Honokohau Beach and Aiopio Beach are both located on the west coast of the Big Island, 3.7 miles north of Kailua-Kona Hawaii, within the Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park. Established in 1978, this National Park is one of over 390 parks across our National Park System. Having once been home to a large Hawaiian community, this sacred park is a historical wonderland. There are petroglyphs and trails to explore, Honokohau beach, Aiopio beach, and many freshwater springs and fishponds. This archaeological site is one of five National Parks on the Big Island and is protected by federal law. The area is relatively flat with well-marked trails and is a great place to take a walk, check out the historic sites and see turtles all in a 1.5 mile stretch with two nice beach areas.
If you enter the park through the southern entrance, near Honokohau Harbor, you will find Aiopio Beach. With a bit of shade, a thatched roof structure and a Hawaiian temple (heiau) along its shore, the beach is full of things to do and see. It’s protected cove is good for swimming and wading, allowing for children to play in the shallow water and tide pools. There are usually Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles lounging on this small beach, so enjoy the view but remember not to approach them as they are an endangered species.
The sand here is a rough salt and pepper mix of coral and lava rock with a lot of broken shells mixed in. Offshore reefs throughout the area act as a buffer for incoming waves and currents making the beach area calmer. However there is a surf break about 200 yards north of Honokohau Harbor’s entrance, the offshore reef has a strong break and is known as an advanced surfing area.
Aiopio Fish Trap
Directly in front of this beach, you will find an impressive historic pond designed for catching fish. It was built by ancient Hawaiians and is called the Aiopio Fish Trap. This fishtrap is a 1.7-acre pond, enclosed by a manmade stone and coral wall along the curving shoreline. The pond was designed to let in fish during high tide, then when the tide was low, the fish would become entrapped in the lava structure.
Just about a quarter mile north of Aiopio Beach is Honokohau Beach, with a pahoehoe lava shelf along the shoreline, and coarse salt and pepper sand, this beach is usually uncrowded. Honokohau Beach is also protected from strong surf by the offshore reef and beach enthusiasts can enjoy swimming and snorkeling in the calmer waters.
Aimakapa Fish Pond
Behind Honokohau Beach, you will find the Aimakapa fish pond. The ancient Hawaiian fishpond used a sluice gate to let in seawater and fish and the nearby sand dunes and a series of manmade walls to hold back the water. This area was under the rule of a chief named Aimakapa, who was known for standing on a large stone above the pond while he organized the fishermen. This stone is known as Kanaka Leo Nui or “Man with a loud voice”.
The pond has recently been undergoing some repair and reclamation work and continues to provide important habitat for many native Hawaiian waterbirds. The fishpond can be reached from Honokohau Harbor and also from the main trail at the Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park.
Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park Visitor Center
For those looking for a relaxing (and historical) day at the beach, Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park should be on your list. The park has a visitor center with interesting information about the park’s history and is a recommended stop to learn about the area. As this area is in an arid-hot desert climate, pack plenty of water and sunscreen if you plan to walk the trails.
Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park is located 4.2 miles south of the airport and 3.7 miles north of Kailua Kona. On Hwy 19, keep an eye open for the park entrance on the makai (toward the sea) side of the Highway, near mile marker 97. From here the beach is around a mile hike.
Alternatively you can park in the back parking lot at the Honokohau Harbor and walk under a quarter of a mile down a trail to the beach, but you will miss the visitor center if you go this way. However, from here you can easily enjoy a meal at the nearby Harbor House restaurant, a local hangout with good food, schooners of beer and lots of fish stories.
Only service animals allowed
No alcohol or glass containers allowed on premises