Dreaming of a true Hawaiian paradise?
Papakōlea beach, better known as the Green Sand Beach, in the Big Island, is precisely what you are looking for.
The beach is an authentic jewel, being made of small green crystals, the so called Hawaiian diamonds, that give it its famous color. This is due to a green mineral of volcanic origin called olivine.
Papakōlea beach is located, in fact, in the eroded cinder cone of an extinct volcano, that last erupted 49.000 years ago. Olivine crystals are separated from the cinder by the action of the ocean and mixed with the sand of the beach.
How to Reach Papakōlea Beach
If you rent a car, you have to follow Highway 11 up to South Point (Ka’u area, between mile 69 and 70), which is the southernmost tip of the United States. There is a parking area where you can leave the car.
Can I Get to the Beach by Car?
You usually cannot drive your rental car in the beach area. The road is dangerous and it is only for expert 4X4’s drivers. You’d better ask local people for a ride in their 4WD jeeps: they usually charge about $15 round trip per person.
Hiking to Papakōlea Beach
If you like adventure and peace, this place is worth the hike, which is also the best choice to preserve the environment.
Now you are probably wondering “Is it easy to reach?”
It is not: paradise is never easy to reach. Nevertheless, the hike is feasible.
The round trip hike to the beach is about 5 miles, it can be uneven and rocky, and the climate can be very hot and windy. You will find no tourist services in the beach: so, it is important to be properly equipped and organized! If you decide to go there, it is better to leave early in the morning.
You’ll need to wear hiking shoes (no flip-flops please!), walk carefully and bring some water, food and sunscreen with you and proper clothes.
The panoramic view from South Point is amazing and the trip down to the beach is breath-taking. During the walk you will also see the remains of ancient heaiu (Hawaiian temples) dedicated to fishing. Being hard to get there, the beach is isolated and rarely-visited.
Once there you will enjoy the incredible color of the sand, the unspoilt nature, the silence broken only by the wind and the sound of the ocean. The waters can be rough and the wind strong, but swimming and snorkeling are possible with better conditions (for example in the morning).
Accommodation on the Big Island
To Conclude… Did You Know That?
- the Green Sand Beach is one of the only 4 green beaches in the world (the others being Talofofo Beach on Guam – USA, Punta Cormorant on Floreana Island in the Galapagos Islands, and Hornindalsvatnet in Norway)
- it is the greenest of the 4 green beaches because of its concentration of olivine into the sand
- it has 3 names. Besides the self-explanatory name (Green Sand Beach) and its Hawaiian one (Papakōlea beach, where kōlea is a bird you can see in winter), it is also called Mahana beach, from the name of the original volcano Pu’hu Mahana.