Makalawena Beach is a part of Kekaha Kai State Park which is one of the best Hawaii state parks on the Big Island.
A visit to Makalawena Beach on the Kona coast of the Big Island means…
White sand beach…
Amazing ocean color…
And lava rocks from a volcano!
…Just like Makalawena Beach’s (kind of) neighbor beach of Kua Bay.
But unlike Kua Bay, there are far less people at Makalawena Beach.
What makes this beach more of a “secret” beach on the Big Island?
It kind of requires effort for you to get to Makalawena Beach.
This isn’t THAT secret of a beach so you likely won’t have the whole beach to yourself, but it’s a white sand beach that you’ll very likely see far less people at compared to Kua Bay.
It’s also kind of long, so you’ll have spots on the beach to choose from to get you to somewhere that can feel more like your own spot.
How to get to Makalawena Beach
There are people who go to Makalawena Beach by jeep. And you do need a jeep (or another type of 4 wheel drive) if you want to drive to the beach, as it’s off-road driving on pretty rough roads.
The other way to get to Makalawena Beach is by foot! There are different ways you can hike to Makalawena Beach, and these are 2 of the ways.
Hike to Makalawena Beach from Mahiula Beach
This is the most popular way to get to Makalawena Beach, and probably the easiest when you’re getting to the beach by foot.
1. Drive to Mahaiula Beach parking lot
2. Short walk on Mahaiula Beach
3. Find the trail to Makalawena Beach
4. Walk through lava fields from Mahailua Beach to Makalawena Beach!
5. Find your beach spot at Makalawena Beach!
6. Enjoy Makalawena Beach!!
Hike to Makalawena Beach from Kua Bay via Puu Kuili hill
This is the way I went to Makalawena Beach, and this will make for a long day of walking to get back to your car.
1. Drive to Kua Bay parking lot
2. Short walk to Puu Kuili trailhead
3. Do the Puu Kuili hike to the top of the hill!
4. Walk down the other side of the Puu Kuili hill
5. Walk to Makalawena Beach!
6. Enjoy Makalawena Beach!!
Here are some ideas for your time on the Big Island!
Among the most popular things to do on the Big Island are Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Akaka Falls State Park, and Waipio Valley!
For Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the main road to drive is Chain of Craters Road and it will take you to see the best lava fields in Hawaii! Before that though (or after!) you will want to make a stop for the Thurston lava tube. You can also hike into a former lava lake by doing the Kilauea Iki Trail!
Other Big Island activities you may want to make time for are the best black sand beaches in Hawaii (including Punaluu black sand beach to see turtles maybe!) and the Papakolea green sand beach of Hawaii.
Read more for your Hawaii trip prep:
Volcanoes in Hawaii: There was a time in December 2022 that 2 volcanoes were erupting in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. This was a special occasion because even in the past few years, there was a quiet period where there was NO active lava to be seen anywhere in Hawaii. As the National Park Service says, it was the first time in nearly 40 years that TWO volcanoes were erupting in Hawaii at the same time! But what seems like nearly just like that, they stopped erupting. As it goes with volcanoes, things can change in an instant! So be sure to check National Park Service updates when your Big Island trip gets closer: What's going on with the volcanoes?
Spotted yesterday at #MaunaLoa – a lava boat rides the waves! On Dec 7, a lava boat was spotted floating down channel. Lava boats can form when portions of the cone or lava channel break away & are rafted downstream. Hot lava cools to its surface to create that smooth exterior. pic.twitter.com/D9gdoFolfq— USGS Volcanoes🌋 (@USGSVolcanoes) December 9, 2022
Here’s a bit more on hiking to Makalawena Beach!
…from Mahaiula Beach since that’s the more common way!
For pictures on hiking to Makalawena Beach from Kua Bay, see the Puu Kuili hike and the Makalawena Beach drive. The walk from Kua Bay basically combines these two, as the walk as I did it merges onto the same dirt road as the drive.
So Kekaha Kai State Park has 3 main beaches:
- Kua Bay
- Makalawena Beach
- Mahaiula Beach
That is from north to south. So Makalawena Beach is the “middle” beach.
If you’ll be hiking to Makalawena Beach from Mahaiula Beach, your hiking trail is basically a trail across lava fields.
Side note! HAWAII FLIGHT TIP for pictures of Kona’s white sand beaches from above! I got these aerial photos during my flight from Honolulu to Kona. I sat on the LEFT side of the plane. If you fly Southwest to the Big Island, be sure to see these tips for open seating so you can make sure to increase your chances of getting a window seat!
Getting to the Makalawena Beach trail
The hike to Makalawena Beach starts at Mahaiula Beach, so you’ll first get yourself to Mahaiula Beach.
There are 2 main entrances to the state park, and that’s the “Mahaiula” entrance (for – yes – Mahaiula Beach) and the “Maniniowali” entrance (for Kua Bay – also called Maniniowali Beach).
If you are coming from the south, which would be the side of Kona town (and Kona coast hotels) and the Kona airport, then you will first come across the Mahaiula entrance. If you are staying in the Waikoloa/Kohala coast area (the major resort area on the Big Island), then you will be coming from the north, and you’ll pass the first main entrance to the state park.
The road to Mahaiula Beach will first start off as a paved road, and then it’ll turn into a dirt road. It can be a bit bumpy, but normal cars are generally okay. You’ll be driving with lava fields on both sides of the road!
Then you’ll keep driving until you come to the parking lot.
From the parking lot, you’ll see a trail. This trail will lead to Mahaiula Beach.
You’re at Mahaiula Beach! I’ve seen turtles swimming here, over to the left side as you’re facing the ocean.
Once you’ve arrived at Mahaiula Beach, you’ll head off to the right (when you’re facing the ocean). It may initially look like you need to walk in the ocean to get to the other side of the bay, but there’s a small path just behind the beach.
And then, you’ll find the trail that leads to Makalawena Beach!
And then you’ll continue on through lava fields to get to the beach!
Walk across Makalawena Beach to find your perfect spot!!
What shoes to wear to Makalawena Beach
It’s very possible that you’ll see people wearing sandals and flip flops on this trail, but I think wearing proper shoes is best.
You will be walking on lava rocks, and wearing sandals means having exposed feet.
And that means that you can end up with small specks of lava rocks on the bottoms of your feet. And those small specks can be sharp!
They can also lodge into your skin making it difficult to pick out. (This can be a good reason to have tweezers in your first aid kit for Hawaii just in case!)
So for protection, consider wearing shoes to this beach!
And that’s a bit of what you might see with a hike to Makalawena Beach!
Explore more of Kekaha Kai State Park:
And see more of the best Hawaii state parks on the Big Island.
Explore more of the best hikes on the Big Island!
HAPPY SEEING A WHITE SAND BEACH ON THE BIG ISLAND AT MAKALAWENA BEACH!
See the list:
- Things to do on the Big Island (for VIEWS!)
- Things to do in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
- Things to do in Kona
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- Why wear water shoes for the beach
- Why a personal swim buoy is an essential for snorkeling and swimming in the ocean
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