Whittington Beach County Park is located in the Ka'ū District just past the 60 mile marker on Highway 11. This small, .82 acre park is almost always a bright and sunny spot with beautiful ocean, cliff and tidal views. A nice stop between Kona and Volcano, Whittington Beach County Park has shelters, picnic tables, fire pits, grills and bathrooms. We highly recommend this little known, but very beautiful and photogenic stop along the coast as a great place to stretch, have a snack and soak in all the beautiful colors.
The Whittington Beach County Park is in the district of Ka'ū. To get to the park take Highway 11 just past the 60-mile marker. The park very poorly marked and the sign is easy to miss. Look for a maikai (ocean side) turn with a sign in the turn that says Whittington Park. If you are coming from Volcano, the entrance to the park is just before the large uphill grade, on the left side of the road. If you are coming from Kona the park entrance is a right hand turn just at the bottom of the long downhill grade. As you are coming down the grade you will also see the abandoned wharf, marking the park.
The park is open 24 hours a day, year round. There is no cost to visit the park.
The park has restrooms, picnic tables and shelters. There is no drinking water at the park. A number of dirt side roads take you to other beautiful locations including a large fish pond.
Most of the park does not present good swimming due to the strong currents, however, the fishponds are often used by locals for swimming. Fishing is also popular at the park and fishponds.
Do not leave valuables in your car. Even though this is a small park, it is not patrolled and it is easy for someone to come in, break into a car and quickly disappear. Most of the park keeps you in eyesight of your car, but take a simple precaution of hiding all valuables.
Whittington Beach County Park is at sea level. Because it is in Ka'ū it is usually dry and sunny with a light breeze.
About The Park
The land currently occupied by the park was once the village of Honu'apo. The bay in front of the park is Honu'apo Bay and it, along with other nearby bays such as Punalu'u were subjected to the terrible 1868 tsunami. The wave completely wiped out Honu'apo village as well as much of the road though this area.
Though the abandoned land was still popular as a fishing spot, it remained unused until the 1870's when sugar cane mills sprung up around the bay. The bay was dredged and a wharf constructed in 1883 to facilitate moving the sugar and a railroad was eventually built to increase the ability to move the sugar.
Honu'apo remained a busy and important port up until the late 1930's when the road system on the Big Island had improved enough to make trucking the sugar more cost effective.
Another tsunami, in 1946 destroyed most of the landings and warf at Honu'apo leaving the ruined skeleton of a structure that still stands today.
No longer needed as a transportation point, and subject to periodic tsunami and the resulting damage, the land around Honu'apo Bay was donated to the County of Hawai'i and a park was created. The park was named after Richard Henry Whittington in 1948, a much-respected early settler of the area who had a home above the park.
As you enter the park, the road takes you along a short shady drive to an open cement area from which a number of smaller dirt roads lead off. The right most, larger road continues on to the parking lot of the park. Just past the parking lot are the covered shelters. To the right of the shelters are bathrooms and a shady area where camping is allowed by permit.
The shelters each have picnic tables and other picnic tables can be found around the park. Several large cement fire pits allow for grilling and cooking of food, though you should bring your own charcoal and you might want to bring some kind of grate or grill as not all the fire pits have grates.
The park is popular with the locals on weekends, with families and kids coming to picnic and fish. However, weekdays usually find the park virtually empty with only the occasional fisherman and tourists. The main reason for this is the park is poorly marked and very easy to pass by.
Between the shelters and the ocean is a pretty, small fishpond: a very beautiful and scenic spot to sit and watch the ocean. All along the ocean are other pretty, shady locations with stunning views. For some reason, the colors here are brighter and more deeply saturated than elsewhere, making this one of our favorite stops.
Near the back of the park is what remains of the ruined wharf. While just a skeleton, the wharf still provides a beautiful photographic opportunity as waves crash against the girders. You can also find stonewall work behind the wharf and the most unusual cement pillars between the rock wall and the wharf. Indeed, the cement pillars are a bit of a mystery. Examining them, each support pillar was a different shape. There is an octagon, a round, and a square pillar leaving us to wonder why one of each shape was created.
Do not explore just the park. Drive down the dirt roads. They don't go far and loop around in a circle. Most people just park off the side of the road and enjoy the view. There are huge fishponds with stone and cement walls - fine for swimming, and nice though rocky coastline (we wonder why this is a beach park, as there is very little beach). Avoid entering the ocean as on only the calmest of days is this a safe area to swim. Strong currents, rocky shoreline and crashing waves all add up to a very bad experience. Only on the far coastline, near the huge fishpond, is the water a little more shallow and slightly safer. (We stress slightly).
If you are on the road between Kona and Volcano, make Whittington Beach County Park one of your stops as it is one of the most enjoyable and colorful breaks along Highway 11.