Kahauloa Bay

Closet Alternative Access to Kealakekua Bay, Kahauloa Bay
Local Expert's Rating:
4 / 5
The Bottom Line:

Situated just south of Kealakekua Bay, Kahauloa Bay is a small, sheltered cove that is an ideal launching point for kayaks or to access nearby scuba, snorkeling sites or monuments and attractions. Access the Captain Cook moment and more by entering the waters in this docile site. 

- The HawaiianIslands.com Local Expert Team

Kahauloa Bay, just south of Kealakekua Bay, is a sheltered cove with access to the ocean. This bay, situated in Honaunau-Napoopoo, on the Big Island of Hawaii, is nestled next to a quiet residential area. There is minimal parking available, and it’s important to remain mindful of local residents and not block any driveways when accessing the beach. 

To access the bay, go through Kahauloa Road, two roads south of the intersection of Napoopoo and Puuhonua, the road after Manini Road. Kahauloa Bay is the closest alternative access to Kealakekua Bay, meaning many will enter the water here to access the Kealakekua Bay and the Captain Cook monument. However, when launching a kayak, know that Kohauloa Bay isn’t as easy to launch from as nearby Napoopoo Wharf. Aloha Kayak hosts guided tours from Napoopoo Wharf for this reason, but it is only open to guided tours and county and state officials. When it comes to scuba and snorkeling, though, Kahaulao Bay is rated as a 4-star site.

Once you launch out of Kahauloa Bay, you can access Kealakekua Bay, which is home to the famous Captain James Cook monument. Kealakekua is also the island’s #1 snorkeling spot in the entire state of Hawaii. You will likely see beautiful fish, native turtles, friendly dolphins, and the most picturesque living coral reef system imaginable. 

Speaking of the Captain Cook monument, Captain Cook was a British Sea Captain who was the first Westerner to set sight on the Hawaiian Islands in 1778. About a year later, on January 17, 1779, Captain Cook made his way to the Big Island, the aforementioned sheltered waters of Kealakekua Bay. Unfortunately for the famed Captain, his timing was awful and he landed in the middle of the annual Makahiki Festival, which is a celebration honoring the fertility god Lono. Due to his less than ideal timing, the islanders who were gathered celebrating assumed that Cook was himself the god Lono. At first, this seemed advantageous as the villagers threw a feast in his honor.

Unfortunately for Captain Cook, after he wined and dined him for a time, the people realized that he was not in fact the god they thought him to be. When he tried to leave the area, the Hawaiians took offense and a skirmish broke out between the villagers and some of his sailors. The end result was the death of the famed Captain Cook. His fellow countrymen placed a 27-foot obelisk in his memory, which can be reached via boat tour, kayak, or a four-mile hike. You can access this impactful monument by launching a kayak from Kahauloa Bay and making your way to the area. The Captain Cook monument is now a popular location for snorkeling thanks to its calm, clear conditions and the dolphins and manta rays that frequent the location. 

The waters of Kahauloa Bay are usually calm and welcoming, which is why it is a common launch point for nearby attractions. However, there are some rough days that are not ideal for launching at this site. Thankfully, this is usually only around five times of the year or so when the surf is too high or the sea simply too rough to easily launch from the bay. 

Kahauloa Bay is best utilized as a launch site to access nearby bays and monuments. It isn’t ideal for lounging and the presence of bathrooms, showers, or lifeguards are not posted. It’s also unclear if there are picnic areas or any pavilions or if there is any shade available. Therefore, it’s probably safer to assume that this is an area ideal for launching to a scuba or snorkeling site or to launch a kayak and not a location to spend the day on the beach. 

Insider Tips:
-Kahauloa Bay is located nearby to Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park where you can learn all about the cultural history of Hawaii. 
-When kayaking off the bay, make sure you wear sun protection, wear sunscreen and bring along your snorkeling gear.