Few beaches allow both excellent conditions for snorkeling and surfing, but you can find both at Kahaluu Beach Park in the North Kona area. The clear waters throughout Kahaluu Bay offer great views of the reefs and sea life beneath for both surfers and snorkelers.
The waters off this beach have two main sections, the south end for snorkeling and the north side for surfing. A large reef protects the south end of the bay from most of the currents and waves that impact the north side. These calmer conditions and clear water make this a perfect spot for snorkeling. Some people even describe the bay as a “real-life aquarium.”
On the north end of the bay, the reef does not protect the waters as much, so the surf is higher and better for bodyboarding and surfing. In fact, this part of the bay has been a renowned surfing spot for centuries. Regardless of where you enjoy the water here, watch out for the lifeguard’s instructions and warnings on water conditions.
When visiting this beach, you’ll also find amenities to ensure visitor comforts, such as restrooms, outdoor showers, picnic tables, pavilions, free parking, a food truck, and storage locker rentals. Lifeguards also watch over the waters of the bay seven days a week.
The free parking area is not large. To park for snorkeling, choose a place closer to the restrooms. For surfing, park along the ocean side of the street further north on the road. During busier times, overflow parking, which allows better access to the north side of the bay is available on the streets across from the parking lot. You could also skip the parking by taking the Kona Trolley, biking, or walking to this beach, just five miles south of Kailua-Kona’s center.
Add these features of Kahaluu Beach Park to your itinerary:
Most of the time, the waves are generally low enough for beginners, making this one of the easier places around the island to practice surfing or to learn. You’ll find several schools at Kahaluu Bay that offer surf lessons.
Watch the waters while out surfing. Conditions can change and higher swells may develop. Occasionally, the bay sees 4-to-6-foot waves. These draw experienced surfers to the area, many of whom are locals.
Snorkeling is the biggest draw to this beach. Clear waters and a living coral reef ensure that visitors have a good view of the teeming life under the surface. Visitors have spotted sea turtles, various fish, octopi, eels, and sea urchins. Getting into the water can be difficult with the lava rocks around the bay. Wear water shoes to protect your feet as you walk over the rocks and wait to put on your snorkeling gear until you reach the sandy-bottom waters past the rocks.
Some of the best corals are in the middle of the bay, in alignment with the second lifeguard tower. Only venture to these deeper waters if you are a strong swimmer and experienced snorkeler. To the north of this tower, however, is the surfing area where you should stay away from when snorkeling. New snorkelers can still see plenty of reef life in the shallower waters to the south.
Sightseeing Historic Sites
The historic sites around Kahaluu Beach Park are something that visitors often miss, though many use them as landmarks when surfing. People have lived around this bay for more than 500 years. During the 18th and 19th centuries, royal residences were nearby, plus several temples (heiau). In fact, this area has such a rich history that Kahaluu Bay is on the National Register of Historic Places.
One of the temples in the area preserved by the county has been the Kuemanu Heiau. Today, you will see the reconstructed walls of this temple that people once visited to pray for good surf conditions. Next to the heiau is the small blue and white St. Peter’s Catholic Church. Its bright coloring makes it a good landmark for people out in the water to orient themselves to the shore.
Kahaluu Beach Park has it all – surfing, snorkeling, history, and more. You shouldn’t miss a visit to this beach when in the north part of Kona.
-Check the park’s status before visiting because it closes occasionally to allow coral spawning. Don’t touch the coral or step on it. Doing so can kill the living organisms that build the reef.
-Watch out for the strong rip current that flows outside the reef. Stay aligned with landmarks when in the surfing area of the water.
-If you forgot your snorkeling gear, rent some from the Kahaluu Bay Education Center mobile unit. Proceeds from rentals go toward the center’s works in improving education about preserving coral reefs.
-You may see locals fishing in the bay, but beach visitors cannot fish in the park.