On the sunny Kona Coast of the Big Island of Hawai‘i there is a lovely white sand beach whose claim to fame is sand that disappears. Yes, the sand is there one day and gone the next. This Kona beach is also known by several different names!
The County of Hawai‘i has restored the original name given to this area by ancient Hawaiians. Officially, it’s known as La‘aloa Beach Park. But visitors and locals alike have long called it Magic Sands Beach, Disappearing Sands, or White Sands Beach. So take
The Disappearing Act
The vanishing sands are not much of a mystery at all. There isn’t an offshore reef at Magic Sands, so the waves flow all the way to shore and do a “beach break,” as surfers call it. In addition, there is a sloping decline from the shore into the ocean, and every powerful wave quietly pulls buckets of white sand into the ocean, leaving behind jagged black lava rocks. It’s quite possible to lay in the sun one day on white sand and return to a rocky shoreline the next day. And then, if the waves are powerful enough, they will carefully bring back the white sand freshly washed and ready for beachgoers in another day or so.
During the summer months, the ocean waves are much smaller and tamer, so the soft, white sand on the shore is there every day for beachgoers. But the winter months, with their heavy surf and swells, gave Magic Sands its name.
Luckily there is a lifeguard tower right on the sand by the volleyball court. On days when the swells are larger than life, and the ocean looks inviting for boogie boarders and surfers, the lifeguards can often be seen yelling into their megaphones about the ocean conditions. The safest thing to do when you come to Magic Sands during winter months is to go straight to the lifeguard tower and ask what the ocean conditions are for that day. There can be powerful underwater currents at Magic Sands.
Where Is Magic Sands Beach?
Magic Sands Beach is on Ali‘i Drive, about four miles south of downtown Kailua-Kona. If you’re driving south of Kailua-Town, you’ll have the ocean on your right and an endless string of beach inlets and shallow bays.
Magic Sands is part of a string of beach parks near each other. Pahoehoe Beach Park is near the 3.5-mile marker, so you’ll know you’re getting close. Once you see Magic’s Beach Grill, the beach right after it is Magic Sands Beach.
There is a small parking lot just south of the beach, but it’s nearly always full unless you arrive in the early morning. Right across the street is a large parking area: part of it is paved, and part of it is gravel, but the parking is free. There’s also street parking right on Ali‘i Drive. If you’re lucky enough to find a space on the makai (ocean) side of the street beside the beach, you can tailgate it right from your car.
Besides Sunbathing, What Else Is There To Do At Magic Sands Beach Park?
On calmer ocean days, there’s nothing like wading and swimming in the turquoise waters of the Kona Coast. Remember to ask the lifeguard about ocean conditions before venturing out, and keep your kids close to you.
The waves at Magic Sands can be intense, and that’s exactly what boogie boarders love. Imagine catching a wave and riding it all the way to shore without interruption. This is one of the best boogie-boarding beaches on the Big Island.
When the oceans are calmer, you’ll see snorkelers and scuba divers heading for the rocky cove at the south end of the beach. There’s a lot of ocean life to see in the underwater world on a calm day. When the oceans are rough, the bottom silt and sand kicks up, and it’s hard to see anything at all.
Boss Frog’s in Kailua-Town is a popular place for a snorkel, boogie board, and surfboard rentals. They even rent beach chairs, umbrellas, and coolers. So you’ll never have a good reason not to spend the day at the beach.
Hawaii Island Bike Share
On the Kona Coast, you’ll see many people riding light blue bicycles. These are Hawaii Island Bike Share (HIBIKE) bikes. There are several rental kiosks and parking stations up and down Ali‘i Drive, with one just across the street from Magic Sands.
It’s a very simple program. All you need is a debit or credit card. Swipe your card, unlock a bike, and ride it away. When you’re done, you can return it to any kiosk on Ali‘i Drive.
There’s the volleyball court right by the lifeguard tower. If you’re a volleyball fan, bring a ball and strike up a game.
More Things To Do
Is There Anything to Eat There?
Magic Sands is in a residential area with nearby condos and vacation rentals. But there are food options even for those who arrive at the beach hungry.
