Windward Beaches


Beaches on the windward side of the Big Island are not as numerous as those on the Kona/Kohala Coast and tend to be more crushed lava than soft white sand. Three beach parks on the south and east sides of the island meet our criteria for recommendation: easy access, family-friendliness, and ample amenities.

Leleiwi Beach Park Is situated a few miles south of Hilo, which is the population center of the Big Island.The rocky shoreline, which is fringed by tall palms, encloses spring fed fresh water pools. Water entry and exit can be tricky.

Richardson Beach Park is a small but gorgeous black sand beach. The park boasts an abundance of reef fish and green sea turtles. A breakwater guarantees that on most days the water in the protected cove are calm, making it a safe place for children to swim and play. If you tire of snorkeling, take a break by exploring the numerous nearby tidepools.

Both Leleiwi Beach Park and adjacent Richardson Beach Park Parks offer all the amenities you would expect - restrooms, showers, picnic facilities, grass, pavilions and ample shade. A lifeguard supervises the area during times of peak use.

Punalu`u Beach Park is located near the Sea Mountain Resort and is the largest black sand beach on the island. Its soft and inviting sands are ringed by coconut palms, and snorkeling is in a protected cove. Also, it is a major nesting and resting area for hawksbill and Hawaiian green sea turtles. (Please respect the law and stay at least 20 feet away from the reptiles.)

Nearby Punalu`u Nui Heiau (pronounced HAY-ow) is a Hawaiian temple platform that was once a site of human sacrifice. Some say it is haunted by the spirits of the victims. Perhaps, but I know I get ‘chicken skin’ when I get near it.


Black Sand, Surf and Sun (map)

Life on the Windward Coast

  1. It rains a lot on the windward coast. Hilo is the wettest town in the U.S with a yearly average of nearly 130 inches of rain. June is the driest month with only 8 inches of rain, November is the wettest with an average of 14 inches!

  1. The pace of life on The Big Island’s sunrise coast seems markedly slower and gentler. Because of abundant rainfall, the hillsides sport rain forests, rivers, waterfalls, tropical flowers, and lush jungle foliage.

  1. Suggestions

  2. Leave purses and wallets in your room or condo. Take with you to the beach only your driver’s license, a credit card (if you’ll need to pay for parking or want to rent recreational items at the beach, or stop for lunch before going home), and a small amount of cash for soft drinks or shave ice. Use a Dry-Pak to keep things securely with you in the water.

  1. I
    f you must bring your cell phone, iPad, or Kindle, consider buying a Dry-Bag to keep sand and water out of the electronics.

Punalu’u Black Sand Beach

Click on the links below to see detailed information about Big Island Beaches:

Kohala Coast Beaches

Kona Coast Beaches

  1. Windward Beaches

  2. Leleiwi Beach Park

  3. Richardson Beach Park

  4. Punalu`u Beach Park

Beachgoer’s Checklist

Essentials to pack:

  1. Bulletbeach bag

  2. lightweight day-pack

  3. sunscreen

  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. 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.