Kona’s beaches south of the airport are a motley crew. Worth a visit if you’re in the area looking for sand, you’ll find plenty of picnic areas and one or two spots to get in the water for snorkeling, swimming, or boarding. All have restrooms, and a few have shower facilities as well.

Pine Trees

Waves crash on the rocky, volcanic shorline of Wawaloli Beach.

Wawaloli Beach has a small public beach of sand and crushed coral, but you have to find it amidst the rocks near the south end of the airport runway. Photo © Mark, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Although famous with surfers and the site of many competitions, Pine Trees (Hwy. 19 near mile marker 95, access road gate open daily 7am-7pm) is not a good swimming beach, nor are there any pine trees. There are a few one-towel coves along the rocky shoreline where you can gain access to the water, but mostly it’s a place from which to observe the action. To get to Pine Trees, turn makai where you see the sign for the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority (NELHA). You can also follow the road toward the NELHA facility a short way to Wawaloli Beach, a small public beach of sand and crushed coral, fronted by plenty of rock near the south end of the airport runway. There are a few restrooms and some picnic tables.

Old Airport Beach Park and Pawai Bay

We should thank whatever politician decided to take this old abandoned airport and turn it into Old Airport Beach Park (Hwy. 19 between mile markers 99 and 100). There are nicely kept picnic areas that get busy, and the facilities are placed between the parking lot and sandy area, which doesn’t make for an ideal beach. The runway is now utilized as a jogging area, but if you’re looking for some beach jogging, head north on the sand toward Pawai Bay. Since you are near a reef here, the little bay with sand is the best place to get in the water for some excellent snorkeling. Locals will tell you that you can camp here, but I don’t recommend it.

Kahalu‘u Beach Park

With a large covered picnic pavilion, barbecue pits, a guy sitting around playing ukulele on a bench, and locals drinking from the backs of their trucks in the parking lot, Kahalu‘u Beach Park (Ali‘i Dr. near the Outrigger Keauhou Beach Resort between mile markers 3.5 and 4, daily 6am-11pm) has all the makings of a quintessential urban beach park. Although there is a small sandy beach area and a lifeguard on duty, it’s not so much a place to lay out. But it is a good spot for snorkeling and ideal for kids since the water is shallow and calm. Bathroom and shower facilities are available.

A lifeguard tower and fish identifications signs at Kahalu‘u Bay Beach Park, Hawaii.

Fantastic tide pools, a fish identification sign, lifeguard tower and shallow, calm water are just a few of the things that make Kahalu‘u Bay Beach Park the ideal place for kids to explore the ocean. Photo © Ron Cogswell, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

White Sands Beach (La‘aloa Beach Park)

Even though White Sands Beach (Ali‘i Dr. between mile markers 3.5 and 4, daily 7am-11pm, gate closes at 8pm) is also right off the road, it still retains a peaceful feel to it. Officially known as La‘aloa (Very Sacred) Beach Park and nicknamed Disappearing Sands Beach, it is popular for body boarding, surfing, and sunning (there is little shade here). Grab your towel and head out early because this beach gets crowded on weekends. Bathroom and shower facilities are available and there is a lifeguard on duty.

Parking can be tricky. Locals park on the makai side of the road (where it says No Parking) or in a small lot across the street.

Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Hawaiian Islands.