile beach is also known as Magic Sands Beach or Disappearing Sands Beach because its sand will sometimes "disappear" when the surf gets turbulent, leaving behind only the lava rocks beneath. Lifeguards are on duty, and this is a great beach for swimming, bodyboarding, SCUBA diving, and snorkeling, as long as the conditions are safe.

There are basic amenities here including restrooms and showers, and a good "beach shack" that serves an amazing range of gourmet options, including breakfast items, salads, and desserts. There are also nearby sit-down restaurants, as well as a diving outfitter that rents equipment.

3. Kahalu'u Beach Park

Kahalu'u Beach Park

Located on Kahalu'u Bay just south of Kona, this beach is known as the top snorkeling beach on the Kona Coast. The exceptionally calm water is a result of the expansive coral reefs that surround the beach, making this an equally good beach for families with children.

Amenities at Kahalu'u Beach include showers, restrooms, and picnic tables, as well as a pavilion and some shaded areas along the shore, and lifeguards are on duty. The beach is also conveniently located within walking distance of local restaurants and shops.

Tourists hoping to explore the reefs can rent snorkeling equipment at the Kahalu'u Bay Education Center, a non-profit that provides educational programs and conservation efforts. They can also offer information about the myriad of ocean life that can be spotted in the reef, including octopus, sea urchins, and endangered sea turtles.

Those who don't get a chance to snorkel will likely still be able to spot some of these creatures in the shallow water near the shore, and it is common to see schools of reef fish darting alongside swimmers. This beach is also a great place for stand-up paddle-boarding and other calm-water activities.

4. Spencer Beach

Spencer Beach

Spencer Beach is an ideal choice for families, offering plenty of shady areas and soft sand in addition to the calm, reef-protected waters. Samuel M. Spencer Beach Park also has good facilities, including a large covered pavilion with tables, new restrooms, outdoor showers, and a camping area. There is also a lifeguard on duty, and the reef that keeps strong ocean currents at bay is an excellent snorkeling and SCUBA diving spot.

The park is also a good starting point for hikes along the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail. Tourists will enjoy scenic views of the bay along the path and can visit a temple built in 1791 by Kamehameha I at the Pu'ukohola Heiau National Historic Site. Hikers who continue along the path will find themselves at Anaehoomalu Bay.

5. Anaeho'omalu Beach

Anaeho'omalu Beach

Located on the perfectly crescent-shaped Anaeho'omalu Bay, this beach is popular for its expansive white sand and plenty of room to spread out. Also known as "A Bay," visitors will find the water spotted with small boats and plenty of activity, making this a lovely spot for people-watching and relaxing. Although there are no lifeguards here, there are showers and restrooms.

A well-stocked beach hut has rentals available for everything from chairs and umbrellas to boogie boards and kayaks, and here tourists can also sign up for guided tours and lessons, including catamaran cruises. Although there are no concessions, at the southern end of the beach there is a waterside restaurant that is worth the splurge for an afternoon refreshment.

Those interested in local history will appreciate the Kuualii Fishpond, which sits just on the other side of the sandy beach. These "ponds" were used to farm fish by native peoples, and although the coastline was once dotted with them, there are few remaining today.

Tourists who are up for a 15-minute hike will be rewarded with centuries-old carvings at the Waikoloa Petroglyph Reserve, home to approximately 30,000 symbols that were carved into the lava rocks.

6. Honl's Beach

Honl's Beach at sunset

Although this is not a beach for swimming due to big waves and strong currents, Honl's Beach is one of Kona's most popular spots for experienced surfers. Also known as Tiki's Surf Spot, the sand gives way to a rocky shoreline, and visitors will want to have appropriate footwear if planning on walking here. There are no lifeguards or public facilities, but this is a popular spot for picnics on the sand or the grassy area just beyond, perfect for listening to the waves crash against the rocks or watching the sun set over the Pacific.

7. Makalawena Beach

Makalawena Beach

Located just north of Kona near Kona Coast State Park, Makalawena Beach is ideal for tourists who want to get away from the crowds. The beach takes a little effort to reach, which is why it's not crowded, but it's well worth the 20-minute hike across the rough lava path to the soft sand. Those who are willing to carry their snorkeling equipment along will be able to enjoy some very good snorkeling here as well, although there are no lifeguards, so anyone planning on going in the water should check ocean conditions before heading out.

Although you won't find any restrooms or showers, you may be surprised to find goats and chickens wandering the beach. There are picnic tables and some shady spots under the trees, and it's a good idea to keep your snacks up off the ground if these local neighbors come to visit.

8. Manini'owali Beach

Manini'owali Beach

A little north of Kona, Maniniowali Beach sits on Kua Bay, home to beautiful coral reefs and a varied landscape of white sand and lava rocks. Also known as Kua Bay Beach, this is an ideal snorkeling spot thanks to the clear water and population of endangered sea turtles that frequent the reefs.

Getting down to the beach requires a trip down some lava rocks, so this is not a good beach for those with accessibility limitations. There is a lifeguard on duty, and restrooms and showers are available in the parking lot, but there are no concessions or rentals here.

Since there is no shade, visitors will definitely want to bring beach umbrellas and plenty of water.

9. Ke'alakeku'a Bay Park

Wooden sculptures at Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park

South of Kona near Capatin Cook, Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park offers some of the area's best snorkeling and marine wildlife. Since the snorkeling is best near the Captain Cook Monument on the north side of the bay, a spot that requires quite an arduous hike when visiting by land, snorkeling tours are the best way to enjoy what Kealakekua Bay has to offer.

Tourists should be sure to pick a tour operator that is a member of the Sustainable Tourism Association, as this popular reef had suffered damage after years of popularity. While on a boat tour, keep an eye out for the spinner dolphins who love the deep water in the middle of the bay.

10. Ho`okena Beach Park

Ho`okena Beach Park

The historic Ho`okena Beach Park is a popular camping spot with a rich history, located about 25 miles south of Kona on Kauhao Bay. This is one of Hawaii's last traditional canoe fishing villages, and tourists can still watch local fishermen come and go in their canoes while using the same fishing methods that have been practiced for generations.

During calmer summer months, this is a good area for swimming and snorkeling; when the water is more active, surfers and boogie-boarders enjoy the good waves.

Visitors can rent kayaks and snorkeling equipment here, and those who want to try out oceanside camping for a night or two can rent all of their gear on site. There is no lifeguard on duty, however there are restroom and shower facilities, picnic tables, and a small food concession stand.

11. Keiki Ponds

Trail by the sea at the Old Kona Airport Recreation area in Kailua-Kona

This beach is very popular with families who have younger kids because of its calm and shallow water. The "ponds" at this Kona beach are tide pools that are protected by a barrier of lava rocks, and they only get waves of any height during the peak tide. There are patches of white sand and some grassy areas, but a large portion of the beach is made of lava rocks that are full of sea life waiting to be discovered.

Located near the Old Kona Airport State Recreation Area, this beach is easy to get to and close to restaurants and shops, with plenty of parking available. Unfortunately, there are no lifeguards here, nor are there any facilities.

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Where to Stay: In addition to beautiful beaches, the Kona Coast also has a selection of beautiful resorts and hotels to help you enjoy your vacation. For ideas on where to stay, see our guide to the Top Resorts in Kailua-Kona. If you are planning on visiting other islands on your trip, see our list of the Best Resorts in Hawaii.

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