Like neighboring Mauna Kea Beach, Hāpuna Beach is frequently ranked among the Big Island's top beaches, and the two have a lot in common. Both have resorts sitting at their north ends (resorts owned by the same conglomerate), both consist dreamy fine white sand, both enjoy generally manageable surf conditions, and both come equipped with showers and restrooms.
Hāpuna Beach, however, is enormous. In contrast to Mauna Kea's idyllic crescent shape, Hāpuna stretches out like a broad runway for a third of a mile for all of your beach lounging needs. If you are looking for a day in the sand that includes some walks along the waterline, Hāpuna is your best bet. The resort section of the beach is naturally delineated by a rocky point that effectively portions off the northern third; keep in mind that the entire beach is public, so don't let that interrupt your foray. The Hāpuna Prince Hotel is set back from the beach and is less noticeable than the Mauna Kea, though you'll have a hard time ignoring the blue umbrellas set up for resort guests.
Hāpuna Beach has much greater public access than Mauna Kea, as well. The recreation area entrance has a fee for non-residents and a robust parking area with overflow capacity...it all gets used. Just below the parking lot and to the north sits the Three Frogs Cafe, which serves snacks and rents some beach and snorkel gear. The rest of the hill leading down to the beach has been designed as a day use area; several covered picnic areas are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and larger pavilions for groups can be reserved. The paths leading around this section are all ADA accessible, and beach wheelchairs are available.
One of Hāpuna Beach's major assets is the lifeguard coverage, which is one of several reasons why this beach is such a great choice for families. You'll see several guard stations along the beach (though the one at the north end is no longer used), along with boards and rescue equipment. All of this is necessary because the surf can and does get dangerous from time to time. Waves pound and currents sweep. When you are on vacation with only a limited number of days to enjoy the ocean, it's tempting to jump in anyway. Do everyone a favor and, when conditions warrant, don't succumb to that temptation, and don't let the presence of the lifeguards lull you into a false sense of security.
There is more to Hāpuna Beach Recreation Area than Hāpuna Beach. Just south of Kanekanaka Point, the rocky point at the south end of Hāpuna Beach, sits the small and unique Waialea Beach, also known as Beach 69. This beach is also part of the Hāpuna Beach State Recreation Area, but it has a totally different feel and may be a better fit if you are looking for a smaller and more intimate beach experience.
Pets are not allowed at Hāpuna Beach or at Beach 69.