Hawaii's Big Island - Please help me find a sandy beach AND condo on it!


Yesterday morning, my wife and I started talking about where to go with the kids on our summer vacation. I usually respond with destinations north of where we live (Mojave Desert) because I like a cool break from hot weather. I spouted off some destinations like the Rockies, Oregon or Washington coast…usually mountains with forests, or coasts with forests. I wanted to go back to the Olympic Peninsula but then the wife suggested Hawaii. Hawaii in July? Uh…ok. The more I thought about it, the more I liked it. Hawaii it is! We already went to Maui (our first ever visit to Hawaii) back in 2004 for our nephew’s wedding, so we decided on the Big Island this time around. Volcanoes. Rainforests. Cliffs…lots of them. Could be VERY interesting. :cool:

Shortly after breakfast was done, I got the itch to look on line for the flight/accomodations/car rental. I found a couple a places that looked nice, but then came the caveats from my wife:

We will stay for one week at a condo with a kitchen, preferably one that has a separate bedroom for us (I concur!), and a separate room for the kids (11 and 6 y.o.), with either a sofa sleeper or their own bed(s). No single hotel rooms…the kids need to feel comfortable with more space (I’m guessing about 900 square feet and up is spacious).

It must be an upscale place (4 or 5 star, 9/10 or 10/10). No old dumps.

The Condo/Villa/Suite will be ON the beach or a very short distance walk to the beach AND said C/V/S will have a great view of said beach so I can see how beautiful the sunrise (or sunset) on the ocean is. (If this a definition of romantic, then I concur.)

It must have a pool for the kids in case the kids don’t want to swim in the ocean. (This should be easy.)

The last caveat is…this beach will not be made of rocks, but sand. The kids can’t dig in rocks, they cannot swim with rocky bottoms tearing up their precious little toes and feet. They…must…have…sand.


I began to realize how quickly my accommodation search just turned into one huge pain in the ass with that last caveat. I don’t need miles of sands, not even a quarter mile of sand, I could settle for a minimum of 100 feet in length and maybe about 30 feet in width and a sandy bottom going away from shore (maybe to a depth of 4 or 5 feet). I did some Googling “Big Island black sand beaches” and this site was somewhat useful on locations with sandy beaches, but not so much about condos on beaches. I will need to spend a few more hours researching this, but I figure that there’s gotta be a few Dopers who’ve “Been There, Done That”. So, please help this fellow doper out with some of your own recommendations or sites that I can pursue for a wonderful week in Hawaii. I will also not rest on this endeavor, for I will actively seek out the perfect place, but as a collective, us dopers will do it bigger, better, faster than any schlep like me. I did a generic search for something similar on the SDMB and got nuttin’. If you remember previous threads that would be helpful in this situation, then please share!

I am probably looking for a resort type situation and it can be either on the Kona coast or in/near Hilo, but I will consider other coastal locations if the above criteria are met. I am aware of the geographical/geology/weather relationships of the island, so you don’t have to spend time on explaining those to me. If you know of a secret (or not so secret) waterfall in a pool that kids are able to hike to…please let me know so they can have that extra dimension of fun that a beach would be unable to deliver. I know we’ll spend a day at Volcanoes NP…and I might spend a night with local amateur astronomers looking at cool stuff through telescopes, but I wouldn’t mind a site for that too (I will probably find one after I take care of the reservation part first).

You guys where there for me when it came to violins/violin artists/violin classical pieces, so I know this is the right group to ask for all things Hawaiian. Thanks again for your help!


Don’t know if this is for you, but we stayed in Kona at a condo at white sands village. There are many units available to rent, most of them through vrbo.com i think most of them are 2 bedroom. It’s across the street from a really good beach with lifeguards etc. It has a pool, and the units were very good. Typical condo style - do your own cooking etc. Note that the beach can have some pretty good waves if the wind is right - Boogie boarding was invented here!

It’s near enough to Kona to be close to supplies, but far enough away that it’s not too crazy. An added bonus is that it is near to Kahaluu Beach Park, which has great snorkling, and more sandy beach.

There is another place near - magic sands resort that is on the waterfront, right next to the beach. I don’t have personal experience with it though.

