Beach Location: Pu’u Alii Bay in Kekaha Kai State Park, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740. The entrance to the park is off the Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway at 19.769497, -156.021741
Amenities: In the parking area there are portable toilets, BBQs, picnic tables, and trash cans. At Makalawena Beach (a 40 minute hike away), there are no facilities.
Kid Friendly: No
Directions and Parking: Okay, first of all, Kekaha State Park is open daily from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm, and you’ll need LOTS of water and proper hiking shoes. The park entrance is about 3.5 miles north of the Kona Airport. Drive north on Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway until you see the large sign for the park, and turn right onto that dirt road. This 1.8 mile road is delightfully horrendous, and you’ll be driving it for about 15 minutes. It is full of huge potholes and deep ruts, and everyone going both directions is trying to avoid all of that. Keep this in mind, and expect to go slowly to keep your joints and rental vehicle intact.
The lava flow on either side of this road is incredibly beautiful and unusual. There are more colors in this baked earth than you might imagine, and since you are creeping along, you will have time to notice such amazing details. Once you near the end of the road, you have two options for parking. If you need to use the facilities, park all the way at the end of the road at Mahai’ula Bay. You’ll find portable toilets, picnic tables, BBQs, trash cans, and a little bit of shade there. If you are ready to hike straight to Makalawena Beach, parallel park near the chained-off trail that begins just a few “blocks” before the road ends. Take this trail north (ie face the ocean and walk to the right). Remember your sunscreen, plenty of drinking water, and your hiking shoes. Just so you know, Makalawena is not a Kona snorkeling site. Now go outside and play! 🙂
This 1.3 mile hike (one way) should take you about 40 minutes. It starts out as an easy gravel road, transforms into deep sand while you pass the first bay, and hardens into crumbly igneous rock (a’a) once you pass the boarded-up red house to head through the lava field. There is no shade, and both the sun and the stones beneath you radiate intense heat. But, you’ll eventually reach Makalawena Beach – one of the prettiest places on the planet! After you cross the lava field and find the first beach, keep going. Once you walk along that beach and climb over the next ridge, you’ll have reached Makalawena! Remember, this a great spot for Kona boogie boarding, but not Kona snorkeling.
Ease of Beach Access - 3/10
Sandy Beach For Entertaining - 2/10
Makalawena Beach is pristine and beautiful. If you are looking for a place where you can park, fan your beach towel onto the sand, and just relax, Makalawena is not that place. It is fairly out of the way, and the hike you must take across hot lava makes it quite difficult to reach (see Directions and Parking, above). The lava isn't flowing, of course, but believe me - that frozen flow is hot!
Mahai'ula Bay, the first bay you see when you park at the end of the road, is not a place to get in the water - at all. The ocean there is rough, and you'll find coral rubble and lava stones everywhere. Kona snorkeling would be dangerous here, so don't do it. It is a great spot for photo ops, however, and you may see locals surfing the breaks.
Makalawena Beach itself is good for body boarding, as the water tends to be rough there, too - though not as rough as the first bay. If you go in, make sure you know what you are doing. If you don't know what you are doing, that's perfectly okay. Just stay out of the water and enjoy watching it! When in doubt, don't go out. We want you to be safe and enjoy your vacation.
If you have any questions, feel free to call us at 808-856-4274