Hookena Beach Park may be off the beaten path, but we believe it’s worth the effort to get there. Before discussing the park’s great attributes, let’s tackle the most challenging aspect: getting there.
The beach is about 45-minutes south of Kona on the western side of Hawaii. Traveling from Kona, you’ll take Highway 11 for about 20-miles past mile marker 102. Soon afterward, you’ll see the sign and entrance to Hookena Beach Park on your right.
Near the bottom of the hill, the road veers into a parking lot on your left. Visitors advise arriving early to get a good parking spot. Hookena Beach Park is popular with locals and tourists, and the parking lot will fill up.
Now that the tough part is over let’s talk about why this beach is a hidden gem!
First is the setting: it’s gorgeous. Stretching out from the parking lot is the wide salt and pepper beach. The sand gets this unique look from the countless fine bits of coral and black lava. Clear turquoise water laps the salt and pepper beach, and wrapping around to the left is the green mountainous bluff you descended by car.
The next reason this beach is worth visiting is the amenities. There is a campground offering clean and spacious sites for tents. Reservations are required and must be made 72-hours before your arrival. The rate for Hawaiians is reasonable but jumps significantly for out-of-state residents.
If you’re not camping, visiting Hookena Beach Park is free. You may use the county restroom facilities, outdoor showers, and picnic tables.
Another perk of the park is the concession stand, where you can buy ice, hot food, cold drinks, and snacks. They also rent kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, beach chairs, boogie boards, life jackets, and snorkeling gear. All proceeds go to Friends of Hookena Beach Park, a non-profit dedicated to preserving the beach.
One of the biggest draws to Hookena Beach Park is the ocean. The crescent-shaped beach with the breakwater on the right makes Hookena Beach one of the best swim and snorkel locations. To enter the water, we suggest using the left side of the beach. Here, the sandy bottom is gentle on the feet, and the water remains shallow for a reasonable distance. Not that there is not an active lifeguard, however, so use the utmost caution when swimming in the waters.
Snorkelers will want to explore the reef near the right-hand side breakwater. Nevertheless, we advise entering the water at the sandy location to the left. By doing so, you avoid destroying precious coral, falling, or landing your foot atop a sea urchin. The marine life you may see underwater is rays, sea turtles, and colorful tropical fish.
We saved the best for last: dolphins! If you love dolphins, and who doesn’t, then plan on journeying to Hookena Beach Park! Although we can’t promise you’ll see them, we also can add that your odds are better at this beach than any other. Several times a week, pods of dolphins come to Hookena Beach Park to sleep in the morning. If you are fortunate to witness this marvel of nature, do NOT dive on them or bother them. Remember, you’re in their home environment, so merely observe.
And since dolphins are curious by nature, chances are they’ll swim close to you anyway.
So there you have it! Yes, getting to Hookena Beach Park is a bit of a drive, and it could be a hassle to park, but who can put a price tag on possibly swimming with a pod of dolphins? Yeah, neither can we!
-The salt and pepper sand at Hookena Beach Park is beautiful, but the black tint makes it hot! Be sure to bring flip-flops, sandals, or water shoes.
-The dolphins usually appear on the left side of the bay near the sandy entrance. But animals are unpredictable, so locals suggest waiting to spot them before entering the water.