I recently visited the Big Island in Hawaii, and when other travelers told me they were “island hopping”, I figured I’d mistake devoting 11 whole days to just one island. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Public transport is sporadic and unreliable (although very cheap), so we rented a car for a few days, and took a road trip around the big island. This allowed us to spend some time exploring the stunning beaches on this diverse island. Here are (what I consider) the best beaches on the Big Island:
Magic Sands Beach is small, but it’s close to Kailua-Kona and all the big hotels and resorts. For this reason it’s often crowded, but the super-fine sand makes it well worth a visit. Go in the morning, since in summer the clouds tend to roll in mid-afternoon and it often gets hit by rain.
While we were swimming here, a sea turtle came close enough for me to touch. I had a minor freak out (one of my friends has passed her shark fear to me and now I’m not great in the sea), and it was huge! As soon as I wanted to get a better look, the poor turtle took off, probably scared by my shriek of terror. Don’t touch the turtles if you’re lucky enough to get close though, since the oils on our skin can harm them.
One of the most picturesque places I’ve ever visited, this beach is well worth a visit. The sand is a more earthy olive-green, and not the grass-green that you may expect, but the view is simply breathtaking.
After turning off highway 11, we drove down an extremely narrow road, and eventually arrived in a parking lot. It’s around a six-mile round-trip hike from the parking lot to the beach if you don’t have a FWD, although it’s a pretty flat hike and definitely doable. The views are gorgeous, and if you don’t want to hike, there were some local guys with FWD’s in the parking lot who offered to take us there and back for $15, or just back for $10.
Don’t believe these guys when they tell you it’s a long hard hike- they psyched me out with their exaggerations of the terrain. It’s not that bad (and I hate hiking), just make sure you have some closed shoes, since the lava rocks are incredibly sharp. Also don’t forget the sunscreen and water, since it’s hot, dusty and a long walk in the sun.
It’s a steep walk down from the cliff to the beach, and I was very entertaining for the locals when I didn’t notice the steps to the right with a bar to hold on to, and instead began clambering down the steepest, and least stable part of the cliff. The waves here are huge, and there’s no lifeguards so be careful when you’re swimming. We didn’t stay long, but I’d definitely recommend staying for the afternoon and walking back later in the day when it’s cooler.
The sand at this beach is quite coarse, and it’s actually made up of volcanic lava. It’s created by the cold ocean water hitting the lava and exploding, and it looked more like tiny pebbles than the fine sand at the other beaches.
Punalu’u is just off highway 11, and it’s one of the most accessible black sand beaches on the big island. Stop off on the way to the Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park, and hopefully you’ll be lucky enough to see Green Sea Turtles basking in the sun. Unfortunately there were none around when we stopped here, so I’d suggest heading there early if you want to see them.
The water here is freezing, but the contrast between the blue water and black sand is magnificent. Sit on a sun-warmed rock, and watch the waves crash against the dark sand and crushed volcanic rock, or go for a walk and see if you can spot any turtles lazing in the sand. There’s plenty of parking, and although it’s not the kind of beach you sunbathe on, bring a picnic and spend a few hours marveling at the beauty of the place.
While it’s not exactly a sandy beach, this is my favorite spot on the Big Island. It’s only accessible by hiking down, kayaking across the bay, or taking a snorkeling day-trip.
We opted to hike it, since our hostel was right next to where the hike begins. The hike down took around 50 minutes, and it was steep, but not too bad.
The hike back killed me. It took us around 2 and half hours to hike back up, and by “up” I mean there’s no flat or downhill parts at all, so it was tough going. We missed our turn on the way up, and had to turn around, hike back down and head back up another way, which was great. Just great.
Even though the hike sucked, the bay was definitely worth it.
Snorkeling here was like being inside the movie “Finding Nemo”. I’ve never seen so many different kinds of fish, and the different colors had me transfixed as I floated on top of the water. It was such a relaxing experience, watching all the fish eat, and swim around, and it was quite warm in the bay as well.
We arrived at 8.30 and there was just one other couple in the bay. By 10am, the bay had filled up with Kayaks, and huge groups of snorkelers. We were constantly bumping into people, and dodging kayaks and boats, make sure you get there early, otherwise it looks like this:
The best part about the Hawaii, is the diversity, and there’s a beach to suit everyone here. I had such a great time exploring the Big Island, and I can’t wait to head back and check out either Maui or O’ahu.
Did I leave out any other great beaches on the Big Island?