If you’re looking for a seashore on the Big Island that’s safe for all-ages swimming more often than not year-round, Ohaiula Beach makes for a sturdy contender. This attractive Kohala Coast beachfront in Spencer Beach Park edges waters that are typically calm and inviting, making this a great place to bring the kids for a day by the sea.
Actually, it’s not just the fact that the nearshore waters at Ohaiula Beach are normally tranquil that make this such a family-style destination. Spencer Beach Park comes well-endowed with amenities: besides restrooms and showers, also picnic tables, grills, and pavilions. And then there are the sports facilities: volleyball, basketball, and tennis courts. So there’s a lot to do here, and plenty to occupy even easily bored teenager types.
The beachfront here also comes watched over by lifeguards on weekends and holidays—another big plus. An offshore reef and the Kawaihae Harbor help buffer the waters here from big waves and rough surf, at least most of the time. All of that adds up to one of the best places to bring young children into the sea on the Big Island. Besides simply wading and swimming, snorkeling is a popular activity here.
There’s also ample shade for just kicking back on the sand and marinating in the Kohula Coast loveliness. The views from the beachfront are mighty fine, not least come sunset. When conditions are clear, you can even pick out the far-off profile of Haleakala: the great shield volcano of East Maui, rising up on the other side of the Alenuihaha Channel.
All of these big-time pluses—and the overall accessibility—make Ohailua Beach and Spencer Beach Park very popular, especially on the weekends. In other words, expect plenty of company.
Spencer Beach Park lies below a significant Hawaiian cultural site that’s well worth checking out while you’re here: Puukohola Heiau National Historic Park. This biggest sacred war temple on the Big Island was built under the decree of Kamehameha the Great (Kamehameha I). He’d been told a temple of this kind built in tribute to the war god Kukailimoku would be auspicious in his attempts to unify the Hawaiian Islands. That ambitious goal was one Kamehameha would achieve not long thereafter, in the first decade of the 19th century. (Puukohola, by the way, means “the hill of the whale.”)
Whether to appreciate the Puukohola Heiau, sunbathe and swim, take in a world-class sunset—or, ideally, all of the above—Ohailua Beach is one of the Big Island’s top-draw seashores. Especially (but not exclusively) if you have young kids along on your Hawaiian vacation, this is definitely beachfront to steer your way to.
During the winter months, keep an eye out over the ocean on visits to Ohaiula Beach: This can be a productive place to look for the humpback whales that winter in the Hawaiian Islands. Spouts, fin slaps, and breaches often announce their magnificent presence. On a more year-round basis, you can sometimes see the knifing fins and gleaming backs of dolphins on patrol in the nearshore waters at Spencer Beach Park.