Aiopio Beach

See the Ancient Fish Traps at Aiopio Beach
Local Expert's Rating:
4 / 5
The Bottom Line:

While the sand is a bit rougher than other beach options in Hawaii, Aiopio Beach presents a unique experience bringing the ancient world into modern times.The fish traps, which were hand-made by Hawaiians decades before served as a practical way to catch fish and sustained life on the island. Today, when you visit, you can look into the past and appreciate the historic significance of the area, all while enjoying calm waters protected by surrounding reefs. 

- The Local Expert Team

Located on the Big Island of Hawaii within the Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park, is the Aiopio Beach. This unique beach presents a great opportunity to view the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle that frequent the area. Keep your distance, though as they are highly protected, and you can get in some serious trouble if you alter their natural behavior. In fact, it’s actually illegal to touch green sea turtles as the oils from your hands stay on their shells. 

In its ancient days, Aiopio Beach was designed as a fish trap. This means that as high tide would come in, it would bring with it fish that would swim in and then essentially get caught in the trap or fish ponds that make up part of Aiopio Beach. It was akin to the ancient version of shooting fish in a barrel. 

Due to its origins, Aiopio Beach presents a calm place to swim, it is also a great place to check out tidepools and just hang out and relax, all in calm, relaxing waters. Parking to access Aiopio Beach is available at the Honokohau Marina & Small Boat Harbor. You have only to follow a short trail from the beach access sign until you arrive on the beach itself. The trail is easy to navigate and is well-preserved from its original usage.

The Aiopio Beach itself consists of just a small strip of sand that is surrounded by volcanic rock. Due to the texture of the sand, it is a good idea to pack water shoes if you plan on strolling along the coastline here. The appeal is for sure the calm waters of the beach and the off-shore reef. This creates an ideal snorkel location where the swimming is easy and the underwater views are simply amazing. 

The Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park, within which exists Aiopio Beach, was established in 1978. It is one of over 390 National Parks that make up the National Park System within the United States and one of the five National Parks that are protected by federal law on the Big Island. In ancient times, the area was a sacred land and it still presents a historical wonderland for anyone wishing to explore trails, along with freshwater springs and of course the fishponds. The area is overall fairly flat and contains well-marked and easy to traverse trails that are ideal to walk and explore historical sites, the aforementioned turtles, and of course the beach areas. 

If you are looking to relax and enjoy a day on the beach, there is a park visitor center that has all sorts of interesting information about the Kaloko-Honokohau National Park. Keep in mind that this entire area is an arid-hot desert climate. This means that it’s important to pack plenty of sunscreen and water if your goal is to hike the park trails. Official park hours are daily from 8:30 to 4:30. 

One additional notable must-see characteristic on Aiopio Beach is the Hawaiian temple (heiau), which is a thatched roof structure, provides some much-needed shade. The fish trap mentioned extensively above is formally called the Aiopio Fish Trap and it is a 1.7 acre pond located directly in front of Aiopio Beach. It features an enclosure with walls made of stone and coral that curves along the shoreline. 

While the water is noticeably calm right at the shoreline and therefore is ideal for even children to wade in, if you go past the surf break, about 200 yards north of the Honokohau Harbor’s entrance, there is an offshore reef that is known as an advanced surfing area. 

Insider Tips:
-When visiting the Kaloko Honokohau National Historical Park (where Aiopio Beach is located) you can hike to four different ahupuaa (traditional mountain to sea land divisions) along with kii pohaku (petroglyphs), and heiau (sacred temples).
-No alcohol or glass containers are allowed in the park or on the beaches.