Welcome to The Introvert’s Journey, a lifestyle blog on exploration, self-discovery, & new experiences. I’m Kelsie and I’m just a girl in her twenties with a passion for writing & storytelling. I’m a former military brat who has always had a love for travel & I created this blog to share my experiences & adventures with you in hopes that it will help you on your future explorations! I also blog about PNW lifestyle content, my fitness journey, food, culture, diversity, and of course anything & everything travel related!

I’m a full time worker/part time traveler hoping to inspire others in my situation to make as much time as you can to follow your passions in life no matter how busy you may be! Self-care & and doing what you love & inspires you is so important & something I feel we often neglect. I hope my blog can help you in any way! For more about the blog & about me feel free to check out the About tab! Thanks for stopping by & happy reading!

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Beaches & Historical Sites to visit on the Big Island (West Coast & North Coast)

Beaches & Historical Sites to visit on the Big Island (West Coast & North Coast)

Hello everybody!

 

My goodness it’s been a LONG time, hasn’t it?! I first and foremost want to apologize for such a long hiatus but with the holidays and a lot of stuff going on with life and work I really needed to take a step back and just focus on myself for a little bit. In that time I have been focusing on getting back on track with my fitness journey and really putting in 110% which means a lot of future fitness journey-related posts will be coming to the blog soon! We also went back to Hawaii for the holidays and as you can guess by the title of this post my next blog series will be all about the beautiful Big Island and my advice on some of the wonderful places you must take time to check out! I truly fell in love with the Big Island the first time I visited in 2015 and I fell in love all over again on this past trip. The beauty and diversity of the island’s landscapes and weather make it so fun to explore and it is guaranteed to have something for everyone! The locals are super friendly and made me feel like family whenever we got to talking. I also really enjoyed learning about the history, culture, and stories about the Ancient Hawaiians. I know the majority of tourists mostly go to the Hawaiian islands in search of beautiful beaches and waterfalls but visiting the plethora of historical sites was definitely a highlight for me. I cannot wait to share all the adventures with my readers and I really hope it helps you on your future island adventures! I hope to continue to be able to visit this island and to explore every nook and cranny soon.

I also have some big news…I’m engaged!!! That’s right, Joe finally popped the question in Hawaii! I’m happy to say that I’ll be marrying my best friend of 5+ years and the love of my life hopefully sometime next year! We are thrilled to finally be tying the knot soon and taking this next step and chapter of our lives. You can read about our story now on How He Asked! https://howheasked.com/kelsie-and-joe/  Thank you to everyone who congratulated us on social media and in person! I may occasionally do wedding planning related posts on the blog in the future if any of my readers show interest! PNW weddings are pretty magical after all!

Anyways, let’s get to the reason why you clicked on this post! Joe’s family has a condo on the Big Island and he has been quite a few times now so some of the information will be from him and things I’ve learned from his dad who spends almost half of the year there. This is my 2nd time on the Big Island and although I would by no means consider myself a pro of the island, I’d like to think our adventurous spirit has taken me to quite a few places around the island in my short amount of time there and I’d love to share what knowledge I have with anyone planning to visit soon! This first post is really focused on beaches on the West Coast (near Kona) and the North Coast (Kohala, Waimea, etc.). I’ve added a few of my favorite historical sites to this post as well because you’ll often find that many of the beaches on the Big Island have some sort of historical artifacts and a cultural aspect to it meaning there is so much more to see and do at these beaches than just sunbathing and swimming! Unfortunately I won’t be touching on the east side (Hilo area) and south side as I haven’t really had much time to explore these areas. I have taken two day trips to Hilo but I definitely haven’t explored the area in-depth so unfortunately I can’t give that much information on that side of the island. As many of you who follow my blog know, I love to be as thorough and accurate as possible so I don’t want to give advice on things I’m not 100% on and haven’t first hand experienced. I will touch on Hilo in future posts because as I said we did take two day trips there mostly to see waterfalls, check out the town, explore scenic routes, and see places like Onomea Bay but again it’ll be very brief. I do hope to keep visiting the Big Island and really get to explore the east and south coast more.

But enough with my rambling! Below are some of the beaches I’ve gone to and would highly recommend! Feel free to use the page jumps if that helps because this will be a LONG (but informative) post! There are also “Return to Top” jumps at the end of the pictures for each beach!

 

Will update post as I visit more beaches in the future!

