Hapuna Beach Number 1 in USA

I swim regularly at Hapuna Beach State Park. Its vast expanse of over .5 mile wide is easily accessible and a perfect 1-mile swim round trip. The bay is a virtual swimming pool and real-life surf break for open water swimmers, snorkelers, and bodyboarders. I’ve participated in the Hapuna Rough Water Swim race as well and viewed the start to the Honu, Half Ironman Triathlon there several times.  It’s the perfect location for both events even thought the Honu event is actually taking place this weekend entirely within the Mauna Lani Resort for the first time today.  The swim start was at The Fairmont with swimmers sent in a southerly direction toward our beach club.  More on that event in the next Blog Post.

This week, Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, aka “Dr. Beach,” named Hapuna Beach State Park “America’s Best Beach” for 2021. Dr. Leatherman is a coastal expert and a professor at Florida International University and has assembled a list of his favorite US beaches for 31 years. In the past, Dr. Beach has acknowledged nearby Kauna’oa Beach within the Mauna Kea Beach Resort as #1, and rightfully so. These perfect, crescent-shaped bays are 1-mile apart and accessible via the Mauna Kea/Hapuna Beach Resorts and Hapuna Beach State Park. Kauna’oa is only accessible via public access pass through the Mauna Kea Beach Resort.

Regarding Hapuna Beach, Dr. Beach wrote:

“Hapuna Beach, a beautiful coral sand beach, seems incredibly white, partly because of the sharp contrast with the black lava rock that flanks and bounds this half-mile pocket beach. The beach swells to over 200 feet wide during the summer months, sloping gradually into the offshore waters. The crystal-clear water is a perfect place to swim, snorkel or scuba dive. In the winter during big wave days, pounding shore breaks and rip currents make swimming impossible. At these times, I enjoy riding the rapidly moving swash of the broken waves up the beach face on a boogie board; the key is to stay in the shallow water far from the breakers so that you are not swept back into the ocean.”

Link to Dr. Beach website: https://www.drbeach.org/#/hapunadeachstatepark/

Big Island Video News reported:

The Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources responded to the Dr. Beach list, saying the honor “highlights the continuing paradox of protecting the features that make it #1 while sharing it with ever-increasing throngs of visitors.”

From the DLNR:

DLNR Division of State Parks Administrator Curt Cottrell said, “It is always an honor for one of our State Parks to receive recognition of this caliber. It reflects both the scenic and natural resource value of Hapuna, as well as the quality of recent upgrades at this popular park.”

Cottrell added, “We’re approaching the busy summer season with post-pandemic visitor numbers expected to potentially increase sharply. This undoubtedly means more people spending time at Hapuna and Waialea, so our conundrum is balancing resource protection, quality of experience, and public safety concerns.

Visitors should take note of entry requirements at the state recreation area, utilize reef-safe sunscreen, and be aware that lifeguard coverage at Hapuna may be reduced, due to revenue losses and budget cuts created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cottrell concluded, “The paradox we face each time when one of our parks garners national attention…this naturally brings more people to see these outstanding natural and cultural places, which makes it increasingly difficult to manage expectations, maintenance and upkeep, and most importantly the natural and cultural resources that bring people to Hawai‘i, as one of the world’s most sought-after destinations.”


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