Last updated: 10/12/2021
In this special guide you will find tips and information about the top 30 beaches on Big Island, the largest island in the US state of Hawaii. Ready to organize a more than perfect trip to this paradise?
BEACHES OF BIG ISLAND
All beaches in Hawaii are public and there is no charge to access them. The only charge you may find is for parking at some of the resorts that are accessed from inside the resort. One of the best things about the Big Island beaches is that they are usually not as crowded as the main islands: Oahu, Maui and Kauai. It may be that if you visit some beach further away from the biggest cities during the week, there will be no one and the beach will be all yours! Below you will find important tips and information for frequenting beaches on the Big Island, and then a list of 30 beaches with detailed information on what to find and how to get there.
IMPORTANT TIPS FOR ATTENDING THE BEACHES
- Sunblock: Needless to say, because of the strong sun in Hawaii practically all year round, sunscreen is indispensable. However, not just any sunscreen is indicated. Try to use sunscreens that are friendly to coral reefs. Most sunscreens contain toxic substances that harm corals, turning them white or killing them. Do not contribute to the destruction of this incredible living organism. Learn more about the dangers of conventional sunscreens and tips on which ones to buy in this link. The use of lip sunscreen is also recommended.
- Water: The strong sun also dehydrates. Carry a reusable water bottle with you to refill it whenever possible. Avoid disposable plastic bottles that contribute to contamination and pollution of the seas, harming marine life and causing accidents.
- Do not drink alcohol or smoke: Alcoholic beverages and cigarettes of any kind are illegal on Hawaii's beaches and parks. If you want to make use of these substances, leave the beach and go to another place that allows consumption.
- Water Activities: Crystal clear waters, with colorful fish and corals combine well with surface diving (snorkeling). Buy a kit or rent it to enjoy the natural marine beauties. Other activities available are diving with oxygen (there are several options for guided excursions) or renting a kayak, a surfboard, bodysurfing or stand-up paddle for fun.
- Cap/hat and sunglasses: Get out of the hot sun by covering your head with a beach hat or cap and wear sunglasses to protect your eyes. Also wear comfortable clothes made of light fabrics and, if possible, in light colors and good for perspiration.
- Suitable shoes: The sand can get very hot throughout the day. In addition, many of the beaches are formed by volcanic rocks that get hot and can even hurt your feet. Bring flip-flops, closed-toe shoes for longer walks, and special shoes for getting into the water (rubberized or neoprene socks) when it's full of rocks.
- Turtles: Green sea turtles, very common on the Big Island, are under legal protection under the Endangered Species Act and visitors must stay at least 10 feet away.
THE 30 MAIN BEACHES OF BIG ISLAND
Below you will find an interactive map with the location of all the beaches mentioned in this post. The idea is that you can verify the location of each one of them, making it easier to assemble your itinerary on the Big Island. Next, there are important information about each of the beaches separated by regions, according to the colors below.
- WEST REGION OF BIG ISLAND (NEAR KONA)
- NORTH REGION OF BIG ISLAND
- EAST REGION OF BIG ISLAND
- SOUTH REGION OF BIG ISLAND
WEST REGION OF BIG ISLAND (NEAR KONA)
The beaches of this region are located in the North and South Kona districts, home to the island's main city of Kailua (also known as Kailua-Kona), the Big Island's main hotels and commercial establishments, as well as the island's main airport.
1. Kīholo Bay
At just over 3 km long, this is one of the biggest bays on the Big Island. Most of the beach in this beautiful bay – which mixes fresh and salt water – is privately owned, but there is a public access area. If the tide is low, the bay is filled with natural pools perfect for snorkeling. The land around the bay is flanked to the south by lava flows from the Hualālai volcano (circa 1801) and the Mauna Loa volcano (in 1859). Kīholo Bay was also home to the “Queen's Bath”, a large tidal pool that was formed by a destroyed lava tube that filled with fresh water from a nearby natural spring. In the past, only Hawaiian royalty was allowed to enter the water at this location, used for bathing and relaxation. The original pool was destroyed in 1987 by a volcanic eruption from Kilauea. The northern end of the bay encompasses Wainanali'i Lagoon (also known as Blue Lagoon), which is popular with sea turtles. They are protected by law and should not be disturbed.
- Address: 71-1890 Queen Ka'ahumanu Hwy, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
- Schedules: in summer between 7 am and 7 pm | in winter from 7 am to 6 pm (gates are closed every night)
- Access: If you want to take a look at Kīholo Bay before heading down to it, stop at “Scenic Overlook” near mile 82 along Highway 19. Just past this scenic area is a gravel road (not signposted) that leads down to the ocean. Drive to the end of the road where there is a curve to help turn the car. park next to the road.
- Highlights: turquoise waters, sea turtles, black sand beach and volcanic rocks, no bathrooms or showers
2. Kuki'o Beach & Kika'ua Point Beach Park
access to Kikaua Point Beach Park is done through Kukio Golf and Beach Club. All beaches in Hawaii are public and once you enter the resort, the guard at the security gate will provide you with a visitor's pass and direct you to the parking lot if there is space. As parking is limited, it is recommended to arrive early in the morning around 9am. There is a short walk along a paved path between the parking lot and Kika'ua beach. At the end of the trail, you will find restrooms, showers and water. Popular with families, this beach is great for children because of its sheltered lagoon that provides calm, serene waters. The sandy, shallow beach is ideal for young children learning to swim, snorkel, and novice swimmers. Located north of Kika'ua Point Park, Kuki'o Beach a long white sand beach with lots of green turtles. Lava rocks form natural pools where it is possible to observe marine life. Lots of lava rocks above and below the water make it not a good beach for swimming and special shoes are recommended so as not to injure your feet. It is accessed through the starry gateway Four Seasons Resort Hualalai. There isn't much shade on the beach, but there is an area of coconut trees just south of the main beach at Kika'ua Point Beach Park.
