Of all Kona beaches, Kamakahonu Beach is probably the most mellow, a quiet stretch of soft white sand tucked away along the northern edge of Kailua Bay. While relatively small, Kamakahonu Beach has some of the gentlest water of any of our Hawaii Big Island beaches.
Protected from the open ocean by the Kailua pier and a lava rock breakwater, this is a favorite place for young children to play in the sand and safely swim in the calm water. Locals often refer to it as "keiki", or children's beach. Once the Big Island residence of King Kamehameha I, Kamakahonu is also known as King Kam beach. It fronts the Courtyard King Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel.
The calm water of the cove makes this one of the better Kona beaches to learn stand up paddle boarding. Once you’ve mastered the basics in the stillness of the inner lagoon, practice paddling farther out into Kailua Bay. Lessons and paddle board rentals are available on the beach, as well as surfboards, kayaks and snorkeling equipment. In addition to equipment rentals, facilities at the beach include restrooms and outdoor showers.
Snorkelers will also enjoy this area. The beach provides easy entry into the water, with some good snorkeling outside of the protected cove and around to the north. Be aware of boat activity once outside the cove.
The beach is adjacent to the heiau, or temple, of King Kamehameha I. His royal residence was called Kamakahonu, meaning "eye of the turtle." Much of the original temple has been preserved, and the area around the beach is very scenic with palm trees and gardens.
Just across the pier from Kamakahonu at the end of the sea wall is a very small spit of sand that makes a delightful beach entry into Kailua Bay. On weekends we often see families with young children playing on the small beach and in the shallow water.
Because it is so well protected, Kailua Bay has the best swimming of any of the beaches in Kona. Buoys mark the swim course for the Ironman Triathlon and it is possible to swim along the course year-round. It’s usually better in the morning when the surf is calm.
Because of the stunning clarity of the water in Kailua Bay, the beach in front of the pier is another good entry point for snorkeling. We frequently see dolphins swimming not far from shore, making the bay popular for kayaking and stand up paddle boarding. Another small, rarely used Kailua Bay beach can be seen straight across (south) from the pier, just a short walk (or swim) down Ali’i Drive adjacent to Hulihe’e Palace.
For more great beaches in Kona, visit Old Kona Airport Beach immediately north of downtown Kailua-Kona, then wind your way south down Ali'i Drive to Honl's, Pahoehoe, Magic Sands and Kahalu'u Beach Park.
Kamakahonu Beach and Kailua Bay are very easy to find, at the north end of Ali'i Drive next to the King Kamehameha Hotel.
With so many amazing beaches on the Big Island to enjoy, do you have a favorite? Tell us your story here!