Amazing beach experience at Makalawena Beach on the Big Island

Makalawena beach and the coastal areas here are what most visitors to the island dream of visiting but never really get a chance to explore since it is on an unpaved and rugged road going slow towards the coastline. Part of the Kehaka Kai State park, Makalawena is accessible three main ways by walking or driving with a four-wheel drive on rugged terrain with big holes and rocks. The main way of getting to Makalawena Beach is hiking to Makalawena beach from Mahaiula beach to the south or through Kua Bay and the trail around the cinder cone by the ocean.

Kehakai State Park

Kehaka Kai State Park is a large undeveloped beach park area north of Kona town and incorporates Mahaiula Beach, Makalawena to the north and Maniniowali Beach or Kua bay past Makalawena. The most developed of the beaches is Kua Bay with off street parking, restrooms and showers and lifeguard stations on the beach area.

As part of Kehaka Kai State Park, Makalawena beach is the middle beach of three beaches with Kua Bay further north and Mahaiula Beach to the south. Kua Bay has a paved road and full amenities at the beach area while Mahaiula Beach has a rough gravel road with limited amenities at the beach area.

What makes Makalawena beach more appealing is that you do have to hike to the beach making it less accessible than the others but definitely worth the effort to hike the short 30 – 40 minute walk in each direction.

Makalawena Beach

Why visit Makalwena Beach?

If you’re looking for a real beach with minimal crowds, powdery white sands and gorgeous clear aqua to blue ocean and even a sweet little lagoon area to play around, then Makalawena beach hits all those sweet spots. The only thing is that it isn’t easy to get to unless you have a 4WD (take all of those big pot holes slowly) or willing to hike from either beach areas on graveled paths to this beautiful white sandy beach.

makalawena 15

Makalawena beach overview and activities

Makalawena beach is fringed with palm tree lined shoreline and ironwood trees to hike under for shade. Getting to the beach area, you’ll pass gorgeous sand dunes and land on the softest white sand and aqua to deep blue ocean that is refreshing to swim, boogey board or snorkel around the rocky parts of the beach area. You’ll be rewarded with one of the most beautiful beaches in Hawaii to spend a day on the beach area.

There is no lifeguard stations on the beach so do look at the current and tide conditions before you enter the water. Also there are no amenities and restrooms on the beach so pack everything you need including reef safe sunscreen, sun covers, water and snacks and make sure you pack everything back out since there are no garbage cans on the beach areas so please make an effort to keep it pristine.

Gorgeous white sandy beaches to beachcomb at Makalawena

Advantages to visiting Makalawena beach

  • Less crowds
  • Gorgeous white sandy beaches and azure to deep blue ocean waters
  • A nice shallow lagoon area to lounge and enjoy
  • A fun beach area to walk and beach comb
  • Fun adventure activities to do there including: snorkeling, swimming, boogey boarding, beach comb

Cons to visiting Makalawena beach

  1. Rough roads or hike to the beach
  2. No services or shelters
  3. You have long hikes to this beach from two different directions

Advantages to visiting Makalawena beach
Exploring the lagoon area of Makalawena

 How to get to Makalawena Beach from Mahaiula beach side

How to get to Makalawena Beach

There are three ways to get to the isolated and beautiful Makalawena beach on the west side of the Big Island. Two involves hiking directly from the parking areas of the beaches at Kua Bay or Mahaiula beach. The third option is driving or hiking from the main highway directly to the beach.

The third options is a very rough rock road which is extremely difficult to drive through. There are lots of pot holes and uneven surfaces and only recommended if you are very confident in your 4WHD skills. Below are the directions to take depending on the route that you choose.

Reaching the Makalawena through the Mahaiula Beach side

Reaching the Makalawena beach through the Mahaiula Beach side

The easiest route getting to Makalawena beach is from Mahaiula Beach. From the airport and driving down Hwy 19 at mile marker 90 and 91 enter the rough gravel paved road with potholes and uneven road until you hit the parking lot area by the beach.

