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Visiting Hawai’i’s Black and Green Sand Beaches

Postcard of Punalu'u Beach in 1965

Daytripping from Kona or Hilo

Along the southeastern coast of the Big Island, Punalu’u Beach and Papakōlea Beach attract travelers with their distinctive charm, each offering a beautiful experience worthy of the scenic drive required to reach them.

Postcard of Punalu'u Beach in 1965

Black Sand Beach / Punalu’u Beach

At Punalu’u Beach, the striking contrast of black sands against the blue waters of the ocean and the green canopy is magical. Snorkeling enthusiasts love the variety of marine life in these clear waters. Schools of vibrant fish dart among the coral reefs, while graceful sea turtles glide effortlessly, their movements a testament to the serene rhythm of island life. This is a very popular beach for sea turtles and they are easy to spot basking on the warm black sand. 

Green Sand Beach / Papakōlea Beach

About 24 miles further along the coast, the rugged views give way to the hidden gem of Papakōlea Beach, also known as the Green Sand Beach. This is one of only four green sand beaches in the world. The scenic hike is under 3 miles each way through windswept cliffs and coastal scrub. The gorgeous hike is worth taking but if 5+ miles of hiking seems like too much there are local drivers who will take you either or both ways for a small fee. The beach is beautiful but be cautious in the water as there can be a very strong current. More information about the hike here!

A word of caution: Do not drive your own vehicle and, more specifically, do not take your rental car past the parking lot! 

View of Papakolea BeachImage by BigIslandHikes.com

Eating Along the Way

Onward to food! The well-known Punulu’u Bakeshop has delicious malasadas, sandwiches, and plate lunches. The garden is a peaceful spot for a coffee and mango malasada. Another great option is the Aloha Mix food truck just across the street. They are known for steak and shrimp plates and acai bowls.   

One more little side trip a few miles further! Although I am not this type of thrill seeker, watching the cliff jumpers at Southpoint is pretty exciting and a little nerve-wracking. Sure go ahead and jump if that’s your thing but just watching will be enough for most of us! Walk another 100ft south to the Southernmost point in the US.

On Image – include link to https://bigislandnow.com/2017/05/11/crusin-ka-lae-south-point-with-tita-nui/

“The actual Southernmost tip of the United States is just past the metal light beacon to the left and toward the coast. Follow the low rock wall, actually an ancient Hawaiian ruin called Kalalea Heiau, to the edge where the frenzied ocean punishes the rugged coastline with its power. Please do not touch or sit on the rock wall as it is a sacred site.” (Hawaii Guide

Enjoy your day trip to Punalu’u and Papakōlea beaches, the rugged beauty of the volcanic landscape, and the great local food choices.

Check out lodging that is available for your dates.