Kua Bay in the Big Island: A scenic drive to Manini’owali Beach north of Kona (updated 2023)

The official name for this gorgeous stretch of sand at Kehaka Kai State park is Manini’owali beach but more casually Kua Bay local favorite beach everyone loves. With easy access to drive down paved roads, Kua Bay is a short drive from the Kona Airport and downtown Kailua Kona area.

What makes Kua Bay so special is the gorgeous white sandy beach and beautiful aquamarine ocean that is ringed with black lava rock edges that make it perfect for swimming, surfing and snorkeling if the waves are calmer in the early morning. There are also full public amenities and lifeguards which makes beach one of the most attractive beach areas to spend a day on the beach on the west side of the Big Island.

Kua Bay in the Big Island: A scenic drive to Manini’owali Beach

Where is Kua Bay Located?

Kua Bay, also known as Manini’owali Beach, is located on the west coast of the Big Island of Hawaii, approximately 12 miles (19 kilometers) north of Kailua-Kona. This stunning beach is renowned for its powdery white sand, crystal-clear turquoise waters, and picturesque surroundings, making it a popular destination for locals and visitors alike.

Kua Bay Maniniowali 1

Spending A fun beach day at Kua Bay aka Manini’owali Beach, Big Island

Once you drive down the scenic overlook you’ll notice immediately that Kua Bay is a striking beach surrounded with jagged black lava rock cliffs. When you climb down the 10 feet of lava rock areas into the soft sandy white beaches and aqua to deep blue ocean, it’s almost irresistible not to drop all your stuff and jump into the warm waters immediately.

Kehaka Kai State Park

As part of a chain of beaches that are part of the Kehaka Kai State Beach, Kua bay is breathtaking and worth spending as much time as you can on the beach. Kua Bay/ Manini’owali beach is part of the string of beaches at Kahaka Kai State park which includes Makalawena beach and Mahaiʻula Bay. Called by locals as Kua Bay, this is the go do destination with easy access to the beach and full facilities on location.

Best time to visit Kua Bay

Kua Bay is very popular and crowded on weekends with families and visitors to the area so coming during the week days is better with less crowds. Come early in the morning to secure a parking spot or later in the afternoon when everyone is leaving and parking is easier. Sunsets are a great time to experience the beach areas but the upper gate does close around 7pm so make sure you are aware of the time so you are not stuck inside the beach area.

kua bay manini'owalli beach

Directions on how to get to Kua Bay

With less than a 15-minute drive from Kona airport, you can get to this stunning beach or make this your last beach time before leaving the island quickly and have a fantastic time. From Highway 19, make a right at the Manini’owali entrance / Kehaka Kai State Beach (located on the left side from the West Hawaii Veterans Cemetery. Drive slowly past the roadway with very high speed bumps down the hill to the parking lot area and park off street if the small parking area is filled up.

9 reasons to visit Kua Bay now

9 reasons to visit Kua Bay now

The drive to reach Kua Bay with the dramatic coastline views and gorgeous aqua to blue ocean waters is really breathtaking. Stop along the top area to just enjoy and take a few shots and you’ll love the views from above

As part of the Kehaka Kai state park it is well maintained with lifeguards on the beach

The beach has fantastic facilities to include shower areas, restroom facilities, parking area and picnic areas with nice views of the beach areas

A gorgeous white sandy beach that is broken up into three smaller sections

Snorkeling is good along both rocky ends with the lava outcrops

Surfing and boogie boarding is popular at the beach with nice sandy bottoms

There are easy trails to take around the cliff areas with fantastic views back to the beach and coastal areas

There is a nice trail hike leading from the cinder cone at Pu’u Kuili to the next beach down from Kua Bay at Makalawena beach or some other short beach trails along the lava cliffs on the north end of the beach.

Marine life is always a good possibility with dolphins, sea turtles and even breaching whales in the winter time.

Amenities at Kua Bay

Kau Bay has full service amenities to include:

Small parking area or off street parking

Lifeguard station

Restroom and showering areas

picnic tables

More details to visiting Kua Bay

More details to visiting Kua Bay

For mor information on visiting with any beach updates or warnings, check out the official park website here.

