Native Hawaiian cultural sites and modern-day beachgoers mingle at Kahalu‘u Beach Park in Keauhou.
Once owned by the Bishop Estate, Kahalu‘u Beach Park was deeded to the County of Hawai‘i in 1966 and became a permanent public fixture for the enjoyment of the local community.
Once home to Native Hawaiian people, both commoners and chiefs, prior to Western contact, the area still contains remnants of those days. House sites, heiau (temples) and petroglyphs are visible at or near Kahalu‘u Bay.
Tiny St. Peter’s Catholic Church also stands along the shore, and next to it is another historic heiau.
As a popular site for swimming, snorkeling, nearshore scuba diving and picnicking, the bay also draws experienced surfers and bodyboarders to its outer waters during high surf. At the same time, these waves create an extremely strong rip current that’s dangerous for those who don’t know how to extract themselves from its powerful grip. If you’re unfamiliar with these waters, consult with lifeguards before going in.
The beach is also used by local fishermen, who throw nets to catch fish. As a matter of fact, the waters are an important source of food, therefore it’s never been designated a conservation district.
Because its waters are a prime spot for snorkeling, the bay is also home to the Kahalu‘u Bay Education Center (KBEC). Established to protect the bay’s fragile ecosystem, KBEC opened in 2011 to promote reef etiquette. Before entering the water, stop by and learn how you can help by learning about reef-friendly sun protection along with other tips. It’s open 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. daily when the park is open.
Amenities include restrooms, showers, drinking water, picnic pavilions and a lifeguard tower.
Snorkel Bob’s rents and sells Snorkel Bob Brand gear: Seamo Betta™ and Li’l Mo Betta™ Rx masks, Bigfoots (15-17) and Moflex™ fins; and MoflO2™ and MoflO2RS snorkels for fresh air with every breath. For the discriminating snorkeler seeking adventure: quality and service with boat trips, lū‘au, surf lessons, ziplines, heli tours and more. FREE 24-hour interisland gear return.
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[A version of this article appears in print in the pages of This Week Big Island]