Stunning Hapuna Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches on Big Island of Hawaii

Hapuna Beach State Park, Big Island, HI: Complete 2024 Visitor Guide

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Hapuna Beach, the #1 beach in the US? Yes, as recently as 2021, Dr. Beach ranked it #1, and you’ll find it regularly on the top 10 of virtually every US beach list!

And why not? Finely powdered white sands. Calm, intense blue waters in summer, great for swimming and snorkeling. Thrilling waves in winter for boogie boarding and surfing. Stunning sunsets.

Bookended on the south by lava sea cliffs and on the north by the luxurious Westin Hapuna Beach Resort, Hapuna Beach is a roughly 1/2 mile stretch of glorious white sands, fronted by the turquoise blue waters of Hapuna Bay.

Stunning sunset colors at Hapuna Beach, Hapuna Beach State Park, Big Island, Hawaii
Stunning sunset colors at Hapuna Beach, Hapuna Beach State Park, Big Island, Hawaii

Virtually a stone’s throw from the tourist hub of Kailua-Kona, but just far enough to make it reasonably less crowded on weekdays, Hapuna Beach is excellent for a family beach day and a must-visit on the Big Island of Hawaii.

We spent several days here at Hapuna Beach while vacationing on Big Island during summer, and had a great time swimming, snorkeling, boogie boarding and relaxing on the beach!

Join us for a virtual exploration of all the things Hapuna Beach has to offer!

Snorkeling Captain Cook at Kealakekua Bay should definitely be on your Big Island itinerary: check out our guide to the best Captain Cook snorkel tours!

White sands and turquoise waters at beautiful Hapuna Beach, Big Island of Hawaii
White sands and turquoise waters at beautiful Hapuna Beach, Big Island of Hawaii

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Hapuna Beach State Park Directions

On the beautiful Kohala coast along upper northwestern Big Island, Hapuna Beach is about 30 miles north of Kailua-Kona on Highway 19.

Boogie boarders and surfers pausing to soak in a beautiful sunset at Hapuna Beach, Big Island, HI
Boogie boarders and surfers pausing to soak in a beautiful sunset at Hapuna Beach, Big Island, HI

Driving up, you will pass Waikoloa Beach and Mauna Lani Resort, and then see signs for Hapuna Beach State Park, around mile marker 70.

Take a left (makai or towards the ocean) on Hapuna Beach Road and a left on Old Puako Road. You’ll see Hapuna Beach parking lots immediately on the right.

>> Book an exciting, 5-star rated, highly popular, Big Island tour now!

Parking at Hapuna Beach State Park

You have ample paved parking at Hapuna Beach State Park, a large upper lot and a smaller lower parking lot (expand the Hapuna Beach State Park map below)

Ample parking at Hapuna Beach in the form of two large parking lots
Ample parking at Hapuna Beach in the form of two large parking lots

Parking is not free, and as of this writing is at $10 / vehicle for non-residents.

Hapuna Beach State Park Map

The Hapuna Beach State Park map below shows the location of Hapuna Beach, and the main attractions nearby.

Hapuna Beach Access

Several walkways from the parking lots lead to the pavilions and to the beach.

Hapuna Beach State Park with grass areas, picnic pavilions, and walkways to the beach
Hapuna Beach State Park with grass areas, picnic pavilions, and walkways to the beach

>> Book an exciting, 5-star rated, highly popular, Big Island tour now!

Hapuna Beach State Park Reservations and Entrance Fees

Hapuna Beach State Park needs no reservations currently. However, you will have to pay an entrance fee, currently at $5 / person for non-residents.

Children under 3 years, and Hawaiian residents (with valid ID) are free.

You can find more details here.

Camp-like lodging is available at the Hapuna Beach State Park in fairly basic A-frame shelters at $70 / A-frame, each one accommodating 4 visitors. 7-day advance reservations are required.

Camping is currently closed, please monitor this site for updates.

>> Book an exciting, 5-star rated, highly popular, Big Island tour now!

Hapuna Beach State Park Amenities / Facilities

Location: Kohala, Big Island of Hawaii
Lifeguard: Yes
Beach Amenities: Restrooms, showers, picnic tables, grass areas, walkway, shaded pavilions, camping
Food Nearby: Westin Hapuna Beach Resort
Parking: Large parking lot, $10 for non-residents
Directions: Off Highway 19 at mile marker 70, Hapuna Beach Rd, left on Old Puako Road to parking lots

Hapuna Beach State Park hours are 7:00 am to 7:30 pm, and gates close at 8:00 pm. Lifeguards are on duty during the day, typically from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm.

