The Big Island

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The Big Island hasn’t been around long enough for the geologic forces of time to create the expansive white-sand beaches found on the other islands, but where else can you find spectacular black- and green-sand beaches, too? What’s more, the surrounding reefs are teeming with marine life, making for some of the best snorkeling in the islands.

The Big Island Beaches

'Anaeho'omalu Beach

Commonly called "A-Bay," this beach is popular for windsurfing, swimming, and snorkeling. Kayaks, bodyboards, snorkel gear, and windsurf boards are available for rent on the north side of the bay. 'Anaeho'omalu is a good choice for exploration, too. Two ancient fishponds are located in this area, and there are magnificent tidepools along the shoreline trail that connects the two Waikoloa resorts. The sunsets are also known to be spectacular here.

Waikoloa (Kona side), HI,
Tags: beach | family | kayaking | snorkeling | windsurfing | swimming | beaches

Hapuna Beach

There's a reason the Big Island's Hapuna Beach is frequently voted the best beach in the U.S. Half a mile long and 200 feet wide, with golden sand and gentle blue waters, it's a perfect place to frolic. Bodyboarders and bodysurfers will enjoy playing in the forgiving beach breaks.

Tags: beach | editor pick | water sports | swimming | best beach

Kahalu'u Beach

A short drive from Kona town, Kahalu'u is a popular playground for snorkeling, bodyboarding, and surfing. Shallow, protected reefs on the south side of the beach are home to schools of manini (convict tangs) and other colorful reef fish. Surfers and bodyboarders can paddle out through the reef and across the channel to reach the breaking waves. The covered pavilion, beach equipment rentals, barbecue grills, and concession stand are pleasing conveniences not readily found at other beaches.

Tags: beach | surfing | snorkeling

Kiholo Bay

This idyllic bay nestled between Kohala’s luxe resorts remains one of the island’s best kept secrets. It’s a bit of a trek, but worth it to swim with turtles and picnic on the sandy islet in the fresh- and salt-water blue lagoon.

Mile Marker 82 off Highway 19, HI,
Tags: beach | outdoors | day trip | adventure

Kua Bay Beach

Fine, powdery white sand, idyllic scenery, and crystal clear water that reflects a captivating shade of aquamarine make secluded Kua Bay one of the island's best beaches. Formerly inaccessible without four-wheel drive or a long trek, the access road that descends to the beach from the main highway has been paved in recent years, and a parking lot and basic facilities were added. Swimming and snorkeling are possible when conditions are calm.

Tags: beach | snorkeling | swimming | bbq | beaches

Ohaiulu Beach

Ohaiulu Beach, also known as Spencer Beach, is a favorite destination for big families who enjoy having daylong picnics under the covered pavilion or giant shade trees. Camping facilities, showers, and barbecue grills are also found here, as well as volleyball and basketball courts. A protective reef buffers the surf, allowing for gentle, kid-friendly swimming conditions year-round. Pu'ukohola heiau and Mailekini heiau (sacred temples) are within walking distance.

Kawaihae (Kona side), HI,
Tags: beach | family | snorkeling | culture | swimming | sports | camping | beaches

Onekahakaha Beach

Situated on Hilo Bay, Onekahakaha Beach Park is more park than beach. Next to the grassy picnic area, there is a small, protected, white-sand beach. The sandy bottom makes it one of the safest places to swim in Hilo. Numerous tidepools and shallow inlets are also inviting for families with children, so you'll find a lot of them here, especially on the weekends.

Onekahakaha Beach Park, HI,
Tags: beach | family | swimming

Papakolea Beach

The water at this beach (also called Green Sand Beach and Mahana Beach) is often too rough for swimming, and the main reason visitors come is to see the sand that is tinted green by the olivine crystals eroded from the adjacent Pu'u O Mahana cinder cone. It takes some effort, though - the only way to get there without a driving permit or a local guide is via a hot, dusty, two-mile hike from the boat ramp to the beach. If you go, bring ample water and sunscreen, as you won't find any drinking water or shade on the beach.

Ka'u, HI,
Tags: beach | hiking | beaches

Punalu'u Beach

Located in the Big Island's lush Ka'u district, this black sand beach was formed by hot lava flowing into the ocean and shattering upon contact. The sea continued to erode the hardened lava chunks into the rich, black sand that has become a nesting ground for Hawaiian green sea turtles. You'll often find them grazing on the seaweed along the rocky shoreline or basking in the sun.

Punalu'u (Ka'u), HI,
Tags: beach | family

Waipio Valley

This black-sand beach is visible from a roadside lookout near Honakaa, but that view can’t compare to the beauty of seeing it up close. The ridiculously steep hill is best navigated by horseback, mule, or wagon tour.

Waipio Valley Wagon Tours, Hamakua Coast, off Hwy. 240, HI, 808-775-9518,
Tags: beach | editor pick | tour | day trip | adventure | road trips

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