 

West Coast (Kona side)

 

Maninowali Beach (Kua Bay)

Makalawena Beach/Pu’u Ali’i

Kahaluu Beach Park

Kealakekua Bay

Kohanaiki Beach (Pine Trees Beach)

Kiholo Bay

Kaloko-Honokohau National Park

Old Kona State Airport Recreation Area

Honaunau Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park/Two Step

End of the World

Kona by the sea pool

Keauhou Bay

He’eia Bay

 

North Coast (Kohala, Waimea, etc.)

 

Mauna Kea Beach (Kauna’oa Bay)

Hapuna Beach

Spencer Beach Park/Puʻukoholā Heiau National Historic Site 

Pololu Valley/Black Sand Beach

Waipi’o Valley/Black Sand Beach

 

Maniniowali Beach (Kua Bay)

Maniniowali Beach (commonly known as Kua Bay) is one of my all time favorite beaches that I’ve been to thus far on the Big Island and it is a must visit if you’re in the Kona area. Located on the west coast, it is very easy to find and about 25-30 minutes from Kailua-Kona. GPS/Google Maps will get you there no problem. There is paved access all the way to the beach and you just park on either side of the road or snag one of the few parking stalls up front. There are bathrooms and outdoor showers by the parking area. Maniniowali is a smaller beach so I would suggest getting there early to get good parking and stake your claim on the sand but if you get there later, no worries, you’ll be sure to find a little patch somewhere whether on the sand or on the lava rocks. The sand is white, super soft, and very fine. The water is one of the prettiest tones of blue I have ever seen. I have been to quite a few beautiful beaches but the clarity of the water at Kua is just stunning. I also love that the soft white sand is not only on the shore but in the water. You can run around in the water freely without having to worry about stepping on or kicking rocks and coral, just soft powdery sand all around you. There are a couple rocky areas, especially further to the right side of the beach, but you’ll see the rocks sticking out of the water so it’s easy to avoid. What’s great about Kua is that it’s a fun beach to swim in and also fun to play in because of the waves!! This is the perfect beach to do some boogie boarding and you’ll see plenty of people taking advantage of this! We always have so much fun swimming around and getting pummeled by the waves or diving into them. The waves here can get pretty big and the current can be strong so always be aware and cautious. If you’re not a strong swimmer and the waves are big stay out of the water for your own safety. You can also snorkel here when the waters are calmer. The first time I ever came here we had a turtle swim up next to us which was a pretty cool experience (be sure to keep your distance though)! Overall, Kua Bay is fun for all types of travelers whether solo, families, a group of friends, or couples you are sure to have a fun time here!

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Makalawena Beach/Pu’u Ali’i

Located approximately 30 minutes from Kona is the absolutely breathtaking Makalawena Beach. You may have heard of this beach if you were specifically trying to research a gorgeous white sand beach that is more secluded and private. Indeed it is stunningly gorgeous and the kind of beach you think of when you imagine a Hawaii vacation. It’s also still for the most part one of the lesser crowded beaches of the Big Island, especially if you go early in the day or depending on the time of year you go, but the crowds have picked up slightly over time. At a time this beach was very secluded with hardly a soul in sight because of the very rough lava rock access you had to take to get to the beach. You really could only hike to this beach and with the hot island heat beating off the black lava rocks it could be pretty brutal. The roads have gone through maintenance and while it is still highly advised to have AWD, truck, or SUV of some sort with high clearance to drive on the lava rock road, it is much easier than it once was to navigate the road and get to this little piece of heaven. We even saw many determined tourists driving small little rental cars to get there (mind you they were having a pretty tough time and I wouldn’t advise it!). Even so the amount of people that visit this beach is not nearly as much as some of the more popular beaches like Hapuna and Magic Sands and I would highly recommend checking this wonderful gem out if you are able to. Once you get off the lava access road there is a large parking lot area. The beach is big and beautiful with soft white sand for days and super bright blue clear water. Unlike Kua Bay there are some rocks on the ocean floor and I did scrape my foot a few times but it’s not terrible and overall it’s such a fun beach to swim at and the perfect place to relax in the plush pillow-y sand! This beach has a lot of trees so there is plenty of shade to lounge in and a plethora of cool photo opportunities! Although the beach is sandy there is plenty of lava rock area to walk on and explore and fun little tide pools to lay in. While we were there we got extremely lucky and a honu (turtle) washed up on the shore near us! We stayed back of course as to not scare it and by law you have to keep distance but we were still close enough to get the perfect view! People eventually noticed us gawking at the turtle and came running which scared the turtle off but we got some great pictures (thank goodness for zoom) and by far had the best seat in the house! I’ve seen pictures of people running into monk seals here too so you never know what awesome critters you’ll discover while enjoying your time here! Makalawena is definitely one of my top 3 beaches on the Big Island now! Definitely add it to your list!

