Makalawena Beach is located in Kekaha Kai State Park on the west side of the Big Island. The beach park is located north of Kona and is one of the lesser known and little-visited of the white sand beaches on the island, and is well worth the hike!
Makalawena Beach is nestled in Pu’u Ali’l Bay, between Kua Bay and Mahai’ula Beach. Makalawena means ‘mischievous winds’ and legend has it that the Hawaiian wind goddess Laamaomao irritated the other gods causing them to cut off her nose. The nose is Pu’u Ku’ili – the cinder cone within the state park.
Fun fact: Kekaha Kai derives from the Hawaiian phrase ke kaha kai which means ‘the shore line’.
What to take
Your hiking gear – and sensible shoes (flip flops are not very practical on the rocky trail). Take lots of water and enough (reef-friendly) sunscreen.
How to get there
Take Hwy. 19 north of Kailua-Kona. Access to Mahaiula Bay and Makalawena Beach is between mile markers 90 and 91 on Highway 19, there is a sign on the Highway at the intersection. The lava road is rough so take care, especially if you are driving a regular car and not a 4-wheel-drive vehicle. If your car has low clearance, you may want to walk it. The end of the road is 1.5 miles from the highway entrance. Follow the road until you arrive at a locked gate on the side of the road and park there.
At the parking lot is the beginning of the first part of the trail. It’s signposted ‘Makalawena Trail”. It’s approximately a 20 minute walk from here to Mahai’ula Beach. Find the trail head to Makalawena Beach at the end of Mahai’ula Beach. Continue on from here until you come to Pu’u Ali’l Bay and Makalawena Beach. The hike is about 2 miles in total.
The white sand beach is perfect for snorkeling and boogie boarding (depending on the time of year – winter brings the better surf). Swimming is great when the water is calm, but stay out of the water if the surf is rough as there isn’t a lifeguard on duty.
The area around Makalawena Beach is an important Hawaiian site. It used to be a busy fishing village and the nearby Opaeula Pond (opaelua means red shrimp) is a national natural landmark and was used by the Hawaiians as a fishpond.
Looking for another hike? Try hiking to the top of the nearby Pu’u Ku’ili cinder cone. Continue to hike north through the park on the historic coastal trail, Ala Kahakai, which leads to Kua Bay. At the midway point hike up the cinder cone (342 feet high) for some great views of the Kona Coast. Alternatively you can drive to Kua Bay and hike south, climb the cinder cone and then walk on to Makalawena Beach.
The beach park is open daily 8am-7pm. During humpback season (November – March) Makalawena Beach can be a great place to watch the humpback whales breaching offshore.