- Kukio Golf and Beach Club: 87 Queen Ka'ahumanu Hwy, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
- Four Seasons Resort Hualalai: 72-100 Ka'upulehu Drive, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
- Schedules: from sunrise to sunset inside the Kukio Golf Resort or Four Seasons Hualalai Resort
- Access: If you are in Kailua Kona, drive about 27 km on Highway 19 (Queen Ka'ahumanu Hwy). At Kukio Nui Drive (mile 87), turn left. At the entrance to Palena Aina, inform the security guard that you would like to visit Kikaua Point Beach Park. He will direct you to the gate leading to the parking lot and provide you with a beach pass. Follow the road until you reach the parking lot. Kikaua Point Beach Park closes half an hour after sunset. If the parking lot is full, return to Highway 19 and drive half a mile north to Kuki'o Beach at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai. From there you can access the two beaches, but it is a little further to walk.
- Highlights: volcanic rocks, sandy beach, bathrooms, showers, water, shade from coconut trees, good option for families
This park (formerly known as Kona Coast State Park) is home to some of the most beautiful beaches on the Big Island: Mahai'ula Beach, Makalawena Beach and Manini'owali Beach (Kua Bay). They are white sand beaches with blue-green water and surrounded by very dark lava fields. A 7.2 km hike on the historic Ala Kahakai coastal trail leads to Kua Bay.
- Mahai'ula Beach: Mahaiula Beach has a beautiful stretch of white sand at the northern end, great for sunbathing and shady space for picnics. To the south, the beach has more of a lava rock shoreline. The rocky south end of the beach offers grills and picnic tables to enjoy a beachside meal. Its waters are incredibly clear, sparkling blue, great for swimming and excellent snorkeling. The entrance to the ocean from the coast is quite steep in places, so be aware and proceed with caution when swimming. Also, when the wind picks up, the water gets choppy and the waves can get choppy quickly. Plan to arrive early as the parking lot fills up quickly, especially on the weekend.
- Makalawena Beach: One of the most beautiful white sand beaches in Hawaii, but very difficult to access. When the waters are calm, swimming, boogie boarding and snorkeling are excellent at this beach, which is rich in marine life. As there are no lifeguards on duty in Makalawena and the current can be strong, be sure to check the water conditions if you plan on swimming, and stay out of the water if the waves are rough. On the beach side is the 12-acre Opae'ula Lagoon, recognized as a habitat for coastal birds. Wild goats can also be seen roaming the fields of black lava. There are no restrooms on this beach or any services on this beach.
- Manini'owali Beach (Kua Bay): This is one of the few fine white sand beaches on the Big Island. Crystal clear waters make this small beach a great spot for snorkeling and swimming. The bay can have high waves in winter, but it's great for snorkeling with calm waters. There is almost no shade on the beach and access is complicated, because you have to go down 3 meters on lava rocks to get to the sand. There may be a food truck in the parking lot, but it's best to make sure you bring your own food and water. Toilets and showers are located in the parking area and there is a lifeguard station. It is best to visit during the week, when there are fewer tourists, and in the morning, when the sun is at its lowest. The beach is famous for providing a beautiful sunset.
- Address: HI-19, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
- Schedules: daily from 8:00 to 18:45 (road leading to the beach closes at 19:00)
- Mahai'ula Beach: Accessed via Highway 19, between miles 90 and 91. The lava road to the coast is bumpy, so take it slow. The end of the road is 2.4 km from the highway. Follow the road until you reach a locked gate on the side of the road and park there. Continue walking on your right (north) for 5 minutes to the beach.
- Makalawena Beach: Accessible only by a 1 mile trail from Mahai'ula Beach Park at the north end of the beach. Continue north, walking for about 15-20 minutes through the lava field. It is recommended to wear comfortable shoes as the floor is unstable. You'll know you've arrived at Makalawena Beach when you see sand dunes on your right and the ocean on your left.
- Manini'owali Beach (Kua Bay): The park is just north of Kona International Airport. Take the second exit on the left 7.5 km after passing the airport (opposite the sign indicating the West Hawaii Veterans Cemetery exit) to access Kua Bay Access Road. Turning left, you will reach the entrance to the park. Parking is small, so get there early on weekends to enjoy Manini'owali Beach.
- Highlights: clear water, white sand, snorkeling, swimming, no lifeguard, picnic area, restrooms (not available Makalawena Beach)
4. Aiopio Beach (Kona Dog Beach) & Honokohau Harbor
Aiopio beach is part of the Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park, a park that houses a historic archaeological site north of the port of Honokohau. Around the beach is the Ai'opio Fish Trap, a pristine lake designed for catching fish. Built by former residents of the island, it captures the fish that arrive at high tide and are trapped at low tide, which makes fishing easier. All that remains today is the dark lava structure around the trap. The beach is safe for swimming, even for small children who can play in the tide pools. Reefs are scattered throughout the area and occasionally turtles swim to shore and feed on seaweed. If you enter the park from the south entrance, near the port of Honokohau, you will find the Aiopio Beach. With some shade, a thatched roof structure and a Hawaiian temple (heiau) along its shoreline, the beach is packed with things to see. Its sheltered cove is good for swimming, allowing children to play in the shallow waters and natural pools. The sand here is a rough mix of lava rock with lots of broken shells mixed in. The reefs throughout the area act as a buffer for waves and currents, making the beach area calmer. However, there is a wave break about 200 meters north of the entrance to the Port of Honokohau, which is characterized by being an advanced surfing area. About 400 meters north of Aiopio Beach is Honokahau Beach, also protected by reefs. Few people visit this area, making it a perfect spot for an afternoon dip, snorkeling and picnic.
- Address: 74-380 Kealakehe Pkwy, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
- Schedules: daily from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm
- Access: Take Highway 19 north of Kona and turn left between miles 97 and 98. This road leads to Honokohau Harbor. Turn right and head to the Honokohau Marina & Small Boat Harbor parking lot. Take the short trail to the beach.
- Highlights: volcanic rocks, sandy beach, reefs, sea turtles, calm waters, Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park attractions (visitor center with exhibits)
5. Old Kona Airport Park
The long stretch of beach is made up of uneven sand with numerous interesting natural pools. Originally built in the 1940s, the former airport was closed when the much larger Kona International Airport (KOA) was completed in 1970, leaving a runway that now serves as a parking lot for this beach park. The ocean is usually rough here, not recommended for a swim. But, it's a great option to have a picnic (there are several tables available) and watch the sunset. The southern area near the old terminal has several sports fields, tennis courts, the Kona Community Aquatics Center, the Kekuaokalani Gym and an Events Center. The beach is a meeting point for more experienced Sufis. Coral cover is substantial in the area, with a diverse population of reef fish, green sea turtles and even manta rays being sighted along this shoreline. To the north is Pawai Bay, a great place for diving and snorkeling, as it has clear water, small caves and arches, as well as lots of marine life. However, only very experienced divers should venture here.
