When you think of Hawaii, the first thing that will probably come in mind is gorgeous sandy beaches. And with so many beaches in the Hawaiian archipelago, it would be hard for one to stand out. But Kauna’oa Bay on the Big Island somehow managed to do that.
Often considered by travel authorities as one of the best beaches in the United States, this quarter-mile-long sandy stretch is a true gem. Its crescent shape, and clear shimmering blue water are well-complemented with soft powdery white sand and palm trees. A look at Kauna’oa Bay will compel you to do nothing but relax and bask in its beauty and tranquility.
There are a couple of prominent structures on the beachfront, but the Westin Mauna Kea Beach Hotel is probably the most recognizable. Built in 1965, it is the oldest resort sitting on the Kohala Coast. Because of its long history, Westin Mauna Kea is an iconic landmark in itself. That is why, Kauna’oa Bay is also known as the Mauna Kea Beach. The resort provides the main access to Kauna’oa Bay. It has its own private beach section, but still has control over the public beach area. Aside from unrestricted access to the bay, Westin Mauna Kea offers its guests excellent amenities and facilities. That is why, most tourists who want to enjoy the beach completely, will mostly likely check into either one of these resorts.
But if you happened to be not a guest of the resorts, you can still access the beach through the public entrance. However, the Westin Mauna Kea restricts the number of non-resort guests to the beach. So if you want to be one the lucky ones who will get to spend the day in lovely Kauna’oa Bay, the key is to come early in the morning. Once here, proceed to the security office to get your free pass and map.
The Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel is a sister hotel to Westin Mauna Kea. Thus, Hapuna guests are also free to use Westin’s amenities during their visit to the bay. The nearest main town to the bay is the Kailua-Kona. If you can’t check in to any of the hotels nearby, you can find accommodation in this town, and then just drive to Kaunao’a, which is about a 40-minute drive away.
Kauna’oa Bay’s waters are surrounded by coral reefs and home to marine creatures like butterfly fish, parrotfish and even sea turtles. So, it is possible to do some nice snorkeling in the area. The best spot for snorkeling is located on the southern section of the beach along the rocky outcrops. The bay water at the southern end is generally calm and is suitable for novice swimmers and small children.
If you want to do a little bit of exploring, you may hike about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) north of the Kauna’oa Bay to reach two charming small white sand beaches: the Waiulaula Beach and the Mau’umae Beach. At night, the hotel turns on floodlights over the water. This is done to bring in plankton, and in turn attract manta rays that eat them. If you have not observed manta rays in the water before, this will be a very cool experience. You can get a nice view of these fascinating creatures at the lookout aptly named “Manta Ray Point”.