Best Beaches for Snorkeling, Surfing, Bodyboarding, and Kids

There are so many beaches on the big island of Hawaii. This is no coincidence. It is a BIG ISLAND! Black sand beaches are made from pulverized lava rock. White sand beaches are made from coral. Some beaches have a combination of both black and white sand! Here’s a quick guide to some of the best beaches on the big island and which activity is best for that beach.

 

Best Beaches Kona, Big Island by Activity

 

Beaches in Kona

  • Kailua Bay
  • Onea (Keiki) Beach
  • Honl’s Beach
  • Magic Sands
  • Mile Marker 4
  • Kahalu’u Beach
  • Old Airport

 

Beaches South of Kona

  • Keahou Bay
  • Kealakekua Bay
  • Manini Beach
  • Ke’ei Beach
  • Honaunau (2 step)
  • Ho’okena Beach Park

 

Beaches North of Kona

  • Honokohau Beach
  • Kaloko Beach
  • Pine Trees
  • Wawaloli Beach
  • Kekahakai
  • Mahaiulas
  • Makalawena
  • Kua Bay
  • Kukio
  • Kumukea (4 Seasons)
  • Kiholo Bay
  • Anaeho’omalu Bay (Waikoloa)
  • Mauna Lani Beach Club
  • Mauna Lani
  • Fairmont Orchid
  • Puako End of the road
  • Beach 69
  • Hapuna Beach
  • Mauna Kea
  • Mau’umae Beach
  • Spencer Beach Park
  • Lapakahi State Historical Park
  • Mahukona Beach Park
  • Kapa’a Beach Park
  • Pololu Valley

 

Beaches in the Kona Area

Kailua Bay, Kamakahonu Beach, Swim Entry, & Hulihe’e Beach

  • Sand Type: White
  • Shade: None
  • Keiki (kid) Freindly: Yes
  • Snorkeling: Very Good
  • Body Boarding: Good
  • Paddleboarding: Excellent
  • Kayaking: Excellent
  • Lounging: Good
  • Showers & Restrooms: Yes
  • Lifeguard: No
  • Bonus: Canoe Racing

located feet away from Ali’i Adventures, Kailua Bay is in the heart of Kailua Kona. This spot is unique because it has so much going on and is so easy to access. Dolphins will congregate in the bay in the morning to rest. Large schools of akule hang out near the pier to be snapped up by corralling jack’s and fishermen. A heiau of King Kamehameha’s resides at the mouth of Kamakahonu beach and the cruise ship offloads at the pier. Canoes are stored here and go out daily for practice. This is only a fraction of the activity here!

Kailua bay is the heart of Kona town with 3 major hotels in the area and the pier it acts as a hub for events and visitor traffic. There are numerous shops and restaurants lining the bay including Ali’i Adventures. You can rent a bike and cruise the shoreline stopping at the farmers market for souvenirs or fresh exotic fruit. Hulihe’e Palace is the original vacation home of Hawaiian royalty and now acts as a museum and event venue.

Kailua Bay Beach | Alii Adventures

 

Kailua Bay’s 3 Beaches

There are 3 beaches in the bay. Kamakahonu beach/bay is in front of the King Kamehameha Hotel and is a wonderful place for keiki (kids) to play while parents lounge nearby. The swim entry is another great little beach that is not suitable for lounging but acts as an entryway for the ocean and a fun body boarding spot for kids and adults when the swell picks up. The third beach is located just north of Hulihe’e Palace. It is less busy and rockier than the swim entry beach.

Kamakahonu Beach

  • Sand Type: White
  • Shade: None
  • Keiki (kid) Freindly: Yes
  • Snorkeling: Not good
  • Scuba Diving: Good
  • Body Boarding: Not good
  • Paddleboarding: Excellent
  • Kayaking: Excellent
  • Lounging: Very Good
  • Showers & Restrooms: Yes
  • Lifeguard: No
  • Bonus: Canoe Racing
Kamakahonu Beach King Kamehameha Hotel Beach | Alii Adventures

Kamakahonu Beach is great for many different activities and it’s located directly across the street from Ali’i Adventures!

