It was at Kealakekua Bay in South Kona that Captain James Cook, the first European to be documented to land in the Hawaiian Islands, first anchored and set foot on the Big Island. Pre-contact Hawaiians had just completed a circle island journey for the Makahiki, a celebratory time in honor of the god Lono, where they had watched Cook’s ship circle the island with them. They both arrived at the bay at the same time, and this was their first contact with Cook, his crew, and Europeans.
Today, the bay is simply beautiful. Residential homes and vacation rentals surround the area, and locals and visitors alike enjoy Kealakekua Bay and the nearby beach park. The bay juts far inland between the two points, and washes into a rocky beach where black pebbles and boulders make up a crescent shaped beach to sun bathe on (if you find rocks comfortable, which I do).
Just outside of Kailua-Kona, Kealakekua Bay is one of those places where the water is usually a bright tropical turquoise rather than a deep navy blue. It’s an absolutely perfect place to kayak, and you can easily find one to rent from one of the local rental places right at the bay. You’ll see signs in the parking lot, or you may be offered a rental by a friendly local. Mornings are the best since the wind is usually at its calmest, but unless it’s a particularly windy day you can usually kayak all day long.
Look for the shaded chair made of two large flat rocks at the back of the beach if you’d like to take in the view while relaxing in the shade. For an idea of what the Hawaiians used to travel over the ocean, check out the outrigger canoe resting on the sand at the south end of the beach. There’s also a sacred Hawaiian heiau at the south end bordering the parking lot. This is the equivalent to a church for the Hawaiians.
To get to the bay, turn down Napo`opo`o Road and head to the very bottom. Here, you’ll see another beach park frequented by locals. Give them a friendly wave as you make a right towards Kealakekua Bay. Sun is the most frequent visitor to the bay, making it a great place to spend a large part of your day. You can bring a picnic lunch and spend some time in the shade. Swimming is usually quite protected at the shoreline and often safe, but there’s no lifeguard.
Kayak rentals are usually for an unlimited amount of hours so it’s a good idea to bring everything you could need for a day at the beach and enjoy the sun and ocean on the kayak. Don’t forget the camera for this day trip.