If you're looking for the most beautiful beaches on Big Island, Kekaha Kai State Park is probably the place to be! The name of this State Park may not ring a bell, but it hides, among other things, the sumptuous Makalawena Beach, which we think is the most beautiful on the island.
To find it, you'll have to go to the north of Kona, a little after the airport. Access to the Kekaha Kai State Park is free and allowed every day between 8:00 am and 7:00 pm.
The park is divided into two distinct parts and therefore has two access roads. The southern zone serves the beaches of Mahai'ula Beach, Makalawena Beach and Ka'Elehuluhulu Beach and the northern zone provides access to Manini'owali Beach (Kua Bay).
1The southern area of Kekaha Kai State Park
Mahai'ula beach is a beautiful white sand beach with turquoise water and is relatively uncrowded due to its access. And that's good because this postcard beach keeps all its charm! That's why it is one of the most beautiful beaches of the island.
On site you can easily find some shade to put your towel under the trees or coconut trees. There is no shower but a chemical toilet is installed on the access road near the grove of trees.
How to get to Mahai'ula beach
From the Highway, turn off onto the road leading to Kekaha Kai State Park. Be aware that the intersection is not clearly marked. We recommend that you use a GPS to avoid missing it.
The road, initially paved, will quickly deteriorate into a track of some kind, which you will have to follow for 2.6 km. This fairly bumpy section can be used by an ordinary passenger vehicle, but be careful to drive slowly and avoid holes as much as possible. However, it will be more comfortable to come here with an SUV or 4x4.
Remember that you will not be insured on this type of track with your rental car. So be careful.
A few dozen meters before the end of the track, you will easily spot red barriers on the right with a few parking spaces on the lower side. This is where you will have to park. The rest of the way is on foot, taking the wide path that goes north from the barriers and crosses a lava field for 300m.
At the end of the path a grove of trees marks the beginning of the beach. You can choose to branch off towards the beach at this level or continue a little further along the lava field for 200m to reach the end of the beach directly.
Round trip of 3,5 km - 1h00 - Easy
This is one of Hawaii's hidden gems! A jewel that few people come to discover because of its difficult access. And yet Makalawena Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches of the archipelago and probably the most beautiful of Big Island.
Its immaculate white sand, crystal clear waters, isolation and wilderness make it the perfect beach for nature lovers!
Chances are you'll be there almost alone, as the walking distance will put off a lot of candidates!
Here nature is untouched and will leave you with a feeling of total freedom. The beach is large enough to walk around and find a relaxing place to put your things. Although there are not many trees, there are still some small areas of shade in the middle and at the end of the beach.
The only shadow in the picture could be the waves which are here a little more present because no reef protects the beach. Although we were able to swim there without any problem at the end of September, it is possible that the waves are quite strong during the winter season.
It could also be interesting to do some snorkeling here, but you will have to get far enough away from the shore to have interesting bottoms. As the currents are sometimes strong, snorkeling is for experienced people only. There is not really any interest in doing it at the edge of the beach.
There are no facilities or toilets near the beach.
How to get to Makalawena Beach
Makalawena Beach is earned! But the effort you make to reach it will be rewarded by the discovery of this little lost gem!
To get to Makalawena Beach you will have to reach the first beach of Mahai'ula Beach (see instructions above) and continue on the path until you reach the northern end of the beach. Once on the sand, you will have to walk along the ocean to reach the palm tree area at the very end.
Here you can easily spot the path that goes north into the lava field.
Remember to pack enough water to keep you hydrated.
Once at the end of the lava field, you will reach a wooded area. You'll think it's finally over! But it is unfortunately still 250m to go, this time in soft sand and still under the scorching sun.
The last few meters in the sand are the most difficult but fortunately the beach is not far away! Soon you should finally see a piece of ocean and white sand.
It will then be possible either to walk along the water's edge or to continue on the trail for a few dozen meters.
This last beach in the southern sector of the park is not very cheerful next to its two sisters. Here the beach is not very beautiful or interesting for swimming. The place is rather to be privileged to make a picnic thanks to the many tables and barbecues available here.
How to get to Ka'Elehuluhulu Beach
This time the access is easier! By car, just pass the red barriers marking the beginning of the track to Mahai'ula beach and follow the trail to the end. There is a parking area where you can park easily, close to the picnic tables.
2The northern area of Kekaha Kai State Park
Manini'owali Beach (Kua Bay)
A nice setting, fine sand with some black basalt rocks, turquoise water and easy access! Manini'owali Beach, also known as Kua Bay, is an ideal beach to relax with the family.
The beach is equipped with showers and sanitary facilities are located at the parking level. Swimming is also supervised. Please note that there is no shade on the beach. It is therefore preferable to bring a parasol.
Here the beach is not protected by a reef so the waves can be high, especially in winter. It is possible to snorkel here, although our experience has not been a great success. However, a couple of friends were able to see Manta rays and dolphins a few days after our visit.
The big disadvantage of Manini'owali Beach will be its frequentation, very important because of its easy access. A car park can accommodate about thirty vehicles just in front of the beach, but it is quickly full. Fortunately, it is possible to easily park on the shoulders of the road before arriving at the car park.
If you have the possibility, avoid the weekend to come to Manini'owali Beach, or prefer to come before 9am or after 4pm. The beach is also a great place to watch the sunset.
How to get to Manini'owali Beach
Access is very easy from the Highway where a large junction allows you to turn towards the ocean on the access road which is paved all the way to the end.