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Lava, Black Sand

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Lava, Black Sand


The Big Island's Sprouting Beach

Kalapana, once a cherished Hawaiian fishing village, held deep-rooted traditions of the past that were devastated by the dramatic events of the 1990 lava flow. Its loss dealt a profound blow to those striving to preserve the old ways of life.

Before the cataclysmic eruption, this region was renowned for being home to the world's most renowned black sand beach. The Kaimu black sand beach, a long, sweeping bay adorned with stately palm trees, was celebrated globally as a natural wonder. Sadly, it now lies forever entombed under 50 to 75 feet of solidified lava.

As you journey along the road that ends at this desolate landscape, pause to step onto the lava and gaze toward the shore. In the distance, you'll spot young coconut trees sprouting. A local resident initiated a campaign to plant these trees as a way to resurrect their cherished beach. Even in the face of a terminal illness, she inspired the community to continue her mission of revitalizing the black sand beach. Residents, along with school children, embraced this endeavor even as she battled cancer. Today, a profusion of budding coconut palms graces the new black sand beach, serving as a testament to the vision and determination of one resident who refused to let her community's spirit fade, even in the shadow of her own mortality.

Kaimu Black Sand Beach, formerly one of the premier coastal spots on this side of the island, was also buried beneath the lava flows. Its striking black sand and towering palm trees had made Kaimu a highly sought-after playground. Now, as the road concludes, a path across the lava reveals a slender strip of emerging black sand. The relentless sea, crashing against the nascent shoreline, breaks down the lava and molds it into coarse black sand. The former residents of this area are working diligently to reclaim this modest beach by planting hundreds of coconut trees. Although these trees are still in their early stages of growth, they symbolize the resilience and determination of the people to reconstruct their way of life, even in the face of the inevitability of Kilauea's future flows.

Swimming at Kaimu is exceedingly perilous, so visitors are advised to exercise caution. The striking panorama of rolling lava hills is a poignant reminder of the area's former appearance and the incredible power of nature that forever sealed its fate. The Chain of Craters Road, once running along this coastline, was engulfed by Madame Pele during her volcanic paving project. Today, the only vestiges of this road are within the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Upon your return from the beach, you'll find a few roadside stalls at the road's end. Verna's offers an assortment of ice cream flavors and other delightful treats. To reach this site, take Highway 137 around Hawaii's eastern tip to its very end, or follow Highway 130 south from Hilo to Highway 137 and continue to the terminus. A "ranger" station and parking area await at the road's conclusion, offering access to this unique and poignant landscape.

KalapanaThe Big Island's Sprouting BeachKalapana, once a cherished Hawaiian fishing village, held de ....

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