Big Island Green Sand Beach
Best Beaches on Big Island
Papakolea is one of only four green sand beaches in the world. This very secluded sandy beach is located near Ka Lae (South Point) in the Kau district of Hawaii. Papakolea was once a cinder cone volcano. After it erupted, the lava that the volcano spewed was rich in olivine, an abundant mineral in Hawaii's natural volcanic rock. After the eruption, erosion from the ocean and weather slowly eroded at the basalt rock until just the olivine was left behind, giving this beach its unique green color.
Overview of Papakōlea beach (Green Sand Beach )
Papakōlea Beach (Green Sands Beach) is located outside Naalehu, a tiny town between Volcanoes National Park and South Point (the southernmost point of the United States). The beach is approximately 2 hours south of Kailua-Kona along Highway 11. It is easily recognizable by its green sand color. The green sands at Papakōlea Beach get their color from olivine crystals that have eroded out of cinder cones formed during the 1868 flow of Mauna Loa. Olivine is a mineral found in many Hawaiian basalts and forms during the slow cooling of lava flows. The olivine crystals weather out from undercutting by waves along the shoreline.
A favorite among locals and tourists alike, Papakōlea Beach is a must-visit destination. When the waves crash into shore, they erode the crystals and disperse tiny grains of green sand over the beach. To enjoy your visit, we advise getting to the beach before noon on a weekday. Because of its growing popularity, it can get crowded on the weekends. Visiting early will make the hike more pleasurable because of the cooler temperatures, and staying away on the weekend will help you avoid some of the crowds. As much as we love the green sand, it must stay here. Please don’t take any sand with you when you leave.
Getting There- Papakōlea beach (Green Sand Beach)
The hike to Papakolea Beach (also known as Green Sand Beach) is a moderate/strenuous 4-mile roundtrip hike. It will take 3-5 hours to complete, depending on your pace and how long you spend at the beach. The trail starts at South Point Road, found between the 69 and 70-mile markers.
Drive to South Point, on the Big Island's Kona Coast, between mile markers 69 and 70 along Highway 11. The rough roads are accessible by any vehicle with high clearance and four-wheel drive. Park your car in the small parking lot to the left of the harbor.
Once you arrive at South Point, you will look for signs pointing you to the trailhead for Green Sand Beach. Accessing Green Sand Beach isn’t exactly a cakewalk. The hike to Papakolea is 2.5 miles round trip and takes about an hour each way. The trail starts flat as you pass over old lava fields before descending a cliff where you will have to negotiate some loose rock and sand. Once at the bottom of the cliff, you’ll cross a lava field before reaching a short cinder cone that leads you down onto the beach. Hiking through some fantastic green landscape, make sure you have water and snacks as it can get pretty hot.
Papakōlea Beach (Green Sand Beach ) Amenities
The green sand beach has no restrooms or other amenities in the area. Bring your trash bag, pack out your trash and take it with you to leave the park.
There are no lifeguards at Green sand beach. Swimming is not recommended because of the rough ocean conditions and strong currents.
Essential Tips for a Great Papakōlea beach (Green Sand Beach ) Visit
One word of caution- do not swim here as the waters are very turbulent.
There's no water or food available at the trailhead or along the trail. You will be hiking over lava fields. Wear sturdy shoes, like hiking shoes.
Update: We wanted to note that DHHL’s (Department of Hawaiian Homelands) official policy is no vehicular traffic to Papakolea. They do not issue vehicle permits for $25 or any amount, and they do not give a key. The trek out to Papakolea and Mahana Bay can only be achieved by foot and should only be considered a “backcountry” trip of severe hikers.
You do not need a permit to hike there, but you should call DHHL to let them know you will be going there. They like to know who is on their property, and the hike is free. You can contact DHHL at:
160 Baker Ave.
We should also note that anyone trying to charge you for parking is running a scam. Rather than get confrontational, leave if anyone attempts to do so.
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Green Sand Beach Big Island of Hawaii Map
An Enjoyable Time at Papakōlea Beach (Green Sand Beach)
Fun Activities at Papakōlea Beach (Green Sand Beach)
Get ready to have so much fun at this beach.