- Address: 75-5560 Kuakini Hwy, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
- Schedules: daily from 7 am to 8 pm
- Access: From Highway 19, turn onto Makala Boulevard and you will see Target and a mall. Continue down Makala, past all the shops until the road meets Kuakini Hwy and ends (you will be looking at a sports field). Turn north (to the right) and go through the gate, then go to the parking lot, which has plenty of spaces.
- Highlights: volcanic rocks, bathrooms, showers, picnic tables, courts, pavilions
6. Kamakahonu Beach (King Kamehameha Beach)
Also known as Kids' Beach, this small white sand beach located north of Kailua Bay is an excellent choice for snorkeling and sunbathing. Protected by rocks, it is between the Kailua Pier it's the Courtyard by Marriott King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel right in the center of Kona. It is a popular spot for snorkeling, diving instruction, canoeing and swimming. For snorkeling, swim out of the bay and turn right. Do not turn left as this area is often used by boats going to and from the pier. The best time for snorkeling is early in the morning. You may to hire diving equipment, boards and kayaks at affordable prices.
One of the highlights of this beach is the 'Ahu'ena Heiau, a holy temple where King Kamehameha I spent his last seven years (1812–1819) in power before his son Liholiho succeeded him. The temple is dedicated to Lono, god of pa, agriculture and prosperity, where Kamehameha's council members often met with him for ceremonies and rituals. It is considered one of Hawaii's most important historic sites. The current temple was rebuilt in the 1970s. In the hotel lobby, some of the artifacts from the ancient temple are on display.
- Address: 75-5660 Palani Rd, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740-3612
- Schedules: daily from 6 am to 11 pm
- Access: The beach is behind Courtyard by Marriott King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel. If you can't find parking spaces near the beach, you can use the hotel's (paid) car park.
- Highlights: calm waters, sandy beach, snorkel and kayak rentals, good for families and first-time divers, restrooms, showers, picnic area, close to restaurants, shops and other attractions in downtown Kona
7. Magic Sands Beach Park
Also known as White Sands Beach Park, this “magical” beach gets its name from the beach’s tendency to “disappear” completely overnight. During winter, high waves cause the ocean to carry sand, revealing dark lava rocks beneath. When the winter tide subsides, ocean currents slowly move the sand back to shore. While this can take several months, the recurring flow of the sand keeps it clean. Because of this, in the summer months, swimming conditions are often calm, but during the winter months, ocean conditions can with high waves and strong currents can pull swimmers into the ocean or knock them over exposed rocks. Lifeguards available all day.
- Address: 77-648177 Alii Dr, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
- Schedules: daily from 6 am to 11 pm
- Access: You can leave the car in a free parking which is across the street, a little further north from the beach access and is open from 7am to 8pm. In the parking lot there is a point of electric bicycles that can be rented/returned.
- Highlights: close to shops, bars and restaurants (like Magic's Beach Bar & Grill and others in downtown Kailua-Kona), water activities, picnic areas, restrooms, showers, lifeguards
8. Kahalu'u Beach Park
Kahalu'u is located in a wide bay that offers one of the best places on the island for diving and snorkeling, with crystal blue waters, sea turtles, corals, a wide variety of colorful fish and marine life (such as: octopus, sea urchins, eels, among others). Kahalu'u Bay has an important cultural history for Hawaii, as it is estimated to have been populated for over 500 years, with records of royal residences dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries and several heiaus (Hawaiian temples) in the area. The heiau on the north side of the bay, the Kuʻemanu Heiau, is still a very popular temple.
The south side of Kahaluʻu Bay is the access point to enter the water for snorkeling. Be careful as you will need to pass some lava rocks, which can be slippery and uncomfortable for your feet. A tip is to wear special shoes with rubber or neoprene soles. On the other side of the rocks is a sandy bottom area that is shallow enough to stand on and put on your scuba gear. When leaving the water, use this same path. If you swim well, head further out to the middle of the bay, where some of the largest areas of coral can be found. Tip: be careful with the proximity to the corals, as the waters are shallow and you have to be careful not to end up hitting the corals and getting hurt. If needed, you can rent snorkel equipment or even from surf. An important tip is to use sunscreen that is not harmful to corals. Check more information here.
- Address: 78-6710 Alii Dr., Kailua-Kona, HI 96739
- Schedules: daily from 6 am to 11 pm
- Access: The beach is 8 km south of Kailua-Kona and parking is free. For snorkeling, the best place to park is in the parking lot on the south side of the bay, next to the restrooms. For surfing, the most suitable parking is at the north end of the bay. If both are full, there is another parking lot across the street on Makolea St.
- Highlights: coral reefs, volcanic rocks, good for snorkeling, surfing area, restrooms, showers, lifeguards, picnic areas (including a covered pavilion), food truck with typical American foods and that offers luggage storage until 3:30 pm , family environment, sea turtles
9. Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park & Manini Beach
Kealakekua Bay is an underwater marine sanctuary that is home to rich marine life, colorful fish, sea turtles and even spinner dolphins. The bay is known as “Captain Cook”, as it was there that the British explorer “discovered” the Hawaiian Islands on February 14, 1779. There are two small beaches on the east coast of Kealakekua Bay: a small rocky beach at Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park and the Manini Beach, 400 meters south. Manini beach has some sand and nice grass to watch the sunset, but it's not a very good place to swim. Kealakekua Bay is a great option for snorkeling.
It is possible to reach the monument in honor of Captain Cook through a relatively difficult 6 km trail (round trip), via kayak (around 20 minutes, but you need a license – licensed companies: adventures in paradise, Aloha Kayak and Kona Boys) or through a boat trip for snorkeling. The best spot for diving is just opposite the parking area of the bay, near the Captain Cook monument.
- Address: Captain Cook, HI 96704
- Schedules: daily from sunrise to sunset
- Access: The beach is about 21 km south of Kailua-Kona, driving along Highway 11 and following Nāpōʻopoʻo Road to the end and you will be facing Nāpōʻopoʻo Pier. You can turn right towards Puuhonua Rd towards Kealakekua Bay Boat Ramp where there are public restrooms, information totems and access to the Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park or go left and take Manini Beach Road to Manini Beach.