 

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Kahaluu Beach Park

This beach is probably one of the easiest and best places to snorkel at if you’re staying in Kona. If you’re looking for a plethora of (very friendly!) fish and marine life then look no further! The water here is fairly shallow and tame as well so it’s great for beginning snorkelers and children. There is a large rock wall that keeps out big waves and stronger currents but still allows a gentle current in which is essential for the marine life. Kahaluu is located on Alii Drive in Kona and has a large parking lot, bathrooms, picnic tables, and lifeguards on duty. The parking lot tends to get full pretty quickly though, especially during peak tourist season. You will definitely get your fill of beautiful fish sightings here and you may even run into a honu! By law you have to stay back as I mentioned before so please do not touch or get too close to these majestic creatures and admire from a distance. The north side of the bay is also a popular spot for surfers as the waves are stronger here. I drove by this beach often and saw a great mix of both beginning surfers and experienced surfers enjoying the waves here. We went to this beach back in 2015 and I really enjoyed our afternoon exploring the reefs and swimming alongside the most beautiful and diverse marine life. Unfortunately during our 2017 trip I was not able to get back down there for updated photos on our Gopro Hero5. We had planned to visit Kahaluu during our last couple days on the island, however I ended up getting very sick the last 4 days of our trip and I couldn’t really do much because of my frequent coughing fits, runny nose, and fever. It was a bummer but I know we’ll be back soon. Here are some photos from 2015 with an older model Gopro, so not the best quality but hopefully you get the idea!

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Kealakekua Bay

By far one of the most beautiful areas of the island to snorkel in. The area is a protected marine sanctuary and full of diverse ocean life. If you’re lucky you may even get the pleasure of swimming alongside spinner dolphins, or at the very least see them from a boat if you’re taking a boat tour or kayaking. The bay is calm essentially all year long and easy to swim in. There is a lot of history here and many historical sites around the area to visit, such as the Hikiau heiau. This is also where the Captain Cook Monument is located and you can see it from the bay on boat tours. Back in 2015 we took a family snorkel cruise with the Fair Wind’s departing out of Keauhou Bay. Here is a link to the cruise. https://www.fair-wind.com/kona-snorkel-destinations/kealakekua-bay/ It’s a bit pricey but such a fun and amazing experience. I wasn’t a huge fan of the crowd we were with but once I could get out into the water and get my distance from people it was so much fun and the water is crystal clear and full of life. I saw an abundance of fish and even an eel! We also saw dolphins from the boat on the way back to Keauhou Bay. When snorkeling you are not allowed to stand on the coral reefs or touch the marine life. The Fair Wind’s is great because it is sustainable tourism certified. The crew onboard are very knowledgeable and helpful as well. Here is a link to a page of some of their awards and their practices to minimize the impact of their tours on the environment. https://www.fair-wind.com/sustainability-commitment/. They serve lunch during the cruise and there are bathrooms. There are also slides and a diving board on the boat! Alternatively, you can hike down to the bay which I hear is a little challenging, or you can rent a kayak but make sure that the company/person you rent from has a permit which is required.

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Kohanaiki Beach (Pine Trees Beach)

Contrary to the name, you will not find any pine trees on this beach. The name came about supposedly from a group of people who believed the trees looked like pine trees. Although there are no pine trees here there are still plenty of beautiful green trees and the scenery is very pretty. This is a popular surfing and body boarding beach for locals and not the best beach to swim in due to the rocky bottom in the water and the waves. It is a beautiful beach though with white sand and a little keiki (kiddie) pool to wade in with lots of little fishies swimming around. The water is a different tone of blue than what I’m used to seeing, it’s very clear like looking at glass. It is really hard to explain but it is very pretty! There is now paved access to the beach due to the new private development and plenty of parking. You can park right up on the sand as well. Not only is the beach known for its surfing but it is also known for being a great spot for bbq’s and overnight camping (overnight permit required). There are a lot of historical and cultural artifacts to explore here as well. There are sacred fishing ponds, petroglyphs, a heiau, shrines, a canoe house, a garden, and tons more to check out and I highly recommend that you take the time to do so!

