Shipman Beach and Puna Trail
Shipman Beach is the idyllic, uncongested beach you're looking for on the Big Island

Having near total solitude on the Pu'u O'o Trail and the hike of Mauna Ulu, the thought of going to a busy beach was far from my mind. Fortunately, the Shipman Beach Hike is sufficiently easy for a 1/2 day hike but long enough to deter the casual beachcomber. Even on a perfectly sunny, winter day in Hilo, I only happened upon a dozen other hikers. Here's my guide and trip report.

Shipman Beach Hike Overview and Directions

The Shipman Beach hike, also known as Hā'ena Beach, is located south of Hilo in the town of Hawaiian Paradise Park. The trailhead is about 30 minutes from downtown Hilo and there's no real public transportation to get to the trailhead. Note that Hilo is infamously congested and traffic can make the trip feel like a drive in LA during rush hour. Also, the trailhead has room for about 20 cars though overflow parking is available. It's best to get an early start on this hike.

Puna Trail
The trailhead was empty at 830 but completely full by 10. Note the overflow street parking. Don't block and driveways and be a good neighbor to local residents.

The hike itself follows the historic Puna Trail. Its public land though private land otherwise encircles the trail. There's no cost to do the Shipman Beach Hike. Note that the trailhead is known for break-ins but as long as you don't leave a Gucci purse in plain sight, you're probably good to go.

By my GPS, the hike is about 6.2 miles with about 100' of altitude gain. There are bathrooms at the trailhead but no other services. Note the Shipman property abuts the beach itself and is off limits.

Here's a map of my hike-

Trip Report

I started the Shipman Beach hike around 8:30 AM and had no trouble finding parking. In stark contrast to Kona, where I was staying, the landscape here was a veritable jungle. The trail is completely shaded by broad-leaf tropical plants and remained humid and muggy throughout the hike.

The hike doesn't generally gain much altitude, but it presents its own set of challenges. Expect to navigate over massive tree roots and through extremely muddy sections. I wouldn’t recommend wearing sandals for this trek. Despite the muddy mess in some areas, the rainforest environment is enchanting. Having previously hiked on the more desert-like leeward side of the island, experiencing the lush, tropical windward side offered a more quintessentially Hawaiian ambiance.

Shipman Beach Hike
Start of the hike
Shipman Beach Hike
Cathedral-like trees dominated the flora on the Shipman Beach Hike
Shipman Beach hike via Puna Trail
Tropical vibes are strong on this hike

The Shipman Beach trail takes a near straightline approach towards the beach. Though never more than a hundred yards from the shoreline, there aren't any beach views until the very end. In a few sections there were herd paths that meandered towards the cliffy coast. Save for the famous beach itself, the coast is mostly a cliffy lava-scape.

After about 1 hour of hiking, I finally came upon the famous beach. It was everything it was billed as. The sand was perfectly soft and white with a calm pool for easy wading. Green sea turtles were everywhere though I was careful not to disturb them. I was content to simply sit in the sand, drink my morning coffee and bask in the sun. I don't know how many other beaches in the entire state are this free and uncrowded.

Puna Trail and coast
Cliffy lava coast before the beach
Shipman Beach Trail
Shipman Beach trail end and green sea turtles

More people started to trickle in around 1030 though it never became crowded. Eventually I had to return to the car so I walked the same way back. Total time spent hiking was about 2 hours and 15 minutes though I spent much longer relaxing on the beach.

This is a fantastic hike - highly recommended if you're on the Hilo side.