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Best Day Hikes on the Big Island of Hawaii

If you are heading to the Big Island and looking for some hiking trails, I have put together this guide on the Best Day Hikes on the Big Island of Hawaii, and I have also included several beaches as well.

On this journey, you’ll discover a secluded beach through lava rocks and a trip to Volcanoes National Park. A beautiful historical park, a unique black sand beach, and a beautiful white sand beach location. I can guarantee you you’ll want to add these to your list to visit on your next trip to the Big Island.

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Best Day Hikes on the Big Island of Hawaii

Makalawena Beach

To get to Makalawena Beach, you’ll have to hike a little over 2 miles (4 miles roundtrip). This beach location doesn’t have a designated road. Although there is an alternate route on the south end, you’ll need a 4-wheel drive to get past the bumpy and unpaved road.

To get to the trailhead, you must park near Mahai’ula Bay, located north of Makalawena Beach. The hike begins at a lava field, so I highly recommend good, sturdy sandals or shoes with hard rubber soles – the rocks tend to be sharp and a bit rough to scrabble through. Once you have passed the lava fields, you pass areas of the beach, and to your left, you might get to see the native monk seals. You’ll continue on to the palm trees, where you’ll see more lava rocks, but thereafter, you reach a field of white dunes. The trail is primarily sandy at this point towards the last stretch, taking you to your destination at Makalawena Beach.

If you want a visual of this hike, I recommend watching this video, which was an excellent guide in helping me plan my trip to this secluded and pristine beach. Makalawena is located in Kona, and it is one of the more secluded beaches in the area since you have to hike to see it. Once there, you can enjoy the quiet and calm of this beach. If your visit is anything like mine, you’ll see a lot of sea animals in the ocean, so just be cautious and be aware that you are swimming in clear waters that are thriving with a lot of wildlife.

The sandy part of the trail leading to Makalawena Beach

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The first view you see once you get to Makalawena Beach

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Everyday Traveling Essentials

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

Kilauea Iki Crater

This is one of the rarest and most unique national parks in the United States. Craters, volcanoes, and lava surround the park. You’ll see views of what mother nature has created and left behind over the years with all the eruptions that this part of Hawai’i experiences. There are so many hiking trails to suit your liking and interests.

One memorable hike will be the Kilauea Iki Crater; it has a variety of things to see; it begins in a luscious green forest and then expands into this vast area that is the crater itself. Along the way, you see steam vents (fumarole) coming from the rocks, many of which are stacked, and you can also feel the warmth of the rocks.

It is incredible being able to walk through the crater; this hike is about 3 miles in total. I highly recommend this trail for families with kids; I know my kids had a really cool experience seeing the steam vents and the size of the crater; overall, the trail is moderate, doable, and easy to navigate.

Kilauea Iki Crater

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Chain of Craters Road

If you are looking for a quick place to stop, check out the Chain of Craters Road, there are many places to see lava remains from previous eruptions and you can see the impact for miles which looks so beautiful along the coast. There is also the Hōlei Sea Arch, and although very beautiful, it has begun to crumble into the sea, so the main viewing area is no longer open. The new viewpoint is much farther, making it harder to see but still slightly visible. I was fortunate to be there three weeks before the main viewpoint officially closed; it felt a bit unstable and unsafe to get close by, so I can see why the viewing area has been pushed farther away now. Currently, the arch is still standing, but expect it to crumble at some point.

Chain of Craters Road

Chain of Craters Road Drive

Lava remains along the coast of Chain of Craters Road

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Hōlei Sea Arch before the viewpoint was moved farther away

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Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park

If you want to learn some history, see turtles, and do a beautiful hike, I recommend Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park. The trail I recommend is the Ala Kahakai National Historical Trail; it is about 3 miles and very scenic. You will get an immense amount of views of nature, and if you are lucky enough, you will spot the turtles lying on the rocks or in the ocean. The hike is an easy trail, and along the way, you will learn more about the Hawaiian culture and the natural history of Hawai’i. There are no entrance fees, and the park is located 3 miles north of the town of Kailua-Kona.

Toward the end of the Ala Kahakai National Historical Trail

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One of the several turtles posted on the Ala Kahakai National Historical Trail

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Punalu’u Black Sand Beach

Punalu’u Black Sand Beach is one of several black beaches located on the Big Island. This location is about 67 miles from Kailua-Kona; the drive is remarkable because you get stunning views of the coast along the way, coffee farms, and it is on the way to Volcanoes National Park (about 21 minutes before). The views are outstanding all around, and the landscapes you drive through are pristine.

This beach location is great for families, and a lifeguard is on duty for safety. Although I didn’t see too many people swimming inside the beach, it is a very popular location for tourists to visit one of the black sand beaches on the island. If you are heading to the national park, it gives you the advantage of seeing this beach along the way while on your journey to see volcanoes.

Punalu’u Black Sand Beach and several beautiful coconut palms

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The color of the sand – formed by eroded volcanic material

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Maniniʻowali Beach (Kua Bay)

North of Kona is Maniniʻowali Beach or Kua Bay. This beach is filled with beautiful white sand and coral on every corner. The white sand is super soft, and the water is so blue and warm, but the waves do get pretty strong toward sunset, time so be cautious when you are swimming. If you are looking for a great place to watch the sunset this place is so beautiful to come to, the colors of the sky radiate with lovely views making this beach look even more spectacular. There is plenty of parking but if you want to park close and walk a lot less certainly go early: my personal tip is to go near sunset, there were a lot fewer people there around that time and parking was nearly empty.

Kua Bay near sunset hour and all the coral you see on the beach

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Your Thoughts: What is your favorite place on the Big Island?

This post was about the Best Day Hikes on the Big Island of Hawaii. Have you visited any of these locations on your visit to the main island? Is there a particular beach you went to that was more extraordinarily beautiful than others you have seen? I hope you have a chance to visit Hawai’i.

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