Kawaihae is a small community on the northwestern shore of the Big Island in the transition zone between the Kona and Kohala districts and just 10 miles downhill from Waimea. Kawaihae is mostly an industrial area with a large active port where shipping containers are loaded and off-loaded with protection from a large breakwater. Fishing charters, sailing trips, and cruises of all types (e.g. snorkeling, whale-watching, sunsets) also leave from the Kawaihae Harbor on a daily basis. Just offshore from the harbor is a surfing break that is accessed from a spot called Pua Ka 'Ilima 'O Kawaihae Cultural Surf Park
. When the water is calm this park is a great place to go swimming. Just south of the harbor is Pu'ukohola Heiau National Historic Site
with two immense ceremonial temples and other historical landmarks. It's a superb place to go for a walk and the open-air visitor center is packed with impressive exhibits about Hawaiian history. The best sandy beach in the area is at Spencer Beach Park
which shares the same entrance as the national park. There you'll find a popular swimming area with lifeguards and decent snorkeling. North of Kawaihae there are several inconspicuous shoreline accesses that are notable for hiking trails, but lack sandy beaches. Crystal Cove
has the most official parking lot of them and is enjoyable at sunset time.