- Highlights: snorkeling, picnic pavilion, restrooms, water, crystal clear waters, volcanic rocks, boating and kayaking
Located south of Kailua-Kona, Ho'okena Beach Park is the historic site of one of the last Hawaiian canoe fishing villages in Hawaii. The site has a rich cultural history and traces of its former commercial steamship pier. Situated at the northern end of Kauhako Bay, Ho'okena Beach is surrounded by cliffs. The beach is an exotic mix of a wide variety of corals and fine, dark gray sand. Depending on the time of year, the ocean is placid and the clear, blue waters reveal spectacular underwater landscapes and a colorful array of fish. It is considered one of the best beaches on the island for camping, swimming, snorkeling and bodyboarding. The sunset is amazing and the sunrise above the pali (cliffs) is breathtaking. Snorkeling is best at both ends of the beach and it is best to swim at the south end of the beach where there is more sand.
- Address: 86-4322 Mamalahoa Hwy, Captain Cook, HI 96704
- Schedules: daily from 7 am to 7 pm
- Access: Drive south on Hwy 11 from Kailua-Kona for approximately 32 km until you pass the 102 mile mark. Look for Ho'okena Beach Road on the right side of the road and turn right when you get there. You will follow this road for about 4 km before reaching the park. When you are near the end of the road, turn left into a narrow lane road, to reach the parking lot.
- Highlights: food and ice cream stands, showers, restrooms, camping, picnic tables, snorkeling, volcanic rocks, gray sand
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NORTH REGION OF BIG ISLAND
In this block of beaches in the northern part of the Big Island, you will find beaches from the districts of South and North Kohala , where some of the best luxury resorts on the island are located, as well as the Hamakua district, where the incredible Waipi'o Valley is located, one of the main postcards of the Big Island.
11. Waipi'o Black Sand Beach
The most beautiful valley created in the area of the extinct Kohala volcano is Waipi'o Valley, which means “the land of curved waters”, named after the streams that flow through the area. The region has lush nature, tropical vegetation and taro fields (a type of yam-like root). In the past, it was home to ancient Hawaiian kings and was once densely populated. The valley is surrounded by cliffs nearly 800 meters high and is home to the steepest road in the United States. For this reason, 4 wheel drive vehicles only can get through here. The beautiful sandy beach is cut in half by the Wailoa Creek and has very strong waves. Although the beach is beautiful to walk around, there is no infrastructure and few opportunities for water activities. Kaluahine Falls and Waiulili Falls can sometimes be seen from the right (north) side of the beach when it rains. At the top of the mountain is a viewpoint, the Waipio Valley Lookout, which provides beautiful views of the region.
- Address: 48-5561A Waipio Valley Rd, Honokaa, HI 96727
- Schedules: daily from sunrise to sunset
- Access: To get to the beach, take highways 19 or 240. Coming from Waimea, head east on Highway 19 until you reach Honokaa and follow signs for Highway 240. From Hilo, take Highway 19 west to Honokaa and take Highway 240, looking for signs for Waipi'o Valley. From the viewpoint at the top of the Valley, follow Waipio Valley Road. Access must be made by 4×4 vehicles only (confirm with the car rental company that the car you are renting is allowed to visit the area), upon guided tours (complete tours with pick-up from your hotel) or a tiring walk from the viewpoint that takes around 40 minutes. When you reach the steep end of the road, take the fork on the right to head towards the beach, 800 meters further down.
- Highlights: black sand, nice views, strong waves, surf, not good for snorkeling
12. Pololū Black Sand Beach
Far to the north of the island is Pololū Beach, a dark sand beach hidden in a carved basin decorated with waterfalls and incredible views! The location was the setting for the movie “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” (1997), also known as Jurassic Park 3. The beach is in the Pololū Valley, the northernmost valley of the Big Island, located along the extinct Kohala volcano, the most of the five big island volcanoes. This ancient shield volcano, cut by several deep gorges after thousands of years of erosion, has a radically different ecosystem and topography from anywhere else on the island. The beach consists of a mixture of large lava rock boulders and black sand. The Pololū stream runs the entire length of the valley floor and empties into the ocean. Swimming or surfing is not recommended at this location due to strong sea currents and treacherous waves. There is a small parking area with a few spaces in the gazebo of Pololū Valley, located at the end of Highway 270. The best time to visit the area is early in the morning (a good option to see the sun rise).
- Address: Pololū Beach, Hawaii 96755
- Schedules: daily from sunrise to sunset
- Access: The beach is 97 km from the center of Kailua Kona. Take Highway 19 and when you meet Highway 270, take this road going left. Go straight until you reach the end of Highway 270. To reach the beach, you need to walk about 400 meters (about 25 minutes) along the Pololū Trail. This path will require a lot of effort and the trail can be slippery after rains. Be prepared for a steep descent and a difficult climb.
- Highlights: black sand, beautiful views, lush nature
13. Kapa'a Beach Park
This beach is a good option for those who want to have a more intimate experience, away from the crowds of the most famous beaches and don't mind a rocky beach, without sand. As the coast is rocky, it is not a good option for swimming, although it can be interesting for diving and snorkeling in the northern part of the beach. In summer, fishing conditions close to the coast are good, but in winter, high waves and strong currents make it dangerous. The water is extremely crystal clear when the ocean is calm and although there are no coral reefs, there are many colorful fish. On windy days the beach is frequented by kitesurfers. The site is home to many ruins of ancient Hawaiian dwellings.
- Address: Kapaau, HI 96755
- Schedules: not informed
- Access: The beach is 78 km from the center of Kailua Kona. Take Highway 19 and when you meet Highway 270, take this road going left. Turn left onto Kapa'a Park Road and go all the way to the parking lot.
- Highlights: toilets, showers, picnic tables and grills in a pavilion, camping, beautiful sunsets
14. Mahukona Beach Park
Despite the name, the place is not so much a beach, but an abandoned port managed by the Kohala Sugar Company (the port was closed in 1956). The calm, clear waters make Mahukona a popular spot for snorkeling and scuba diving. Here you can see old equipment from sugar mills, as well as some shipwrecks, which have become a different playground for corals, fish and other species of marine life. Access to the water is easy from the port, but other areas have many rocks that make walking difficult, necessitating the use of special rubber shoes. Avoid the location when the waves are strong. A curiosity is that, on days of clear and cloudless weather, it is possible to see the island of Maui from this location.
