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Parking and directions to beaches on Kohala Coast

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Parking and directions to beaches on Kohala Coast


We are visiting in a few weeks and I was hoping someone might comment on the weather in mid May, surf conditions for snorkeling and information as to where to park and what time I would need to get there to get parking at the following beaches. Does a weekend vs weekday make a difference on what time to arrive:

Mauna Kea Beach/Kauna'oo Beach

Mauna Lani Beach/Makaiwa Bay and Honokaope Bay

Waialea Bay

Kikaua Point/Kukio Bay

Any comment on the best places within these beaches to snorkel or any dangers would be appreciated. We are all good swimmers with snorkeling experience.



Big Island, Hawaii
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1. Re: Parking and directions to beaches on Kohala Coast

For all of these beaches I would avoid weekends. The exception would be Makaiwa if you are staying within the Mauna Lani. This is both because there will be fewer people and parking issues but also because it's just nice to let local families enjoy the beaches on those days with their families.

Weather is generally sunny and 80s on the Kohala Coast all year with very rare exceptions. Surf is generally flat in May although we are seeing a little late season bump on the Kohala Coast right now.

As far as the individual beaches, the only one with a consistently full parking pass system and time of day issue is Kauna'oa. You will want to get there before 9am and even then you may not get a pass. The snorkeling here is just fair but it's a beautiful beach. It is never crowded because there are so few public access spaces. The entrance is through the Mauna Kea hotel guard gate.

At Makaiwa, assuming you are not staying at the Mauna Lani, parking is never an issue. The public access lot is 3/4 of a mile from the beach and few residents want to make the walk, especially with beach gear. You can drop passengers and chairs, etc off at the gated beach club parking lot a couple hundred yards from the beach and then the driver can go back and park in the public access lot and walk. It's actually a beautiful and interesting walk through a signed historic preserve and ancient fishponds...it's just long.

Snorkeling is excellent here, it's best further out along the rocks and point to the south (on the left as you face the ocean) and even around the point, but it's good even close in, and there is an extensive reef on both sides. The beach club restaurant, Napua, is open for lunch and dinner and is good.

Honokaope has very few parking places and is an important spot for local fisherman and families. Unless you can do the walk or swim there from Makaiwa I can't in good conscious direct people to the parking. I do the swim between Makaiwa and Honokaope quite often but I am a strong, open ocean swimmer. The snorkeling between these two bays is excellent, but this should only be attempted if you have a lot of experience in open ocean conditions.

Waialea is busy but there's no parking pass system. It costs $5 and you can always find a spot somewhere even if a little hike away. Snorkeling is also best here out at the points but watch for strong currents. It's good inside too if visibility isn't too churned up.

Kikaua Point is by parking pass but it's almost never full unless there's a wedding or family event. Avoid weekends and you should be fine. Worst case you can park over on the Kukio Bay side which has no parking pass system. Confusingly enough, entrance to the Kikaua side is via the Kukio resort, entrance to the Kukio Bay side is via the Four Seasons resort. You can walk the beach between Kikaua Point and Kukio Bay but don't miss the walk behind the beach, which skirts the beautiful fishponds. There are many endangered and endemic bird species around these ponds and wetlands behind Kukio Bay.

Snorkeling in Kukio Bay isn't good but there are lots of turtles. Keep your distance and watch for them on the beach as they just look like big rocks.

At Kikaua Point, if the tide is up the snorkeling beyond the sea arch is quite good but very shallow and with large, packed in pristine coral formations, so no fins, and you'll need good buoyancy control and don't go with more than one or two people at a time so you can maneuver easily. The tidepools around here also often have interesting sea life. The snorkeling in the bay whose name always escapes me just to the south of Kikaua and adjacent to the parking lot (no beach, just lava rock), is also quite good.

Island of Hawaii...
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2. Re: Parking and directions to beaches on Kohala Coast

See also the two Top Questions in this forum on beaches and on snorkeling. Lots of info there.

You can, if passes are gone, choose to spend too much money for lunch or a drink and eat at the hotel, which will get you parking in the lot or valet parking. However, I don't have the nerve to walk in with a bunch of beach gear. If you can keep the carry in low, it's one way to just get access to Kauna'oa, which is not a great snorkeling beach anyway. It's a beautiful walking and swimming beach. You can park there long enough to have lunch and spend an hour on the beach.

If you go to Maka'iwa after 4:30, the gate will be open and you can park there. Not prime snorkeling time, but lovely for a late afternoon dip and walk, sunset.

Kauna'oa typically has passes after 4 PM. You'd have to hit it just right to get a pass earlier after the initial batch is gone.

I second what Shea said about Honaka'ope. The parking is teeny tiny, and there are always local vehicles, unless you go shortly before sunset.

Note: the security at the 49 Black Sands will note your ID and license #, and asks for a phone # and I think a signature, IIRC.

3. Re: Parking and directions to beaches on Kohala Coast

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