The VERY Long Road to Makalewena

Makalewena is a beach accessible only by a four wheel drive vehicle down a crazy bumpy road between Kona and Kohala on the other side of the cinder cone from Kua Bay.

My husband and I decided to go to this beach about four months ago because we had heard it was one of the most beautiful beaches on the Big Island. (In fact, according the Big Island Revealed, one of the most beautiful beaches in the entire Hawaiian Islands). Why wouldn’t you want to find a beach with that kind of reputation!?

SO, the FIRST time we tried to step foot on this magical beach, we followed the “Big Island Revealed” map and got down the crazy unpaved road in our mini-van. We then proceeded to turn left on a walking path instead of right and walked for a mile looking for sand while surrounded by lava. (the picture with the black and white rocks was the closest thing we found to a beach)

We found some local camper dudes and they asked us what a nice little family of four was doing out wandering around near the north end of the airport. We told them we were trying to find Makalewena..they then told us we were at least a mile from the road we needed to take to walk another mile to get to the beach. UGH! Then they told us to hurry back to the road before we got locked in from the highway at 7 pm.  First strike.

We started asking around to our friends about the fabled beach and everyone again said it was beautiful and a must see. It was at this point we decided we needed to buy a four wheeled truck in order to get to places on this island like Maks, as they call the fairy-tale beach. SO, after a month or so, we purchased a truck in Hilo and believed we were on way to beach nirvana. Then my husband decided he needed to fix it up…a little…new shocks, new seat covers, new stereo, new upholstery, and steering wheel, too.  Looks great, sounds great, let’s go to Maks!

We grabbed a friend and her child and bounced along the road to the path that takes you to the beach. So, we get out, and excitedly walk down the lava path and found ourselves on a bowl shaped beach with grainy sand and lots of shade trees. I liked it! It WAS beautiful and it had an interesting abandoned homestead and some fresh water ponds, too. Mission accomplished! Or so we thought. Strike 2.

I wrote about the beach and posted pics to my Facebook 365 Kona blog saying how pretty it was and a great place to visit. And then someone posted the most shocking comment I have ever seen on any of my blogs: “Pretty, but that isn’t Maks”. WHAT!? My stomach curled at the thought that I did not even know what beach I had been to and worse..that we still had not stepped foot on the mystical beach of our dreams.

We pulled out Google Maps and did some aerial viewing of the area. Sure enough, we had been on the Kona Coast State Park beach. It was another half mile walk across the lava to get to Makalewena!

SO, we had some friends from the Bay Area visiting recently and we told them about this crazy search for this beach. They laughed and said they would not mind seeing the Kona Coast State Park beach. We loaded them and their two children and our kids in our trusty dusty Toyota and headed to the beach. We showed them the long path across the lava to the magical beach. They decided to go for it. We were elated!  We walked in thongs a half mile across the rock/lava path and finally saw a SAND DUNE in the distance. Walking quicker, we all felt the pull of discovery. I ended up RUNNING towards this oasis to finally say “I GOT THERE”!

I passed under the sign-THIS TIME I KNEW WHERE I WAS!

I was actually surprised to be climbing up sand dunes after just coming off a lava field..and then..I saw it…the beach. Sadly, the beach had been attacked by some giant storm waves and was probably half of its normal grandeur, but it was FANTASTIC to finally be there! I am sure if it was sunny, if we could actually go in the water, and there were not rocks all over the beach, that it truly would be the heaven I had painted it to be. I will have to go back in a few months when the sand finds it way back to where it belongs and I will share pictures and another story with you all…because…we have heard there is an even CRAZIER road from the highway that takes you to the north end of this beach where you can picnic and enjoy..I will be waiting for that day!

Spread the word if you love what you heard! #365kona so we can say Thanks!

Meet the Author

Julie Ziemelis

Julie Ziemelis is an entrepreneur, business owner, author, blogger and vlogger in Kailua Kona. She created and moderates the “365 Things to Do in Kona” page and the Kona Newbies group on Facebook. She blogs at and and vlogs with her husband, Eric, at “365Hawaii” on YouTube. Julie also authored the books, “How to Move to Kona” and the “Insiders Guide to Buying Real Estate on the Big Island of Hawaii”. You will most likely find Julie in Kona hiking, running, biking, taking photos and sharing Aloha.

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  • Wendy says:

    Was it near Spences Beach?