Make a Splash on the Big Island of Hawaii

March 16, 2018 by Ashlee

Mahai’ula Beach

Located 5 miles north of the Kona International Airport and down a very long and bumpy road, you will find this gem of a beach.  Yes, the road is bad, but hey, it’s a rental. No sweat. Don’t lose hope; there IS a beach at the end of the road. I promise.  Before you get to the main parking area you will see a wide stretch of road with cars parked. Park here for the short cut to the best part of beach. You will walk about 5 minutes through a well-worn path across a lava field towards the grove of trees. Good news is there is a bit of shade when needed. Great news is you’ve found paradise. Maybe you will find a monk seal sunning on the beach. Or watch whales breach during season. Check out the old farm house still on site. Tip: Wear water shoes or booties if you want to play in the water. There are a lot of rocks, but still fun with something on your feet. I’ll let the pictures tell you the rest.

Manini’owali Beach (Kua Bay)

Want to feel a little less like Indiana Jones but with the same awesome results? Go where the locals go – Kua Bay. Just 1 mile further north of Mahai’ula Beach, turn left when you see the sign for West Hawaii Veterans Cemetery. The road is paved and smooth (No way!) Parking is a little tight but doable. What makes this spot special is the vibrancy of color. Striking blue water against soft tan sand and rugged black rock; this place will make your point and shoot photos look like they belong in a gallery. But don’t just take pics! Get in the water!!

Two Step (Honaunau-Napoopoo)

Less of a beach, more of a snorkel/cultural site, and still a great excuse to get in the water. 20 miles south of Kailua-Kona. I stumbled upon this place after parking at the Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park, also known as the Place of Refuge. For $5 a car you can park and tour the partially restored and beautifully preserved locale once a major religious site for the ancient Hawaiians. Definitely don’t miss this – very informative and captivating. As an added bonus…only a short walking distance away…you will find Two Step. I admit – it didn’t look especially inviting. It was only after a more in-the-know visitor told me I was at the famous snorkeling site that I decided to go back to the car for my snorkel gear (and seeing dolphins off shore didn’t hurt either). Carefully walk over the lava rock to the ocean’s edge to a perfect descent of two steps into the water. Two steps and you are swimming with schools of Yellow Tangs and a whole lot of other fish I can’t pronounce much less spell. Pack your fins and snorkel, save a whole lotta money by not booking a tour, and pat yourself on the back for being an “in-the-know” traveler.

Punalu’u Black Sand Beach

Conveniently located along the scenic route to Volcanos National Park from Kona, is the islands most famous black sand beach. Looking for sea turtles? This is the place. Because the black sand retains heat from the sun, turtles love building their nests and taking naps on this beach. Currents can be strong, so you may want to make this a discovery and wading stop only depending on conditions.

Kealakekua Bay (Captain Cook Monument)

Last on this list, but certainly not least, Kealakekua Bay. If you are having difficulty attempting to pronounce it, don’t worry. You can call it Captain Cook Monument if needed. Located on the site of the violent murder of Captain James Cook, this pristine bay is teeming with underwater treasures. Conditions here are usually perfect for snorkeling, especially for beginners. The one downside is getting here. It is possible to get here on foot if you want to walk a strenuous 3.6 mile roundtrip hike with an uphill climb on the return. Keep in mind you will want to bring plenty of water, snacks and snorkel gear with you. Personally, I recommend booking a snorkel charter to take you to the bay on a comfortable boat ride. We booked through Hang Loose Boat Tours who provided an enjoyable catered experience. When booking a tour, you don’t have to worry about bringing your own snorkel gear. There were also plenty of drinks, snacks, and sandwiches to nibble on. Don’t miss this experience. And most importantly – buy an underwater camera of some sort. Don’t be like me and miss an epic photo op. Oh well…next time!