In a nutshell: Ho’okipa Beach is a world-renowned windsurfing spot with often dramatic and impressive surf.
Minuses: Marginal for swimming.
Sound-bite: “Epic day bro!”
Ho’okipa is Mecca to the windsurfing world, and is also a top-notch board surfing destination. There are professional windsurfing competitions held here, and on just about any day with wind (which are most days) you can watch pros doing absolutely amazing things with sailboards. Ho’okipa provides visitors a stunning backdrop where you can watch the best effortlessly play with the ocean in a way that mere mortals can only dream of.
During the winter months under the right conditions (when the surf is up and the wind is strong), huge waves form with their whitecaps blowing off trailing like a thousand tiny white ribbons. Combine that scene with the monster surf pounding against the Ho’okipa Lookout’s rocky outcropping – the spray scattering like a gigantic water-balloons relentlessly exploding upon impact – and you’ll be left without doubt that you’ve just witnessed one of nature’s epic scenes of natural beauty.
Now, if you’re considering getting in to surf or sail here (and you haven’t figured this out already), you’d better be really good (or come on a small ankle-buster day in the summer – like in the current summer photos I need to update this winter…) Even on average surf days, strong winds, currents and shallow reef typically ravage optimistic novices.
For watching the surfers and the 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 where you want to come out if you’re continuing on toward Hana. (Beyond the lookout is one-way and does not permit Hana-bound traffic at the only exit.)
The good news is that you don’t have to be an expert to enjoy the beach. The beach itself is long and narrow, white sand, with plenty of open space to lay out a blanket and lounge.
An exposed reef runs along most of the shorebreak, and frequently loads of green sea turtles can be seen just on the other side bobbing in the water. The best angles to see the turtles are standing on top of the exposed reef (shorebreak & tide permitting), or standing at the edge of the lower parking area before it drops down a few feet to the beach.
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
in front of Wana Beach (the tiny beach just west of Ho’okipa beach; but difficult entry from that beach – enter from H’poko.) Usually breaks left.
Notes: (*competitions excepted)
- No windsurfing before 11am*
- No windsurf at H’poko if 10+ surfers
- Kiting only at Lanes*
There are also tidepools and protected wading pools for the keiki, and on the Pavilions side there are small areas of sandy-bottom ocean with safe sheltered swimming. At the opposite end, the lower parking lot area has drive-up-to-the-beach parking and is a great place for a quick and convenient in-and-out to the beach and tide pools. (This is also the end where you will enter the ocean if you’re windsurfing.) Technically you could swim in the sandy area in front of the H’poko lifeguard tower – but most of the time it is just a bit too rough in this spot to really enjoy (especially with boards continually coming in and out around you.)
There are lifeguard towers at both ends of the park, and these primarily serve windsurfers and surfers who find themselves in over their heads, as swimmers rarely venture beyond the shallow edge.
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 it can often 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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