Beautiful Hapuna Beach, with lifeguard station in the background
Beautiful Hapuna Beach, with lifeguard station in the background

Food is available at the nearby Westin Hapuna Beach Resort on the northern end. Their Naupaka Beach Grill is more casual, but pricey.

Aerial view of Hapuna Beach and the Westin Hapuna Beach Resort, Big Island, HI
Aerial view of Hapuna Beach and the Westin Hapuna Beach Resort, Big Island, HI

There used to be a restaurant within the park, Three Frogs Cafe, which also rented beach gear. Apparently, it has shut down, and a new one is yet to open.

>> Book an exciting, 5-star rated, highly popular, Big Island tour now!

Best Things to Do at Hapuna Beach

One of the best family beaches on Big Island, Hapuna Beach is quite popular with locals and visitors, and you’ll see folks of all ages enjoying the beautiful beach and the warm ocean waters.

Family beach day at Hapuna Beach, one of the best family beaches on Big Island
Family beach day at Hapuna Beach, one of the best family beaches on Big Island

Hapuna Beach slopes gradually into the ocean and you have shallow waters for a bit, great for families with kids.

However, the sand can get quite hot, especially in the afternoon, water shoes or sandal are recommended.

Hapuna Beach can be split into two halves. The northern end is backed by the sprawling Westin Hapuna Beach Resort, and you’ll see an array of beach chairs and umbrellas (obviously meant for the guests of the resort).

The southern half is where you’ll find most of the visitors (though there is nothing to stop a visitor from walking over to the northern half).

1. Hapuna Beach Swimming

Want to cool off? In summer, when the waters are calm, Hapuna Beach is one of the best beaches on the Big Island for a refreshing dip or a swim.

Swimming in the calm ocean waters at Hapuna Beach in summer
Swimming in the calm ocean waters at Hapuna Beach in summer

Consult with the lifeguards, they are usually very informative. In any case, I wouldn’t venture too far from shore.

During high surf, more common in winter, the waves here can be rough. The waves break close to shore, and you can easily be injured.

During high surf, rip currents at Hapuna Beach are treacherous, heed the warning signs and stay out of the water.

>> Book an exciting, 5-star rated, highly popular, Big Island tour now!

2. Hapuna Beach Snorkeling

Also in summer, snorkeling at Hapuna Beach is a great option when the ocean waters are calm.

Snorkelers at Hapuna Beach's sea cliffs and lava rocks
Snorkelers at Hapuna Beach’s sea cliffs and lava rocks

We prefer the south end of the beach, near the sea cliffs or the rocky points at the north end, where you can find abundant and beautiful tropical fish like yellow tangs, convict tangs, butterflyfish and triggerfish.

To recognize and identify these and other coral fish, refer to our detailed Hawaiian Fish Snorkeling Guide.

If you head further south towards Waialea Beach, snorkeling is even better, because the area is a designated Marine Life Conservation District. Fish here are bigger and more plentiful

If you’re looking to buy travel snorkeling gear, check out our recommendations.

3. Sunbathe or Relax with a Book or Stroll along the Beach

The 1/2 mile long Hapuna Beach is large and wide, and finding a quiet spot to sunbathe or relax with a book is easy.

Secluded cove at the end of Hapuna Beach, perfect for sunbathing
Secluded cove at the end of Hapuna Beach, perfect for sunbathing

Shade is limited on the sandy beach, but the grass areas with pavilions and shade trees are plentiful.

Shaded grassy areas and walkway along Hapuna Beach, Big Island, HI
Shaded grassy areas and walkway along Hapuna Beach, Big Island, HI

I preferred a leisurely stroll along the sands with the waves lapping on my feet, or the shaded walkway when hot.

>> Book an exciting, 5-star rated, highly popular, Big Island tour now!

4. Stay Back for Spectacular Sunsets

Hapuna Beach is one of my favorite locations to watch sunsets on the Big Island of Hawaii.

You’ll see the golden orb slide gracefully below the Pacific Ocean waters, a spectacular setting adorned with warm orange and red colors.

