Makalawena Beach Hawaii

Hawaii Big Island Beaches

by | Apr 29, 2021 | Archaeology, Beaches, Destinations, Hawaii, Islands, Travel, Travel and Education, Water Sports

The Big Island

Hawaii is an archipelago of 143 volcanic Islands 1500 miles long. The youngest and largest island is the Big Island of Hawaii, located on the east end of the Island chain. The Big Island is still forming and growing as new volcanic eruptions occur. Lava flows from massive Volcanic Mountain Peaks winding their way to the ocean. These flows create a new rockier beach with pools, tubes, arches, and cave-like entrances to the ocean. The giant lava boulders appear ready to tumble into the sea at any moment. Kilauea is currently the most active volcano. Mauna Loa is also an active volcano on the island, while Mauna Kea is dormant. The Big Island of Hawaii is 300,000 years old and much younger than the other popular Islands of Hawaii. These all add to the fabulous beaches on the Big Island of Hawaii.

When you fly into Hawaii or even drive along its’ coastal roads, you will find it blanketed in areas by seemingly endless new and old lava flows. These geological remnants are interspersed with beautiful beaches, lush landscapes, small towns, tall cliffs, and historical sites, creating a tantalizing and diverse patchwork of geology, geography, ecology, and archeology along its 266 miles of coastline. 

Honaunau Hawaii photo by Danette Ulrich 2018 © Vog over the Island from the volcanic eruptions

Pu uhonua o Honaunau

In ancient Hawai’i, there was a strict hierarchy and a system of laws known as k?n?wai. These laws were important in enforcing social order among the people. For example, certain people, places, things, and times were sacred. In Hawaiian Culture, if something is sacred, it is forbidden (kapu) and regulated. Among these, there were sacred laws regulating fishing, planting, and the harvesting of other resources. Breaking of kapu unbalanced the stability of Hawaiian society, it’s believed.

Those who broke kapu faced harsh punishment, including death. That said, they could seek refuge within the walls of the Pu?uhonua, but it was a strenuous, physical task to reach safety. They had to run through harsh terrain while evading their pursuers. Additionally, they had to swim a great distance in the ocean to reach the shore and finally scale the Pu’uhonua (Great Wall) to reach safety. The Gods determined this forespoken travail determining Life or Death. Upon reaching safety, they would be forgiven and taken under the wings of the Kahuna or priest. Pu’uhonua o H?naunaunau is the best preserved and most dramatic of these ancient sanctuaries and is now a National Historical Park on the Big Island.

Ki’i (Carved Statues)

While visiting the park, you will discover old Hawaii i as it was many centuries ago. There are numerous Ki’i (carved statues) surround the Hale o Keawe, an ancient Hawaiian version of a mausoleum and the former resting area of 23 Keawe line chiefs. The Pu?uhonuameaning (Great Wall) spans up to 12 feet tall, 18 feet wide, and over 950 feet long, with enormous rocks fitting together precisely. This wall was the final obstacle for those breaking the law in their quest for forgiveness and safety.

Ki’i statues at Honaunau National Historic Park Hawaii Photo by Danette Ulrich©

The Beaches at Honaunau

I must admit that these are some of my favorite beaches on the Big Island of Hawaii. They are gorgeous with so many interesting features. In addition to the historical and archeological site here, there is excellent snorkeling nearby. In addition, there are small, natural pools created by the lava where Hawaiian families teach their Keiki to swim. Fishing is good and plentiful. And pristine, sugar, creamy sands are nested within folds of black lava. The contrast is lovely. All in a setting of enchanting palms and sunsets most can only imagine.

Honaunau Beach Hawaii photo by Danette Ulrich©

 Kauna’oa beach

To many, the perfect beach is defined as a crescent of white sand (some say gold), calm waters, fringed by typical paradise vegetation, which offers the opportunity to picnic and relax out of the sun should you choose. Did we forget to mention few people? This describes Kauna’oa beach. It is about 32 miles north of Kailua-Kona off Hwy 19 along the Kohala Coast. You can access the beach from the private road. This lovely beach is acclaimed as one of the most beautiful beaches globally, let alone one of the premier beaches on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Kauna'oa beach on the Kohala Coast is one of the premier beaches on the Big Island of Hawaii
Kauna’oa beach on the Kohala Coast of Hawaii

Punalu’u Beach Park

Punalu’u Beach Park is well known for its black sand.  The beach is frequented by endangered hawksbill and green turtles so, it’s a great place for turtle lovers. It’s a beautiful beach and easily accessible, but it is rockier than some of the others; the surf is more intense, and be aware that black sand can be hot, so make sure you have shoes with you. It is located on the southeast shore near Mackenzie State Park in Pahoa.

Punalu’u Beach Park photo by Danette Ulrich©?

Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area

When the waves recede and the sea is calm during the summer, this stunning landscape with its white sands extends to 200?. As well, it’s a great family beach. You will find facilities including picnic tables, showers, barbeque stations, and good-sized restrooms. Camping is also a favorite activity. Snorkeling and surfing are popular at Hapuna Beach. As a State Recreation area, it is popular with the locals and one of the premier beaches on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Hapuna Beach Hawaii
Hapuna Beach Hawaii

Papakolea the Green Sand Beach

The big island of Hawaii’s southernmost point is where you will find the Green Sand Beach within a Horseshoe Bay, but it’s actually sitting inside a cone that scientists say formed more than 49,000 years ago. Inside of the cone where large amounts of the mineral olivine. Olivine is responsible for the green hue of the gemstone peridot, and it also makes Papakolea Beach’s sand green. The beach is very popular with the tourists, but it is quite a hike to get to unless you have a 4-wheel drive vehicle or take one of the 4-wheel entrepreneurs ready and waiting to get you there faster.


Green Sand Beach Hawaii
Green Sand at the Green Sand Beach near Captain Cook, Hawaii photo by Danette Ulrich©

There is much to see and do

For outdoor enthusiasts, there is much to see and do in Hawaii. From visiting Volcano National Park to climbing the high peaks to enjoying the beautiful beaches and their incredible water sports, you should definitely have it high on your bucket list.

Kailua Kona
Beach near Kailua Kona photo by Danette Ulrich©

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