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Kiholo Bay

When it comes to black sand beaches on the Big Island, Punalu’u Beach on the south coast is one of the more popular ones that tourists flock to but Kiholo Bay is a great contender with far less crowds and so much to explore. Kiholo Bay is part of the Kohala Coast and is more northwest, but since it is still relatively close to Kona and not very far up north I have it under the west coast beaches. Many people say to go here for the turtles and while there are turtles here (I didn’t see any when I went) that is not the only allure to this area. I’ll be honest, when Joe and I came here back in 2015 we did not explore the area in its entirety which I completely regret. I had not done proper research on this place, rather we knew we wanted to see a black sand beach and asked his parents what they recommended nearby. I didn’t even think to do additional research about everything that you can find here! We were going to back during our most recent trip but again as I mentioned earlier I got sick my last few days there! Total bummer but I’ll be back. This beach is peaceful and very beautiful with black sand stretching as far as you can see. The Keanalele Spring, commonly known as Queens Bath (not to be mistaken with the one in Kauai), is a popular spot to visit here and located further south. It is a lava tube that is filled with a combination of freshwater from a spring and salt water. There is a little ladder that allows you access into the watering hole. Another popular spot to check out is the Wainanali’i Pond, otherwise known as the Blue Lagoon. The color of the lagoon is this strikingly vivid neon blue that is such a stark and beautiful contrast against the black lava rocks and sand. This is where you will most likely see turtles. This is another location that I regret we missed out on and so I have no pictures, but I swear I’ll be back soon to explore Kiholo and its magical landscape in-depth. So much history here, and definitely an area not to be missed!

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Kaloko-Honokohau National Park (Historical Site/Beach)

This park is located less than 15 minutes from Kona town and is a must if you’re in the area. I haven’t had the chance to hike and explore all the trails yet but there is a plethora of things to see and do here. The first beach you’ll most likely encounter is Ai’opio Beach which is easily accessed by parking at the Honokohau Boat Harbor and following the small trail to the beach. The beach is usually not very crowded and would be a great one for a family day. The golden sand is soft and the water here is shallow, very calm, and a pretty bright blue. If you want to see big turtles beaching and lounging around in the sand this is the place where you’ll most likely see them! I have really only spent time at this beach and haven’t been to Honokohau Beach, but there is a lot to see and explore just in this little cove, my favorite being the heiau (temple) and the thatched hale which was most likely used for storing canoes. The history of this park is really fascinating and you can learn all about how the Ancient Hawaiians survived off a seemingly desolate lava landscape by cultivating fishponds and fish traps with masterfully constructed large rock walls. The engineering capabilities of the community were truly incredible and innovative for their time. There are also petroglyphs that can be seen in this park as well. I highly recommend this place if you are looking for a little history lesson and culture within easy reach if you’re staying in Kona.

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Old Kona State Airport Recreation Area

I love the concept of re-purposing things for a new use. That happens a lot here where I live in Tacoma with the old downtown buildings. In fact my alma mater school campus buildings are pretty much all re-purposed from the old historical buildings and warehouses with still just enough of its old worldly charm peeking through its architecture from the exposed brick walls to the old painted signs on the buildings. This recreation area in Kona is another example of re-purposing done right! This beach park used to be the Old Kona Airport until the larger International one was built. I love that the old pavilion still exists and the airport runway which is now used as the parking lot. It even sounds like you’re in an airplane about to take off when you’re cruising on down to find a parking spot. This beach park is an awesome place to relax and enjoy lunch at and is also one of my favorite places for sunset! Seriously, the sunsets here are INCREDIBLE and I’m not the only one who agrees, just look at the reviews for this place and you’ll soon see it’s a favorite for sunset photography. I’m also partial to this place because this is where I got engaged! Yup, it all happened right here! The beach park is big with a good mix of sandy beach and lava rock area. The swimming here isn’t the best because of the rough waves but there are areas to snorkel if you’re confident in your abilities and a lot of tide pools to hang out in, just be careful of the sharp lava rock and coral! There are bathrooms, outdoor showers, covered picnic tables, plenty of trees for shade, and a lot of beautiful tropical floral vegetation in the area. Cats are abundant here as well. There is also a skate park, soccer and baseball field, the Kona Community Aquatic Center, and Kekuaokalani Gym nearby. This is the perfect recreation area and a great place for families to spend the day. Here are some sunset photos as well as our proposal moment…You know I had to add that in!

