Perhaps the very best and the most famous beach for snorkeling on the Big Island is Kahalu'u Beach Park. The variety and volume of fish found at Kahalu'u will rival any spot in Hawaii. I found this out first hand on one of my very first trips to the Big Island. I was looking for a place to swim distance one morning and was erroneously referred to this beach which was too shallow to swim without scraping knuckles on coral but when I jumped in I was immediately surrounded by all types of colorful varieties of fish from the very first moment. What makes this place such a great snorkel spot is the fact that it is sheltered significantly from the open ocean by a series of rocks around the beach's perimeter which, as story has it, were ordered to be placed there by King Kamehameha in successful attempt to create a calm swimming zone in the area. The fact that Kahalu'u is fed by thousands of gallons of fresh water each day by underground springs also has the effect of making the beach nutrient rich and an ideal place for fish and coral to live.
Because of the fabulous snorkeling found here and because of the easy access to this beach which is located in the highly populated Kona District right along Alii Drive, Kahalu'u Beach is often very crowed and often dozens and dozens of people can be seen along the surface of the water snorkeling. The same goes for the small white with black peppered lava grain sands of the beach which will fill up with beach blankets. Once again this holds true for the parking at the beach which is often filled to capacity but you can park down the street and walk to the beach when this occurs. There are nice facilities available to you here which often include a snack wagon and even a lock box you can rent to place your valuables.
One of the best features this beach has is a life guard tower, and it has two. You would likely presume that because the beach is so protected and so shallow that it would be among the safest beaches around but we were surprised to learn from a lifeguard in the area that, in his words, "Kahalu'u claims lives". This area evidently has a propensity to develop strong currents when the conditions are right, primarily in the winter months, thus making it dangerous. As was so often the mantra spoken time and again by life guards all over the island, please check in with the lifeguard on duty on the day you arrive and have him describe the prevailing ocean conditions before proceeding into the water. There may be some places safer than others and he will direct you to the best spots. I can truthfully say that I have never seen lifeguards so attentive with eyes peeled while intently observing the snorkelers and even directing snorkelers while talking through a megaphone.
Be advised that all beaches and ocean locations in Hawaii can be dangerous including this one. Be completely aware of the ocean conditions prior to entering any Hawaiian waters and it is advised that you enter the water at this location only after you consult with a lifeguard on duty. Also, all shorelines and beaches in Hawaii, including this one, can be frequented by sharks, jellyfish and other sea creatures which can provide potential harm to people entering the water.
Kikaua Point Beach is a tiny but very beautiful beach that is located about ten miles north of Kailua-Kona. Kikaua Beach is perhaps the calmest beach on the Big Island being protected from the open ocean by a series of huge boulders and rocks that provide a rim for the pond-like beach within.
La'aloa Beach Park in the town of Kailua-Kona is also referred to as Magic Sands Beach, White Sands Beach and Disappearing Sands Beach. Though its Hawaiian name has implications suggesting it is a beach of sacred nature the other three more popular names refer to the propensity of the beach to lose its sand each winter and early spring to the currents, waves and storms that extract the white sands from the shoreline portion of the beach and temporarily deposit them further out to sea exposing dangerous exposed rocks in the process.
The Old Kona Airport landing field became obsolete in the early 1970's but the one-mile landing strip still exists. This huge stretch of asphalt lies right next to the ocean just north of the city of Kailua-Kona and today serves as the gigantic parking area for the Old Kona Airport Beach.
Punalu'u Black Sand Beach is the largest black sand beach in the state. Located south of the Volcanoes National Park on the coastal Highway 11 it is a beach that is basically fairly far from populated areas and most people will decide to enjoy a quick visit when they take the southern route to visit the volcanoes if they are staying in the Kona region.
If it wasn't for the fact that Spencer Beach was located so close to Hapuna and Mauna Kea Beach, it would receive more notoriety than it does. Although it is a beautiful white sand beach with a sand bottom allowing for an easy water entry, it just lacks some of the luster and beauty associated with its nearest beach neighbor.
The Big Island often gets a pretty bad rap when it comes to beaches. Yes, it is true that it is the newest of the Hawaiian islands and as a result it has not had enough geological time pass by to jump-start the laws of physics and allow nature to work its magic on creating the type of amazing beaches that can often be found on other islands of the Hawaiian chain.