Best beaches on The Big Island

Papakolea beach with green sand and turquoise waters

There is no denying that Hawaii is home to some beautiful beaches. When visiting the main island, there’s plenty of surrounding sandy beaches, each with distinct differences but all showcasing stunning ocean views. Here are some of our favorites:

Hāpuna Beach

This family-friendly beach features a long strip of sand that slopes towards calm waves. Swimming conditions are great (there is often always a lifeguard on duty) with snorkelers going as far as neighboring beach Waialea Bay, almost a mile away.

Waialea Bay

Waialea Bay beach

During the summer season, Waialea Bay boasts soft white sands and gentle waters that are ideal for families with children. A diverse ecosystem below the sea also makes this area great for scuba divers and snorkelers.

Kauna’oa (Mauna Kea) Beach

Kaunaoa beach

White sands envelop this stretch of beach which is about half a mile long and perfect for sunbathing. It is family-friendly with shaded palm trees and water that is usually calm outside of the winter months (where it can get rough). During this time, snorkeling is frequent particularly around the small coral reefs that flank the beach sides.

At night, you can visit ‘Manta Ray Point’ to look for mantas that are known to be attracted to the area.

Makalawena Beach

Makalawena beach

If you’re looking for a beach ‘off the beaten track’, Makalawena is your answer. Unreachable by road, a 20-minute hike is the best way to get to this beach, which showcases incredible white sands and crystal-clear waters. Pack your snorkel and discover an underwater world, complete with caves, sea arches, and colorful coral reefs.

Papakōlea Beach

Papakolea beach

Also known as ‘Green Sand Beach’, this is one of the biggest attractions in Hawaii. Located near to South Point, it is one of four green beaches in the world, whittled into Mauna Lau volcano’s cinder cone which is 49,000 years old. The distinctive green ‘sand’ is actually a mixture of black and green olivine crystals, formed from magma cooling after an eruption. It is possible to swim here, however the sea can be rough and the main attraction is definitely the unique sand crystals.

Punalu’u beach

Punalu'u beach

Sprinkled with coconut palms and great for a snorkel and swim, Punalu’u beach is most renowned for its black sand, which is the remains of lava caused by volcanic eruptions. It is also a popular place for green sea turtles to gather. Lucky visitors may even spot an uncommon Hawksbill Turtle paddling in the shallows. Swimming is permitted on Punalu’u (but beware of strong currents). In certain parts of the ocean, you may experience varying temperatures of warm and cold due to freshwater springs intermingled with salt water.

Everyone needs a beach day - take your pick of any of the above and make unforgettable memories with the whole family.