Kauna`oa (Mauna Kea) Beach

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The Travel Channel has frequently rated this beach as the best in Hawaii and one of the top ten in the world. We heartily agree. Its powdery white sand gently slopes into the ocean along the entire length of the beach and parking restrictions make this one of the least crowded beaches on the Kohala Coast.


Parking is restricted to just 40 vehicles and the lot usually fills up before 9:30 a.m. Arrive early if you want to enjoy this beach. Secure a beach parking pass at the guard station at entrance to the resort. A security guard is usually stationed at the parking area to collect the pass from you. If no passes are available, turn around and head south about a mile to Hapuna Beach Park.


A quarter mile long paved road descends from the parking area to the beach.   Restrooms, showers and a drinking fountain are located near the short trail from the end of the road to the beach. The access road can seem much longer and steeper on the way back. Stay hydrated and rest in the shady spots on the way back to the parking area.


The Mauna Kea Resort was heavily damaged by several powerful earthquakes that struck the Kohala Coast on October 15, 2006. The resort recently reopened and beachgoers are welcome to take a peek at the remodeled resort. The Mauna Kea has an exceptional collection of eastern art and sculpture. Ask the concierge for a brochure that describes the artwork.


The ocean at Kauna’oa Bay is calmest during the northern hemisphere’s summer. Winter surf here is usually tamer than the surf at Hapuna Beach just to the south. As a general precaution, be wary of surf conditions in winter when waves are at their highest and surf is the strongest.


The best snorkeling is at the north end of the bay. The entry is a gradual sandy slope and the coral heads start about 50 feet out from the beach. The best coral heads run parallel to the beach. There is also good snorkeling at the south end of the bay, although the surf can be rougher in that area. Ghostly white goatfish inhabit the sandy ocean bottom between the two snorkeling areas.


The nearest shave ice is at Anuenue Ice Cream in the Kawaihae Shoping Center or at the Queens’ Marketplace food court in the Waikoloa Resort area (map).




 

Specific Information

Aerial photo courtesy of Google Maps.

Getting There


From Kailua-Kona and Waikoloa Resorts: Take the Queen Ka`ahumanu Highway north from Kailua-Kona. Turn left into the entrance to the Mauna Kea Resort (just past the entrance to the Hapuna Prince Hotel). Stop at the guard station and ask for a beach parking pass and directions to the beach parking lot. If the lot is full, turn around and drive a mile south to Hapuna Beach and enjoy the day there. Depending on traffic, it is about a 45 to 55 minute drive from Kailua-Kona


From Waimea: Take the Kawaihae Road west from Waimea to the Queen Ka`ahumanu Highway. Turn south (towards Kailua-Kona) onto the Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway at the marked intersection. Turn right into the entrance to the Mauna Kea Resort. Stop at the guard station and ask for a beach parking pass and directions to the beach parking lot. If the lot is full, drive a mile south to Hapuna Beach and enjoy the day there. Depending on traffic, it is about a 25 to 30 minute drive from Kailua-Kona


From Hilo: Drive north from Hilo on the Mamalahoa Highway to Waimea. In Waimea, turn right at the stop light, then veer left onto the Kawaihae Road. Take the Kawaihae Road west from Waimea to the Queen Ka`ahumanu Highway. Turn south (towards Kailua-Kona) onto the Queen Ka`ahumanu Highway at the marked intersection. Turn right into the entrance to the Mauna Kea Resort. Stop at the guard station for a beach parking pass and directions to the beach parking lot. If the lot is full, drive a mile south to Hapuna Beach and enjoy the day there. It is about a 2 hour drive from Hilo.

Kohala Coast Beaches

  1. Anaeho’omalu Beach

  2. Mauna Lani Beach

  3. Pau`oa Beach

  4. Holoholokai Beach

  5. Waialea Beach

  6. Hapuna Beach

  7. Mauna Kea Beach

  8. Spencer Beach Park

Kona Coast Beaches

Windward Beaches


Beachgoer’s Checklist

Essentials to pack:


  1. Bulletbeach bag

  2. lightweight day-pack

  3. Bulletsunscreen

  4. Bullethat

  5. Bulletpolarized sunglasses

  6. Bulletsand mat

  7. Bulletbeach towel

  8. Bulletumbrella

  9. Bulletchair

  10. Bulletsnacks

  11. Bulletbook, Kindle or iPad

  12. Bulletunderwater camera

  13. Bulletsnorkeling gear

  14. Bulletzip-top plastic bags

  15. Bulletplenty of drinking water


  1. Whale Watching

  2. Bring compact binoculars if you are on the beach between November and April. Besides ogling other beachgoers, you can use them to spot breaching humpback whales on the horizon.


  1. Be Sun Safe

  2. The tropical sun can be brutal. Even in the shade of a beach umbrella, reflected sunlight can burn unprotected skin. You wouldn’t want to spoil your vacation on the first day, so we advise that you wear sunscreen (factor 45 or 50 is appropriate for most beach activities) and reapply it at least once during your time at the beach. Be sure to sunscreen the tops of your feet and the tops of your ears.


  1. Manta Rays at Mauna Kea

  2. At night the hotel shines a light into a cove at the north end of the bay. Plankton are attracted to the light and manta rays swim in to feed on the plankton. There is no guarantee that mantas feed here every night, but the odds are pretty good they will be there.


  1. A staircase at the north end of the beach leads to a paved pathway. Turn left at the top of the stairs and follow the path until you reach the lighted overlook.

 
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