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The Best Beaches in Hilo
Are you looking for the best beaches in Hilo? You’ve landed in the right place. Hilo is a city on the Big Island of Hawaii but it’s probably not the city you’ll fly into as most travelers fly into the Kona International Airport on the “Kona side” of the island.
Hilo is a local town on the east coast of the Big Island. This isn’t the type of town where you’ll find any resorts, but it’s a cute local town with lots of things to do especially if you want to see the real Hawaii.
Although Hilo isn’t known for its beaches, you might still search for the best beaches in Hilo if you’re spending a day or more on this side of the island!
Travel agent pro tip: I recommend staying in one spot on the west side of the Big Island and planning a day trip to Hilo. The accommodations on the Hilo side are generally lacking, and the locals like it that way!
You will find many of the best things to do in downtown Hilo, but you will find some beaches in Hilo too. Today, I am going to share all the best beaches in Hilo. Make sure to also check out 20 things to do in Hilo for more ideas for your day in Hilo.
Check out the 30 best beaches in Hawaii for more of the best beaches all over Hawaii.
DO I NEED A CAR ON THE BIG ISLAND?
The best way to enjoy the Big Island (and get to Hilo) is by car. In fact, it’s a must on the Big Island because you’ll want to explore.
Trust me; you’re going to want a car. I recommend Discount Hawaii Car Rental. You’ll find the best prices on rental cars in Hawaii. You don’t have to pay anything to reserve your car (you pay at pickup), and you can cancel at any time if you find a better deal.
Best Beaches in Hilo
Here are the best beaches in Hilo, listed in no particular order.
Are you visiting Volcanoes National Park during your Big Island vacation? I have a guide for that too! Guide to Volcanoes National Park
From the best beaches in Hilo, you can see manta rays, sea urchins, tropical fish, and green sea turtles. Depending on the time of year you visit, you may even spot whales and dolphins.
I could go on about all the marine life out in the water off the Hawaiian Islands, but instead, you should check out my guide to Hawaiian animals after you’ve read this post to learn more.
Now, let’s get to the best beaches in Hilo.
1. Carlsmith Beach Park
Carlsmith Beach Park is a favorite spot amongst the locals in Hilo. There are multiple beaches scattered throughout this park.
I recommend beginning at Keaukaha Beach. There is a small spring-fed pool there. It is the perfect spot for small children to go swimming.
There are also tide pools within this beach park. The picnic pavilions are in the grass. If you venture away from the sand, you will discover plenty of lava rocks.
This beach in Hilo offers shower facilities, as well as public restrooms. As with all beaches in Hilo and in all of Hawaii, please be respectful of the locals and wildlife. Take any trash out with you and try to leave everything better than you found it.
2. Reeds Bay Beach Park
This beach is on Hilo Bay. The water is normally cold, even in the summer months. This is due to the water flowing in from the freshwater spring. You may hear this bay referred to as Ice Pond, thanks to the chilly water.
Photo Credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Heather Goodman
This is one of the most popular beaches for fishing. I love to go here for picnic lunches or quick breaks. It is nice to look out at the water while relaxing.
3. Onekahakaha Beach Park
This is one of the white sand beaches in Hilo which is pretty rare on this side of the island! It is just down the road from Carlsmith Beach Park.
It is best to swim in the area surrounded by the human-made breakwater. There are strong currents outside the breakwater. While there are lifeguards on duty, it is still not recommended to enter the strong currents. Drownings have occurred in them.
4. James Kealoha Beach Park
This beach park is commonly called Four Mile Beach. This is the perfect place for swimming and snorkeling. However, the winter months bring amazing waves for surfing.
It is recommended you stay on the left side of this beach. The left side has more protection than the right. On the right, strong currents have been known to get rough on occasion. Please make sure to follow all precautions and never turn your back on the ocean!
5. Richardson Beach Park
Richardson’s Beach Park is also known locally as Richardson Ocean Park. This is one of the black sand beaches on the Big Island of Hawaii. It is one of the favorite beaches of the locals and tourists.
If you want to see a black sand beach but won’t be near Punalu’u, this is a great beach to check out!
A natural lava breakwater can be found to the east of this beach. When water rushes over the top of the lava, it creates natural whirlpool tubs.
Full facilities are offered on this best black sand beach in Hilo.
As you wander around this best beach in Hilo, you will discover some green sand too. This is a black-sand beach that also contains green sand areas. It is not one of the authentic green sand beaches in Hawaii.
However, it will give you an idea of what a green sand beach would look like. If you want to visit a real green sand beach, keep reading for the bonus at the end!
6. Isaac Hale Beach Park
One of the active volcanoes on the Big Island created this new black sand beach. This beach was created back in 2018. It is quite a sight and is considered a must-see when vacationing on the Big Island.
This is one of the smaller beaches in Hilo. Keep that in mind when planning your visit.
7. Moku Ola
Moku Ola is a little island inside Hilo Bay. You may also hear it called Coconut Island. To reach the island, you simply need to take a short walk over the pedestrian bridge.
Photo Credit: Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau (IHVB) / Julie Hotz
There are two sandy beaches on this island. Yet, the main attraction is the diving platform. You will find this platform near the northern end of the island.
When you are not diving into the water, you may find yourself at one of the picnic tables enjoying a snack. This is the perfect place to relax and take a break during your Hilo day trip.