How old are the kids? Note that if they are younger than 12, you cannot go up to the observatories on the top of Mauna Kea.

Question about the "black sand " beaches:
I understand that black sand beaches look really sexy-but you really DON’T want to lounge on them. First. the black sand is really volcanic glass-it really is irritating to human skin (esp. inside a swimsuit). Second, because it is black, it gets HOT!
Anybody know?
Plus-are you pissing of Pele if you take some of this sand home?

This site should help. And I very heartily recommend the associated guidebook - it’s the best one I know of for the Big Island.

Check out “vacation rental by owner”: www.vrbo.com. This site is AWESOME. We found our honeymoon condo in Kauai through vrbo and I rcommend it to everyone. Good luck!

Yes, vrbo.com is a great site. That’s how we found our condo at white sands village in Kona.

About the black sand beaches - in general, yes they do tend to get much hotter, and since they are essentially ground up volcano, they are “grittier”. I’ll take the white sand beach (ground up smooth shells) anyday.

I heard a story about the “curse of Pele” in regards to taking volcanic rock away from Hawaiian volcanoes… Apparently, this was started by tour bus drivers in the 1960’s who got sick and tired of tourists carting pounds of rock home on the bus, only to abandon it once they got back to their hotel, and decided they’d taken too much. After constantly dealing with tour buses filled with gritty volcanic rock, they decided that people would probably be more inclined to listed to a good curse, rather than a grumpy bus driver.

I’ll second that. The author is spot on about almost everything, especially beaches.

Agreed: Hawaii - The Big Island Revealed puts all other guidebooks in the weeds.

You might want to consider the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station for this. At 9200’ it’s plenty high enough to have a great view of the sky, but it’s 4000+’ lower than the summit, so much less likely to cause problems for those adapted to sea level. It’s also worth noting that although the summit is a fascinating place, none of the facilities there caters to the public.

The VIS has some serious amateur-type telescopes and (I gather) frequently hosts star-gazing events.

Ok, I will buy this guide…I noticed that the 5th edition comes out in 10 days and that it already ranks #2 on pre-sales alone on Amazon.

I have literally spent most of my work time (and I am STILL at work) up to this very moment looking at many places on the Kona coast from resorts down to private residences that can be rented. The airfare alone is around $3600-4000 (for 4), and the costliest of the vacation, but I’m still gonna do it. I’ve seen half decent places for $150 a night on up to $600 per night which is my upper limit…but it better be a smokin’ hot location. Some on the ocean fronts, some in lavish settings, but that ever elusive combination of sand and space is a little elusive at the prices listed above. There was one next to Pahoehoe Beach and nearby White Sands Beach, but the residence was already reserved. DAMN.

Thanks for the links and enabling me to burn hours and hours of searching! But now, I really have to get to my staff’s payroll…gonna be a long night.

Not to introduce a down note, but you should perhaps take a look at the issue of air quality near Kona. The recent increase in SO2 at the Volcano Park has led to some problems with “vog” in a number of areas. One effect has apparently been a noticeable increase in cases of juvenile asthma.

I love the Big Island and would return in a second. But if anyone in your party is unusually sensitive to air quality, this might be something to take into account.

Don’t know how old your kids are, but when we visited the Big Island a higlight was staying at Volcanos Park for a couple of nights. Especially hiking out to the lava vents during the day, and viewing them at night. The kind of things you might not have time to do on a day trip.

The beaches and snorkelling around Kona are fabulous, make no mistake. But Volcanos was like no other place we’d ever been.

What worked out well for us was flying into Hilo, staying there for a couple of nights, driving to Volcanos for a couple of nights, and then ending up in and flying out of Kona.

Note: sand from black sand beach does not equal rock from Hawaiian volcanoes.

Many eastern Hawaii beaches are black sand, formed when molten lava hit the sea and shattered, throwing up tiny particles of black volcanic glass. In time, these beaches will disappear, since (barring more eruptions) the eroding sand will not be replenished. Punalu’u Beach, arguably “the” black sand beach of the Big Island, is already much smaller than it was, say 50 years ago, as tsunamis washed much of it away. So, taking sand from a black sand beach is not a nice thing to do. It is a very limited resource.

