The big island of Hawaii (called Hawaii, Kona is the western region) is a geologically young island. For this reason there is not as much sand as some people would picture a tropical island to have. But the beaches are there.....

Hapuna Beach:
This beach is probably our most famous beach. It has been mentioned as one of the finest beaches in the nation (but locally it is not my favorite) by various travel rags. It's strong points are a well cared for park grounds and decent beginner level boogie boarding (not to mention a lot of sand). There is some snorkeling around the rocks at the ends. I went there on New Year's Day and there were probably 3000 people there (spread out, it's a big beach) but I've seen as few as a couple dozen or so in the off season. It is located roughly 30 miles north of Kailua in the Kohala region of the island.

Spencer Beach:
This beach is located just a couple miles north of Hapuna Beach near Kawaihae. Spencer Beach Park has good facilities and the beach has a more local feel. Camping is available. There is a trail off the pavilion on the south end which leads to a small nice beach about a 10 minute walk down the trail. The only time I have been there was on New Year's and there were about 30 people there, one naked- I've since heard this is one of the local nude beaches.

Waialea Bay:
Driving into Puako (south of Hapuna) you'll see Old Puako Road. It is lined by telephone poles which are numbered. At pole number 71 you will see a dirt road with a "government property, no commercial activities" sign. The pole used to be numbered 69 so the beach is commonly referred to as "Beach 69". Take the road, by auto or foot, to the beach at the end. This is one of my most favorite beaches in the picturesque category. There is a small nude beach a couple hundred yards north you may notice in the distance which is accessible by another dirt road- don't know which one as I don't frequent those, but I thought I'd mention the beach as some individuals may be offended by it's proximity (It's far enough off you won't see anything) and others may wish to seek it out. Waialea Bay has been scheduled for development as a park for a number of years, and it may happen yet some day.

The Waikoloa, Four Seasons and other resort areas have beaches:
Personally I'm not overly wild about these beaches, but I'm sure people staying there will appreciate knowing they are there.

Kua Bay and Makalawena Beach:
These beaches are accessible by 4 wheel drive roads located both north and south of a large cinder cone about half way between Kailua and Waikoloa on the makai (ocean) side of the highway. Kua Bay is a nice little beach on the north side of the cinder cone - you'll be hearing a lot more of this beach in the next few years as they begin to develop around it. Makalawena beach is a grouping of 3 nice sandy beaches on the south side of the cinder cone. If you are looking for pristine and uncrowded - this is the beach for you. This beach is another of my favorites. It's about a half mile long and often draws "crowds" of 6 to 8 during mid-week. This beach has more sand than most beaches in the area and actually has small dunes on the mauka (mountain) side. Due to the large amount of sand I won't recommend this beach for snorkeling (fish tend to be where the rocks are) close in, but it's a great beach for sunning and frolicking. It is also reachable by a 15 minute walk across the lava from the Kona Coast Park.

Kona Coast Park:
The beach here runs from ok to wow. Located a few miles north of the airport take the pothole friendly road to the end to find the ok beach. It's big and uncrowded, but it isn't the finest sand available within 5 minutes. If you want to visit the nicer beach just walk down the beach to the north and you'll find it...or... park your car at the wide spot in the road a hundred yards before the end of the road near some outhouses and take the trail to the beach. A very, very, very few of you may remember this beach from the network TV hit show "Wind over Water" featuring Bo Derick a couple of years back- it was cancelled after two weeks I believe. This is another of my favorite beaches, and it's fairly close to town. On the north end of the beach is an old house. Go up to it and look for a small trail through the bushes leading to some small brackish water ponds and the old "King's Trail" across the lava. A 15 minute walk will take you to Makalawena beach- TAKE WATER, the lava field gets you hot and thirsty.

Natural Energy Lab and Pine Trees area:
The natural energy lab (NELHA), located just south of the airport, has a beach and tidepool my sister's family (with young children) liked a lot. The beach is straight ahead of the entry road to NELHA. To the south (left at the end of the road) you'll find a very rough road to the "Pine Trees" area (popular local surfing and homeless camping spot) where there are some decent uncrowded beaches.

Kaloko/Honokohou area:
There is a small beach down a small road makai of the highway across from the Kaloko industrial district (Costo and other businesses- just north of Kailua). Not crowded and somewhat historic. On the north end of Honokohou harbor you'll find a fairly large beach area to check out.

Old Airport Park:
Yet more sand here. Not the best swimming area due to lava rock and a bit of surf, but a popular local hangout. Located at the north edge of town off Kaiwi and Makala streets. Snorkeling is ok (actually snorkeling is ok almost anywhere you can get in the water off Kona) at the bay off the north end of the old runway- may get a bit choppy in the afternoons.

