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Kekaha Kai State Park

Kekaha Kai State Park
Kekaha Kai (Kona Coast) State Park is home to some of the most picturesque and tranquil beaches in west Hawaii. Running from south to north, Mahaiula, Makalawena and Kua Bay are sandy, blue-green water oases tucked deep within miles of lava rock.
Mahaiula and Makalawena beaches share the same state park entrance. A mile and a half down an unimproved, lava rock road treats travelers to some amazing seasonal views. During the winter months, drivers can be heading down the road, facing the water and on clear days, see the slope of Haleakala of Maui on the horizon and then turn around and see the snow-capped peak of Mauna Kea.

The first beach is Mahaiula. A popular spot for locals on weekends and holidays, this beach is divided into two sections. The first is at the southern most point of the access road and is a rockier beach with salt and pepper colored sand. This section is frequented by pole and throw net fisherman. There is an old wooden Hawaiian-style structure on the property as well as brackish ponds and plenty of shade. Since the airport is only a couple of miles away, visitors can stretch out on the sand and watch as planes fly closely overhead, making their final decent into Kona.

Further north, located near the first parking lot, is a chained off service road. Following the road less than a quarter mile leads to the second section of Mahaiula beach. Though only separated by a walkable lava rock divide, this part is tucked into the bay of the coastline. Clear water show little rocks as the waves lap up on sandy white sand, a rare treat on the shores of the Big Island. Many days, turtles use the hot sandy beach to bask in the sun and play in the secluded cove of the bay. Further down the beach sits an old abandon red house, which plays as a good marker for the path, Ala Kahakai, to the second beach and continued, for 4.5 miles will eventually lead to Kua Bay.

Instead of turning into Mahaiula beach, keep walking down the service road behind the red house and it will pick up to a coastal path, heading north past an old water tower. This trail leads beach-goers over lava rock, past more brackish ponds and through sand dunes to Makalawena beach. A solid 25 minute walk in the heat is graciously rewarded by the crystal clear waters, depending on the current and tides, inviting waves, white sandy beaches and if it’s a weekday and the off season, possibly the place to yourself. Due to its location, Makalawena, known to locals as Maks, is a popular surf spot. There are little paths along the beach that lead back into a palm tree grove where a fresh water sits surrounded by lava rock, providing an excellent organic shower. This pond is known as the Queen’s Bath.

The third beach of Kekaha Kai is a mile drive north of Mahaiula and Makalawena and used to be only accessible with a 4 Wheel Drive vehicle. Now, Kua Bay, also known as the Maniniowali section, is available to anyone, with a newly designed public road and park facilites. Kua is by far the smallest out of all the beaches but equally as beautiful with white sand and blue-green waters. It is popular with body boarders during the wintertime and on good surf days. Though, now that it is easily reachable, it has a tendency to be very crowded.

Kekaha Kai State Park provides locals and tourists with the quintessential Hawaiian beaches, palm tree lined coasts with beautiful, clear water and soft, white sand.