Take a walk on the beach: One of the main activities is to take a walk on the Green Sand Beach itself. Once you're on Green Sand Beach, you can explore the tide pools and visit some exciting rock formations (including a blowhole).
Digging for shells and sea glass: if you're looking for a relaxing activity to do on the Big Island, I would recommend going here. You can spend hours just digging and finding extraordinary treasures in the sand.
Taking pictures and videos of the sunset and the fantastic scenery: If you want to take photographs, we recommend you come early in the morning because later in the day, the sun is too high and it's not so excellent for photography.
Camping: There are two campsites on the road, and they both look pretty nice. The first one is located next to a lava flow field and has some beautiful scenery. The second one is right next to the ocean but is more crowded than the first campsite.
Swimming: Swimming conditions vary depending on wave action, currents, and tides. Waves can reach 6 feet or higher and are often unpredictable with strong rip currents. Winter months offer calmer waters but can have strong currents and undertow. Always check ocean conditions before entering the water. There are no lifeguards or facilities at Papak ⁇ lea beach, so visitors must avoid getting stranded by high surf and tides.
Surfing: There are some sound waves for you to surf, but only experienced surfers should try it. Because there is no lifeguard on this beach, make sure you stay safe when surfing!
Sunbathing: Papakolea Beach has soft green sand and stunning water, making this an ideal spot to relax under the sun.
Nearby Attractions and Sights of Papakōlea beach (Green Sand Beach)
Here are some nearby attractions and sights that will enhance your visit to Papakōlea beach:
Waipio Valley: If you are looking for more adventure, head north to Waipio Valley, known as the Valley of Kings! This place is one of Hawaii's most sacred places and has been home to Hawaiian ali'i (royalty) since ancient times. It is said that Hi'iaka started her journey to Kauai here.
Punalu'u Black Sand Beach: Located on the southern end of the island, this beach is a breathtaking sight. It's also home to Hawaiian green sea turtles. Nearby is Punalu'u Bake Shop, which sells its famous sweet bread and banana macadamia nut crunch.
Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park: Spectacular views await you at the park, featuring lava flows, tropical rainforests, and an active volcano.
Ka Lae or South Point: The southernmost point in the United States, Ka Lae, is an excellent place for bird-watching and whale-watching (during winter). Ka Lae Point is one of Hawaii's most sacred sites and home to many archeological sites and petroglyphs.
Mauna Kea: If you're looking for something a little more adventurous, take the family to Mauna Kea — the tallest mountain in Hawai'i. It stands at 13,796 feet above sea level and has a 13-mile road that leads up to its summit. Also, stop at Mauna Kea State Park. Recreation opportunities at Mauna Kea State Park include camping, picnicking, hiking, and viewing the scenery.
Family Activities at Papakōlea Beach (Green Sand Beach)
Papakōlea Beach provides a unique experience for visitors. It's also surrounded by lush mountain peaks, making it an ideal spot to relax on the sand and spend time away from the crowds. While you can swim in the water, there are no lifeguards, so you need to be extra cautious when entering the ocean.
More Big Island Colorful Sand Beaches
Picking the best Hawaiian beach is no easy task, as you can choose from white, black, or green sand beaches. Whether you're admiring the sparkling green crystals, exploring the warm black sand beaches with the sea turtles, or simply lounging on a white slice of sandy heaven, these Big Island beaches are sure to please.
Other Hawaiian Colorful Sand Beaches
Hawaii is home to more naturally-colored sand beaches than any other place on the planet! Here the forces of nature have created mesmerizing color combinations- running the gamut from black, red, green, golden, and, of course, pristine white. Explore some of the most colorful and picturesque beaches in the state here.
Big Island Tours & Activities
Whether you're ziplining over a waterfall, exploring the depths in a submarine, or flying over an active volcano, one thing is certain: adventures here are pure heaven. So what's on your Big Island bucket list? Check out our great tours and activities, book your favorites, and get ready mark those must-dos with a checkmark. Plan, book, and go with Hawaii Guide!