When snorkeling Beach 69 you will find that it is more accessible than the much more crowded Hapuna Beach just down the road. It is a wonderful beach to explore. The name Beach 69 comes from the number of the telephone pole that used to be at the turn in but it is now gone. The beach is also known as Waialea Bay Beach.
Note: This page is a sample from our popular Big Island Snorkeling Guide eBook available here.
This is a pretty little white sand beach with nice trees for shade all along the shore. It has a very secluded, rugged feel to it that we really enjoy. The slope of the beach is very gradual, and the bay is more protected and calmer than Hapuna Beach. But when the tide is up there is not much beach for hanging out on.
The beach is fairly long and mostly sandy. Choose where to snorkel, walk to that area and get in the water. You will be able to get in without shoes, but watch for a few rocks mixed in with the sand and the kiawe tree thorns that are on the beach.
Snorkeling Beach 69 is good overall. We would say it was great, but the lower visibility that happens here makes it just good. There are three areas you can snorkel, either end and the center area. You could swim between one end and the center, but the swim would be darn long if you did all three in one snorkel. The areas between the ends and the center of the bay are sandy, so it is just a swim, not much to see.
The snorkeling from the right side of the beach is good (see top picture). You begin by following the rocky point out and then swim out over the coral fingers in the sand further from shore, as far as you are comfortable. Look for the darker area in the water while wearing your polarized sunglasses before you get in. The water depths are excellent for snorkeling in this area, no deeper than 15 feet. The coral formations are fairly healthy and there is a nice variety of fish. We have noticed some fresh water from a stream that makes the top layer of water a little “fuzzy” and the sand gets kicked up making the visibility not the best. You can head back to the beach, or swim south toward the snorkeling in the center of the beach. The swim is a bit boring as it is just a sandy bottom between.
Snorkeling Beach 69 is also good in the center of the bay. Straight out from the trail you enter the beach on, behind the rocky point in the middle of the bay is a nice small coral reef with many fish you can check out. Again, the visibility does not tend to be great. After exploring this small area, swim south towards the rock in the water that runs perpendicular to the beach. On the ocean end and a little south of this rock is some wonderful, healthy, and diverse spur and groove coral reef in 7-10 feet of water full of fish. The south side of this rock nearer the beach also has great coral and fish. The north side of it is mostly rocky but still has many fish, so swim all the way around it. You can swim back and get out where you got in, or exit near the perpendicular rock and walk back down the beach.
After walking onto the beach from the trail, go left and walk under the trees past the rocky point that marks the center of the beach. The last snorkeling Beach 69 area to explore is out along the left side rocky point wall. The rocky shallows close to the beach are full of immature fish that are a treat to see up close. We saw some beautiful schools of brightly colored immature Oval Chromis here. There are tons of fish in this entire area. The wall has some corals on it and as you get closer to the point, there are nice large coral heads and healthy reef to explore. Once you reach the point, the reef becomes shallow causing the corals to be less healthy and less interesting, so don’t bother swimming past the point very far. As with all the areas on this beach, the visibility is not great.
There are many urchins inhabiting the reef here. We saw turtles here too. There were many fish in many varieties. Here is what we saw:
1. From Kailua Kona, take highway 19 (Queen Kaahumanu Hwy) north out of Kona.
2. Follow it through the Waikoloa Resort Area and once you pass the Mauna Lani Resort on your left, watch for the Puako sign and Puako Road on your left and turn there. If you come to the 70 mile marker on highway 19, you’ve gone too far.
3. Once on Puako Road, turn right on the next access road, Old Puako Road.
4. The second left is the gated short paved road and parking lot for Waialea Bay (Beach 69).
5. Or, if you are coming from Hapuna Beach, you can follow Old Puako Road south and turn right on the next gated paved road.
6. The gate opens at 7 am and closes at 8 pm.
There are showers and restrooms, water, picnic tables and plenty of shade.
A Good eBook Guide To Tropical Pacific Fishes