The Travel Channel has named Mauna Kea Beach to the “All-time World’s Best Beaches List,” and for good reason. This out-of-the-way cove beach has fluffy white sand, usually calm waters and a sandy bottom. It’s the perfect beach for families and novice snorkelers. And you can even check swimming with Manta Rays off your bucket list with a well-timed visit to Mauna Kea Beach inside Kauna'oa Bay.
Mauna Kea Beach sits on private property, but there is public access to the beach. You’ll have to enter the Mauna Kea Resort to get to this little slice of paradise, and you’ll have to get here early. The hotel only reserves 40 spots for non-hotel guests, so it’s best to get here before 8:30 a.m. in order to secure a spot.
Simply drive north out of Kona on Highway 19 to get to this incredible family beach. Turn left at mile marker #68. You’ll drive along a rock wall for the Mauna Kea Resort before reaching the end of the road where you’ll find the parking lot. If the parking lot is full, you may want to head over to nearby Hapuna Beach which has a much larger parking lot for a $5 fee.
The beach is about a half-mile long, and the water is usually calm. But the waves here can get quite violent during the wintertime, so only enter the water if it is calm. You’ll likely notice a bunch of families enjoying the sand here at Mauna Kea Beach. Young families flock to the beach for the calm, shallow waters and fantastic amenities.
You can rent boogie boards and snorkeling equipment from the resort. You can even enjoy a meal, drink or snack at the resort’s beachside restaurant. The prices are quite steep, but you can’t beat the views. You’ll find public bathrooms and showers near the hotel, as well.
The northern side of the beach is much calmer and features plenty of soft sand. The southern side of the beach, on your left looking out at the water, is a bit more rocky, but that’s where you’ll find the good snorkeling. When the water is calm, it’s a safe and beautiful snorkeling experience.
Mauna Kea Beach is also a great place to practice your body surfing and boogie boarding skills. You can rent a board from the hotel if there are some waves. The trick is to catch the wave just before it begins to break.
You’ll want to stay on the beach to watch the sun set into the unbelievably blue waters beyond. And you’ll want to stay long after the sun has gone down. Kaunaoa Bay is also known as Manta Point because the large, winged rays love to feed on the bay’s plankton after sunset. The hotel even turns on massive lights to attract the manta ray’s food to the shallow waters of the bay. You’ll be able to see the majestic beasts as they do somersaults in the water while they feed. It’s a bucket list sight to behold.