There are beaches in town:
Snorkeling, swimming and boogie boarding are available - Check it out.

Whew, I'm gettin' bored of beaches and I haven't even hit a couple of my most favorites in Kona which are located south of town:
Here's the very brief synopsis of some of the beaches south of Kailua. Some day when I feel wordy I'll expand on my descriptions.

Napo'opo'o beach: Not the world's best beach since hurricane Iniki hit in '92. Used to be great, but now the "only" attractions are that it's one of the world's best places to swim with wild dolphins and it has historic significance.
Manini Beach: Not great sand, but nice view and good snorkeling.

Keei Beach: Pat's favorite, right up there for me. Nice sand, nice tidepooling and ok snorkeling, etc. Nice local feel.
Place of Refuge picnic area- Great vibrations (I say this not as the hippy type), more lava than sand. Pat and I were married there.

Ho'okena Beach: Another of my personal favorites. Great, fine gray sand, decent snorkeling, swimming and boogie boarding. Dolphins on sunny afternoons. Camping and a nice "local" feel. Some facilities available. To get there drive to Ho'okena town and you'll see a big sign pointing to the beach - now for the tricky part - the sign points down someone's driveway. Don't go down the driveway. About 50 yards past the sign there is a nice road which which goes the 3 or 4 miles down to the beach.

Pebble Beach at Kona Paradise: Not one of my favorites, but I'll mention it because there are a bunch of vacation rentals down in this area. Kona Paradise is a subdivision a few curvy miles south of Ho'okena town. Turn down into the subdivision and you'll find a road reminiscent of a cross between an alpine slalom run and San Francisco's Lombard Street. Ten minutes later you can get out of your car and let the smoke from your brake pads clear and you'll be at Pebble Beach. Some refer to this as a black sand beach, but it's more of a black gravel beach- pea sized gravel. It makes a real neat whooshing sound as the waves recede. I've only been there once so I can't tell you much about it.

Further south: Yes there's more, but they'll be a bit of a trip. I haven't been to Honomalino Bay yet, but I've heard it's a nice place. Milolii has areas to picnic and get into the water also.
South Kona Beaches and Snorkeling

City of Refuge ( Puuhomua o Honaunau )
In ancient Hawaii culture, the City of Refuge was the place were those who broke Kapu (taboo) could be pardoned ( if they reached there alive). Now a National Park, there still remains a boat launch and snorkel area outside the park border which usage is free. This area borders Kealakekua Bay,which is a Fish and Wildlife Preserve, and consequently snorkeling is excellent.
To reach the City of Refuge, take the belt highway (11) south to Honaunau. Takea right turn towards the shore at the sign for "Puuhomua o Honaunau". Followthe road past the scenic lookout and make a left turn into the National Park.Then, before reaching the entrance booth, make a right turn into the boat launcharea. Park along the road, and look north of the launch for steps in the rocks which make an fairly decent entry into the water.

Napoopoo Beach Park
Until Recently, Napoopoo had a great sandy beach. But strong winter swells have removed the sand and left it rocky. It is still suitable for great snorkeling, as Napoopoo also borders Kealakeua Bay. From here you can swim to the Captain Cook Monument, the point were natives slayedCook as he was attempting to return to the island.
To reach Napoopoo Beach Park, take the belt highway (11) south to the town ofCaptain Cook. After passing the Trail Rides on the left, look on the right forthe turnoff to Napoopoo. Follow the windy road down toward the shore, makinga right turn where straight would wind back toward the highway. At the shorethe road Tees. Take a right turn and another 100 yards brings you to the beachpark. If you were to take a left, you would follow a narrow road which goes south along the shore and eventually winds up at the City of Refuge.

Kahaluu Beach Park
Next door to the Keahou Beach Hotel, Kahaluu offers a cove protected from ocean waves for swimming and snorkeling. Generally crowded, it's still a good spot for those more ocean timid.
To reach Kahaluu Beach Park: at the intersection with stoplights on the belt highway between Kailua-Konaand Kealakekua, turn on King Kamehameha III toward the shore and follow until it intersects Alli Drive. Turn right and the beach park is visible within 100 Yards.

Disappearing Sands Beach Park
Between Kahaluu Beach Park and Kailua-Kona on Alii Drive, this beach park (also known as White Sands) is known for it's body surfing. The name comesfrom the fact the the sand disappears each winter and returns in the spring.Generally crowded, it's not a good spot for beginners.
To reach Disappearing Sands Beach Park, following the directions to get to Kahaluu Beach Park. Then continue traveling north on Alii drive for a couple of miles more till you come to the park.