Most people don’t know about Mahai’ula Beach, and it’s a shame because it’s so damn gorgeous!
Its is a beautiful beach that’s far less crowded than other beaches on the island. The water is clear and clean, and has an exotic vibe that will leave you feeling like you’re on another planet.
If you want to experience a secluded beach, then get yourself over to Mahai’ula Beach! You’ll be glad you did!
Mahai’ula Beach in a Nutshell
Mahai’ula Beach is part of the Kekaha Kai State Park, located on the southerly tip of Hawai’i Island. The beach is secluded with a beauteous crescent-shaped expanse of sand.
The park is virtually never crowded, making it an excellent choice for solitude seekers. It’s a perfect place for swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing.
Mahai’ula Beach is one of three beautiful Big Island beaches that make up Ke Kaha Kai State Park. The other two are Maniniowali Beach (Kua Bay) to the north and Makalawena Beach (in the middle).
If you plan on going to both Makalawena and Mahaiula, we recommend starting your day off early to give yourself enough time to enjoy both beaches. It takes about 20-30 minutes to hike to Malakawena, but keep in mind that you walk through lava fields.
Be sure to have the right shoes on, and your feet will thank you. You do not want to do this hike with flip-flops, trust me.
The water at Mahai’ula is very clear. You’ll see some coral and fish, but life’s abundance is not as diverse as at other Big Island beaches like Kealakekua Bay or Two Step Beach At Honaunau Bay.
You can also see the rock formations from an ancient Hawaiian village site, visible on a large lava plateau just south of the beach.
What is Mahai’ula Beach Like?
This scenic Big Island beach typically offers low to moderate waves and is excellent for swimming and snorkeling around its long, crescent-shaped expanse of sand.
Mahai’ula Beach History
Mahai’ula was once the site of a fishing village that dates back to the 1800s. John Kaelemakule, a fisherman who lived on the shores of Mahai’ula, helped fund the construction of the home and land along the Mahai’ula Bay.
After the death of John Kaelemakule, The Magoon family, purchased the land in 1866 and built a ranch house in the 1900s that still stands at the northern end of Mahai’ula Beach. The state purchased the land in 1993 and created the Kekaha Kai State Park.
The red-style bungalow home still stands today. This is also the pathway that leads to the Makalawena Beach hike.
The park hours are from 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM. Be sure to be out of the park by 7:00 PM.
How to Get to Mahai’ula Beach
The most popular way to get to Mahai’ula is to use the Kekaha Kai State Park entrance off Māmalahoa Highway (Route 19).
The drive to the parking lot can be very bumpy and rough due to the terrain. We rented a four-wheel-drive because we wanted to be on the safe side, and I am glad we did. We saw people drive normal-sized vehicles, and they seemed to be struggling a bit to get through the rough terrain.
In my opinion a four-wheel drive is recommended, but it can be done using a normal-sized vehicle (just go very slow over the rougher terrain and potholes).
For those concerned about the high cost of renting a 4WD, consider only renting a 4WD for 1-2 days. You can then return it for a normal-sized car once you do all the activities that require a 4WD.
Once you get to the Kekaha State Park parking lot, the beach is only a short hike thereafter.
Here is a view from the entrance of the State Park.
Mahai’ula Beach has picnic tables, restrooms, and plenty of parking. No camping or fires are allowed. There are no food facilities on-site, so bring your snacks or pack a lunch, especially if you plan on spending the entire day at the beach.
One of my favorite things about this beach is that it has shade under the trees during the morning hours. This is a big plus for those of us who prefer not to sit in the sun for extended periods.
Also, please remember to pack out your trash, as we saw some folks leave their garbage behind on the picnic tables. Mahai’ula Beach (and the entire Kekaha Kai State Park) is home to many endangered species. Please be respectful of this beautiful place.
Is Mahai’ula Beach Safe for Swimming?
As with all of Hawaii’s beaches, you should use caution when swimming due to high surf and strong currents that can occur anytime (although they last longer during the fall months).
As a reminder, there are no lifeguards on duty. Use your good judgment when swimming, and always keep a close eye on your little ones.
How to Stargaze at Kekaha Kai State Park?
The Big Island of Hawaii is a great place to stargaze due to the sometimes thin layer of light pollution from towns and cities.
Mahai’ula is located in one of the few places on Earth where you can see both the northern and southern lights (Aurora Borealis & Australis). Of special interest is that the Big Island of Hawaii is one of the very few places where you can see both displays on a nightly basis.
As a reminder, the state park’s gate closes at 7:00 PM. Be sure to move your car outside the gate if you want to stargaze close by the park. There is a section you can pull over to stargaze.
The Wrap Up
Mahai’ula Beach is a great place to go for a nice beach day. If you are looking for some seclusion, this might be the beach for you!
There are no lifeguards, but there are picnic tables and restrooms at this site. Visitors might also want to explore Makalawena Beach as its located within a 20-30 minute hike from Maha’ula.
Have fun exploring all there is to offer when visiting Hawaii! Until next time, Aloha!