Only a few miles from downtown Kailua-Kona, Wawaloli Beach Park is one of the premier family hangouts on the North Kona Coast. Its calm, shallow pools, buffered from the ocean’s might, are ideal for child waterplay. And picnics here can come enhanced by dramatic breakers and sea spray in the distance, especially fabulous to watch at sunset.
The beach park falls within the Hawaii Ocean Science & Technology Park and is managed by the Natural Energy Lab of Hawaii. It’s easily reached off Highway 19 via Makako Bay Drive, and set just past the Kona International Airport runway. (You can add plane-watching to the list of attractions here.)
You’ll find restrooms, showers, picnic tables, and grills here, but no lifeguard. That said, the waters just off this rocky shorefront tend to be pretty safe. That’s because a platform of lava-rock extends offshore, its outer ramparts taking the brunt of the big surf. This natural fortressing creates shallow, calm, sandy-floored tidepools in back of the breakers.
The depth and extent of these pools vary with the tide. Generally, there’s sufficient water in one or another of the pools for kids to wade and splash. Sometimes it’s deep enough for adults to kick back and soak. The water’s nice and sun-warmed.
Picnic tables—taking advantage of the highly limited shade offered by a smattering of trees on this dry seaboard—stand close to the tidepools. This means you can cook and hang out while keeping a watchful eye on the kiddos in the nearby water.
As anywhere on the Hawaiian coast, caution is definitely warranted when using the Wawaloli pools. Stay back from the outer edge of the lava shelf, where rogue waves—sudden, big breakers—can overwash the rocks without warning. And remember: No lifeguards here at Wawaloli Beach Park.
Speaking of waves, some fabulous surf-watching can be had at Wawaloli Beach Park at a safe distance. Kicking on the small beach, or setting up a chair on the extensive rock benches along the shore, gives you a nice view of the offshore crash and spray. This west-facing park is ideal for enjoying the sunset, too. Heavy surf pounding the outer rocks backdropped by the Pacific sun going down makes for wild beauty indeed. You’ll likely want the camera (or camera-phone) at the ready!
Locals definitely use the park, so easy to reach from Kailua-Kona, for picnicking and fishing. Nonetheless, Wawaloli Beach Park is often fairly uncrowded. Between the beach itself, the sandy backshore picnic area, and the oceanfront rocks, there’s room to spread out, too. The scenic black-rock outcrops, the friendly pools, the smoldering sunsets: This is a great place for a few hours’ leisure on North Kona’s Pacific edge!
Just north of the beach, check out the Ke Kai Ola Marine Mammal Center, a wildlife hospital and education center focused on the critically endangered Hawaiian monk seal.