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Waialea Beach, also known as 69 Beach or Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area South, is a popular snorkeling location on the northwestern coast of the Big Island. The rocky and coral beds found off the beach support a diversity of sea life including green sea turtles, moray eels, and a kaleidoscope of reef fish.

Green sea turtle at Waialea Beach
Green sea turtles are common sights at Waialea Beach.

How to get to the Waialea Beach snorkeling spot

From Highway 19 in the North Kona district, turn onto Puako Bay Drive. Just past the transfer (trash) station, turn right onto Old Puako Drive for a 1/2 mile. Then left at the beach entry sign of Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area-South.

The beach has plenty of paved and unpaved parking, free for Hawaii residents and toll for non-residents. The fees were $10 per vehicle and $5 per person in 2023.

Waialea (69) Beach is named because it is located at utility pole #69. This is also known as Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area-South.

Waialea Beach (Beach 69) snorkeling map
Waialea Beach (Beach 69) snorkeling map.

Water entrance for snorkeling Waialea Beach

Waialea (69) Beach is a long white sand beach with lots of shade from Kiawe trees. The trees are lovely, but watch out for their thorns.

There is easy entry from several spots (see map). Turn left when you reach the beach for best fish viewing (snorkel entry 1 on the map), but the easiest entry is from right side of beach (snorkel entry 2).

Waialea Beach snorkeling exploration tips

At this location, the water is from 0-50 ft deep. There are several volcanic rock formations and one largish island in the bay where many fish species congregate.

Lagoon triggerfish at Waialea
A Lagoon triggerfish.

There have been some coral bleaching events, and while the coral has been damaged there are still many fish species to see.

Achilles Tang at Beach 69
The easily recognizable Achilles tang.

Sea life frequently seen at Waialea Beach include the green sea turtle, bluefin trevally, several butterflyfish species, hawkfish, surgeonfish, goatfish, and eels. More rarely, the bay is visited by squid and manta rays.

Redbarred hawkfish at Waialea Beach
A Redbarred hawkfish at Waialea Beach.

In winter, whales pass by on the Kona Coast and can sometimes be spotted from the beach. The bay is often calm and flat, but in winter can have bigger waves.

Restaurants and accommodation nearby

There’s no restaurant on site, but Hapuna Beach and Mauna Kea beach resorts are nearby for dining. Showers and bathrooms are present on site.


  • Level required Beginner
  • Protected areaHapuna Beach State Recreation Area
  • Maximum depth20 ft / 6 m
  • Water entranceFrom small sandy beaches
  • LifeguardYes
  • Visitor numbersHigh
  • Access costs$10 per vehicle + $5 per person
  • Restaurants nearbyNo
  • Public toilets & showersYes

MAP Spot

These snorkeling spots are accessible to beginners and kids. You will enter the water gradually from a beach, or in a less than 3ft. deep area. The sea is generally calm, shallow, with almost no waves or currents. These spots are usually located in marked and/or monitored swimming areas. It is not necessary to swim long distances to discover the sea life.

This level only apply when the spot experiences optimal sea and/or weather conditions. It is not applicable if the sea and/or weather conditions deteriorate, in particular in the presence of rough sea, rain, strong wind, unusual current, large tides, waves and/or swell. You can find more details about the definition of our snorkeling levels on our snorkeling safety page.