The Best Beaches on the Big Island of Hawaii

Best Big Island Beaches

West Hawaii Island’s Kua Bay on a crystal blue day.

When most people think of Big Island Beaches, they imagine white sand beaches, coco palms, and warm, clear waters. Hawaii’s Big Island, the biggest and most diverse in terms of terrain and climate offers much, much more to discover — an active volcano, tropical rainforests,  the world’s tallest mountain as measured from the ocean floor, rolling hills and ranch land, quaint upcountry towns and ocean side villages are among the many places and things to explore.

Of course, we all need a beach day to enjoy the special marine environment here and I’m frequently asked which Hawaiian Island has the best beaches – I’m happy to provide information on Hawaii beaches, focusing on my top picks for best beaches on the Big Island. Depending on your preference, I’ve separated the Big Island beaches by sand color.

The iconic Mauna Kea beach fronting the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel on the Kohala Coast.

The Best White Sand Beaches on Hawaii’s Big Island

Mauna Kea Beach

Frequently named one of the best beaches in the world by travel publications and beach aficionados worldwide, Mauna Kea beach on Kauna‘oa Bay is an all-around great choice whether you’re in pursuit of traditional Hawaiian ocean activities or you’re looking for a beautiful place to kick back and relax. It’s perfect for multi-generational families from the young to young at heart. Added bonus, the Hau Tree Restaurant and Bar sits beachside and serves up delicious food and beverage.

Great snorkeling and paddling are offered up at the Mauna Lani Beach Resort. Extra special: the beach cove and coastline fronting the resort’s Fairmont Orchid hotel is a favorite sunning and resting spot for our Hawaiian green sea turtles (Honu). The shallow, calm blue waters in the cove also are perfect for those new to ocean swimming and sports such as stand up paddling.

The beach at Mauna Lani Resort’s Fairmont Orchid hotel.

Hapuna Beach

Best known for nearly year-round body boarding and body surfing conditions, Hapuna Beach State Park is popular with boarding enthusiasts, open ocean swimmers and sun seekers alike. Family fun, including sand sculpting and picnicking abound.

Hapuna Beach State Park.

Kikaua Point

For families with toddlers and young children (keiki) a hands-down favorite is the calm, protected turquoise waters at Kikaua Point near Kukio. While this is one of the most exclusive residential communities on the island, all Big Island beaches in Hawaii are accessible to the public. In many cases, however, there are a limited number of beach parking passes available at the various hotels and resorts – plan to arrive early or later in the day to get a prime spot.

The Best Black Sand Beaches on Hawaii’s Big Island

Beachgoers are familiar with sparkling, white sand beaches, so it is a unique sight to see stunning black sand beaches against the tropical backdrop of Hawaii’s Big Island. Many wonder what causes beaches to have black sand in Hawaii.

Black sand beaches are formed in areas with volcanic activity when lava comes in contact with the much colder ocean water. The flowing lava solidifies and breaks into shards of black glass, along with other dark colored minerals, which are eroded over time and broken down into small grains of sand.

Punalu’u Beach

One of the most famous black sand beaches on the Big Island is Punalu’u Beach, and is simply known as “Black Sand Beach.” Nestled between Pāhala and Nāʻālehu, Punalu’u Beach is an excellent spot for watching sea turtles basking in the sun on the warm, black sand. There are often strong currents at Punalu’u, so it may not be the best choice for a swim, but it’s a beautiful place for a hike along the black sand shores, or for laying out and relaxing while listening to the waves roll in.

Sea turtles on Punalu’u Black Sand Beach

Kaimu Beach

Another famous black sand beach is Kaimu Beach, located in the Puna district of the Big Island. Kaimu Beach has quite the story and is one of the few beaches that is probably younger than you (if you were born before 1990, that is). Kaimu used to be one of the largest beaches on the Big Island, but in 1990, Kilauea erupted. The lava flow filled the bay, creating new shoreline, about 50 feet higher than where it was previously. This young black sand beach has stunning views of the rocky, volcanic coast and is a testament to the resilience of nature.

Ho’okena Beach Park

Found along the Kona coast, this secluded black sand beach is popular amongst locals and visitors for swimming, surfing, and snorkeling. Ho’okena is the site of an old Hawaiian canoe fishing village, and if you’re lucky enough, you might even see a fisherman out in a canoe practicing this ancient Hawaiian tradition. Beneath the clear, blue water, you can see a wide variety of colorful ocean life. Ho’okena Beach Park also offers campgrounds for those that would like to stay overnight and enjoy the breathtaking sunrises and sunsets.

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If you’re interested in checking out some of the best beaches on the Big Island of Hawaii, or are looking for property on the Big Island, contact us a call today.

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