Late evening swimmers and surfers admiring a beautiful sunset at Hapuna Beach, Big Island, HI
Late evening swimmers and surfers admiring a beautiful sunset at Hapuna Beach, Big Island, HI

Watching the sunset at Hapuna Beach is one of the most romantic things to do on Big Island, and you’ll see many honeymooning couples here on the beach.

5. Surf or Boogie Board at Hapuna Beach

In winter, or even in summer, during high surf, you’ll find a lot of experienced surfers riding the large waves.

Surfer eyeing the waves on Hapuna Beach, Big Island, HI
Surfer eyeing the waves on Hapuna Beach, Big Island, HI

The waves break close to shore, so these rough waves are best for seasoned surfers.

Most of the time though, the waves are fun-sized, large enough for thrills but not too towering to be scary!

Kids boogie boarding the waves on Hapuna Beach near sunset
Kids boogie boarding the waves on Hapuna Beach near sunset

Our kids boogie boarded these waves in summer, and there were lots of other kids riding the waves as well.

>> Book an exciting, 5-star rated, highly popular, Big Island tour now!

6. Hike the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail

The Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail is an epic, 175-mile corridor along the coast connecting culturally significant locations and ancient trails.

The Ala Kahakai Trail passes through the Hanupa Beach State Park, and you can hike a part of it along the coast. You also have the option of a 15.4 mile loop, quite a hike!

Tidepools and lava rocks off the Ala Kahakai Trail, Big Island, HI
Tidepools and lava rocks off the Ala Kahakai Trail, Big Island, HI

We hiked a portion of this historic trail, and it is among some of the best coastal trails in Hawaii. The views from the trail of the coast and the ocean were stunning.

Anachialine ponds, a fancy way of saying ponds that are connected to the nearby ocean through subterranean tunnels, are scattered along the trail, and are host to a delicate ecosystem that harbors crustaceans, mollusks and small fish.

7. View Humpback Whales (in Winter) and Other Wildlife

In winter, roughly from November to March, you can spot migrating humpback whales from Hapuna Beach or the park or the Ala Kahakai Trail.

We were lucky to see a fairly large pod when we visited in winter, with a couple of newly born calves (after all, the whales migrate here to breed), and they were stunning to watch, breaching the surface of the ocean gracefully.

Humpback whale breaching
Humpback whale breaching

Though we didn’t see any Hawaiian green sea turtles or monk seals, talking to a few locals who were watching the whales with us, we learned they are quite a common sight on the beach.

You can spot some pretty Hawaiian birds at the park and near the beach! We saw nene (Hawaiian goose), saffron finches, cardinals and a couple of parakeets!

Refer to our detailed Hawaiian birds guide to recognize and identify these pretty birds.

>> Book an exciting, 5-star rated, highly popular, Big Island tour now!

Snorkeling and Water Activities Gear Checklist

Though you can rent snorkeling gear or use the ones that come with tours, we invested in our own gear, mainly due to Covid-19 (why take the risk?).

Stunning Hapuna Beach State Park, Big Island, HI
Stunning Hapuna Beach State Park, Big Island, HI

>> Book an exciting, 5-star rated, highly popular, Big Island tour now!

Ocean Safety Tips

Hawaii’s beaches are beautiful, but ocean activities can be dangerous. Ocean conditions are dynamic and can change without warning.

Here are some tips to enjoy the ocean and beaches safely:

  • ALWAYS heed posted warning signs.
  • Check conditions just before you arrive at your chosen beach, and watch conditions at the beach for a bit before you decide to enter the water.
  • Swim at a lifeguarded beach and ask the lifeguard for advice before you enter the water.
  • Never turn your back on the ocean, whether you are standing at the shore or on a cliff above. If you see wet rocks or sand, it means the water has been here recently.
  • Know your limitations, especially if you are not an experienced swimmer. If in doubt, do not go out.
  • If you choose to enter the water, go with a partner or in a group.
  • Know that alcohol can impair judgment and motor skills in the water.
  • Keep children close and always keep your eyes on what they are doing in the water.
  • Watch for sharp coral or rocks or sea urchins.
  • Check advisories regarding water quality at various beaches here.
Heed the warning signs at Hapuna Beach, Big Island, HI
Heed the warning signs at Hapuna Beach, Big Island, HI

The Best Big Island Tours

Have you booked these top-rated Big Island tours yet?

Guided snorkeling with manta rays at night, a bucket-list underwater Big Island adventure to watch the amazing manta rays up close. Sightings guaranteed or go again.

