Kehena Beach

Kehena Beach, Big Island

Located in the Big Island's Puna district, Kehena Beach is one of the few unofficial "clothing optional" beaches in Hawaii. It is a long, but narrow black-sand beach, which local residents also call Dolphin Beach because of the frequent appearances of spinner dolphins in this area.

The beach was formed in 1955 when lava flowed down the sea cliffs and into the ocean here. At the eastern end of the beach, one can still see the tip of the lava flow (which is now a rocky point of land) that created the sand.

In 1979, when a strong earthquake shook the Puna district, Kehena Beach dropped almost 3 feet (91 cm). The concrete stairs that led to the beach broke off and now hang more than 10 feet (3 m) above sea level.

The beach is well-shaded by coconut palms and ironwood trees, which make up the backshore. Swimming is possible here when the ocean is calm only because the beach is exposed to the open ocean and during times of high surf, strong rip currents and undertows can occur. That's why there have been quite a few near-drownings at Kehena in the past.

Also, since this beach has many pebbles on the ocean bottom, they can easily get stirred up in the shorebreak during times of heavy surf, which can cause painful skin abrasions to people entering the water.

So when the surf is up, it is best to stay out of the water and maybe have a picnic on the beach, which is accessible from the Kehena lookout.

Kehena Beach Overview

  • Black-sand beach on the Big Island's east coast
  • Spinner dolphins can often times be seen here
  • Swimming possible when the ocean is calm

Vacation Rentals near Kehena Beach

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Reviews and Comments:
I was there yesterday and there was a range of ages relaxing and some in and enjoying the water. I feel the place was quite OK. It would be nice to go with someone to enjoy it together as most of those there seemed to know each other but they were not unfriendly.
Del, Wed Apr 23, 2014
If you are looking for "clothing optional" and a "nice" beach, don't bother. What we found was a bunch of stoned hippies playing the drums surrounded by some old guys. The waves are high and there are rocks everywhere on the sand. NOT recommended.
Hawaii Fan, Mon Dec 10, 2012