While Hilo is typically known for verdant and lush botanical gardens, there are plenty of beaches to explore too. So get ready to enjoy snorkeling, swimming, scuba diving, beachcombing, a day out with family, and even some small-scale cliff diving! Below, you’ll find our guide to the top seven beaches on the Hilo side of Hawaii’s Big Island.

Note: Lifeguard schedules are subject to change. Check the Hawaii Ocean Safety website for the most recent info on lifeguarded beaches in Hawaii.

#1: Moku Ola / Coconut Island

Facilities: Restrooms and showers

Lifeguards: None

You’ll find this little island right in Hilo Bay, just north of the Liliuokalani Park and Gardens. It’s connected to land by a pedestrian bridge. The island has two sandy beaches, plus plenty of grass and picnic tables so you can enjoy a leisurely stay. The main attraction on Coconut Island is a small diving platform at the north end of the island. Kids (and adults!) love to launch themselves from both the 10- and 20-foot levels into the water below. If you’ve got an active crew, Coconut Island offers the perfect backdrop for an afternoon of fun.

Local Tip: Contrary to popular belief, this is not the same Coconut Island that was featured in the opening credits of Seasons 2 and 3 of Gilligan’s Island. That Coconut Island (also called Moku o Loe) is located off the coast of Oahu.

#2: Reeds Bay and Its “Ice Pond”

Facilities: Restrooms and showers

Lifeguards: None

Most of the time, when you hear the word “ice” tossed around in the Hawaiian Islands, it’s in reference to shave ice or cocktails. However, the waters of the “Ice Pond” at Reeds Bay—which are fed by an underground spring—are chilly enough to have earned its frosty moniker. On a particularly hot day in Hilo, this might be the most refreshing spot on the windward side. Additionally, the rest of the bay offers calm waters perfect for paddleboarding.

#3: Keaukaha Beach Park

Facilities: Restrooms and showers

Lifeguards: None

Although there’s not a lot of sand on this beach, Keaukaha is a rewarding snorkeling spot that’s convenient to downtown Hilo. There’s also a grassy picnic area, as well as facilities for rinsing off the salt water once you’re done exploring the reef. (Keep an eye out for honu, the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle!) Because the shoreline is rocky here, you may want to bring a pair of water shoes to help you navigate your water entry and exit.

#4: Onekahakaha Beach Park

Facilities: Restrooms and showers

Lifeguards: Seven days a week

A man-made, boulder breakwater gives this beach a shallow, protected pool for swimming. As a result, families flock to Onekahakaha so younger kids can paddle around these protected waters. There are lifeguards on duty and covered pavilions for the family day on the beach.

#5: James Kealoha Beach Park & Carlsmith Beach Park

Facilities: Showers and restrooms

Lifeguards: Seven days at Carlsmith Beach Park

They’re technically separate beach parks but sit next to each other about four miles past the Hilo post office, which is why you’ll hear this area referred to as “Four Mile.” Although Kealoha and Carlsmith don’t offer those traditional long stretches of Hawaiian white sand , they have plenty of room to enjoy a variety of activities. While you’re there, try snorkeling, paddleboarding, tidal pools, and picnicking in the grassy areas. The eastern side of the bay, closer to Carlsmith, is sheltered and calm, thanks to outcroppings of reef and lava rock. However, the western side of the bay is exposed to the ocean, offering possibilities for boogie boarding and surfing in the right conditions.

#6: Leleiwi Beach Park

Facilities: Restrooms and showers

Lifeguards: Weekends, holidays, and school breaks

The protected water at Leleiwi Beach Park is a great spot for snorkeling and great jumping-off point for shore dives if you’re a certified scuba diver. Although there’s only a small stretch of black sand, there are plenty of grassy areas and picnic pavilions so you can make an afternoon of it. While you’re there, be sure to tour the reef.

#7: Richardson Beach Park

Facilities: Restrooms and showers

Lifeguards: Seven days a week

Just east of Leleiwi, you’ll find Richardson Beach Park. The calm, protected waters are perfect for beginner snorkelers. You’ll often spot turtles here, and kids and adults alike enjoy exploring the surrounding tide pools. If you head to Richardson for the day, make sure you check out the sand, which is a mixture of black volcanic sand and green olivine crystals. Although the olivine concentration here is far less than you’ll see at Papakolea, it still shows off a unique color.

 

Bonus Beaches Beyond Hilo

The following beaches are a short(ish) drive away. If you’re game for a little road tripping, these beaches some unique features that make them worth the drive.

  • Pohoiki / Isaac Hale Beach Park– Kilauea’s 2018 eruption created a new black sand beach that’s quite a sight to see. Definitely a don’t-miss if you’re visiting, and if you live on the Big Island, worth a visit to take in the recent changes that Madam Pele, the goddess of Hawaii’s volcanoes, has brought to the area.
  • Papakolea Beach (The Green Sand Beach) – You’ll have to drive about two hours from downtown Hilo then hike 2.5 miles down to the beach, it’s worth doing at least once. Papakolea is famous green sand beach, which owes its color to olivine crystals from a nearby cinder code. Because the mineral is so concentrated, you’ll see a much greener cast to the sand than you would at the other beaches.
  • Punaluu Beach – Famous both for black sand and honu that often bask on shore, Punaluu is a little more than an hour’s drive from Hilo. Stroll the long beach, picnic in the shade, or take a dip in the water. Just be aware that currents can be strong in this area, so heed the warnings of the lifeguards on duty.
  • Kaimu Beach Park – Once a tiny fishing down with a small black sand beach, Kaimu was completely covered by a 1990 Kilauea eruption. Today, you can stroll the lava field and admire the young beach forming at the shoreline, as well as catch a killer sunset.

Beaching It on the Hilo Side

Even though its nickname should be a dead giveaway, a number of visitors to the Big Island are surprised by just how large it is. As your planning a visit, be sure to schedule for the drive from place to place. Considering a move to the Big Island? We have crews and warehouses on both the Kona and Hilo sides, and we’d be happy to help you make a safe, easy, and affordable move to the Orchid Isle. Just reach out for a complimentary quote to get started.

Tell us about your move!