Named after the first elected lieutenant governor of the state of Hawaii in 1963, James Kealoha Beach Park is known by the locals as “4 miles.” This nickname isn’t the result of the length of the beach. Instead, it is interestingly the exact distance to the beach from the Hilo Post Office, which is the main starting point of mileage markers in the area.
James Kealoha Beach Park is a convenient location for both local families and tourists. If you enjoy nice views, beach activities, water sports, snorkeling, sunbathing, and even a limited amount of fishing, this beach has it all. Thankfully, even when well attended as it often is, Kealoha doesn’t ever seem too crowded because it contains a great deal of open space.
Families with children prefer the eastern end of the area as the park is more sheltered leading to calmer waters. There is also a large ponded swimming area that contains a few inlets, with pockets of white sand. Behind this area of the beach, there are some trees that provide welcome shade. There is even a picnic pavilion available that is an ideal setting for taking lunch along to the beach. The eastern side of the beach is the most ideal swimming destination in the park.
The center and western areas of James Kealoha Beach Park are ideal for popular water activities like surfing, spearfishing, snorkeling, and even spearfishing. The surfing spot, which appears during times of high surf as the strong rip currents run seaward in this location, is aptly named “4 miles” based on the beloved nickname of the beach. The winter months are ideal for surfing, making this a popular destination for local surfers. Snorkeling is best along with the reef areas where you can see all sorts of fish species along with beautiful coral.
Cold freshwater springs bubble up from below the surface close to the shore of James Kealoha Beach Park. This is where you are most likely to see various marine life-like sea turtles, which frequent the area. There is a stairway entry into the water, but you can also access the area via the shore.
Offshore of James Kealoha Beach Park is Scout Island. However, most maps refer to this as Mahikea Island, while other people claim this island is correctly named Peiwe. In any case, it is an island that has become a popular summer camping site for Keukaha residents. It is also a notable destination for Boy Scouts on the Big Island, which led to this destination being called Scout Island instead of its formal name in many cases. This island was ravaged by the 1946 Aleutian Island Tsunami, which shortened the island, but it still remains an interesting place to explore.
Keep in mind that the James Kealoha Beach Park can get crowded at times, especially on the weekends, though its spacious layout helps it not feel too overwhelmingly packed. The grassy parking area you will utilize to access the beach contains several barbeque grills along with the aforementioned picnic areas. There is also a shower and restrooms available, which makes this a great destination for a day of fun at the beach. In addition, there are often local shaved ice and food trucks that visit the beach park area, providing all sorts of concessions for beach guests.
Interestingly enough, the James Kealoha Beach Park was even sung about by Edith Kanakaole in her 1979 song entitled Na Pana Kaulana o Keaukaha. The lyrics are listed in their English translation below:
You walk along the seashore and see the islets.
This is Peiwe, close to Lokowaka
Called today ‘Kealoha Park’ and ‘4-Miles’
-Lifeguards are on duty at James Kealoha Beach Park.
-Parking for beach access is available via public lot off Kalanianaole Avenue. The beach itself is located at the intersection of Kalanianaole Avenue and Keaukaha Road.