Loll in sand and sun under swaying palms, watch humpback whales dance in an exotic Kona sunset, snorkel among rainbow-colored fish on a protected reef or ride surf where the Kings of Hawai’i defined the sport a thousand years ago! Kahalu’u is the crown jewel of Kona Coast County Beach Parks. Abundant parking, disabled access, picnic tables, two shaded pavilions, two sets of public restrooms, showers and lifeguards round-out the facilities of this beautiful beach park.
Most days there is a food wagon selling sandwiches, burgers, shave ice and cold drinks at reasonable prices and a vendor renting snorkeling gear and boogy boards. This beach can be crowded on weekends, but there is always room for another snorkeler in the water.
This is the premiere snorkeling beach of the Island of Hawai’i; protected from the open sea by a jetty, the reef is also protected against commercial aquarium fishing. Thus, the snorkeling is in calm, shallow water; frequently during low tide, one can actually walk to the jetty, a couple hundred feet offshore. Also, there is an abundance of fish of an enormous variety…perhaps the best display on the island. For these two reasons, Kahalu’u is where many visitors head for their introduction to snorkeling. Dozens of Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles and a few Hawksbill Sea Turtles call this bay home, eating the limu and thrilling the snorkelers. Numerous freshwater springs and shallow water bathers make the near-shore snorkeling unpleasantly cloudy, but about 50 feet offshore the water turns crystal clear and the display of coral is nothing short of amazing. Outside the breakwater one may occasionally see deepwater species such as marlin, tuna, dolphin and small sharks. Towards the south, where the bay shallows to a series of tide pools, many species of shrimp and seaweed not commonly seen in West Hawai’i are abundant.
Northward, and outside the bay, is an excellent surf break that is for intermediate or better surfers and boogy boarders. There is a fair current north out of the bay and along the coast…swimmers caught in this current should relax and swim with the current, angling towards land…they will come to shore a few hundred yards north of Kahalu’u and be able to walk back along the road.
The breakwater predates the 15th century temple complexes in the area and is widely said to have been built by the menehune (sort of the Hawai’ian equivalent to leprechauns), but building was actually initiated to enclose the bay as a fishpond. Whether the work became beyond the powers of the Ali’i at the time to administrate or the surfing faction won-out in the battle over use of Kahalu’u Bay is not known, but the breakwater was already in disarray at the time of European contact in the 18th century.