Beaches of West Hawaii
As it rains, sleets and snows from now until next May, imagine yourself, lying under cerulean blue skies bathed in healing sunlight on a warm golden sand beach, playing in bath-water temperature water and snorkeling among brightly-colored, tropical fish and placid, commercial tablecloths for restaurants but amazing sea turtles. Sound too good to be true? In West Hawaii, this soothing day dream is our day-to-day reality. Lying in the rain shadow of two enormous volcanoes reaching from sea level to almost 14,000 feet in the sky, the weather year round on the west coasts of the Big Island are universally gorgeous, reliably warm, indescribably delicious. Our beaches range from wide, mile-long golden swaths of sands bounded by turquoise waters on one side and stands of palms and mangroves on the other to wee, tiny patches of white sand plunked down in the middle of town where everybody gathers to cool off in the afternoon and gaze at West Hawaii’s unbelievable sunsets. Let’s take a quick tour of just a sampling of the unbelievably fabulous, romantic, relaxing, beautiful beaches of West Hawaii. Our trip starts on the north end of the Kohala Coast and proceeds south to the southern end of the Kona Coast.
Always rated in the Top 10 of American beaches, chef at Home in Sydney and Newcastle Hapuna Beach is the premiere beach destination on the Island of Hawai’i. Long, wide and phenomenally sandy, it has everything one dreams of in a Hawai’ian beach: abundant sun, surf, clean, clear and quiet snorkeling water, shade and well-maintained facilities. There are lifeguards, several pavilions, barbecues, picnic tables, restrooms, showers and a small café. The center of the beach lend themselves well to wave play and boogey boarding, the north and south coves are quieter, fostering snorkeling or gentle floating.
Waialea Beach (Beach 69)
A perfect crescent of golden sand backed by abundant shade at the edge of the beach makes this an ideal, though little known, family beach. After about 10 in the morning and on windy days the water in the bay is a tad murkier than ideal for snorkeling, en’s skateboarding shoes online but most of the visitors to this beach don’t seem to mind. A chain of tiny islands and pinnacles leads northward to crystalline water and a long coral reef for some of the most outrageous snorkeling and shore diving anywhere in the state. A trail over the north headland leads to a secluded (often clothing optional) cove and then onward to Hapuna Beach. Although most of the shore is relatively free of currents, only experienced snorkelers who are strong swimmers will want to snorkel around the north end of Waialea, past the cove and the reef, past the sea arch and on to Hapuna–a long, but rewarding swim with some of the most incredible underwater vistas available to the snorkeler in the world. Take the Puako Road exit from the highway and turn north toward Hapuna. Near Pole 71, an obvious newly paved road and parking lot indicate the start of the short trail to the beach. Restrooms, picnic tables, swimming pool northern beache water and showers round out the facilities.
The most photographed sunset view on the Island of Hawai’i, Anaeho’omalu Bay is the icon of what most visitors envision Hawai’i to be like before they get here…swaying palm trees, a clean beach fronting warm, safe, swimmable ocean and hordes of eager beach boys bearing large, tropical drinks with comical names like “Malahini Wahine Wahoo”. Here at the bay, one may rent snorkel or surfing gear, sign-up for sailing trips, snorkel tours, windsurfing lessons or scuba dives, order food and drinks, or just lounge pleasantly in the niumalu (shade of the coconut palms). Named for the ancient fishponds behind the beach from the words anae (“mullet”) and ho’malu (“to protect”), Anaeho’omalu Bay is known as “A”-Bay by locals. In addition to swimming, snorkeling, diving, windsurfing and just plain hanging-out, the area around A-Bay is also rich with archaeological sites, including section of the Ala Ali’i (King’s Trail), fish ponds, heiau and petroglyphs. Walking the trail south from A-Bay to Kapalaoa Beach will take one along not only vistas of incomparable beauty and wildness, but also reveal numerous rarely-visited petroglyphs. There is good snorkeling along the farthest south pocket of sand on Kapalaoa Beach. One can follow this tail several miles all the way south to Pueo Bay and Ke-awa-iki Beach along lava flows and shoreline, but it is a long, hot hike with no water for drinking available. Walking north along the trail (shoes required) over sand, lava and coral, to the Hilton Waikoloa Resort is an unforgettable sunset stroll, and a good introduction to the wild beauty of the Kohala Coast. There are numerous tidepools, stylowakobieta a couple with resident Honu, Hawai’ian Green Sea Turtles. Follow the Mauna Lani Resort road to the left turn clearly marked Anaeho’omalu Bay, turn and proceed to the end of the road. Facilities and services are available at A-Bay and on the Resort Grounds.
