Mahai'ula Beach is a scenic and relatively secluded Big Island beach with a long, crescent-shaped expanse of sand. The southernmost of three beautiful Hawaii Big Island beaches making up Kekaha Kai State Park, Mahai'ula is a bit off the beaten path and rarely crowded.
There is plenty of beach space to go around here, making it easy to find a spot to call your own. Choose a comfortable spot in the sand or at one of the picnic tables. There is good shade in the thick trees at the top of the dune behind the beach.
As is true with virtually the entire Kona-Kohala coast of the Big Island, the water at Mahai'ula Beach is stunningly clear and shimmering blue. Mahai'ula Bay is usually calm and inviting, with good swimming.
A small grove of coconut palms marks the north end of the beach, where a trail leads across a rough and barren field of a’a lava to Makalawena Beach. This 20 minute walk can be hot and dry, but well worth the reward when you crest the white dunes that rise behind dreamy Makalawena.
We often see wild goats roaming through the lava behind the beach. A short distance south of Mahai'ula is a nice beach park with picnic tables and expansive views of the ocean. This is easiest to access by continuing straight from the parking area described in the directions below.
The water gets deep quickly just off the shoreline because the ocean entry from the beach is fairly steep. Use extreme caution when swimming, particularly with small children. The abrupt change in the water’s depth just offshore can catch unsuspecting kids off guard. Also when the wind picks up, the water often gets choppy and waves can get big in a hurry.
In addition to playing in the sand, one thing kids will likely enjoy is watching jets as they make their approach to land at nearby Kona airport.
Kekaha Kai State Park is just a couple of miles north of the Kona airport. Access to Mahai'ula Bay is at the southern end of the park between the 90 and 91 mile markers on Highway 19. The lava road to the shoreline is rough, full of bumps and ruts. Take it slow, especially if you are driving a car and not a 4wheel-drive vehicle. The end of the road is 1.5 miles (2.4 km) from the highway. Continue on foot to your right (north) for 5-10 minutes to the beach.
This is the same access road you will use for Makalawena Beach; in fact we recommend planning enough time to visit both beaches on the same trip. That way you can avoid a return drive on the rough road! The third beach that is part of Kekaha Kai State Park is Maniniowali Beach (Kua Bay) 4.5 miles (7.2 km) north of Mahai'ula.
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