Kekaha Kai State Park
Round Trip Mileage: As little as 0.5 mile with a 4WD vehicle, up to 4 miles.
Elevation Gain: negligible
Gear: There are no facilities of any kind at Makalawena, so plan to bring everything you'll need to visit the beach here. Pack out all trash. Bring plenty of water and don't forget the sunscreen. Both trails to Makalawena are pretty rough, so you may appreciate closed-toed shoes.
Map: Topographical Map of Makalawena Beach
Overview: Makalawena might be the best beach on the Big Island that can't be reached by road. There are several bays scooped out of the Kona Coast with gorgeous white sand and plentiful shade from palm trees. The hike out to Makalawena keeps the crowds away, especially on weekdays. Take a look at our page for Kekaha Kai State Park if you're looking for a longer hike or for other destinations in the area.
Getting to the Trailhead(s): It's possible to hike to Makalawena beach from either the north or the south:
- Trailhead #1: Take Hwy. 19 north of Kailua-Kona and Kona International Airport. The dirt road to Makalawena Beach is located just south of the paved road to Kua Bay, between mile markers 88 and 89. 2WD vehicles can park just off of the highway before the road begins to get rough. 4WD vehicles can continue for 1.6 miles of very rough road to a gate and small parking area just north of Makalawena Beach. There are no services of any kind at either parking area.
- Trailhead #2: Take Hwy. 19 north of Kailua-Kona and Kona International Airport. The rough dirt road to Mahai'ula Bay is between the 90 and 91 mile markers. The road used to be difficult for passenger cars, but recent state construction work as of April 2013 has drastically improved the road. There are restrooms and picnic tables at this trailhead. There is no water.
- From the North: (4 miles round-trip) From the 2WD parking area just off the highway indicated as Trailhead #1 on the map above, walk west on the road. Over 1.6 miles, the rough road passes a few fainter trails/roads, and then breaks southwest toward Awakee Bay. This portion of the road is really nasty (We've passed cars on foot here). Continue past the beautiful coral and lava Awakee bay and find a gate and 4WD parking area just north of Makalawena. Continue a quarter-mile to the center of Makalawena beach. The most northerly bay has a protected spot that's very calm. ʻŌpaeʻula Pond is behind Makalawena and its twelve acres are a National Natural Landmark that protect nesting and breeding areas for some native Hawaiian birds. It's surrounded by private property, so stay out.
- From the South: (2.2 miles round-trip) From Trailhead #2, hike north to Mahai'ula Bay and find a well-defined trail through an ʻaʻā lava field with big views all around. The lava field transitions into a field of huge white sand dunes covered with pōhuehue, beach morning glories. Hike through the dunes toward the back of Makalawena beach. At the northern edge of the dunes, find a short spur trail to a small brackish pond set in a stand of palm trees.