yes it’s on left hand, unsure why Instagram camera flips it

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Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park/Two Step

This is hands down my favorite historical site I’ve visited thus far on the island. The history here is so genuinely interesting, I don’t see how you cannot make a stop here! IT IS A MUST and the most preserved place of refuge left in Hawaii. Honaunau, or the City of Refuge, was a place where people could find respite during times of war. This was also a place where people who broke Kapu could come to escape death. In ancient times, people who broke Kapu where immediately sentenced to death, but if you could reach the place of refuge you would be protected. A priest would absolve your crimes and you would be free to leave after and not be harmed. Now this isn’t to say it was a piece of cake getting to this place and often you would be followed in canoes and speared to death before reaching the City of Refuge, but what have you got to lose? This was really your only way to escape death after breaking Kapu. There is a lot to explore in this park including ancient hales, the Hale o Keawe heiau, royal fishponds, a great rock wall dating back hundreds of years, majestic wood carved statues, and even exhibits of games such as Hawaiian checkers. You can also walk around the lava rock coast and check out the tidepools and arches. I added this wonderful park into this post because as you can see in pictures it is a sandy white beach and people often snorkel in Honaunau Bay aka Two Step. I didn’t go snorkeling there as it was crowded when we went to take a look but I hear the snorkeling is absolutely fantastic so I’m adding this place in because of the raving reviews and also because of my firsthand experience with the park itself pertaining to the amazing history and culture here. Whether you come for the snorkeling, the history, or both you’ll be sure to have a good time and can’t go wrong with either option!

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End of the World

Another one of my favorite historical sites on the Big Island and also the most conveniently located for me when we visit because it is right by the condo near Keauhou Bay and easy to walk or drive to. This place is often overlooked but if you’re in Kona you should definitely check it out! A lot of tourists that do hear about this place often go for the cliff-diving which personally I find a little disrespectful, as well as dangerous (people have died jumping off the cliffs) and I wouldn’t recommend it but to each their own. So that is to say, technically you can swim here I guess when you jump in but I wouldn’t advise it. This is moreso one of those beaches where you come for the view, and in this case the history as well. I say it’s a little disrespectful to cliff jump here because this beautiful and powerful place is a burial ground and an old battlefield site and really should be respected as such. This is essentially where the old ancient ways died, or the “End of the World” as the Ancient Hawaiians knew it and where the kapu system was disbanded. When Kamehameha I passed away his son Liholiho took over. Liholiho and Queen Ka’ahumanu began to try and abolish the Kapu system. In an act that shocked everyone, they dined together which was forbidden. Liholiho’s cousin Kekuaokalani was not at all pleased with the abandoning of the sacred ways and together he and his wife Manono formed a rebellion, and thus the Kuamo’o Battle took place. Kekuaokalani and his forces were defeated. Kekuaokalani and his wife died at this spot, along with the ways of the world as they knew it. The soldiers who died were buried here and it is now known as the Lekeleke Graveyard. So as I said before, this place is powerful and marks a very important and life changing time in Hawaiian history. Definitely come here for the history but don’t forget to enjoy the sprawling gorgeous view of the vast bay below and you might also run into some friendly goats while exploring here.

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Saltwater Pool Kona By the Sea

A little hidden gem right on Alii Drive! A cute little saltwater pool fed by the ocean right next to Kona By the Sea hotel. The public access is in-between the Kona Isle condos and Kona by the Sea hotel. You’ll see a small directional sign on the road that says shoreline public access pointing towards the small trail. There is a very tiny parking area with only a few stalls so keep that in mind. The pool is beautiful with the most perfect view but when we went it was low tide and the ocean current and waves hadn’t really done its job for the day of cleaning out the pool and making it deep enough to lounge in. It was still a great little spot to hang out at and sip on a coconut and I would love to go back soon and actually take a dip next time! Check it out if you’re in the area!

