Big Island – Hike to Papakolea Green Sand Beach (USA)

Categories: Travel reports, North America, USA, Hawaii

After our visit to the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park we drove the Highway 11 further west, as there are other interesting places here that we had not seen during our last visit during our world tour.


Turtles at Punalu’u Black Sand Beach

Punalu’u Black Sand Beach is located between Péhala and Nélehu. From the entrance of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park it is about 45 kilometers or 30 minutes to reach the beach. Directly on the beach there is a small gravel parking lot as well as a little further along the road even a larger asphalted parking lot at the picnic and toilet houses. Parking is free here.

As the name suggests, Punalu’u Black Sand Beach is a beach with black sandthat has a high concentration of black volcanic gas. Such black beaches are created when liquid lava flows into the ocean, quickly solidified by the cold water and disintegrates into tiny particles. The waves then break down these particles into smaller sand fragments and through the currents they are washed back to shore.

The beach is known not only for its black sand color, but also for the sea turtles, which come out of the water at this point and rest on the beach.

And in fact, on our beach visit we were lucky 🙂 Directly on the black sand rested a green sea turtle. There weren’t really many people here on the beach, but to give the turtle its rest, the section around the turtle with red hats was cordoned off by the Beach Guard. After about 10 minutes, the turtle slowly set off again towards the sea.

Hike to Papakolea Green Sand Beach

To get to Papakolea Green Sand Beach, take the Mamalahoa Highway to S Point Road to the end. There is a small gravel parking lot here, which is free of charge.

Signposts, Parking, Papak'lea Green Sand Beach, Big Island, Hawaii, USA, Travelreport

Signpost to Green Sand Beach

From here you have two ways to get to the green beach. Either you run or you use one of the private pickup shuttles. Directly when you arrive at the parking lot, you will be immediately approached by locals if you want to have a shuttle to Green Sand Beach. Since the price of 20 US dollars per person (back and forth) was found quite high, we decided to run the almost 4 kilometer long distance (one-way). As hikers, we were not alone on the route, but we estimate that about 90 of the visitors use the shuttle service. By the way, it is not recommended to drive the route with your own rental car (unless you have a jeep), as the way is really very sandy and full of big potholes and stones.

The hike goes down sandy paths to the sea and then always along the coast. Again and again the fully occupied pickups met us here or overtaken us. That always looked a bit funny, because on the loading area (!) of the pickups the people stood close together – that reminded us a bit of a cattle transport 😉

After about 1 hour hike we arrived at Green Sand Beach and have to admit that we were a bit disappointed. Yes, the sand shimmered slightly greenish,but we had imagined that somehow a little more intensely. We were even too lazy and too tired to go down the steep slope to the beach, because we still had the 4 kilometer long way back in front of us. So we quickly took some photos and walked back towards the parking lot.

Incidentally, the unusually green hue of the sand comes from olivine crystalsthat erode from basalt (lava). The crystals are heavier than most sand species on the beach and remain behind when lighter grains of sand are washed away by strong wave activity.

Papakolea Green Sand Beach, Big Island, Hawaii, USA, Travelreport

Papakolea Green Sand Beach

Ka Lae South Point – the southernmost point of the USA

The last thing we went to today is Ka Lae South Point, the southernmost point of the USA. Most people probably know Southernmost Point in Key West, Florida. However, this point is only the southernmost point of the continental United States. Ka Lae South Point, on the other hand, is the southernmost point of all 50 states in the United States. Unfortunately, there is not much to see here, except a few anglers and a device from which cliff jumpers plunge into the depths of the Pacific on some days.

Ka Lae, South Point, Heiau, Big Island, Hawaii, USA, Travel Report

The coast at Ka Lae South Point

All travelogues from Hawaii

We had already visited the islands of Hawaii during our trip around the world on the way from North America to Australia. Here we were on O'ahu, Kaua'i, Maui and Big Island. Because we were so enthusiastic about the different islands and the diversified nature, we were able to make up for all the things we had not been able to do last time or which were partly not even possible. In 2015, for example, you couldn't see flowing lava on Big Island, because it didn't flow towards the sea as usual, but towards an inhabited village. And this was closed for access for the safety of all. But since 2016 the lava of Kilauea is flowing towards the ocean again and so we could finally realize one of our biggest wishes: To stand very close to flowing lava. We also wanted to snorkel on O'ahu in Hanauma Bay, climb Koko Head Crater, see a hula show, marvel at the fireworks of the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort, enjoy the sunrise on the 3,055 meter high Haleakala and watch the turtles on the beach along the Road to Hana. So many things we didn't know about last time or didn't manage to do last time.

Travel Reports Hawaii » Hawaii: Things to know, Photo spots & Travel Guide for a holiday
» O‘ahu: Waikiki – The neighborhood of Honolulu with Waikiki Beach
» O‘ahu: Honolulu – Things to do & the most beautiful photo spots
» O‘ahu: Honolulu – Hike to Manoa Falls & Tantalus Lookout
» O‘ahu: An Island Tour & & the most beautiful photo spots
» O‘ahu: Koko Crater – A hike on the old railway tracks in Oahu
» O‘ahu: Hanauma Bay – One of the most beautiful snorkelspots on Oahu
» O‘ahu: Diamond Head Crater – Stunning view over Honolulu
» Big Island: Arrival in Hilo & Akaka Falls State Park
» Big Island: Lava Hike on Big Island – Get close to flowing lava & feel the heat
» Big Island: Hawaii Volcanoes NP – The Lava Viewing Area at Ocean Entry
» Big Island: Lava Boat Tour – A boat trip to Ocean Entry on Big Island
» Big Island: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park – Things to do & Photo spots
» Big Island: Hike to Papakolea Green Sand Beach
» Maui: Lahaina, Nakalele Blowhole & the west coast of the island
» Maui: Sunrise from the top of Haleakala Volcano
» Maui: The panoramic Road to Hana & the Piilani Highway