There are many wondrous, enigmatic and fascinating attractions on the Big Island of Hawaii, some better known than others, many out of the way and generally off the beaten track. Tour Guide Hawaii has produced an encyclopedic collection of the most up-to-date information, presented as short GPS-cued videos, in an app downloadable to iPhone and iPod Touch that covers the entire Big Island, highlighting the popular and the uncrowded, the famous and the secluded, the adventurous and the relaxing.
Waialea Beach (Beach 69)
A perfect crescent of golden sand backed by abundant shade at the edge of the beach makes this an ideal, though little known, family beach. The beach is known locally as “Beach 69”, after the number on the telephone pole where the parking lot used to be—both pole and old parking lot are gone now, replaced by a new paved access road, parking lot and trail through the keawe breaks to the beach.
Calmer, more protected and certainly less crowded than neighboring Hapuna Beach, Waialea is the perfect romantic getaway beach. Snorkeling here is fabulous when the surf is calm. In the water just behind the rocky pinnacle that splits the beach (right where the trail emerges from the trees) and along the rocks and point to the north are amazing displays of coral and fish.
Although the turquoise waters along the beach are perfectly clear for a morning snorkel, after about 11 a.m., and on windy days, the water in the bay is a tad murkier than ideal for snorkeling, but most of the visitors to this beach don’t seem to mind. Beyond the shore murkiness, a chain of tiny islands and pinnacles leads northward to crystalline water and a long coral reef for some of the most outrageous snorkeling and shore diving anywhere in the state.
A trail over the north headland leads to a secluded (often clothing optional) cove and then onward across small beaches and headlands about a mile to Hapuna Beach. Private property is adjacent to the trail along the way; please respect their privacy, don’t litter and keep passing through to the next beach.
Although most of the shoreline waters here are relatively free of strong currents, only experienced snorkelers who are strong swimmers will want to snorkel around the north end of Waialea, past the cove and the reef, past the sea arch and on to Hapuna—a long, but rewarding swim with some of the most incredible underwater vistas available to the snorkeler in the world.
Two caveats: this beach is a particular favorite with local folks and is crowded on weekends (but then, so are MOST beaches on the Big Island); and at high tide, there is precious little beach in front of the trees.
Take the Puako Road exit from the highway and turn north toward Hapuna (just before Mile Marker 70). Before the road bends south toward the town of Puako, take the first right turn (an obvious, if narrow, road). Near Pole 71, the newly paved road and parking lot indicate the County Beach Park and the start of the short trail to the beach. Restrooms, picnic tables, water and showers round out the facilities. There are no lifeguards.
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All media copyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan. All rights reserved.