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Keauhou Bay

This is only a 5 minute walk from Joe’s family condo and where his dad’s canoe club is based out of. It is the perfect place to kayak, paddle board, play some volleyball and even get a little swimming and snorkeling in if you’re willing to take a canoe out. Be careful near the shore though as I’ve seen very big sea urchins lounging around down below. There is a little sandy area where the water is calm and Joe’s sister would often bring her little baby girl down there to play in the waters. The Fairwinds and other cruises depart out of this bay so you’ll see a lot of tourists coming and going. There are also a lot of places to walk nearby. We walked past this bay while heading to End of the World. Overall, a nice little spot to enjoy the view and to watch the active residents of Kona living life on the water.

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He’eia Bay

If you’re staying in Keauhou be sure to check out this rocky and small little beach perfect for sunrise and sunset walks near Keauhou Bay and the Kona Country Club. If you are heading to Keauhou Bay you will take the last right before you get to Keauhou Bay. From there it’ll be on your left just a little down the road and you will see the little trail leading to the small beach. If you’re staying in the area it’s a great little beach to take your morning run to and then just relax and revel in the gorgeous ocean views!

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North Coast (Kohala Coast/Waimea area)

 

Kauna’oa Bay/Mauna Kea Beach

Arguably one of the most beautiful beaches on the island and it is definitely one of my top 3 favorites on the Big Island. The sand here is powdery soft and bright white and the water is an amazing shade of turquoise blue. The waters here are calm and great for swimming. This is the perfect beach for families with smaller children and anyone looking to just relax on the beach all day and swim. You can even snorkel here and we saw plenty of fishies! Parking is very limited and I suggest you get here very early to get a parking pass. The beach itself is public but the parking lot belongs to the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel and fills up very quickly. The bright side to this is that the beach is never really crowded so if you do get parking you’ll surely be able to find a spot to yourself to enjoy your day. One end of the beach closer to the hotel is where all the lounge chairs are and where most of the crowd tends to gravitate. We hung out at the opposite end near the huge tree off the golf course near the hiking trail. To me this was the right call, if I didn’t look over the other direction it almost felt like we were by ourselves, granted we did get there pretty early. There are bathrooms and showers available. If you aren’t able to get a parking spot you can also access this beach off the Ala Kahakai Trail from Hapuna Beach next door which is what we did! To me this is the way to go because then you get the best of both worlds and can check out both beaches easily in a day! The coastal trail is stunning with the most fantastic views of the deep blue ocean below as well as the back sides of the multi-million dollar homes along the coast that get to indulge in this view as often as they please. The hike will only take about 20 minutes at most and it is a bit rocky but I did it easily in sandals and a beach dress haha. I saw many other local beach goers doing the same but also people in tennis shoes and hiking shoes so it’s really your preference. Just be careful and be wary of any rock slides and slippery areas.

On the trail to go back and forth between Mauna Kea Beach and Hapuna Beach

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Hapuna Beach

Hapuna Beach is one of the more popular ones on the island and is ALWAYS ALWAYS crowded and for good reason! This is a big beach with soft white sand stretching as far as you can see and beautiful turquoise blue waters to play in. Unlike Mauna Kea’s calm waters, this beach is known for its fun waves! The waves and current here can get really rough and big though so always be careful when swimming and boogie boarding here. There are bathrooms, showers, and picnic areas. Parking is abundant and is $5 for tourists. There is always a lifeguard on duty as well. This is another perfect beach for families and groups of friends!

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Spencer Beach Park/Puʻukoholā Heiau National Historic Site

Spencer Beach Park is the perfect beach for family days. Soft golden-white sand, calm waters, and plenty of trees for shade make it the perfect location to spend your afternoon at. The waters are almost always calm here due to the long offshore reef and the bottom is mostly nice and sandy. The water clarity is not the clearest and bluest water I’ve seen on the Big Island by far, but it is still a fun beach to swim in and get your tan on at. There are a lot of picnic tables here as well as a pavilion, restrooms, and showers. The parking lot is large and you can camp here as well (permit required). What’s really cool is the park’s close proximity to the Puʻukoholā Heiau National Historic Site. This is a must-visit if you’re in the area and if you’re at the beach you have to make the time to check out and explore this amazing historical site.  Stop at the visitor center for some great information, exhibits, and videos before starting your little tour. The main attraction here is the Pu’ukohola Heiau of course, which is massive and is believed to be the largest heiau built in Hawaii, and maybe even one of the last. The temple was built by King Kamehameha I due to a prophecy from the priest Kapoukahi who advised him to build this sacrificial temple and dedicate it to the war god Kukailimoku to help with his efforts in uniting the Hawaiian islands. It is believed that the rocks used to build the structure came from Polulu Valley via a long human chain. When I read that it totally shocked me because Polulu Valley is not super close by any means! It’s about 40 minutes by car so can you imagine a human chain that long?! Truly incredible and the construction and engineering that the Ancient Hawaiians succeeded in never ceases to amaze me! There are other ruins to see here as well, including the Hale o Kapuni which you can’t necessarily see since it is submerged but the history behind it is very interesting and you can often see black tipped reef sharks swimming in this area (usually in the mornings). If you want a fun beach park where you can swim, tan in soft sand, picnic, and learn a ton of history then Spencer Beach Park is the one for you!