- Address: Waimea, HI 96743
- Schedules: daily from 6 am to 10 pm
- Access: The “beach” is 75 km from the center of Kailua Kona. Take Highway 19 and when you meet Highway 270, take this road going left. The beach is on Highway 27, past the 14 mile marker.
- Highlights: chemical toilets, no lifeguards
This beach is named after Samuel M Spencer, former judge and chairman of the Hawaii County Board of Supervisors in the early 20th century, who helped develop the island's north coast. This beach of white and soft sand is an incredible destination for families, being great for picnics, as it has a very nice infrastructure. The shallow and calm waters (due to a reef along the coast) are a good choice for children to play. At the southern end of the beach, there is a walking trail of about 15 minutes that leads to another great little beach, Mau'umae Beach. The beach is close to Pu'ukohola Heiau National Historic Site, a historic national park that preserves the place where, until the beginning of the 19th century, Hawaiians who violated one of the ancient laws or also defeated warriors could avoid death by fleeing to this refuge.
- Address: 62-3461 Kawaihae Rd, Waimea, HI 96743
- Schedules: daily from 6 am to 9 pm
- Access: The beach is about 55 km north of Kailua-Kona. Just take Highway 19 and drive until it meets Highway 270, when you should go left for a few meters, until you turn left again on Spencer Beach Park Road. There is parking near the Pu'ukohola Heiau National Historic Site and a little further south.
- Highlights: white sand, lifeguards, restrooms, picnic tables in a covered pavilion, drinking water, showers, camping
16. Kaunaʻoa (Mauna Kea) Beach
considered one of the best beaches on the Big Island (and our favorite!), this beach of about 400 meters and turquoise waters attracts many visitors. With fine white sand and surrounded by palm trees, this little piece of paradise needs to be on your itinerary. With calm waters, it is a great option for snorkeling, especially at the southern end of the beach, you can find tropical fish in the coral region. The north end also has a good area for snorkeling. In winter, the waves tend to get stronger, so be careful when swimming there. During the night, many boats offer service to see stingrays! The hotel shines spotlights over the water after the sun goes down. These lights attract plankton, which in turn attract manta rays. You can observe these amazing creatures on the “Manta Ray Point” observation deck. You can see the beach conditions live through from this link.
- Address: 62-100 Mauna Kea Beach Dr, Waimea, HI 96743
- Schedules: not informed
- Access: Located about 50 km north of Kailua Kona, take Highway 1 past the Waikoloa resort area and Hapuna Beach. On the left, at around mile 68, you will see the entrance to the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, which is the access to the beach. The security at the guard gate will ask for the reason for entry and you must say that you want to go to Mauna Kea Beach to receive an access card. Proceed towards the resort to the end on the left, then park your car, go through the gate and follow the path to the beach. Get there early (before 9 am) because the small free parking lot for visitors (about 40 spaces) fills up quickly. If the time you arrive is full, you can try to come back later or use the hotel's valet service (US$ 40).
- Highlights: sand, board rental, beach restaurant and bar, restrooms, showers, art museum in the hotel, shade, water available, no lifeguard, free parking with few spaces, families
This 800 meters long beach is a good option for all ages. Surrounded by trees, with crystal clear waters and white sand, it is always listed among the best beaches in Hawaii and the world. As this part of the coast is located in a semi-arid desert climate, it rains little and the sun is strong. The beach is great for swimming and surfing in the winter months when the waves get higher. It is also possible to snorkel at both ends of the beach: around the small cliff to the north of the beach or around the rocky point to the south of the beach. Visibility in the water is usually low because of the mix of sand and an occasional layer of fresh water on the surface, so you'll need to swim a bit to get to the most interesting parts for snorkeling. Try to go early to find a parking space and a shady spot, as the beach tends to get very crowded quickly, especially on weekends. From December to April, it is even possible to see whales in the distance on this beach.
- Address: Old Puako Rd, Waimea, HI 96743
- Schedules: daily from 7 am to 8 pm
- Access: Hāpuna Beach is north of Kailua-Kona, around the 70 mile mark of Highway 19. Turn towards the ocean at the sign for Hāpuna Beach State Park and continue 400 meters to the large parking lot. There is a parking fee of US$ 10 to help with park maintenance and an entrance fee of US$ 5 per person (payment by credit card only through a self-service machine). If you like hiking, Hāpuna Beach is part of the coastal trail from Kahakai Wing, where you can explore Kohala's historic coastline along ancient trails. The trail leads to other coastal beaches and luxury resorts, to the Archaeological District of Puako Petroglyph and the Kings trail into the interior of Mauna Lani Resort.
- Highlights: white sand, covered picnic area, a few trees for shade, lifeguards, snorkeling, ample parking, beach equipment rentals, food and beverage outlets, restrooms, showers
18. Waialea Bay Beach | Beach 69
This beach is one of the most popular white sand beaches on the Big Island. She is one of the best options for snorkeling on the island, especially in the morning, as Wailea Bay it is part of a conservation area, with a wide diversity of marine life. The best reefs are on the south side of the bay, but there is also a lot of coral around the large rocks that rise out of the water into the bay, and near the rocky point on the right (north) side of the beach. Depths range from around 3 to 9 meters, with coral communities displaying their diverse marine life. After walking along the path to the beach, go left and walk under the trees, passing the rocky point that marks the center of the beach and where there are small pockets of sand. During the winter, strong waves make swimming difficult, but humpback whales and dolphins often appear in the bay.
- Address: Beach 69, Old Puako Rd, Waimea, HI 96743
- Schedules: daily from 7 am to 8 pm
- Access: To get to the beach, take Highway 19 and drive approximately 21 km north of Kona Airport. Turn left at the exit after passing the resorts onto Puako Beach Drive. When on the way to Puako Beach, take the first right onto Old Puako Road. The paved parking area is closed and opens at 7 am and closes at 8 pm, there is a parking fee of US$ 10 per car + US$ 5 per person which you can pay at an electronic payment booth. There is also the Kahakai Trail Wing, a moderately difficult hiking trail that crosses Waialea Beach that follows the coast along ancient fishing trails and roads from the ancient Hawaiian kingdom. The trail is about 25 km in loop.
