Surfers waiting for the big wave at Manini'owali Beach, Big Island, HI

Manini’owali Beach, Big Island, HI: Complete 2024 Visitor Guide

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Manini’owali Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches on the Big Island of Hawaii!

Expansive, panoramic views of the intense blue ocean waters. Gorgeous white sands. Maui in the distant horizon. Calm summer waters, thrilling waves in winter.

What more do you want?

Sitting on the beautiful Kona Coast, and part of the Kekaha Kai State Park, Manini’owali Beach was a hidden gem for the longest time, frequented only by savvy locals.

Stunning Manini'owali Beach on Kua Bay in the Kekaha State Park, Big Island of Hawaii
Stunning Manini’owali Beach on Kua Bay in the Kekaha State Park, Big Island of Hawaii

With the construction of the Kua Bay Access Road, a multi-million dollar project over lava rock fields, Manini’owali Beach became easily accessible, and immensely popular.

When we vacationed at Kailua-Kona, Manini’owali Beach was our most favorite family beach day hangout, and the kids just couldn’t get enough of the finely powdered white sands and warm, turquoise ocean waters.

We’ll walk you through all the things you can do at Manini’owali Beach, Big Island, and hope you’ll love it too. Spending a beach day at Manini’owali Beach is one of the best free things to do on the Big Island of Hawaii!

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!

Surfers and boogie boarders riding the waves at Manini'owali Beach, Big Island of Hawaii
Surfers and boogie boarders riding the waves at Manini’owali Beach, Big Island of Hawaii

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Manini’owali Beach Directions

Manini’owali Beach on Kua Bay, part of the Kekaha Kai State Park, is just north of Kona International Airport.

Head north on Highway 19 from Kailua-Kona for roughly 4.5 miles and take a left on Kua Bay Access Road, between mile markers 88 and 89, directly opposite the road to the West Hawaii Veterans Cemetery.

Kua Bay Access Road, winding down to Manini'owali Beach, Big Island, HI
Kua Bay Access Road, winding down to Manini’owali Beach, Big Island, HI

The access road was recently built, and made getting to Manini’owali Beach much easier than before.

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

Manini’owali Beach Parking

Ample free public parking is available at Manini’owali Beach, and even if that fills up, you can park along the long Kua Bay Access Road (please expand the Manini’owali Beach map for details).

You may want to drop off people and gear, and use the roundabout to come back and park on the other side.

Manini’owali Beach Map

The Maniniowali Beach map below shows the location of Maniniowali Beach, and the main attractions nearby.

Manini’owali Beach Access

From the parking area roundabout, head to the shower area, and there are stairs that lead down to the beach.

Manini’owali Beach Reservations

No reservations are required for Manini’owali Beach. Though the beach is part of the Kekaha Kai State Park, currently there are no entrance fees for the park.

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

Manini’owali Beach Amenities / Facilities

Location: Kailua-Kona, Big Island, HI
Lifeguard: Yes
Beach Amenities: Restrooms, showers, picnic tables
Food Nearby: Occasional food truck in the parking area
Parking: Free public parking lot, roadside parking on Kua Bay Access Road
Directions: Highway 19 north from Kailua-Kona, left on Kua Bay Access Road (between mile markers 88 and 89)

Park hours are 8:00 am to 7:00 pm. Park gates will close at 7:00 pm, so don’t get stuck.

Recently lifeguard stations were added, making this a family-friendly beach.

Outdoor showers and picnic tables under some shade at Manini'owali Beach, Big Island, HI
Outdoor showers and picnic tables under some shade at Manini’owali Beach, Big Island, HI

Each time we visited, there were 1-2 food trucks in the parking area, selling fresh fruit, drinks and snacks.

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

Best Things to Do at Manini’owali Beach

Manini’owali Beach is actually three beaches separated by lava rocks (that can be easily crossed), part of a crescent-shaped shoreline for Kua Bay.

