Monday, March 5, 2012
If Hapuna Beach didn't already exist, God would have to create it. The Big Island, though larger than the other Hawaiian islands put together, has the least amount of sandy shoreline, since it is far younger than the other islands. Hapuna's half-mile-plus wide crescent of sand brings locals and tourists alike, driving up from south Kona and from the Hamakua Coast on the east side of the island. From a huge parking lot, garden paths wander down a hillside dotted with shaded picnic pavilions.
Surfers love the many-tiered shore break, and a shallow entry is great for wave-play—although bigger surf sometimes creates hazardous conditions. Beach combers can go nuts. One 2.75-mile round-trip walk goes past the Hapuna Prince Resort, along a coastal trail, and drops down to the lovely beach at the Mauna Kea. Going the other way at Hapuna, walkers can reach Waialea Beach, aka Beach 69 (no! it's nicknamed for the number on a nearby telephone pole back in the days before the state put in rest rooms and a parking lot).
Snorkeling is good-to-excellent at Beach 69. Fish seekers can also take a dip at Hapuna Stairs Beach, a tiny nook in the shoreline that is just off the trail as it leaves Hapuna on the way to Mauna Kea.
Hapuna Beach State Park is the clear choice on the Big Island for families who want to load up the cooler and haul out the sand toys for a day at the beach. Bring sun protection, since this can be a scorcher, unless you retreat to the picnic pavilions for a break. Value added: Rustic A-frame cabins are available for rent by campers—you need bedding. Though a bit funky, the cabins are ideally situated on the island and have restrooms and a large cooking pavilion on the grounds. You'll find driving directions and more photos in your Hawaii Big Island Trailblazer guide.