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Hawaii (Big) Island
Article Source: Copyright © 2012 by Fodor’s Travel, a division of Random House Inc. All rights reserved.
Kaunaoa Beach (also known as Mauna Kea Beach) is a beautiful palm-lined golden crescent.
Towering coconut trees provide some shade and lend a touch of tropical beauty to this pretty little beach park (also called La'aloa), which may well be the Big Island's most intriguing stretch of sand. A migratory beach of sorts, it goes away in winter when waves wash away the small white-sand parcel (hence the name). In summer, the beach re-forms; you'll know you've found it when you see the body- and board surfers. Just south of Jameson's restaurant (closed at this writing), this is a popular summer hangout for young locals. Amenities: lifeguards; parking (no fee); toilets; shower. Best for: surfing.
This white-sand beach is popular with local families because of its reef-protected waters. It's probably the safest beach in West Hawaii for young children. It's also safe for swimming year-round, which makes it a reliable spot for a lazy day at the beach. There is a little shade, plus a volleyball court and pavilion, and the soft sand is perfect for sand castles. It does tend to get crowded with families and campers on weekends, and the beach can be spotted with litter. Although you won't see a lot of fish if you're snorkeling here, in winter you can usually catch sight of a breaching whale or two. The beach park lies just below Puukohola Heiau National Historic Park, site of the historic temple built by King Kamehameha the Great in 1795. Amenities: lifeguards (weekends and holidays only); parking (no fee); showers; toilets. Best for: sunset; swimming.
Safe swimming, proximity to downtown Hilo, and a freshwater-fed swimming hole, called the Ice Pond, that flows into the backwaters of Hilo Bay are the enticements of this cove. No, there really isn't ice in the swimming hole; it just feels that way on a hot sultry day. The large pond, between Hilo Seaside Hotel and Harrington's Restaurant, is a favorite of local kids who enjoy jumping into and frolicking in the chilly fresh- and saltwater mix. The water is usually calm but there is no real beach here. Amenities: parking (no fee); showers. Best for: swimming.
A great stop on a south southeast-bound trip to the volcano, this easily accessible black-sand beach is backed by low dunes, brackish ponds, and tall coco palms. The shoreline is jagged, reefed, and rocky. Most days, you'll see the stunning sight of large groups of turtles napping on the sand. Resist the urge to touch or disturb them—they're protected by federal and state law and fines for getting too close can be hefty. Removing black sand is also prohibited. Extremely strong rip currents prevail, so only experienced ocean swimmers should consider getting in the water here. Popular with locals and tour buses alike, this beach can get very busy, especially on weekends (the north parking lot is usually quieter). Shade from palm trees provides an escape from the sun, and at the northern end of the beach, near the boat ramp, lie the ruins of Kaneeleele Heiau, an old Hawaiian temple. The area was once a sugar port until the tidal wave of 1946 destroyed the buildings. Developers tried to bring a resort experience here in the early 1990s, but that has mostly failed. (You'll drive by a few abandoned resort buildings on your way to the beach.) Bring your camera and a picnic lunch. Amenities: parking (no fee); showers; toilets. Best for: walking.
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