Old Kona Airport Beach Park History
In 1970, the old Kona Airport closed its doors to make way for a larger airport to support the growing number of travelers to and from the Big Island. Originally built in the 1940’s, the developers did not let the previous design go to waste. Today the old 1-mile runway now serves as a parking lot and the old terminal building, the pavilion supports a fully-equipped public beach park. After the considerably larger Kona International Airport at Keahole (KOA) was completed in 1970, the old Kona airport runway hosted drag racing on its landing strip prior to its conversion as the Kona Airport State Recreation Area in 1976.
Old Kona Airport State Recreation Area
This is a comprehensive recreational area enjoyed mostly by locals with a semi rocky shoreline, but easy beach access, plenty of parking and covered picnic tables with nice sunset views. The southern area near the old terminal is leased by the county with multiple sports fields, tennis courts, Kona Community Aquatic Center, Kekuaokalani Gymnasium and the Makaeo County Pavilion community event center. There is a nice garden on the mauka side of the parking lot with walking trails to enjoy. Because of the proximity to town, this park does tend to attract homeless individuals. The city periodically removes camps from the park and works to transition the occupants to more permanent housing, so there are times where this is more or less prominent. Kona is also providing emergency housing at this location during the Covid 19 crisis.
Old Kona Airport Beach
With the beach exposed to high surf, it can be a hotspot for skilled local surfers. The beach itself has a lava rock entry, with several sandy inlet channels at its calmer, southern end allowing access for swimmers. With the frontage of the park comprised of sharp coral and lava rocks, use caution when entering the ocean. Rough waves and currents are common along the shoreline during summer and winter swells. The real benefit here is that it’s close to Kona town and a great place to watch sunset, so you can easily grab a bite of food and have a nice evening picnic here while watching the sun go down.
There’s good scuba diving offshore of Old Kona Airport Beach for the more advanced diver. Entry and exit are the most difficult part of diving here, and can be dangerous if there’s a swell. A decent entry point is located at the south end of the beach park, near the hockey rink and another at the north end of the runway down a short trail. Numerous low contour lava fingers extend offshore to depths up to 50 feet. Beyond this depth, the bottom drops off quickly into deep water. There are plenty of arches, swim throughs, and caves to make it interesting. Coral cover is substantial in the area, with a diverse population of reef fish, Green Sea Turtles and even Manta Rays being spotted along this shoreline.
Old Kona Airport Keiki (Children) Beach
For those looking to enjoy calmer waters, another sandy beach with tide pools referred to as Keiki (Children) Beach is accessible at the southern-most end of the recreation area. Access to the Keiki beach is from Kona Bay Drive, behind the Kona Community Aquatic Center. Shoreline access signs will direct you towards the beach through a residential area hailing a very tranquil beach with tide pools and ponds, a great place to cool off or watch the surf crash on the outer rocks. However, during times of high tide, parents keep a watchful eye as the water can break the barrier and the tide pools can fill up in a matter of seconds.
Old Kona Airport Beach Park Amenities
No Lifeguard on duty
Old Kona Airport Beach Park Map and Location
Kuakini Hwy, Kailua-Kona HI 96740
From Highway 19 turn makai (toward the ocean) on Makala Boulevard, you will see Target and a shopping center. Continue down Makala past all of the stores until the road meets up with Kuakini Hwy and ends (you’ll be looking at a sports field). Turn North (right) and pass through the gate then weave your way through the parking lot toward the ocean. Plenty of parking is available along the old runway.