Big Island in a Day excursion from Kona or Waikaloa, including Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Punalu’u Black Sand Beach, ‘Akaka Falls, and the Waipi’o Valley Lookout!

Snorkeling historic Kealakekua Bay, one of the top snorkel spots on the Big Island. Look for dolphins en route (plus whales in season)! Don’t want to snorkel? Take a dinner cruise instead.

Sunset and stargazing at the summit of Mauna Kea, the highest point in all of Hawaii! Travel up and down in a luxury 4X4 van. Hooded parkas and gloves provided!

Thrilling zipline adventure over KoleKole Falls, a 7-line Hilo ziplining experience that allows you to soar over lush forest vegetation and the 250-foot waterfall!

Renting a Car on the Big Island of Hawaii

Most visitors that travel to the Big Island choose to rent a car because the island is, well, BIG, and the Big Island must-see attractions are scattered around the island.

Depending on where you choose to base — Kona or Hilo are the main places visitors choose — you can pick up a rental car in either location.

We always use Discover Cars to book Kona car rentals or Hilo car rentals. They search across a variety of rental car companies, both budget and brand, to offer you the best deals, AND they offer free cancellations. Plus, there are no hidden fees.

>> Check availability and prices on Kona car rentals now!

>> Check availability and prices on Hilo car rentals now!

Where to Stay on the Big Island

Kailua-Kona, on the sunnier leeward side of the Big Island, ands Hilo, on the lush windward side, are the main bases on Hawaii Island, also known as the Big Island. Most visitors to the Big Island split their stay between these two places.

You will find the biggest choice of hotels and resorts in Kailua-Kona and Waikaloa, with both chains and boutiques, while Hilo has fewer hotels and inns.

The Westin Hapuna Beach Resort is an excellent choice if you are looking for a pristine beach out the front door. The Hilton Waikaloa Village is a great choice if you are traveling as a family.

The Mauna Lani on the Kohala Coast, just 40 minutes from Kailua-Kona, is a fabulous resort for a splurge. The SCP Hilo Hotel is the perfect base from which to visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

You will find VRBO listings all over the island, especially in Kailua-Kona, Hilo, and Volcano (the base for travelers spending a night or more visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park).

We have stayed in VRBO rentals in Volcano as well as in Kailua-Kona and Hilo and we’ve found the choice and quality great.

>> Look for a Big Island vacation rental on VRBO now!

Calm waters at Hapuna Beach State Park, Big Island of Hawaii
Calm waters at Hapuna Beach State Park, Big Island of Hawaii

More Big Island Travel Inspiration

Planning a trip to the Big Island of Hawaii? Also known as Hawaii Island, the Big Island is home to some spectacular scenery and lots of activities: check out the top things to do on the Big Island!

Learn about the 4 national parks on the Big Island, including Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where you may be lucky enough to catch flowing lava!

Head to the southeast part of the island to admire Punalu’u Black Sand Beach, possibly the most striking of the Big Island’s black sand beaches, and read our guide to the rare green sand beach on the Big Island!

The state parks of the Big Island protect some of the island’s best treasures. A few miles north of Hilo, you will find Akaka Falls State Park, home to the 442-foot Akaka Falls.

Also on the scenic Hamakua Coast, stop to visit the lush and beautiful Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve and Garden, with its numerous varieties of tropical plants.

On the leeward side of the island, you’ll find many beautiful beaches. Must-visit Hapuna Beach is a picture-postcard tropical beach with its long stretch of white sand.

Kauna’oa Beach, also known as Mauna Kea Beach, is another white sand beach north of Kona you have to visit. It routinely makes the top 10 beaches in the USA list!

Part of the Kekahai Kai State Park, Manini’owali Beach is yet another stunning white sand beach on the Kohala Coast just north of Kailua-Kona.

South of Kailua Kona, you’ll find arguably the best snorkeling spot in all of Hawaii at the Captain Cook Monument at Kealakekua Bay. Our guide to the best Captain Cook snorkeling tours will help you find the perfect tour for you!

Also on the South Kona Coast is Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park, one of the Big Island’s national park sites that is historically and culturally significant. And, it’s very scenic!

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Discover the complete guide to visiting the famous Hapuna Beach on the Big Island in Hawaii! Things to do at the golden sand beach, how t o get there and mire!

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