- Highlights: white sand, snorkeling, showers, restrooms, no lifeguards, picnic tables, scuba diving
19. ʻAnaehoʻomalu Bay Beach
Also known as “A Bay”, this crescent-shaped sandy beach is protected by reefs that make the clear waters calmer. It is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful beaches in the region! Thus, it is a good choice for families to swim and play in the water. The Bay is a beautiful beach, decorated by palm trees, famous for its beautiful sunsets and is in front of the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort. This beach is not the best for scuba diving and snorkeling, as the water is often cloudy, which makes underwater visibility poor. The right (north) side of the bay has generally clearer conditions, so head there if that's your goal. Colorful fish and sea turtles are often seen in the bay. You may rent equipment to have fun in the water (kayaks, canoes, paddle boards, among others), in addition to boat trips.
The historic fish ponds beside the bay are an interesting part of the area's history and are great to explore. There are several historic spots and signs to check out along the walkway. The two ancient Hawaiian fish ponds are called Ku'uali'i and Kahapapa. The lakes were used exclusively by Hawaiian royalty to raise mullet and other small fish, hence the name, Anaeho'omalu, which translates to “restricted mullet” in Hawaiian. Swimming or fishing is not allowed in the lagoons. In March 2011, Anaeho'omalu Bay was damaged by a tsunami wave caused by the devastating earthquake in Japan. The tsunami literally cut Anaeho'omalu Bay in two and broke the wall of the former Ku'uali'i fish pond.
- Address: 69-275 Waikoloa Beach Dr, Waikoloa Village, HI 96738
- Schedules: daily from 7 am to 8 pm (try to arrive early and look for shade, as the sun is very strong at midday and the beach is usually very crowded on weekends)
- Access: The Bay is about a 40-minute drive north of downtown Kailua-Kona. If you're in Kona, take Highway 19 to the Kohala Resort Area. Turn left at the first entrance to the Waikoloa Beach Resort on Waikoloa Beach Drive. Turn left again onto Ku'uali'i Place road opposite the Kings' Shops. Although facing the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort, there is a big public parking in the south of the resort, at the end of Ku'uali'i Place road and a 2 minute walk from the beach. If you're looking to hike, explore the King's Trail (a stretch of Kahakai National Historic Trail Wing), which passes by historic sites and ancient Hawaiian lava stone sculptures of the Puako Petroglyph Archaeological District and the Waikoloa Petroglyph Reserve.
- Highlights: sand, snorkeling, swimming, equipment rental, two fish ponds, restaurant nearby (Lava Lava Beach Club), toilets, showers, plenty of parking, good for families, beautiful sunsets (best views across the Ku'uali'i fish pond), no lifeguard
EAST REGION OF BIG ISLAND
The beaches in this area are mostly in the hilo district, also the name of the largest city on the east coast of the Big Island. There is also a beach Puna district, on the east/southeast end of the island, which was greatly affected by the eruption of the Kīlauea volcano in 2018. This eruption destroyed more than 700 houses, wiped out two parks and created a new black sand beach.
20. Coconut Island | Moku Hello
Coconut Island is a 28-acre island in Hilo Bay that features a central grassy area and two small sandy beaches and tide pools. The place is very popular with families, who take the kids for a picnic and a swim. There is a 6 meter tall stone tower from which children often jump. The water is usually murky, so it's not a great place for snorkeling. The location is close to Liliʻuokalani Park and Gardens (Address: 189 Lihiwai St #151, Hilo, HI 96720), which is a park with Japanese gardens and about 3 km from the Pacific Tsunami Museum (museum dedicated to the history of tsumani in the Pacific in 1946 and of the Chilean tsumani in 1960, which arrived in Hilo).
- Address: 7 Kelipio Pl, Hilo HI 96720
- Schedules: not informed
- Access: The island is in Hilo, 130 km east of Kailua-Kona. You can access the site from Highway 190 followed by Hwy 200, passing through the center of the island, or from Highway 19, which goes north. Access to the island is via a 75-meter bridge from Banyan Drive, north of Liliʻuokalani Park and Gardens. There is a small parking lot before the bridge where you can park your car. If the parking lot is full, you can park on Banyan Drive and take a short walk. Cross the bridge on foot to access the island.
- Highlights: picnic tables, small sandy beaches, diving tower
21. Onekahakaha Beach Park
This beach is very family friendly, with grassy areas, picnic areas and shallow waters with a white sand bottom protected by a wall of lava rock. There are also natural pools that you can explore with a snorkel. The area is also a favorite spot for Hawaiian sea turtles. North of the main lake is a second large lake and some more distant tide pools with deeper rocky spots and sea urchins along the bottom, so watch your step.
- Address: 74 Onekahakaha Rd, Hilo, HI 96720
- Schedules: daily from 7 am to 9 pm
- Access: Located in Hilo, the beach is 130 km east of Kailua-Kona. You can access the site from Highway 190 followed by Hwy 200, passing through the center of the island, or from Highway 19, which goes north. Take Kamehameha Avenue south at the intersection with Banyan Dr, continue straight on to what becomes Kalanianaole Avenue and drive 2 miles along the coast. Turn towards the sea on Onekahakaha Road to reach the parking lot.
- Highlights: toilets, showers, parking, lifeguards, covered picnic pavilion, drinking water
22. James Kealoha Beach Park
Located 3 km south of Hilo, this rocky beach with tidal pools is named after the first lieutenant governor of Hawaii. The James Kealoha Beach Park does not have a sandy beach area, but is famous for its popular water activities such as swimming, snorkeling, surfing and more. The east side of the bay is a protected lagoon where the reef and lava rock barrier break the ocean current, providing a good area for swimming and snorkeling. The middle and west of the bay are open to the ocean and allow for waves for surfing and bodyboarding. Diving is best along the reef areas where you can see many species of fish along the coral. From this beach it is possible to see Mahikea Island, used by scouts. The park is usually very crowded on weekends, with food trucks, ice cream and others.
- Address: Hilo, HI 96720
- Schedules: not informed
- Access: Located in Hilo, the beach is 130 km east of Kailua-Kona. You can access the site from Highway 190 followed by Hwy 200, passing through the center of the island, or from Highway 19, which goes north. This park is located at the intersection of Kalanianaole Street and Keaukaha Road.