Almost a mile long, when combined, Manini’owali Beach has stunning, finely powdered white sands, interspersed with lava rock outcroppings, jutting into the ocean.

Three white-sands beaches separated by exposed lava rocks at Manini'owali Beach, Big Island, HI
Three white-sands beaches separated by exposed lava rocks at Manini’owali Beach, Big Island, HI

The fringing underwater coral reef results in waves breaking well off shore, and provides for relatively sheltered, calm waters, especially during summer.

1. Manini’owali Beach Snorkeling

With extensive coral reefs at both ends of Manini’owali Beach, you can enjoy excellent snorkeling here, when the waters are calm, which is usually the case in summer.

Extensive coral reefs at both ends of Manini'owali Beach, Big Island, HI
Extensive coral reefs at both ends of Manini’owali Beach, Big Island, HI

Kids and beginning snorkelers can find many tidepools and smaller coves to explore.

Apart from the common and beautiful Hawaiian coral reef fish like yellow tangs, convict tangs, triggerfish and butterflyfish, we also saw very pretty wrasses and parrotfish.

To recognize and identify these reef fish, refer to our detailed Hawaiian fish snorkeling guide.

We were pleasantly surprised to see a playful pod of spinner dolphins approach us, we must have piqued their curiosity! They swam around us a few minutes, breached the surface with their characteristic spins, and then moved on.

Boy, did they make the day for our kids!

Waters at Manini’owali Beach in winter can be rough, and better for boogie boarding than snorkeling.

If you are looking to buy personal snorkeling gear instead of renting, check out these light travel-ready ones that we love to take to Hawaii!

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

2. Manini’owali Beach Swimming

The Kua Bay and the underwater coral reefs offer some protection against rough waves at Manini’owali Beach, and in summer, the waters are usually calm and excellent for a dip or swim.

The beach slopes gently into the ocean, and you have shallow waters near the shore that kids and beginning swimmers can enjoy.

Calm summer waters in the expansive, stunning Kua Bay in front of Manini'owali Beach, Big Island, HI
Calm summer waters in the expansive, stunning Kua Bay in front of Manini’owali Beach, Big Island, HI

As with most beaches in Hawaii, winter waters can be rough, and you should not risk entering the water when waves are large. Usually strong and treacherous currents are present, especially at high surf.

3. Surf and Boogie Board at Manini’owali Beach

Manini’owali Beach is a popular spot for boogie boarders and surfers, especially in winter, when the waves pick up.

With the underwater coral reefs, the waves tend to break away from shore. Watch out for the lava rocks and outcroppings.

Surfers and boogie boarders waiting for the big wave to ride, Manini'owali Beach, Big Island, HI
Surfers and boogie boarders waiting for the big wave to ride, Manini’owali Beach, Big Island, HI

Summer waves are great for beginners to perfect their skills, and enjoy some thrills riding waves.

Winter waves are more for the experienced surfers, especially since some of the waves can be towering and scary! Check with the lifeguards, and heed the posted signs.

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

4. Stay Back for Spectacular Sunsets

Haven’t seen a tropical sunset yet? Manini’owali Beach is one of the best spots on the Big Island for viewing sunsets, and when we visit, we always try to stay back till sunset.

Stunning, colorful sunset at Manini'owali Beach, one of the best sunset spots on the Big Island of Hawaii
Stunning, colorful sunset at Manini’owali Beach, one of the best sunset spots on the Big Island of Hawaii

Check the sunset time here, and make sure you allow enough time to exit the Kekaha Kai State Park before the gate closes at 7:00 pm.

5. Admire Turtles, Monk Seals, Humpback Whales, Spinner Dolphins

On our recent visits to Manini’owali Beach and the Big Island of Hawaii, we were pleasantly surprised to see the resurgence in populations of the endangered Hawaiian green sea turtles.

