The Big Island of Hawaii is well named – it could hold all the other islands put together, with room to spare. The entire island has the population of a medium-sized town, with 150,000 people (half what it was in Captain Cook’s day) and a low level of tourism compared to Oahu or Maui; despite its fair share of restaurants, bars and so on, this is basically a rural community.
The development that will surely come may put an end to that, but for the moment there are sleepy old towns all over the island, unchanged for a century. The few beach resorts are in the least beautiful areas, built on the barren lava flows of the Kona coast to catch maximum sunshine. The Big Island is, in fact, growing, its southern shore inching ever further out to sea, thanks to the Kilauea volcano, which has destroyed roads and even towns, and spews out pristine beaches of jet-black sand.
Anaehoomalu Beach is one of the best recreational beaches on the Big island. Excellent for swimming, snorkeling, diving and windsurfing. Equipment rental and snorkeling, scuba, and windsurfing instruction are available at the north end of the beach.
Even during the high surf of winter, unlike many places in Hawaii the beach stays calm because it is protected by a reef, and does not endanger swimmers near the shore. At the far edge of the bay is a rare turtle cleaning station, where snorkelers and divers can watch endangered green sea turtles line up, waiting their turn to have small fish clean them.
Hapuna Beach has frequently been voted as the best beach in the US. There is easy access to the water, full facilities, crystal clear water and beautiful scenery. This is one of the longest, widest (200 feet) sandy beaches and the most popular beaches on the island, especially with bodysurfers and bodyboarders.
Swimming conditions here are usually excellent. But beware of Hapuna in winter, when its thundering waves, strong rip currents, and lack of lifeguards can be dangerous. Snorkeling is great at the south end of the beach where the fish are varied and there is a coral reef.
This is one of the best beaches on the island. The sand is a perfect crescent shape and extends for almost 1/4 mile. A natural rock reef provides some protection from the surf. Swimming, snorkeling, and boogie boarding are just some of the recreations that can be enjoyed at this exceptional beach. Swimming is excellent year-round, except in rare winter storms.
Snorkelers prefer the rocky points, where fish thrive in the surge. Kaunaoa Beach is located in front of the Mauna Kea Resort. There are full facilities but limited parking.
Kahaluu Beach Park
This dark-grey sand beach is located next to St. Peter’s Catholic Church and Ku’emanu Heiau. Kahaluu is the most popular beach on the Kona Coast; these reef-protected lagoons attract 1,000 people a day almost year-round. The area is renowned for great snorkeling, with a large variety of sea life. It’s also an ideal spot for children and beginning snorkelers to get their fins wet; the water is so shallow that you can just stand up if you feel uncomfortable.
A reef lies just offshore. Outside this area tuna, marlin, and dolphin can often be seen jumping. This beach has full facilities, including lifeguards and concession rental.
White Sands Beach
White Sands Beach is sometimes called Disappearing Beach because it does just that, especially at high tide or during storms. When the shallow, offshore sandbar is present, the swimming and boogie boarding is good here. During high surf, the sand disappears and makes the area too dangerous to enter.
Snorkeling and scuba diving are excellent due to the easy ocean access, large fish, and underwater caves. In winter, the waves swell to expert levels, attracting both surfers and spectators. Facilities include restrooms, showers, lifeguards, and a small parking lot.