Take advantage of the Big Island’s unspoiled sand, surf and pristine waters at these five spectacular beaches. From sugar white to black and even green, the Big Island has a beach that will suit every visitor. Browse through our list at some of the island’s greatest beaches, with beautiful pictures included.
Pololu Valley - Black Sand Beach
Black sand, high cliffs and lush vegetation make Pololu Valley a must-see location on the Big Island. The valley is located along the northern slopes of Kohala Mountain, where erosion has carved out some of the most picturesque terrain in Hawaii.
Pololu Valley lies at the end of Highway 270. Many visitors drive over simply for the stunning views, but the valley floor can be accessed by a 20-minute hike down a hillside trail. A large, mostly-empty black sand beach flanks the shoreline at the head of the valley. The beachfront contains sculpted pieces of driftwood and finely polished lava rocks. Further inland, a small forest with plenty of rope swings can be found.
The beachfront is great for playing in the waves, but rip currents and unpredictable surf make the waters dangerous for inexperienced swimmers.
Mauna Kea Beach is famous for its clear waters and sugary sand. The bay hosts a variety of ocean activities, including surfing, bodyboarding, stand-up paddle-boarding and snorkeling. Similar to all of the Big Island’s west-facing shores, the beach’s waves tend to be gentle during the summer and larger in the winter.
During a 1960 helicopter tour of the coastline, Laurance Rockefeller was so impressed by the beauty of Kauna’oa Bay that he immediately set forth to build the island’s first resort. Today, Mauna Kea Beach Hotel continues to dazzle visitors from around the world.
Hotel guests have access to Mauna Kea’s beachside restaurant, bar and pool deck. Non-hotel guests are still able to enjoy the beach by requesting a beach pass at the resort entrance. The number of beach passes is limited, however, so it is best to come early in the morning.
Hapuna is the Big Island’s largest sandy beach, stretching nearly a half mile from north to south. The beach’s vast size makes it an ideal location for visitors looking for an extra spacious plot in the sand.
Similar to Mauna Kea Beach, Hapuna is renowned for its sugar white sand, rock-free bottom and clear waters. Bodyboarding, swimming, beach volleyball and other forms of recreation are popular throughout the year. The rocky points on each end of the bay host a variety of tropical fish and beautiful coral formations, making it an excellent location for snorkeling.
Access to the beach is divided between a public parking lot to the south and the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel to the north. Non-hotel guests can park in the parking lot between 7am and 8pm. Non-Hawaii residents are charged a $5 fee to help maintain the park.
A popular spot for locals and visitors alike, Waialea Beach (also known as Beach 69) is one of the Big Island’s best beaches. With white sand, beautiful rock formations and ancient Kiawe trees, Waialea Beach is full of fun and adventure for the entire family.
Located in a bay just north of Puako, the beach is not fronted by any hotels and is largely free of development. A series of rocky outcrops, large pieces of driftwood and trees divide the sand into a series of smaller alcoves. The trees provide ample shade for a relaxing beach experience. In general, the beach becomes less busy farther to the south. The best area for bodyboarding is near the main entrance.
The offshore waters of Waialea Beach host a variety of reef beds and small, rocky islands. Some of the island’s best snorkeling can be found here.
The beach entrance is marked with a sign and can be accessed from Old Puako Road. A small parking fee is requested for non-island residents.
Papakōlea Beach is one of the world’s only green sand beaches. Located near South Point, the beach can only be accessed by a 45-minute hike or a 4WD trip along a coastal trail.
The beach is located in the middle of an eroded cinder cone and flanked by beautiful sea cliffs on all sides. When viewed up close, the sand is composed of millions of tiny green olivine crystals. Due to their density and weight, the crystals remain onshore while lighter particles are washed away.
Papakōlea Beach is a fantastic place to hike, take photographs and swim. The beach is often empty, allowing visitors full access to one of the most renowned natural attractions in the world.