Set on the dry Kohala Coast to the south of Kawaihae, Mauumae Beach serves up lovely white sands, gentle surf, and a lot of laidback serenity. Situated between the busier Mauna Kea (Kaunaoa) Beach to the south and Spencer Beach Park to the north, Mauumae offers a quiet oceanfront respite and safe water play.
The little bay Mauumae Beach occupies is sheltered. The surf here is typically very modest, and the beach eases down to a gentle, sandy shoreface. These factors make the beach usually a very safe place to go swimming and snorkeling, including for young kids. Keep in mind, though, that there aren’t lifeguards here, so common-sense oceangoing caution is of course warranted.
No lifeguards—and no facilities whatsoever, either. Mauumae Beach is a bit out of the way, a large part of its appeal. Getting here isn’t quite so straightforward as some other Big Island beaches. You either park close by with a limited-quantity pass, or walk-in. But it’s ultimately a pretty small effort to make, either way, to partake of this little cove beach’s pleasures.
To drive most of the day to Mauumae Beach requires getting a pass from the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. Only 10 of these are available at any given time, so the earlier you can arrive, the better. If you do get a pass, you can drive a short way to the dirt parking lot and walk down a marked path to the beach.
No beach passes available at Mauna Kea Beach Hotel? Well, all is not lost. You can still reach Mauumae Beach: You just need to park at Spencer Beach Park and hoof it southward. The roughly 10-minute walk takes place on the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail. This is a remarkable 175-mile-long “Trail by the Sea” that incorporates portions of many ancient Hawaiian footpaths, including the Ala Loa (Long Trail) and many mauka-makai (mountain-to-ocean) routes. Not yet fully connected, it runs along the western and southern coasts of the Big Island, including the northernmost and southernmost tips.
That short hike on the Ala Kahakai trail brings you to Mauumae Beach. Backed by rocks with sparse tree cover, this bayfront beach is pretty on the eye and just about irresistible with its white sands. Along the back of the beach and at its south end, you’ll find some shade.
The snorkeling off Mauumae Beach isn’t necessarily extraordinary, but the calm, shallow waters make it wonderfully accessible. The points bounding the bay are most productive. Tropical fish are regular sights. You may also spot a sea turtle or two.
Speaking of sea creatures, a winter visitor to Mauumae Beach has the opportunity to see humpback whales spouting, tail-slapping, maybe even lunging, or beaching offshore.
Especially if you’ve got a pass and therefore parked nearby, bodyboarding or stand-up paddleboarding are also options in these placid waters.
If you’re looking for a quiet and kid-friendly place to sunbathe, swim, and snorkel on the Kohola Coast, under-the-radar Mauumae Beach may just be the ticket!
Not far from Mauumae Beach, the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail offers access to some of the Kohala Coast’s premier archaeological and historical attractions, including the Puuokohola Heiau and the Puako Petroglyphs.