- Highlights: no lifeguard, no sand, restrooms, picnic area, good for swimming and snorkeling, limited parking spaces, shade, showers, family friendly
23. Carlsmith Beach Park
Carlsmith Beach Park is not really a beach because does not have a strip of sand, but a wide grassy area. It is an excellent family park with ankylaine formations (a body of water that, despite not having a superficial connection with the sea, demonstrates hydrological contact with marine waters) and a white sand lagoon protected by lava rocks. Carlsmith has some unique and wonderful features of the park, incorporating a garden park and beach in one location. Comprised of several large lagoons, the coves have a soft sandy bottom and, as the waters are protected by a reef, are ideal for swimming and snorkeling if the waters are calm. Also, sea turtles often visit this beach.
- Address: 1815 Kalanianaole Ave, Hilo, HI 96720
- Schedules: daily from 7 am to 8 pm
- Access: Located in Hilo, the beach is 130 km east of Kailua-Kona. You can access the site from Highway 190 followed by Hwy 200, passing through the center of the island, or from Highway 19, which goes north. From downtown Hilo, the beach is just a 5-10 minute drive away, just follow Highway 137 east. There is parking near the beach.
- Highlights: lifeguard on weekends, restrooms, showers, picnic area, great for swimming, snorkeling, pavilions, drinking water, parking, family friendly, coconut trees
24. Wai'olena Beach Park
This beach without sand, but very rocky, not the best options for water activities, but it's a peaceful spot to have a picnic and relax watching the waves crash along the rocky shore. With its shallow waters due to the rocks and strong currents, swimming and snorkeling here can be dangerous activities, although some experienced surfers venture there. Sea turtles often frequent the beach, feeding on the seaweed or resting along the shore. Next to the parking lot is a grassy area with pavilions and picnic tables and on the opposite side is a lake that is good for a dip, but the rocks are slippery and you have to be careful. The beach also has beautiful coconut trees that protect visitors from the sun and also give a very special look at dawn.
- Address: Kalanianaole St, Hilo, HI 96720
- Schedules: not informed
- Access: Located in Hilo, the beach is 130 km east of Kailua-Kona. You can access the site from Highway 190 followed by Hwy 200, passing through the center of the island, or from Highway 19, which goes north. From the center of Hilo, the beach is just 8 km away.
- Highlights: grassy area, picnic tables, showers, coconut trees for shade, restrooms, limited parking, not good for snorkeling or swimming
25. Leleiwi Beach Park (Wai'uli)
This is a rocky area that does not offer a strip of sand. But even so, it is a very popular destination due to a sequence of natural lava pools, tide pools and freshwater springs. Leleiwi Beach Park is a great snorkeling destination because of the protective lava rock wall that surrounds the area, preventing strong ocean currents from reaching the beach and making it a convenient entry and exit point for water activities. . Many tropical fish and other marine life, including Hawaiian green sea turtles, inhabit the site. Although Leleiwi does not offer a sandy beach experience due to its rocky coastline, there is a small section of black sand.
- Address: 2279 Kalanianaole St, Hilo HI 96720
- Schedules: not informed
- Access: Located in Hilo, the beach is 130 km east of Kailua-Kona. You can access the site from Highway 190 followed by Hwy 200, passing through the center of the island, or from Highway 19, which goes north. From downtown Hilo, the beach is just a 10 to 15 minute drive away, just follow Highway 137 east.
- Highlights: Weekend lifeguards, showers, restrooms, parking, picnic area, swimming, snorkeling
26. Richardson Ocean Park
Popular beach with a seawall that runs along much of the rocky coastline, with limited beach access. this beach of black and green sand is best choice for snorkeling in this region from Big Island. In addition, it is a good option to take children to enjoy the tide pools with calm waters. Richardsons also contains a marine conservation area, as the reef provides protection for marine life, allowing watery species to move between the open ocean and tide pools. The ocean here is fed by a freshwater spring that also forms many lagoons on and around beaches.
Spring water is cold and ocean water is warmer. A curiosity is that looking closely at the beach sand, you will see that it is made of black lava and also of “green sand”. The green sand is made of olivine crystals, the same crystals that give the name to the most famous green sand beach in the south of the island. Hawaiian seals and turtles also frequent this beach.
- Address: 2355 Kalanianaole St, Hilo, HI 96720
- Schedules: daily from 7 am to 7 pm
- Access: Located in Hilo, the beach is 130 km east of Kailua-Kona. You can access the site from Highway 190 followed by Hwy 200, passing through the center of the island, or from Highway 19, which goes north. From downtown Hilo, it's about 10 minutes, heading east along Kalaniana'ole Avenue.
- Highlights: lifeguards, restrooms, showers, picnic area, good for swimming, snorkeling, palm trees shading
27. Isaac Hale Beach Park & Pohoiki Black Sand Beach
Located in the northeast of Pohoiki Bay in the Puna district, this beach is named after a US Army soldier who was killed during the Korean War. It is a very popular surfing destination and, since the eruption of the Kīlauea volcano in 2018, it is also known for its black sand, as it was surrounded by lava flows. The flow stopped right at the edge of the park and dumped molten lava along the ocean to the north. If, on the one hand, more than 700 houses were covered in lava and two parks to the north of it disappeared forever (Kapoho Tide Pools and Ahalanui County Beach Park), on the other hand, this phenomenon created a huge black sand beach that covered the entire coast. . This beach, which is part of Isaac Hale Beach Park, came to be known by the name of Pohoiki Black Sand Beach. In addition to the black sand beach, there are natural heated pools and picnic areas that are great options for families. Sometimes strong sea currents make snorkeling and diving very dangerous activities, so be very careful. With strong waves, surfers appear, as this beach is the main surfing area in this region. This area is also known for its hot spring-style heated pools. There is a trail along the coast that leads to a collapsed lava tube with geothermal heated hot water, perfect for a relaxing bath.
- Address: 13-101 Kalapana Kapoho Beach Rd, Pahoa, HI 96778
- Schedules: daily from 7 am to 6:30 pm
- Access: The beach is 64 km south of Hilo.