Taking a rock from Volcanoes National Park is not such a big deal, despite the mystique. That resource, of which there is a heck of a lot more to begin with, has been renewing continuously since 1983, when Kilauea started spewing.

My home is on the Big Island and I wish it was realistic to live full time there. It is such an extraordinary place, but its white sand beaches are really only a small and not especially great part of what it has to offer. To me, going to the Big Island and focusing on a white beach and a pool is like going to a premier seafood restaurant in New Orleans and ordering a steak. You can do it, and it may even be very tasty, but, oh! what you will be missing.

I clearly understand what you’re saying here…I am trying to appease my wife, but I will be fully pushing for the real gems that the island has to offer. If it takes a nice pool and access to a sandy beach to spend a week on the Big Island, then I will do it…with my bait and switch tactics. :wink:

Kids are 11 and 6…the 11 year old has a minor asthma condition, so we will take precautions with the vog…thanks for the warning, Xema. I do plan to go to Volcanoes NP. I want to take the kids on an easy hike to a waterfall. I do want to go to a black sand beach just to see what it’s like. I want to go stargazing so I can identify some more southernly constellations than what I normally see here in SoCal, which is about 15 degrees of declination further south. I might try to pack one of my binoculars so I can just walk out to a darker place and just stare up.

Keep 'em coming folks!

Yeticus Rex, do appreciate the size of the Big Island when making plans. It’s the size of Connecticut. A drive to Kona-Kailua to Kilauea is about 90 miles each way.

With kids your age, I’m wondering why you’re even going to the Big Island. There’s much more for you all on Kaua’i or Maui, lots of beautiful beaches, lots of sea life. If the volcano is a big draw, I can well understand your interest (hell, I was way hot to see Kilauea and take my son to it a couple of years ago; it was awesome, and I don’t regret it a bit). But if you want snorkling and sea life and awesome exploration, Kauaʻi is much better, especially the north shore (for snorkeling/sea life) or Poipu for awesome sunny beaches. And there’s even a huge amazing canyon to explore on Kauaʻi.

The Big Island is fantastic, but its a young place, still full of rocks and lava and a dearth of sandy beaches and really really long drives to find other landscapes. And its a huge place. Expect to see perhaps 10% of it if you really put in some effort. But you’re on vacation, why work that hard?

Also, on Big Island, we stayed here. No beach, but they had a “fake” sand beach (of an appreciable size, see the overhead view), and two pools. A real sandy beach was two blocks or so away, and we’d just get in the habit of dropping off a parent + kids at the sand beach, then park the car and the second parent would hike back, so it wasn’t a big deal.

Not sure if you or yours will appreciate it, but my family thought it kinda neat. On the drive between Volcanos and Kona, you can stop off at South Point - the southernmost point in the US.

And right off the road in the town there was a little diner that had the most delectable macadamia-nut pie! Almost worth the airfare alone!

I was actually going to mention South Point - it’s quite beautiful. We were really glad we made the detour down there on our way to Volcano.

I also recommend doing the tour of the seahorse farm near the airport (I can’t remember the name, but I know it’s in that guidebook). It’s expensive, but it’s the one thing our four-year-old remembers most from the trip. We all had a really fun time.

Here’s a place that’s now on my Big Island “not to be missed no matter what” list: Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden. It’s quite a ways from Kona (but pretty close to waterfall central).

It’s reasonably expensive (ISTR $17/pp) and since I’m not all that big into horticulture, I wasn’t sure it would be worthwhile. After 5 minutes there, I was wondering why they aren’t charging $57. Absolutely excellent.

Oh, that doesn’t bother me one bit. I know I will have to plan cross-island trips with plenty of impromptu stops and top speeds of 50 mph on highways.

Our first trip was in Maui…and maybe I will visit Kaua’i the next time around. I just wanted to go someplace totally foreign to our rocky desert and the Big Island is probably the most diverse out of all the Islands.

Between the wife and I, she will opt for the slower pace at the resort…I love exploring…either by car or path; have car, WILL travel…but we will probably find a happy place somewhere in between.