The beach is very popular and busy on the weekends so aim to visit during the week days for less crowds and more space to find a good spot.

The beach area is exposed with no shady areas so bring your own cover from the intense sun at the beach.

Bring plenty of water and sunscreen, the beach areas are hot with the lava and beach reflecting a lot of sun rays and heat on the beach.

Winter months bring stronger waves and winds to the beach with strong waves and currents, summer months are calmer at Kua Bay.

For calmer waters visit in the morning before the winds typically pick up in the afternoon time frame

Sunsets at Kua Bay are spectacular and parking is fairly easy in the late afternoon to evening time frame, so spend some time in the late afternoon and you’ll enjoy sunsets at Kua Bay.

Sunsets at Kua Bay are spectacular

Must bring packing and essentials for the beach

You can’t go to the beach without some of these essentials to enjoying your beach time.

Cell phone water proof case – if you want to take some underwater pictures, get one of these easy and cheap water proof cases.

Ocean reef protected sunscreen – You’ll need this in Hawaii to get in the water and it’s required usage for Hawaii reefs and ocean. Get it in SPF 50 or SPF 30 here

Rash guards for water fun – a great way to protect yourself from the elements and water fun. Check out these women’s rash guards and men’s rash guards here for reference.

Cooler backpack – the perfect picnic and drinks carrier to the beach or any outdoor fun on the islands.

UFT 50 sun hat for men’s or women’s sizes – essential head protection wear at the beach and a sport look

Weather and the best time to visit Kua Bay

Kua Bay, located on the Big Island of Hawaii, generally offers beautiful weather year-round. The best time to visit depends on your preferences and the activities you have in mind.

Dry Season (October to April): This period is the most popular for tourists. You can expect pleasant temperatures, less rainfall, and calm ocean conditions. It’s an ideal time for swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing. However, it’s also the busiest season, so expect more crowds and higher accommodation prices.

Wet Season (May to September): While this season typically sees more rain, it’s still a good time to visit. The showers are often brief, and the landscape becomes lush and green. Plus, you might find lower rates for accommodations. Just be aware that the ocean can be rougher during this time, so exercise caution when swimming.

Ultimately, the best time to visit Kua Bay depends on your priorities. If you prefer drier weather and don’t mind the crowds, opt for the dry season. If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly trip and don’t mind occasional rain, the wet season can be a great option. Regardless of when you visit, Kua Bay’s natural beauty is sure to captivate you.

More reading of places to visit on the west side

An almost perfect beach at Makalawena beach

The beautiful Hapuna beach on the Kohala coast

Top things to do in Kona, Big Island

A snorkeling and cruise experience in Kona

Enjoy a beach day on a white sandy beach at Magic Sands Beach

Explore the farmers markets around Kona area now.

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Have you been to Kua Bay?

Please share your thoughts and other recommendations in the comments below with your recommendations.

Conclusion to visiting Kua Bay

In conclusion, a visit to Kua Bay on the Big Island of Hawaii is an invitation to paradise itself. With its pristine white sands, azure waters, and breathtaking coastal views, it’s a destination that captivates the senses and leaves an indelible mark on the heart. Whether you seek relaxation, water sports, or simply a day of natural beauty, Kua Bay offers it all. Soak up the Hawaiian sun, swim in the crystal-clear waters, and relish the serenity of this coastal haven. It’s a slice of Hawaiian paradise that promises memories to last a lifetime.

Thanks for visiting today and checking out this post on Kua Bay. I hope you are inspired to plan a visit and enjoy these wonderful attractions. If you enjoyed the images and post, could you please share it with any of the social media buttons located around the post.

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Noel Morata this Hawaii Life

Meet Noel Morata

Noel Morata is the creator of This Hawaii Life along with a small team of contributors. Living on the Big Island and traveling regularly to the neighbor islands, Noel and team actively search and share the latest information and updates to Hawaii travel, food, adventure and various lifestyle activities on the islands for your planning and vacation. Aloha and enjoy This Hawaii Life.