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My Top 5 Favorite Swimming Beaches on the Big Island

Updated: Feb 16, 2023

The summer is here, and that is the time when you can truly enjoy going to the beach, especially if you are not a surfer and would rather stay away from big waves. The ocean is calm and warm during the summer months, the trade winds are light, and it gets warmer earlier in the day. That means you can hit the beach early in the morning and enjoy being in the water, chilling and relaxing in the sun, soaking up all that vitamin D and Sea, or just frolicking in the sand. Here are my top 5 favorite beaches for swimming, snorkeling, and relaxation, which we can all use from time to time.

You might also enjoy my new favorite song to relax...

1. Hapuna Beach State Park

The largest and finest of the island's white-sand beaches, Hapuna Beach has consistently been rated on international Top Ten lists of the Worlds’ best beaches. This year Hapuna Beach State Park was ranked the best beach in the U.S. by Dr. Beach, who has been doing annual beach reviews for over 3 decades.

The contrast of black lava rock, white sand, and blue water makes you feel like you have arrived in paradise. The sand is fine and white, the water is turquoise-blue, and there are plenty of surrounding trees and grass where you can find some shade. When the sea is calm (usually in the summer months), this beach is ideal for swimming, sunbathing, and snorkeling. In the winter, the swells get bigger, fun for body surfing and boarders of all kinds. During the early part of the year, it’s possible to spot migrating whales in the distance as well.

It is also an easy beach to visit: you will find ample parking, picnic areas, restrooms, and showers.

2. Mauna Kea Beach

Just a few minutes' drive north is a little less known but equally beautiful Kauna'oa (Mauna Kea) beach. Located in the Mauna Kea Beach Resort, it is a family-friendly beach with soft white sand that slopes gently into the water and the palm trees along the fringe to provide shade. The beach fronts the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, has good access to facilities, and is great for sunbathing. During the calm summer months, this is also a good beach to go snorkeling. During the winter months, waves can get higher in which case a pounding shore break and strong rip currents can make entering the ocean hazardous.

Kaunaʻoa Beach itself is – like all beaches here – public access, but the parking lot belongs to the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. The hotel has parking spaces for visitors not staying in the hotel, but these are limited to 40 and fill up quickly. If you want to go to Kaunaʻoa Beach, get there early to get one of the 40 public parking spaces.

3. Mau'umae Beach

In case the lot is full you have another option: at the guard station ask about parking at Mau'umae Beach to the north instead. Mau'umae (pronounced mow-mai) is a delightful little gem with a small, soft-sand beach and very calm water. It's great if you want a more private and uncrowded beach experience. The water here is perfect for small children.

There is a one-mile shoreline trail from Mau'umae Beach to Mauna Kea that takes you right past the 3rd hole on the Mauna Kea Golf Course. They generally only allow about 10 cars to park at Mau'umae but it is not as well known, so worth a try. Mau'umae Beach is also accessible from Spencer Beach.

4. Waialea Bay Beach (Beach 69)

A long crescent-shaped beach with fine white sand and semi-private coves between trees reaching to the water, Waialea Bay Beach, also known as Beach 69 is a sort of off-the-beaten-path but still popular beach in Puako, my favorite neighborhood situated between Mauna Lani and Mauna Kea Resorts. It has come a long way over the years, and now has an official parking area, cold water showers, and bathrooms. Yet it is still more secluded than other nearby beaches such as Hapuna State Beach Park. Although it is one long beach, there are different coves nestled in between trees that reach into the ocean.

The white sand of Waialea beach erodes during the winter due to strong surf but is pristine during the summer. There is plenty of tree cover providing shade and privacy. In the bay itself, you can find a rich diversity of marine life, which makes it a popular site for snorkel and SCUBA activities. The best reefs are on the southern side of the bay, but there is also plenty of coral around the large rocks rising out of the water inside the bay and close to the rocky point on the beach's right (north) side.

5. Shipwreck Beach

You will likely not find this beach in any of the Big Island's tour guides, as it is not known to many (even locals). Located south of the A-Bay ('Anaeho'omalu Bay Beach) in Waikoloa Beach Resort, it is a secluded wild white sand beach perfect for sunbathing, swimming, and snorkeling.

To get there, go to the A-Bay Beach in Waikoloa Beach Resort. Park your car in the parking lot and walk to the beach. Once on the beach, turn left (south) and keep walking along the shoreline past the restaurant, then under the trees, for about 15-20 minutes. You will know that you arrived when you see an old, rusted engine (probably a remnant of a shipwreck decades ago, hence the name) on the shore. You can stay right there (that is the best spot) or keep walking farther - it is all beautiful there!

The beach is idyllic during the summer months. If you get there early in the morning, there likely will be no one else around, and you can have the whole beach to yourself. The reef is situated right off the shore, and there is plenty of marine life including fish and green sea turtles, perfect for snorkeling. You can find some shade under the trees, and if it gets too hot, a quick dip in the ocean will cool you down.

Since it gets hotter in the summer months, it is advisable to avoid the beach between noon and 2 p.m., unless you can find some shade. That is the time when the sun is strongest. The best time to go is in the morning or later afternoon - you will still get plenty of sun and fun. Make sure to drink plenty of water, use sunblock, and protect yourself from overheating - it can creep up on you without you even noticing it.

Want more exciting beach ideas? Contact me!

Ta Da!



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Pictures are courtesy of,, Inoptia

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