Kamakahonu beach is located in Kamakahonu bay which houses the historic residence Heiau of King Kamehameha I on the point. Access to the ocean is available here and it’s an ideal spot to launch a kayak or paddleboard for beginners or parents with children. The sand slopes gently into the water and it’s very well protected from waves. The snorkeling is not good in the bay and the access to the open ocean is a little tricky. Better to go to the other side of the pier to use the swim entry. The rocks contain tidepools where you may find all kinds of fish seeking refuge. The sand is nice for making sand castles. If you’d like to rent a kayak, snorkel gear, or paddleboard visit Ali’i Adventures across the street for the best rental deals

 

Swim Entry

  • Sand Type: White
  • Shade: None
  • Keiki (kid) Freindly: No
  • Snorkeling:  Excellent
  • Scuba Diving: Very Good
  • Body Boarding: Very good
  • Paddleboarding: Excellent
  • Kayaking: Excellent
  • Lounging: Not Good
  • Showers & Restrooms: Yes
  • Lifeguard: No
  • Bonus: Akule Fish School, Dolphins

 

Swim Entry Kailua Bay | Alii Adventures

This is ground zero for all of the action. Swimmers are often getting in and out of the water here with races being held throughout the year. It’s a great spot to gear up and head out for a snorkel or a swim. There’s a swim lane marked with buoys. You will often find schools of Akule, a baitfish that clusters tightly together. You can swim into them and they will surround you like a wall of moving particles.

Snorkel Rental Kona Alii Adventures

The Akule school surround a snorkeler in Kailua Bay – Photo by Bo Pardau

 

Hulihe’e Beach

  • Sand Type: White
  • Shade: None
  • Keiki (kid) Freindly: No
  • Snorkeling:  Excellent
  • Scuba Diving: Not good
  • Body Boarding: Not Good
  • Paddleboarding: Excellent
  • Kayaking: Not Good
  • Lounging: Good
  • Showers & Restrooms: Yes (by the pier)
  • Lifeguard: No

We are calling this Hulihe’e beach only because it doesn’t have a name but it is located just north of Hulihe’e palace. It’s very small and acts as a suitable entry point for paddlebaords or snorkeling when the surf is not up. Not many people use this beach. It is also a bit rocky. The difficult thing about this beach is there is nowhere nearby for parking so you must park and carry your gear a ways before arriving.

Best Beaches Kona

View of Hulihe’e Beach with the Palace directly behind

 

Onea (Keiki) Beach

  • Sand Type: White
  • Shade: None
  • Keiki (kid) Freindly: Yes!
  • Snorkeling: None
  • Body Boarding: None
  • Paddleboarding: none
  • Kayaking: None
  • Lounging: Very Good
  • Showers & Restrooms: No
  • Lifeguard: No
  • Bonus: Tidepools

This is a great little secret beach most people don’t know about located behind the public pool in a private housing community. It’s probably one of the best beaches for little kids on the Big Island because it’s so well protected from the ocean. Tired parents who just want to lounge and chat on the beach can do so because it’s so safe here. The tidepool nearest the sand is very shallow. The sand is quite nice here. There’s no easy access to the ocean but there are some neat tide-pools with interesting marine life near the ocean.

 

Honl’s Beach

  • Sand Type: White
  • Shade: Some palm trees
  • Keiki (kid) Freindly: No
  • Snorkeling: Good
  • Body Boarding: Very Good
  • Paddleboarding: Good
  • Kayaking: NA
  • Lounging: GFair
  • Showers & Restrooms: No
  • Lifeguard: No

This beach is small and is just a few minutes drive south of Kona. There isn’t much to do here. The snorkeling is good too but not great. Not a popular spot.

 

Magic Sands, White Sands, Disappearing Sands

  • Sand Type: White
  • Shade: Minimal
  • Keiki (kid) Freindly: No
  • Snorkeling: Not Really
  • Body Boarding: Very Good
  • Paddleboarding: Average
  • Kayaking: Average
  • Lounging: Very Good
  • Showers & Restrooms: Yes
  • Lifeguard: Yes
  • Bonus: Volleyball Court

This beach is small and is just a few minutes drive south of downtown Kona. It’s very popular with the tourists and locals. The best activity here is bodyboarding as the swell is almost always bearking here. The lounging is probably the second best activity here because the beach has nice sand (during the summer half of the year) and a nice layout. There’s a volleyball court and decent body boarding. The snorkeling is nothing to write home about. During the winter the swell sucks out the sand and makes the beach smaller and rockier. Many tourists come here and bodysurf only to find that the waves can sneak up on you! There are many injuries from the surf here.

 

Kahalu’u Beach Park

  • Sand Type: White
  • Shade: Minimal
  • Keiki (kid) Freindly: No
  • Snorkeling: Excellent
  • Body Boarding: No
  • Paddleboarding: Excellent
  • Kayaking: No
  • Lounging: Average
  • Showers & Restrooms: Yes
  • Lifeguard: Yes
  • Bonus: Covered Pavillion, Sea Turtles

A very popular snorkel beach for tourists and surfing spot for beginners. Kahalu’u Has the strange factor of being good for both snorkeling and surfing which are usually 2 things that don’t go together.  The snorkeling is quite good for people that prefer shallow water. Relaxing on the beach is fine and there is some minimal shade but the sand and the view is only mediocre.