Updated: Sep 28, 2018
The long, curvy, two mile descent to Ho’okena Beach park is encased by ranch lands on both sides of the road. You may see some horses grazing and several cows seated beneath the few trees lining the properties. The only barrier between you and the vertical cliff face is a crumbling rock wall, so drive carefully. The luminescent blue ocean can be seen clearly from your car window. Down at bottom, there is a sign that reads “Friends of Ho’okena--Kayak Rentals, Snorkel Gear, Food,” and points down a rocky, single lane road leading to the soft black sand beach.
Ho’okena’s beach is made up of a combination of lava rock and coral, which creates the dark gray-black sand that blankets it. Many days, schools of spinner dolphins (protected by Hawaii's state law under the Mammal Protection Act) can be seen swimming just outside the coastline. In winters, the great pilot whales can be spotted in the distance.
Ho’okena has always been one of my favorite beaches in West Hawaii for several reasons. Aside from its beauty, it is rarely crowded. Just out of reach of Kailua-Kona, Ho’okena sits about 40 minutes south of town, just two miles off the highway at mile-marker 101. Most tourists will never visit Ho’okena, either because they have never heard of it or it is too far from Kona-town. But, Ho’okena is full of activities suitable for the entire family. More than a great day on a sandy beach, Ho’okena offers swimming, kayaking, snorkeling, hiking, and permitted camping.
Behind the old canoes, still used for fishing, is the booth called “Friends of Ho’okena” which sells kayak rentals, food, clothing, sunscreen, and other beachwear. Kayaks can be rented for the day for between $40-$50, but cheaper rates are available for those who arrive early and only want to rent for a couple of hours. Life-jackets and paddles are provided. You can peer out of your canoe and see straight down into the deep ocean beneath when moving about Ho`okena's coast. Fish, rocks, and reef cover the bottom of this beautiful oasis. Be sure to use caution in the Pacific Ocean. Conditions can change rapidly. There are no lifeguards at Ho`okena and visitors swim at their own risk. For hikers, just north of Hookena Beach Park is a stone built trail that leads to Honaunau National Park. This trail, part of the 1871 “two horse trail,” to accommodate two horses, still stands in fairly good condition and is maintained by volunteers. “This type of trail was constructed during the nearly 80 year period lasting from 1841-1918. In 1918 the trail section north of Hōnaunau was improved for wheeled traffic; however, the section south to Ho'okena was never modified for motorized vehicles,” (National Park System). Just several miles north of Ho’okena is the City of Refuge, or Honaunau National Park. Take an hour long hike up to Honaunau if you are feeling energetic, just be sure to wear a hat and REEF SAFE sunscreen, as the sun’s rays can be rather strong on this wide, lava rock trail. Don't miss Ho’okena’s greatest feature, the snorkeling just off the coastline. Definitely apply REEF SAFE sunscreen at least thirty minutes prior to entering this beautiful ocean so it does not rinse off nor kill the remaining stellar reefs. Because of its location, the water is usually safe here, and the current does not pull so heavily due to a cliff face that spreads across the south end of the beach. A great kept secret, the snorkeling at Ho’okena is fantastical due to the lack of foot traffic disrupting the coral. (Coral is very delicate, and can die if stepped on or touched, so please kokua, and only look). Swimming through the coral reefs are multiple kinds of fish, including the Hawaiian Uhu, Kihi Kihi, and even eel. Embedded in the rocks are stunning gems of many colors, including olivine. Due to the shallow reef and long coastline, the snorkeling is almost as limitless as your courage.
Ho`okena Beach Park is top on my list for a private, beautiful beach wedding. To learn more, contact me.
Aloha for now ~ Deanna, Licensed Minister, Kona Wedding Officiant
If you imagine an intimate beach wedding for your upcoming ceremony, connect with me anytime at Kona Wedding Officiant, firstname.lastname@example.org or 808-209-6275