This is a part of our 9-day Big Island Itinerary.
Thursday, December 28. Today, we wanted to get to Hapuna beach, but ended up on a completely different, yet very nice Waialea beach, a.k.a. Beach 69.
We just spent the first night at our final vacation rental home on the Big Island. We are taking it slow today, resting from active days spent on the Hilo side. When I did my research on where to stay on the western side of the Big Island, I decided we would want to be close to Hapuna beach. So we rented a cottage in the town of Puako. It is a quiet town stretched along Puako Beach road, with the houses on makai (ocean) side apparently larger, newer and better taken care of than the houses across the road. Our cottage on the mauka (mountain) side is small, decently maintained, with the shower outside in the back yard. The back yard is large and very private – a perfect place to meditate, read or even write a book.
There are many points of public beach access along the Puako Beach Drive, but no swimming beaches. Mostly old lava, mixed with few small patches of sand and pebbles, and some tide pools cover the coastline here.
From the cottage, the map showed just under 3-mile drive to Hapuna beach; all on local roads, no need to take the highway. After slow and relaxing breakfast in the back yard, we put on sunscreen, gathered beach stuff, and headed north on Puako Beach Road. We turned left onto the Old Puako Road, and quite soon saw a sign to Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area. We turned left following the sign, parked the car, paid for the parking (well, the machine was broken and didn’t give us the ticket to place on dashboard, but we did pay!), and walked towards the beach. It didn’t look like Hapuna Beach on the photos at all! The cell reception was so bad, we couldn’t load the maps on the phone, so we decided to stay here for a while and explore.
Later, when we came home, we found out that we ended up on Waialea Beach, also known as Beach 69. That name has its origins from the number on the closest utility pole.
There are many old Kiawe trees growing on the beach, which results in a row of secluded spots in between the trees, each of them providing space and shade for 2-4 families. Waialea beach is a paradise for kids, with its mix of sandy areas and rocky outcrops, tide pools, pieces of driftwood for building tepees, Kiawe trees both supporting hammocks and ropes and serving as a climbing gym.
We stopped at one of the alcoves between the trees closer to the middle of the beach. Our son went into the water with his boogie board, and little by little moved to the north (right side) of the beach, which is less protected from the ocean and has more waves.
Waialea beach has reefs off-shore, which provide some of the best snorkeling on the Big Island. Multitude of tropical fish and Green Sea Turtles (Honu) can be found a short distance from the shore. During the winter season, one can view breaching whales and dolphins. Check out Best Turtle Snorkeling Locations in Hawaii for more turtle spotting options.
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