In a nutshell: Ho’okipa Beach is a world-renowned windsurfing destination with often dramatic and impressive surf for sightseers as well.
Minuses: Marginal for swimming.
Sound-bite: “Epic day brah!”
Ho’okipa is Mecca to the windsurfing world (and no slouch for board surfing, either.) There are professional windsurfing competitions held here, and on just about any day with wind (most) you can watch pros doing their thing. Ho’okipa also provides sightseers a stunning backdrop to watch the best effortlessly play with the ocean in a way that mere mortals can only dream of.
If you’re considering getting in to surf or sail here, you’d better be skilled enough for the conditions – especially if the orange flags are out and the surf is big. Even on smaller to average days, sudden and quickly building afternoon winds, strong rip currents and shallow reef can quickly take control form overoptimistic novices. The inexperienced would also be well advised to study the ocean and locally experienced surfers carefully before entering. If you don’t see the best way in and out ask the guards how to avoid the rip (and then the reef) when you come back in.
Swimming & Playing
Overall, swimming is definitely secondary to other attractions here, as options are somewhat limited. On the Pavilions side there are small areas of sandy-bottom ocean with sheltered swimming, and there are also often small tidepools running the length of the middle of the beach that keiki love to play in. Casual swimmers rarely venture beyond the shallow margins of the shoreline. There are lifeguard towers at both ends of the park.
The Beach & Turtles
The beach is long and narrow white sand; uncrowded with plenty of space to spread out.
An exposed reef runs along most of the shorebreak, and frequently Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles (Honu) can be seen bobbing just on the other side. If that’s not close enough for you, at least a couple of turtles can be found lazing on shore at the far end of the beach most days (hint: look close to the lookout cliff.) At first most folks don’t even realize they’re there because they look just like the scattered boulders in the same area (presumably one reason they have claimed this area en force.) Typically as sunset approaches, many Honu (and their admirers) will begin popping up in the shorebreak to beach themselves for community sunset rest/admiration.
Prevailing trades are parallel to shore (East East-Northeast)
“Pavilions” – Surfing
Furthest east toward Ho’okipa Lookout. Typically a right-hand break.
“Middles” – Surfing (some windsurfing cross-over)
West of Pavilions. Breaks both right and left (more left.)
“H’poko” or “Point” – Surfing & Windsurfing
West end of beach. Typically surfing in morning and a windsurf break when afternoon trades pick up. Usually a right-hander.
“Lanes” – Windsurf & Kite
front of Wana Beach (tiny beach just west of Ho’okipa; difficult entry – enter from H’poko.) Usually breaks left.
Notes: (*competitions excepted)
– No windsurfing before 11am*
– No windsurf at H’poko if 10+ surfers
– Kiting only allowed at Lanes*
For watching the surfers and epic surf, Ho’okipa Lookout is the place to be. The lookout is on the edge of a cliff overlooking “Pavilions” – the popular surfing-end of the beach. Conditions permitting, more adventurous folks walk down toward the tip of the rocky outcropping, closer to the action (and closer to unforgiving pounding surf!) The lookout also has its own large parking lot, which is definitely where you want to park if you’re continuing on toward Hana. (Beyond the lookout becomes one-way and the only exit does not permit Hana-bound traffic.)
During the winter months under the right conditions (when the surf is up and the wind is strong), huge waves form with blowing whitecaps trailing like a thousand tiny white ribbons. The monster surf pounds against the rocky outcropping exploding upon impact. Without doubt, days like this deliver one of nature’s epic scenes of natural beauty.
The Picnic Pavilions
The pavilion area is closer to the lookout end; elevated from the beach. Even for a picnic, this is an area I suggest visitors skip in favor of the more welcoming sandy beach, not only because the beach is preferable, but also because sometimes it may have a few in attendance that don’t know the meaning of ho'okipa.
Mile Marker: #8.8 (Hana Hwy aka Hwy 36)
GPS Coordinates: 20.935328,-156.355577
Facilities: Lifeguards, showers, pavilion, picnic tables, bathrooms & port-a-potties.
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