8. Kahaluu Beach
This is the best beach in Hilo for surfing and snorkeling. If you prefer to surf, head over to the northern side of the bay. That is where the Ku’emanu Heiau looks out over a surf break.
You will have the chance to see many of the green sea turtles Hawaii is known for at this beach. Just remember they are protected and you must stay at least 10 feet away from them.
This is not a marine preserve area like Kealakekua Bay, but there is still plenty of marine life to see while in the water.
Bonus: Papakolea Green sand Beach
If you want to see a true green sand beach, you will need to drive about 2 hours from Hilo. This green sand beach is on the list of the best Big Island beaches. This is definitely outside of Hilo but it’s so unique that it’s worth mentioning.
It is a two-and-a-half-mile hike to this beach from the parking area. That isn’t a short hike, but it is worth it to see the sand.
Best Beaches Further from Hilo on the Big Island
There are quite a few fantastic beaches in Hilo. However, if you’re staying on the Kona side (and you likely are) you may want to visit the beautiful beaches that the Kona side of the island is famous for.
I decided to include a couple of the other beaches on the Big Island you will want to stop at if you are in the area.
If you’re looking for large, white-sand beaches, you’ll want to stick to the Kona side of Hawaii’s Big Island.
You can also check out my best beaches on the Big Island of Hawaii post where I share even more. I also have a post with where to find sea turtles on the Big Island of Hawaii if that’s a priority for you.
Mauna Kea Beach
Mauna Kea Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches on the Big Island. It is also called Kauna’oa Beach. You will find this beach on the Kona side of the island. Paying close attention to the mile markers will have you at this beach in no time. It is near Mile Marker 68 off Highway 19.
There is a parking lot, but it is small. Therefore, it is best to arrive early. This beach is directly on the ocean water. This makes it a great place for boogie boarding.
The palm trees around the beach offer some much-needed shade during the hotter days of the year. Keep in mind that Hawaii beaches are public so even if the beach is in front of a resort, there is most likely public access.
This is a popular spot to see the plankton at night once the sun goes down. The plankton then attracts manta rays. I recommend heading over to the lookout called Manta Ray Point. It is an excellent spot to see everything.
Don’t forget that in the Hawaiian language, a “W” says the “V” sound. So it’s not “mak-ah-la-WAY-na beach, it’s mak-ah-la-VAY-na beach. 🙂
Of the Big Island’s beaches, Makalawena Beach is one of the most popular. You must walk down a dirt road to reach this beach on the Kona side of the Big Island. This beach doesn’t offer easy access so keep that in mind. Most of the time, the calm waters are perfect for swimming.
The crystal clear water isn’t always calm so it is recommended to stay out of the water when it is rough.
I know that I have repeated myself over and over again, but you can never be too careful in Hawaii. Many visitors on vacation end up being hurt because they forget that Hawaii is not Disney World. You can check out how to be a better tourist in Hawaii or 10 things to know before going to Hawaii for even more tips.
Manini’owali Beach is on the west coast of the Big Island. It is a Kua Bay beach. There are plenty of volcanic rocks from old lava flows surrounding this beach. You’ll also find coconut palms on this sandy beach.
There aren’t any shallow waters at this Big Island beach. The water does get rough during the winter months. Swimming is usually safe during the summer months but always check for any warnings before entering the water.
Hapuna Beach State Park
One of the largest stretches of sand on the Big Island can be found at Hapuna Beach. This is one of the best beaches for swimming, snorkeling, and bodyboarding, and has crystal-clear water.
Food trucks can be found at this beach, so you won’t need to pack any food. Your family will have the best time at this beach, especially if you visit when the whales are migrating to the area.
The best beaches in Hilo
These are the best beaches in Hilo. I also added in a few others that are on the Kona side of the island since your resort or hotel is likely on that side of the island.
How to get to Hilo from Kona
If you’re planning a Hilo day, make sure to check out one of the best beaches in Hilo. There are multiple ways to get to Hilo, and the best way to get there depends on what you’d like to see. You can take Saddle Road for the most direct route.
However, the Hamakua Coast is beautiful and a great road trip. Just follow highway-19 all the way down the coast and you’ll end up in Hilo! If you’d like to visit Volcanoes National Park or a black sand beach along the way, head south from Kona on Highway 11 and swing all the way around.
There isn’t really a “best way to get from Kona to Hilo,” it just depends on what you’d like to see along the way. No matter which direction you take, you’ll find gorgeous views of mountains, the ocean, or lush green landscapes and waterfalls.
Although this post is about the best beaches in Hilo, I can’t let you leave without talking about Hilo’s beautiful waterfalls! You’ll have to take some time to check them out.
More Big Island Travel Tips
If you’re planning a Big Island vacation, you can also check out the 25 best things to do in Kona, the Best Happy Hours in Kona, and the best restaurants on the Big Island.
The 7 Best Things to do on the Big Island was one of the very first posts I wrote on this blog, but of course, it has been updated for 2023.
Looking for a Big Island itinerary? I have a 4-day Big Island Itinerary and a 7-day Big Island Itinerary. Speaking of itineraries, I create custom itineraries for all of my clients. You can contact me if you’re interested in working with a Hawaii Travel Agent!
50 things to do on the Big Island will help you discover even more things to do in both Hilo and Kona. If you like to hike, don’t miss the best hikes on the Big Island.
If this post was helpful and you’re thinking you might need a Hawaii travel agent to help with your trip, make sure to reach out ASAP! I only take on a select number of clients per month so contact me to see if I have availability.
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