Makalawena Beach

White Sand, Lava rock, and Chickens!

Makalawena Beach provides an authentic experience with Hawaii's coastal nature. Many flocks to this to work on their tan, but for an adventure and even unwind. Like anything worthwhile, Makalawena Beach makes you work a little bit to enjoy it.


Overview of Makalawena Beach

As one of the most underrated beaches in Hawaii, Makalawena Beach sits on the North Kona side of the Big Island. We recommend placing this gem on your bucket list. The scenery is stunning — palm trees dotting the shoreline while black lava rock juts up from the water in some places — and there are few crowds, especially compared to other famous beaches on Hawaii's Big Island. If you're looking for a place to relax and soak up the sun, then Makalawena is your place. Beautiful white sand and crystal clear water stretch across this beach. Numerous tropical fishes and corals call this spot home. As such, swimmers and divers enjoy this area to witness nature's creatures at their finest. Other fun activities at Makalawena Beach include snorkeling, paddleboarding, and kayaking.

Yet, some may find it challenging to reach the beach. You have to park at nearby Kekaha Kai State Park and hike about three-quarters of a mile through the lava fields. The hike will take about 20 minutes, including walking over lava rocks and compacted sand. It's reasonably doable to complete if you take your time and bring plenty of water. And once you reach the trail's end, you'll find yourself on a secluded beach with pure white sand and clear turquoise waters.


The Three Great Beaches of Kekaha Kai State Park

As one of the  Kekaha Kai State Park beaches, let's briefly cover this park concerning Makalawena Beach. The Kekaha Kai State Park encompasses the following:

  • Three idyllic beaches (Makalawena Beach, Mahaiula Beach,  and Maniniowali Beach).
  • A scenic hiking trail along the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail.
  • A cinder cone that hosts birds and abundant bird habitat.
  • Hundreds of ancient Hawaiian settlement sites.

Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail, a 175-mile trail,  runs through the state park to the shoreline trail of Kua Bay. Thus, take advantage of  Makalawena Beach's prime location within the state park along the route. You may also want to take a look at our Kekaha Kai - Kona Coast State Park Map before attempting to access this location.


Directions to Makalawena Beach

To reach Makalwena Beach, start at the far north of Kekaha Kai's Mahaiula Beach, and find the rocky path near the clump of palm trees. Then, take another twenty minutes to hike across the lava to reach the beach.
Alternatively, access exists from Kua Bay to the northeast, but this route requires more precise directions. You may need to ask some locals for some tips if you choose this course. Keep an eye out for goats and chickens that roam along the path.


Amenities at Makalawena Beach

No amenities, lifeguards, or trash services exist at the secluded Makalawena Beach. We recommend that visitors hike in any items they may need to the beach. Beach authorities request visitors to take away anything they bring and leave nothing but footprints.


Essential Tips for a Great Visit at Makalawena Beach

Here are a few things you should know about visiting Makalawena Beach:

  • There's no shade, so bring an umbrella, hat,  or beach tent.
  • The trails through the lava fields are rocky and can be slippery. Bring water shoes or hiking sandals if you plan to do any exploring.
  • The water can be rough with currents and waves, so use caution if you intend to swim, especially since there are no lifeguards.

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Enjoyable Times at Makalawena Beach

Fun Activities to Do at Makalawena Beach

The beach is a great place to relax and have fun with friends and family. People can enjoy many fun activities at the beach:

Swimming and snorkeling: The waters at Makalawena Beach are teeming with colorful fish and coral reefs, making it an excellent place for snorkeling. The clear blue waters also provide a perfect opportunity for viewing dolphins and turtles. There is no lifeguard on duty at Makalawena Beach. Watch out for strong currents.

Bodyboarding: There isn't much surfing at Makalawena Beach because waves typically range from calm to moderate. Instead, many people opt for bodyboard or boogie board in these conditions.

Hiking: If you're looking for a more adventurous experience, hiking or trekking might be right up your alley. This is especially true if you're looking to take in the natural scenery while doing something physically active.

Lounging and sunbathing: For those who want to sit back and relax, sunbathing is always an option. The white, black lava rock makes for some fantastic pictures as you enjoy.


Nearby Attractions and Sights to the Makalawena Beach

Birdwatching at Kekaha Kai State Park: If you love nature and birdwatching, head to Opae'ula Pond in Kekaha Kai State Park before spending time at Makalawena Beach. This freshwater pond is home to Hawaii's state bird – the nene goose – and many other coastal birds. The 12-acre freshwater pond contains many opae'ula (red shrimp), a favored food for the resident feathered friends such as the endangered Hawaiian stilt. There are also over 100 native plants growing in the area that attract butterflies and other insects.

Mahaiula Beach Park: This park is located directly north of Makalawena Beach and features several picnic tables, barbeque grills, and restrooms. If you need to cool off after a day at Makalawena, this beach features a swimming area protected by breakwaters, and it's also great for snorkeling.

Kua Bay (Manini'owali): One of the most popular beaches on the Kona Coast, Kua Bay is only open from 7 AM to 6:30 PM daily. Located just south of Mahaiula Beach Park, this beautiful beach boasts towering palms and soft white sand that gently laps against turquoise waters.


Family Activities to Do at Makalawena Beach

What makes Makalawena so unique? For starters, it offers families a chance to escape the tourist crowds that often gather at other area beaches. You'll feel like you've found your private oasis as you lounge on this long stretch of white sand, swim in impossibly blue waters, and comb the sand for beautiful shells. With no hotel or resort nearby, you won't encounter any vendors hawking trinkets or find crowds of tourists. You'll have the opportunity to take in the scenery — including views of Maui and Kaho'olawe on a clear day — and enjoy time with your family, away from all the noise.

Makalawena Beach Reviews

A (based on 213 visitor reviews)

Geolocation Data

Geographic Coordinates

Latitude: 19.79216855
Longitude: -156.0295302

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beach_access Lifeguard
No, this beach is very secluded.
multiple_stop Length
Roughly 0.5 miles across; expect to hike roughly 1-2 miles for access
bathtub Facilities
None, though some exist at nearby Kekaha Kai State Park
pool Activities
Short Hikes
terrain Difficulty
Moderate hike across hot lava field; wear proper footwear
Makalawena Beach Photo Gallery
Recommended Tours Nearby
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