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Pololu Valley/Black Sand Beach

Located in North Kohala at the end of Highway 270 is the beautiful Pololu Valley Lookout. This lookout has the most beautiful expansive panoramic views of the coastline. It felt like I was looking at a beautiful water colored painting with the deep blues from the ocean and the lush green valley and palm trees merging together below. There are plenty of people that just come for the lookout but you can also hike down to the beach and valley below! There is a small amount of parking here but depending on the time of day you go, it may already be full and so you’ll have to park along the road and walk a little bit. The trail head is near the parking lot area and is a little under a mile to reach the beach below. The hike may be short but it is pretty steep and the way back up is definitely a leg burner. This combined with the heat makes it not the easiest walk in the park but definitely doable depending on your fitness level and how your body handles these types of things. Let me tell you, the last few days of our trip I ended up developing a horrible cold that left me barely being able to breathe, having frequent coughing attacks, burning up inside, and a very leaky nose. I couldn’t stand wasting another day in beautiful Hawaii though, especially since I had just gotten engaged, and we went on with our planned road trip day and this destination was included. I’m a pretty active and fit person but this was really tough for me due to my sickness. I will say that I’m proud of myself though because we still made it down and back up in great timing and I was still passing a majority of the tourists so I would definitely say that was a win and it was worth toughing out my cold for because the beach and valley below were absolutely stunning! The black sand beach is a mixture of black sand and big lava rocks. The contrast of the black sand with the blue ocean and the green vegetation is truly a sight you can’t miss out on! The waves and current at this beach can be pretty rough so it isn’t exactly the best swimming beach, but if you do decide to swim please exercise caution!! This whole area is really fun to explore and you’ll also see a lot of fun rope swings to play on. Overall, with how short and reasonably easy this hike is you should definitely add it to one of your must see’s on the Big Island!

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Waipi’o Valley (“Valley of the Kings”)/Black Sand Beach

I’m sure most of you visiting the Big Island have heard about this gorgeous place or have even already visited this area if this isn’t your first time to the Big Island, and so I’m sure you know that I have to add it to this list! It is a gorgeous area with a lot of history. I personally cannot attest to any of the hiking or the beautiful black sand beach because when I visited I only came for the view at the lookout but this is why I am adding Waipi’o Valley to the list because of the black sand beach that you can access via hiking or driving down a VERY steep road that requires 4WD and is not easy to drive down. The hike isn’t super easy either and judging by what I’ve read on the steep road, I’m sure your legs will be dead by the end of it when you come back up. I hear the beach is very beautiful although the surf and current is strong just like at the Pololu Valley Black Sand Beach so again be safe and cautious! You can also pay to join a tour group. The valley has taro fields and a lot of waterfalls but much of the land is private property (including the hike to Hi’ilawe Falls) so be sure to read signs and do not trespass!! Respect the land and the people that live here. If you don’t feel like going down to the beach the lookout is definitely still worth the drive and it offers one of the best panoramic views of the Hamakua Coast. The view is truly spectacular and not to be missed so if you’re driving to this area or to Hilo I would definitely recommend stopping by here.

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I haven’t visited these beaches but I have heard they are terrific and definitely worth a visit. I’ll update this post whenever I do end up paying a visit but until then feel free to do your research and add these to your list as well:

A Bay Beach (North Coast)

Beach Marker 69 (North Coast)

Papakolea Green Sand Beach (South Coast)

Punalu’u Black Sand Beach (South Coast)

Richardson Beach Park (Hilo/East Coast)

Carlsmith Beach Park (Hilo/East Coast)

Mahai’ula Beach (West Coast)

Well that’s all for now! I hope this little guide helps you narrow down some of the beaches you’d love to visit while on the island! Have fun!

 

Until next time,

Kelsie

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