Lifestyle

Big Island Beach Rated Best in United States

May 27, 2021, 4:21 PM HST
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Hāpuna Beach as the top-rated beach in the United States.

That designation was bestowed upon the Kohala Coast beach destination by Stephen Leatherman, aka Dr. Beach. This was Dr. Beach’s 30th annual ranking of best beaches. The prestigious ranking highlights the continuing paradox of protecting the features that make Hāpuna America’s top beach, while sharing it with ever-increasing throngs of visitors.

Hapuna beach on the Big Island before sunset.

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

Visitors, whether kama‘aina or guests, are cautioned that Hāpuna Beach and the adjacent Waialea Bay are sensitive and protected marine environments. Waialea Bay is one of 11 Hawai’i Marine Life Conservation Districts (MLCD,) which enjoy the state’s greatest level of natural resource protections. 

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

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

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Plans are underway to provide free reef-safe sunscreen dispensers at Waialea. Sunscreen usage here, and elsewhere around the state, is traced to stunting the growth of coral reefs and potentially killing them. This is particularly an issue with the spawning of new corals, which occurs during certain moon phases. 

This is the reason the Waialea Bay section of Hāpuna State Recreation Area will be closed Friday and Saturday morning, May 28 and 29, until noon each day. Corals are expected to be spawning during this time and the reproduction is more successful without sunscreen lathered swimmers and snorkelers in the water. 

“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,” Cottrell said.  

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