surfing wave tube

Makalawena Beach, Hawaii

This unspoiled beach is just north of Kaiula Kona, in Big Island, and is part of Kekaha Kai State Park. Uncrowded on week days, with a wonderfully soft salt-and-pepper sand, clear water and surrounded by a rugged bare lava field, this beach has no facilities, which make it perfect for raw nature lovers. At the north end of the beach, an anchialine pond attracts Hawaiian stilt (a’eo), ducks, herons, coots, sparrows, wandering tattlers and cardinals. These ponds, formed by lava depressions near the seashore, consist of a mix of salt and fresh water that seep up from the ground and are filled with the native red shrimp ʻōpaeʻula, – when not degraded – that keep algae in check and feed the birds. 


Aerial view of Makalawena beach where you can see its beautiful crescent moon shape.
Makalawena Beach, Hawaii.
Surfboards Vintage
Vintage Surfboards.

Things to know before going to Makalawena Beach

Makalawena Beach is inside Kekaha Kai State Park so park rules apply. Alcohol, pets and smoking are prohibited. The park opens daily 8am to 6:45pm. There is no drinking water, make sure you bring your own. There are no lifeguards on duty, use caution especially with kids.

Ground level view of Makalawena Beach, Hawaii, with white sand and crystal clear turquoise blue waters.
Malawena Beach, Hawaii

What to do in Makalawena Beach?

Snorkeling is possible in the first inlet when conditions are not rough – keep an eye on the rocky outcrops – with good macro life. Green turtles sometimes visit the area and the keen observer will probably spot a few octopuses, those masters of camouflage and stealth. Surfing is possible as well, especially in the winter months, check out for east-southeast winds and northwest swells. Fishing is allowed in the park, blue fins trevallies are common in the area.

Gigant wave surfing
Hawaii, Surfer.

How to get to Makalawena Beach?

Makalawena Beach is located 20 km north of Kailua-Kona. From Kona International Airport proceed north along Queen Kaahumanu Highway (Highway 19) for 6 km/3 mi and turn left onto The Kekaha Kai Beach Park access road access. The road is very rough but accessible with a 2WD car, go slow! After about 2.5 km/1.6 mi, you’ll find a car park right above Mahai’ula Beach. You might want to have a swim there before the hike to Makalawena, the trail start on the left going back 200 m/200 yards from the parking area. It goes through a lava field for around 800 m/ 0.5 mi, don’t forget to bring an umbrella, water, sun cream and food! Shoes might be a good idea too….

Close-up of white sand of Makalawena beach with deep blue water background.
Makalawena Beach.

Can you camp at Makalawena?

No. Kekaha Kai State Park has a no camping policy. The closest public camping site is at Kohanaiki County Beach Park, 10 km/6.5 mi to the south past the airport.

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