The gorgeous beaches of Kekaha Kai are all the more memorable for being tucked on the far side of a vast desert of unforgiving black lava. This 1600-acre park has four beaches, only one of which has paved access. The others are best approached with a 4WD or on foot; if you hike, bring good shoes, food and water. It can be brutally hot, and once you reach the sand you’ll want to stay till the last drop of sunlight.
The park is 11 miles north of Kailua-Kona. Hardcore hikers can tackle a section of the coastal Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail from Kua Bay north via Kikaua Beach to Kukio Beach (2 miles each way), or south via Makalawena Beach to Mahaiʻula Beach (4.5 miles each way). But beware that temperatures by mid-morning can be boiling, and the trail has painful stretches of nothing but ʻaʻa lava.