If what you're after is an almost deserted, postcard-perfect scoop of soft, white-sand beach cupping brilliant blue-green waters, head to 'Maks.' Although popular, this string of idyllic coves absorbs crowds so well you'll still feel like you've found paradise. The northernmost cove is sandier and gentler, while the southernmost cove is (illegally) a naked sunbathing spot. Swimming is splendid, but beware of rough surf and rocks in the water. Bodyboarding and snorkeling are other possibilities.
Practice aloha during your visit by packing out all trash and respecting the privacy of others. For locals, this is an unofficial camping and fishing getaway, and the growing popularity of these beaches among outsiders is contentious for some. Always give sea turtles a wide berth – it's illegal to approach them closer than 20ft on land or 50yd in the water.
Getting to Makalawena requires extra effort. Take the Kekaha Kai (Kona Coast) State Park access road (4WD recommended, although many locals drive it in a standard passenger car), off Hwy 19 between Miles 90 and 91. Less than 1.5 miles later, at the road junction before the parking lot for Mahaiʻula Beach, turn right. Park on the road shoulder near the cables restricting vehicle access to a service road, then walk north for 30 minutes across the lava flow and sand dunes to the beach, either following the service road or a much rougher footpath over crunchy ʻaʻa lava.