Just north of Kona, you’ll find some of Hawaii’s best beaches inside of Kekaha Kai State Park. This protected area is formerly known as Kona Coast State Park. It’s new name translates into “the shore line,” and the shore line here could not be any prettier or more secluded.
You’ll need some sturdy sandals for the trek out to these two secluded beaches. And, if you’re up for it, you can choose to hike a 342-foot cinder cone after enjoying two remote strips of white sand. Strap on your sturdy shoes, jump in the car and drive up Highway 19 to mile marker 88.
Soon after the mile marker, you’ll turn left into a field of black, glassy and sharp volcanic rock. There’s a “dirt” road cut into the lava field that will take you down to a parking lot on the shore. You’ll find rudimentary facilities here before you take to hiking into the lava field.
From the parking lot, you can see a strand of tall trees to the north. These trees hide Mahai’ula Beach. This popular beach is a short walk through the lava, and you’ll find the water here irresistibly blue. Just remember that you’re on the west side of the Big Island. The weather here is reliably hot and dry, so pack plenty of water, sunscreen and protective clothing for this very hot beach.
Walk along the shore to the north, and you’ll likely find some lounging sea turtles. Enjoy the turtles from a distance. Do not disturb or touch them. After snapping a few selfies, continue along the beach north to a lava shelf. Here, you’ll find a staircase carved into the black rock.
Take the stair case and it will bring you to a path carved into a the lava field. The walking here is tough, but the path is flat. The volcanic rocks underfoot are rather large, chunky and sharp. And the rocks will often move when you step on them. Make sure you’ve strapped your sturdy footwear on tight.
After the very hot walk through the field of black rocks, you’ll emerge onto another white sand beach. And you’re likely to have the beach all to yourself. Not many dare to trek a hot mile to get to Makalawena Beach where the sand is incredibly soft, the water glows blue and there’s a soft shore break. Just make sure the water is calm before taking a swim. There are no lifeguards.
Makalawena Beach is surrounded by palm trees that tower over lava pools. It’s an otherworldly scene that you can get nowhere else in Hawaii. Walk around the lava pools to the north side of the beach, and you may find a faint path to a lava pool big enough for a dip.
This may be the end of your trek into the park, but you can choose to continue north along the shore to a novelty black sand beach. It’s a rare to see black sand on the west side of The Big Island. Just don’t dare swim in the dangerous water. Snap a few pics then look for the towering cinder cone. A faint trail kicked into the volcanic rock will take you to the top of the 342-foot spire for 360-degree views of the entire park. Just make sure you have enough water to get back to the car through the glassy, reflective heat of the lava rocks.