Hawaiian green sea turtle resting on lava rocks near Manini'owali Beach, Big Island of Hawaii
Hawaiian green sea turtle resting on lava rocks near Manini’owali Beach, Big Island of Hawaii

So much so, that pretty much every beach we visited, we had one or two sightings, either in the water while snorkeling or viewing them basking in the sun on the sandy beach or lava rocks.

Monk seals were a bit rarer, and we haven’t seen one yet on Manini’owali Beach, but locals have mentioned this is a popular spot for them. Another interesting tidbit from the locals, apparently, turtles and monk seals don’t like to be near each other.

Sightings of spinner dolphins and bottlenose dolphins are also common, with a few pods frequenting Manini’owali Beach!

Hawaiian spinner dolphin spinning out of the water
Hawaiian spinner dolphin spinning out of the water

In winter, with the expansive views of Kua Bay from the beach, you can see migrating humpback whales breaching as well!

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

6. Sunbathe or Relax with a Book on the Manini’owali Beach

With the wide, finely powdered, white sand beaches and the secluded coves nearby, Manini’owali Beach is a great option for catching some rays, or finding a quiet spot for a bit of reading.

You won’t find much shade here, unless you head to the picnic tables. Bring your beach umbrellas and don’t forget reefsafe sunscreen.

Limited shade at Manini'owali Beach, bring beach umbrellas and use reef safe sunscreen
Limited shade at Manini’owali Beach, bring beach umbrellas and use reef safe sunscreen

You can also stroll along the beaches, and explore the tidepools, lava fields and outcroppings.

7. Hike the Makalawena Beach Trail

The Makalawena Beach Trail is an interesting and relatively easy hike, taking you over lava fields and the coastline to the beautiful Makalawena Beach.

You have many options for taking this hike, we started from the trailhead off Highway 19 (just before the left turn into Kua Bay Access Road).

Haven’t seen a lava field up close? This is your opportunity to see what nature can do, and how the islands were formed!

Beautiful Makalawena Beach and lava fields on the Makalawena Beach Trail, Big Island, HI
Beautiful Makalawena Beach and lava fields on the Makalawena Beach Trail, Big Island, HI

As you hike the coastal part of Makalawena Beach Trail, you get panoramic ocean views and, in winter, you are likely to see humpback whales.

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

Other Activities near Manini’owali Beach, Big Island of Hawaii

Visit Honoua’ula Forest Reserve

The nearby Honua’ula Forest Reserve is a must if you are a birdwatcher!

A unique cloud forest on the slopes of the Hualalai volcano, reminiscent of the scenes from Jurassic Park, Honua’ula Forest offers a network of forest trails and an opportunity to cool off from the hot Kailua-Kona coast and Manini’owali Beach.

We hiked the Makuala O’oma area trails, and almost from the get-go could hear the chattering and songs of Hawaiian birds.

Spotting them was much harder, and you have to be patient, waiting for a flutter of movement in the trees above.

You can see the i’iwi, a scarlet honeycreeper, apapane, a striking red honeycreeper, and the palila, an endemic and endangered honeycreeper.

To learn more about these pretty birds, refer to our detailed Hawaiian bird guide.

Apart from pretty birds of Hawaii, you’ll also find many native Hawaiian trees here, including the ohi’a lehua, hapu’u ferns, and mamane plants.

>> 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?).

Water shoes are recommended for Manini'owali Beach, with exposed lava rocks
Water shoes are recommended for Manini’owali Beach, with exposed lava rocks

>> 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.
Be wary of sharp lava rocks and winter waves at Manini'owala Beach, Big Island, HI
Be wary of sharp lava rocks and winter waves at Manini’owala 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!

Beautiful blue waters and lava rocks at Manini'owali Beach, Big Island, HI
Beautiful blue waters and lava rocks at Manini’owali Beach, Big Island, HI

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 ultimate guide to Manini'owali Beach on the Big Island of Hawaii! This gorgeous white sand beach is located on the popular Kona Coast. What to do, plus how to visit!

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