As one of the very few sandy beaches along Big Island's Puna Coast on the east side, Kehena Beach is an appreciated nook at the base of a vertical lava rock cliff. Coarse grained black sand blankets the mid-size beach, and a small bay comes in from two points on each side. There's usually a shore break here that gets pretty pounding when the waves are up. It's a wonderful place for swimming when the waves are small, and dolphins are nearly a guarantee early each morning, usually by 9 am.
"Jump Rock" at Kehena — Photo courtesy of Jade Eckardt
One thing that makes Kehena Beach unique is that swimwear is optional, and many of the locals take advantage of that. But there's still a good amount of clothed beach-goers, so just make sure you're all right with the idea of seeing people sans bathing suit before you go. Kehena is about a 20-minute drive from Pahoa Town, just a couple minutes from Kalani Oceanside Retreat, and about 15 minutes from Lava Tree State Park.
Looking east along the Puna coast — Photo courtesy of Jade Eckardt
Drawing an eclectic mix of people, Kehena is always adorned with an entertaining array of people. You may find a yoga group on the beach or a bongo drum circle, and some local body boarders taking advantage of the shore break. Go by mid-morning for an empty beach, and remember that Sundays are always the most crowded.
Feel free to swim out to the morning pod of dolphins for one of the most unique Hawaii experiences a person can have.