Sometimes food trucks will set up in the parking lot and dish out typical beach fare, but there’s no permanent vendor with a regular schedule.
Adjacent to Magic Sands Beach is Magics Beach Grill and Beach Shack. The Beach Grill is a higher-end beachy experience with dine-in or take-out menu choices such as garlic shrimp, ahi steak, coconut-poached kampachi, vegetarian choices, and island-style sandwiches. Reservations are suggested, especially for dinner.
You’ll have a choice of dining indoors or on the patio with a view of the beach.
The Beach Shack offers take-out for breakfast and lunch. Choose from acai bowls, Kona avocado toast, veggie, or bacon/cheddar burritos for breakfast. They have kids’ plates of chicken tenders, hot dogs, or cheeseburgers for lunch. And for adults, they offer salads, sandwiches, fish and chips, fish tacos, and other island favorites.
About a mile north of Magic Sands Beach is the ever-popular Da Poke Shack. As stated on their menu, they pride themselves on being open seven days a week (unless they’ve gone fishing) and open from 10 am-4 pm (or until they sell out for the day). It sounds like a laid-back place, but keeping fresh fish in stock to offer up nine different types of poke (cubed and marinated fish) doesn’t leave a lot of time to be laid back. They also sell Hawaiian plate lunches with laulau and kalua pork. There’s nothing like eating a Hawaiian plate lunch at the beach. Nothing…
You can’t leave Kona without having a shaved ice! Right across the street from the beach in the parking lot is a converted food truck serving up Hawai‘i’s special iced treat in tropical flavors. Kat’s Kau Kau gives generous portions. Cash only. Must-try flavors: Mai Tai, Passion Orange Guava (POG), and Piña Colada.
What is the History of La‘aloa?
Just as there are ocean undercurrents at Magic Sands Beach, there are undercurrents in the Native Hawaiian community about the cultural significance of the area traditionally known as La‘aloa. The County of Hawai‘i formally changed the name back from Magic Sands to La‘aloa, but there are archaeological sites at the beach that are considered sacred to the native people. Some were moved or paved over to make the south parking lot, and others remain unprotected.
In the Hawaiian language, La‘aloa means ‘very sacred’. At one time, this entire area of the Kona District was known as La‘aloa, not just this small beach with its vanishing sands.
On the south end of the beach near the parking lot are the remains of Haukalua Heiau. According to oral histories, it is about 800 years old. A heiau is an ancient temple used by Native Hawaiians centuries ago for different purposes.
The platform where the heiau is located now is not its original site. It was taken apart and moved to build and pave the south-end parking lot. This action by the local government caused a lot of controversy and conflict with the Hawaiian community and descendants of families originally from La‘aloa.
At one time, the parking lot was closed as they tried to come up with a solution. But in the end, the government won out, and the parking lot remained.
There are other archaeological features on this site that remain unprotected. Their future is undecided, but there are community members dedicated to their preservation at their original location. They include a ku‘ula or fisherman’s god stone, a papamū (Hawaiian checkerboard carved in the seaside rocks), a canoe landing, poho palu (bait mortars), and a wall that marks the boundary between Pahoehoe and La‘aloa.
The heiau is open, so please be respectful of what remains of this sacred place. Please do not leave trash or step onto the heiau.
Magic Sands Beach Park Location and Beach Hours
77-648177 Ali‘i Dr., Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
OPEN DAILY 6AM – 11PM
LIFEGUARDS ON DUTY 9:30AM – 4:45PM 7 DAYS A WEEK
Amenities at Magic Sands Beach Park
- Picnic Area
- Outdoor Showers
- Volleyball Court
Notice of Partial Closure
Beginning in October 2022, construction work is taking place on the south end of Magic Sands Beach Park (La‘aloa). The work is estimated to take eight months from beginning to end. The sandy part of the beach is open, but the Beach Park with restrooms and picnic area is completely closed and is a construction zone. Lifeguards continue to be on duty during regular hours. Temporary portable restroom units are on-site for use by the public.
This article was produced by The Impulse Traveler.