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Top Beaches on the Big Island of Hawaii

For sun, sea, and sand, head to these Big Island beaches, in shades of black, white, and even green.

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Hi, I'm Madigan!

Madigan Talmage-Bowers is a writer based in Denver, Colorado. She has also lived in Italy, San Francisco, and New York City, where she studied media theory at the New School. She loves introducing her kids to ancient history, local art, hiking trails, and new foods on adventures around the globe.

Best known for dramatic volcanoes and oozing lava flows, the Big Island is also home to some of Hawaii’s most unique beaches, in shades of black, white, and even green. Check out these top sandy spots, mostly clustered on the northwestern coast. 

Punaluu Beach

Turtles on black sand Punaluu Beach on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Look for turtles on Punaluu Beach.Photo Credit: Pavel Tvrdy / Shutterstock

The most famous of the Big Island’s beaches, Punaluu is also known simply as the Black Sand Beach thanks to its distinctive black lava-rock sand. Easily accessible from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, it’s also a popular spot for sighting wild green sea turtles. Use caution if swimming here, as currents can be strong.

Hapuna Beach

Red flowers by the water at Hapuna Beach on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Hapuna Beach curves like a great crescent moon.Photo Credit: Anna Abramskaya / Shutterstock

If your idea of a beach paradise features an expansive swath of soft, white sand surrounded by a verdant tropical landscape, head to Hapuna Beach. A Big Island rarity, its powdery texture is ideal for sunbathing, while reliably great water conditions invite swimming, snorkeling, and other watersports. Plenty of parking and convenient facilities make Hapuna a great choice for families with kids. 

Honaunau Bay

Red rocks by the water at Honaunau Bay on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Honaunau Bay is a beautiful spot for relaxing in.Photo Credit: MH Anderson Photography / Shutterstock

Known by locals as the City of Refuge due to its ancient history as a sanctuary, today Honaunau Bay is one of the Big Island’s top snorkeling and diving spots because of its protected location and great visibility. Don a mask and fins to explore coral gardens teeming with tropical fish and sea turtles, and savor the photogenic backdrop of palm trees swaying above the sandy shores. 

Mauna Kea Beach

An aerial view of a big hotel on pretty Mauna Kea Beach on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Mauna Kea Beach is known for its crystal clear waters.Photo Credit: MGambill / Shutterstock

Venture just north of Hapuna for the postcard-worthy Mauna Kea Beach—a large, graceful crescent framed by greenery and a reef rock that provides a natural barrier from currents. Guests staying at Mauna Kea Resort are just steps away, while other visitors may have to arrive early to snag limited parking at this deservedly popular swimming and sunbathing spot.

Kahaluu Beach Park

Swimmers enjoy calm waters at Kahaluu Beach Park on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Kahaluu Beach Park is a lively swimming spot.Photo Credit: mhgstan / Shutterstock

Locals and visitors alike love this family-friendly beach conveniently located right in Kailua-Kona. Clear, calm water protected by a rock wall create prime snorkeling conditions to view dozens of varieties of fish. Surfers often catch waves farther out in the bay, and ample facilities make it a great spot to linger for a sunset barbecue.

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