From the parking lot area, there is a pebble trail that leads through mixed grey and white rock coastal areas and turning left into Mahaiula beach. Continue on the trails through lava rocks along the coasts and then turns inland a bit until you get to the nice stretch of white sandy beach and continues on to the protected lagoon area. This is a 2.2-mile roundtrip hike from the parking lot area through Mahaiula beach and then the pebble trail to Makalawena.

makalawena 9
Uneven gravel paths leading directly to Makalawena

Lagoon areas opening to Makalawena beach

Lagoon areas opening to Makalawena beach

Getting to Makalawena through the Kua Bay side

Getting to Makalawena beach through the Kua Bay side

Drive down Hwy 19 from Kona until you see the large cinder cone close to the ocean with a paved road to Kehaka Kai State park at Maniniowali Beach (Kua Bay). Keep driving around the cinder cone and park in the area on top before it curves down into the bay and look out for a trail area that is part of the Pu’u Kuili hike around the cinder cone. Follow that trail down the coastal route through to the lagoon inlet and then to the to the larger Makalawena beach area.

A third dangerous direct route to drive to Makalawena

A third dangerous direct route to drive to Makalawena beach

There is another direct route from the main highway to Makalawena beach between mile markers 88 and 89.2 on the dirt road that eventually turns into very rough road that’s even difficult using a 4 WHD and extremely slow going towards the ocean. If you end up walking on this road instead of driving, it is 4.4 miles roundtrip from the highway.

More details to hiking Makawena Beach

More details to visiting Makalawena Beach

Check out the main website to Kehaka Kai State Park here for more details and updates to visiting any of the three beaches in the coastal park area.

For both hikes to Makalawena, there are a lot of jagged rocks on the graveled path so you should wear sturdy shoes for the hike

THere are no amenities at Makalawena Beach. Bring your own personal effects and food. Exposed area but there is shade in the lagoon area with Ironwood trees to hide under.

As with anything on the Big Island, you do this at your own risk and make sure you empty everything inside your rental so nothing is showing that can be stolen in your car.

Makalawena beach has special meaning to native Hawaiians and is a spiritual place for them, so come with respect for the area and leave no trace.

Please bring out the garbage of what you take in and leave it in a better place. Mahalo.

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

Check out these other places to visit on the Big Island

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

A perfect day at Hapuna Beach

Green sand beach at South Point

Why Visit Volcanoes National Park now

Must visit Big Island Waterfalls

Hike to Polulu Valley and Black sand beach

Top things to do in Kona

A family friendly visit to the Big Island

Kona snorkel and cruise experience

Check out these other places to visit on the Big Island

So would you go to Makalawena beach?

It’s a great place to Makalawena, but would like to explore here? Please share in the comments section below.

Thanks for visiting today and checking out this post on Makalawena Beach. 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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  1. Karen Warren

    I am seriously thinking that I want to get to Hawaii when travel opens up again! Hopefully it won’t be too long…

    • emorata

      I think you would love visiting the island and the beautiful beaches like Makalawena here

  2. Jackie Smith

    Oh this post got the travel bugs roused again. Miss Hawaii so thanks for another armchair visit!

    • emorata

      It is definitely a fantastic place to visit at Makalawena Beach

  3. Jeff & Crystal Bryant

    While it looks like a visit to Makalawena would be difficult to navigate, the end rewards appear to be spectacular. We can picture ourselves sprawled out on the white sand beach enjoying an amazing adventure in paradise.

    • emorata

      Yes the effort to get here to Makalawena does limit a large share of visitors which then is also an attraction to visiting.

  4. Juliann

    Oh, yes. I’d definitely go to Makalawena if I could manage it. Thanks for sharing info on how difficult it is to get there. But it looks like the effort pays off. I love a secluded, natural beach. Nirvana!

    • emorata

      Yes Makalawena Beach is definitely worth the effort especially when most won’t make the effort to hike to it.

  5. Doreen Pendgracs

    I don’t need much convincing, Noel! I would love to visit Makalwena Beach as the Big Island is one of my fav places and I’ve not yet been to the Hilo side of the island. It’s on my list! 😊

    • emorata

      Yes Makalawena beach is pretty amazing as a white sand beach to enjoy a day on the Kona side

  6. b Sewana saenz

    🤙🏽Be sure to ‘bring’ ho’o’kupu (offering) and and aloha to BB; Makalawena Bobby Bliss, official caretaker of Makalawena Beach 🌴



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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.