Kiholo Bay Area
Snorkeling, country music history ancient fish ponds and medical science…what more could anyone ask for? This remarkable, beautiful and sadly popular area is accessed in two ways; first, by a gravel road going oceanward from the highway immediately south of the Overlook pullout at mile 82. This road is only open from 8 am. to 6 pm., but accesses the south end of the bay, a pebbly beach terminated in austere a’a flows to the south. The round house on the beach was built by country and western singer Loretta Lynn, but was condemned and taken by the State when it created the beach park. Swimming and boogie boarding here are excellent in low to moderate surf, but beware of current and surginess; if the surf is high, do not go in. A trail south below the big mansion on the headland leads about three quarters of a mile to a tiny black sand beach with an amazing coral garden. This little beach is my favorite snorkeling secret on the island. A 4WD road/trail continues north along the black pebble beach and cliffs to Kiholo Bay proper. This part of the Kiholo Area can also be accessed via a newly rebuilt dirt road that leaves the parking lot immediately south of mile marker 81. Along the 4WD trail, on the mauka side, is a freshwater spring and pond in a lava tube (Keanalele Waterhole), a great place to rinse off after swimming or hiking along the beach. Please rinse off excess suncream in the ocean before enjoying this refreshing pool. Also along this portion of the beach are a number of mansions, most notably the Bali House (oh, you’ll know it when you see it) and the home of Earl Bakken, the billionaire inventor of the pace maker. Believe the no trespassing signs you see here. Full of turtles, beautiful to swim and a wonderful place to learn to surf, Kiholo Bay proper has it all. In addition, the sweat required to reach it has the added bonus of weeding out the undesirables. Just north of Kiholo Bay is a beautiful, turquoise brackish lagoon, all that remains of a 2-mile long fishpond erected by Kamehameha the Great around 1810, which was destroyed by the Mauna Kea lava flow of 1859.
The site of Kona’s newest beach park, this is a lovely white sand beach. Although there is no shade to speak of, the swimming and boogie boarding in the crystalline waters is primo. Strong currents and large waves call for respect, here; if the surf is up, don’t go in. Also, sometimes in winter the surf removes the sand to offshore, leaving a rocky shelf that is less fun to frolic on than the sandy beach. Behind the beach on the north end is a small, inviting fresh-water pool. Don’t be seduced into rinsing off here-it is bottomed by foul-smelling quicksand and is extremely nasty if you jump in. There are sacred, native Hawai’ian sites and ruins to the north of the beach; please do not disturb them. A short hike brings one to the summit of Pu’u Ku’ili, genee the 342-foot high cinder cone immediately south of the access road. Pu’u Ku’ili provides a romantic spot to watch sunsets and whales, boasting a majestic view of the Kohala coastline. As of this writing, mountain biking along the trail up Pu’u Ku’ili is tolerated by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources. The ride up is short but sweaty, but the blast down is well worth the effort. However, one must be careful to stay on the trail and be wary of tearing up the fragile plants; the erosion which inevitably follows such abuse will quickly ruin this wonderful little pu’u. Because of the actions of some inconsiderate, ignorant and careless mountain bikers and off-road motorbikers, access to riding this cinder cone may shortly be curtailed-so please be mindful of this when riding the trails. Access to Kua Bay is via a newly paved road recently opened to the public. Park facilities include parking, picnic tables, restrooms and water. Wild goats are frequently seen in this area.