Makalawena Beach

Makalawena Beach, Big Island

The Kona Coast has its share of "secret" beaches – little strips of paradise hidden by larger, better-known spots. Makalawena Beach is one such place, accessible by a 20-minute hike on a rough lava trail (or with a 4-wheel drive vehicle that can handle the bumps in the road). But anyone who has been here will agree that it is certainly worth the challenge.

Makalawena's salt-and-pepper beach is a mix of white coral chunks and black lava, strewn with larger lava rocks that create an unusual, dramatic landscape. The beach is also unique in that some of the most extensive sand dunes in the Kona district are located here. The area immediately offshore is the best for swimming because the ocean bottom is the less rocky here than in the other coves and inlets of this beach. Make sure to check the water conditions before getting in, as the surf tends to be rough at times.

The Makalawena shore is lined by palm trees, and the beach has several coves and inlets, which are backed by a long, curving sand beach. Inland of the beach is the 12-acre (48,562 sq. m) Opae'ula Pond, which is one of the Big Island's most important shoreline bird sanctuaries. The pond is home to many opae'ula, or red shrimp, which are a delicacy for the birds. Some of the birds who can be seen here include the endangered Hawaiian stilt (a'eo), ducks, black-crowned night herons, coots, doves, sparrows, wandering tattlers and cardinals.

Makalawena Beach Overview

  • Best place for swimming is in the largest inlet, where the sand dunes are highest (the other coves and inlets have rockier ocean bottoms)
  • Snorkeling and scuba diving conditions are also good in this area, which is known for octopus and shells
  • Occasionally, the waves are good for surfing, especially in the winter months
  • Opae'ula Pond, an ancient Hawaiian fishpond, is located inland - it is an important shoreline bird sanctuary
  • An ancient Hawaiian fishing village used to be located here, but all houses were destroyed in the 1946 tsunami
  • Beach is accessible via 4-wheel drive or 20-minute hike

Off Kaahumanu Highway (Route 19) past Mile Marker 88, HI 96740
Directions: From Kona, take Highway 19 north. Between Mile Markers #89 and 88 take the dirt road to the left. The first portion of the road is decent, but it later becomes very bumpy. Alternately you can hike to the beach. It takes about 15-20 minutes.

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Reviews and Comments:
Awesome beach, absolutely beautiful! Just be aware that if you hike in from the southern state park you are probably going to have to walk by some naked people. Most guide books do not mention this but it is evidently common knowledge. If you ask a local for directions they will automatically assume you want "the nude beach in Kona".
miki, Tue Mar 31, 2015
My absolute favorite beach in all of Hawaii! The hike there isn't too bad if you like sweating a little bit. Go on a weekday and you might have it to yourself. Have seen sea turtles there everytime I have gone. Not mentioned is the small freshwater pool behind the biggest part of the beach - awesome!
Steve, Thu Dec 12, 2013