- Highlights: black sand, volcanic rocks, natural heated pools, picnic area, grills, surfing, swimming, camping, lifeguards
28. Kaimū Beach Park
Located in the Puna district, this black sand beach is not a beach for swimming or snorkeling, but it is a good choice for anyone who is a fan of volcanic activities, as it is a relatively new beach, formed in 1990, when lava flows destroyed it. more than 180 houses, the former Visitor Center of the Volcanoes National Park, roads and archaeological sites. The ocean current and waves are often too strong for safe swimming and there is no protection from the wind and sun. The original Kaimū beach shoreline was very close to the houses, where the parking lot is now. The bay was filled with lava and the beach is now 300 meters further away than it used to be. For those interested in the topic, on the way to the beach, stop at Pahoa Lava Zone Museum (Address: 15-2959 Pahoa Village Rd, Pāhoa, HI 96778) a small museum that houses artifacts from the 2018 eruption, photographs and exhibits that were previously housed in the Jaggar Museum (which was once inside Volcanoes National Park, but ended up being closed due to the 2018 eruption). Another famous attraction in the area is the Uncle Robert's Awa Bar and Farmers Market (Address: 12-5038 Kalapana Kapoho Beach Rd, Pāhoa, HI 96778), a super traditional mix of market, bar and fairground that opens daily as a bar, but gets even livelier on Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings when the market/fair work.
- Address: Pahoa, HI 96778
- Access: To get to this beach you need to follow the Kapoho-Kalapana road (Hwy 137, coming from Kapoho) or the Pahoa-Kalapana road (Hwy 130, coming from Pahoa) until the end, where you will find a parking lot. From the parking lot, it will be necessary to walk through a desolate area around 300 meters (from 5 to 10 minutes) to the beach. When arriving at the beach, be careful when going down to the water because there are some points where it is necessary to descend more than 2 meters of sharp lava rocks.
- Highlights: black sand, volcanic rocks, large parking area, trail access
SOUTH REGION OF BIG ISLAND
This most isolated and most difficult to access area of the Big Island is located on the coast of the Kau district. As the places have fewer tourist attractions and getting there is more complicated, here are just two of the main beaches, both with colored sands!
29. Punaluʻu Beach
Punalu'u Black Sand Beach is the most famous black sand beach on the Big Island not only for its incredible black sand of volcanic origin with small fragments of lava, but also for being a habitat for hawksbill turtles, a species of of endangered sea turtle. It is an extensive black sand beach that is easily accessible, making it a great place to take a quick dip, snorkel, walk along the beach or have a picnic. The beach has coconut trees and palm trees that are very inviting.
The sand was formed by the rapid cooling of basaltic lava that hit the ocean water and shattered into small fragments. Due to its volcanic origin, the sand can get very hot in the sun. The easiest place to get into the water is from the small boat ramp to the left (facing the water) of the beach, although swimming conditions are not always good. There are freshwater underwater springs in Punalu'u Bay.
Water from these springs is cooler than seawater and accumulates in salt water because salt water is denser than fresh water. This can sometimes give the strange sensation of swimming in water with two temperatures at the same time. Visibility in the water at Punaluʻu Beach Park is moderate. Getting into the water in the main beach area is not very easy due to the many volcanic rocks.
- Address: Punaluu Beach, HI 96717
- Schedules: daily from sunrise to sunset
- Access: Punaluu's black sand beach is a great stop on the way to Volcanoes National Park. Punalu'u Beach is off Highway 11 (Mamalahoa Hwy) after the 55 mile mark. Enter Punalu'u Road and then Ninole Loop Rd.
- Highlights: black sand, sea turtles, volcanic rocks, palm and coconut trees, lifeguards daily from 8:30 am to 5 pm, picnic area, restrooms, showers, camping
30. Papakolea Green Sand Beach | Mahana Beach
This is one of 4 green sand beaches in the world (the other 3 are in Norway, the Galapagos Islands and the US territory of Guam). Located in Mahana Bay, its green sands are surrounded by Puu Mahana, an ash cone formed over 49,000 years ago associated with the eruption of the Mauna Loa volcano. Papakōlea's distinctive color is olivine, a common mineral that crystallizes from magnesium-rich, low-silica magma during the cooling process. Access is via a trail (see more information below). The beach area is very steep, so use the existing trail to get down. The waters are strong in this region, so swimming can be dangerous.
- Address: South Point Road, Naalehu, HI 96772
- Schedules: daily from sunrise to sunset
- Access: The green sand beach is located over 100 km south of Kailua-Kona. Take Highway 11 and enter S Point Road (between miles 69 and 70) towards South Point, the southernmost point in the United States. After 13 km, there is a parking lot at the end of the road where you must stop. Many people don't know but driving to Papakōlea Green Sand Beach is illegal, either with your rental car, or with one of the jeeps of locals that approach tourists when parking and charge up to US$ 20 per person to take them along the 4 km that separate them from the beach. The only legal way to get to the beach is to walk almost 4.5 km. (to go and another 4.5 km to return) under sun, wind and on uneven terrain. Sarah from the blog Borders & Bucket Lists is born and raised in Hawaii and says that there are only 4 green sand beaches in the world, as the ecosystem is very fragile, it is eroding and, therefore, the ban on cars on this stretch. Furthermore, driving through this location endangers historic cultural landmarks and you also put your life at risk by getting into the car of someone who drives through the location without authorization. on the blogs Flashpacking America and Big Island Guide you can also find more information about this illegal practice. Driving your rental car, in addition to not being allowed by the rental car agreement, can be dangerous and you can get bogged down, leading to fines and legal problems with both the rental car company and the Hawaii state government. If you still have doubts, see this official DHHL document (Department of Hawaiian Home Lands) on the region.
- Highlights: green sand, without any structure, access on foot via a 4.5 km trail (bring lots of water, snacks and use appropriate footwear)
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Read more about Big Island:
- Hawaii: National and State Parks on the Big Island
- Hawaii: 15 Veggie Restaurants on the Big Island
- Hawaii: Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island
- Hawaii: Best places to stay on the Big Island
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- Hawaii: What to do on Oahu – 4-Day Itinerary
- Hawaii: What to do in Maui – 4-Day Itinerary
- Hawaii: What to do in Kauai – 3-Day Itinerary
- Hawaii: Dive at Molokini Submerged Volcano
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