Waialea Bay Beach (Beach 69) Overview
Positioned just south of Hapuna Beach along Waialea Bay is one of the best snorkeling beaches on the Big Island. Often referred to as Beach 69 after its signposted telephone pole, this bay’s 35+/- acres were designated as a Marine Life Conservation District in 1985. Marine Life Conservation Districts are designed to conserve and replenish marine resources providing fish and other aquatic life a protected area to grow and reproduce. Often you can see dolphins and even humpback whales breaching just outside the expanse of Waialea Bay waters during the winter.
Beach 69 is well-protected and uninhabited by any hotels or resort complexes making it a popular site for snorkel and scuba activities for tourists and locals. The calmest water and best visibility tend to be in the morning so head here early, which is good advice in general because this is a popular beach that tends to get pretty busy in the afternoon. Even Neil Young was ‘rockin in the free world’ in a beachside home once overlooking the beauty of Waialea Bay.
Waialea Bay Beach Activities
The beach is a mixture of white sand and rocky patches (rockier in the winter when the sand pulls out and sandier in the summer). The snorkeling at Beach 69 is diverse and spread across the bay where there are several different reef areas to explore with plenty of marine life to keep you busy for hours. You should be able to get in without shoes, but watch for rocks mixed in with the sand. With all of the lava rocks along the shoreline, this isn’t the best beach for boogie boarding so head just down the road to Hapuna Beach if that is your focus. There is no lifeguard on duty here but there are showers, restrooms and limited picnic tables.
If you’re here to snorkel, the floor of Waialea Bay recedes to depths of around 30 feet outside the bay’s cove. The best reefs are towards the middle of the bay with coral communities surrounding the prominent rocks jutting out of the water, and also on the north end of the beach, around the rocky point. Depths range from about 10 to 30 feet with coral communities showcasing their diverse marine life. An additional area to explore is the southern side of the bay along the left side of the rocks. After walking onto the beach from the trail, go left and walk under the trees past the rocky point that marks the center of the beach and there are small pockets of sand to setup on.
Waialea Bay Beach (Beach 69) with its beautiful white sands are home to large Kiawe trees along much of the shoreline, providing nice shaded areas, making for the perfect respite if you’ve already gotten too much sun. However, wear your shoes when walking the trail around the beach and watch out for the thorns that sometimes fall off these trees as they can end up in an unsuspecting beachgoer’s foot and they are sometimes an inch long.
Limited Picnic Tables
Parking ($10 per vehicle fee)
Entry Fee for Non HI Residents ($5 per person fee)
Directions to Waialea Bay Beach
Waialea Bay Beach is located 23 miles north of the Kona Airport off highway 19, past the Waikoloa and Mauna Lani resorts. Turn makai (toward the sea) onto Puako Beach Drive. Once you are on Puako beach drive, take the first right onto the Old Puako road.
The parking lot is pretty clearly marked with a sign and yellow gate now-days, you used to read the numbers on the telephone pole and turn left between poles 69 and 70 (about half a mile). There is also an alternate route to get there via the exit to Hapuna Beach, so if you miss the first turn or are coming down from the north, just follow the signs to Hapuna, then go past the parking lot to Hapuna and Beach 69 will be makai about a 1/4 of a mile down. The paved parking area is gated and opens at 7am and closes at 8pm, there is a $5 parking fee that you can pay at the pay booth.