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Papakōlea Green Sand Beach

big island/kau

Naalehu, 96772

Hiking, Surfing

Hours of Operation:

Hiking, Surfing

Papakōlea Green Sand Beach

The Big Island's Green Sand Beach

Papakōlea Green Sand Beach, a hidden gem, is one of only four green sand beaches globally. Nestled near Ka Lae (South Point) in Hawaii's Kau district, this secluded sandy beach offers a unique natural wonder. Papakolea's origin lies in its volcanic past, once a cinder cone volcano. After its eruption, the lava spewed by the volcano contained an abundance of olivine, a mineral found in Hawaii's volcanic rock. Over time, ocean erosion and weather gradually eroded the surrounding basalt rock, leaving behind the olivine crystals that grace this beach with its distinctive green sands.

Located just outside Naalehu, a small town between Volcanoes National Park and South Point (the southernmost point of the United States), Papakōlea Beach is approximately a 2-hour drive south of Kailua-Kona via Highway 11. It stands out with its striking green sands, which result from olivine crystals weathered out of cinder cones formed during Mauna Loa's 1868 lava flow. These olivine crystals are revealed as waves undercut the shoreline.

Papakōlea Beach is a popular destination for both locals and tourists. To make the most of your visit, arrive before noon on a weekday. As the beach's popularity grows, weekends can become crowded. An early visit ensures a more enjoyable hike, with cooler temperatures and fewer crowds. However, please remember not to take any green sand with you when you leave, preserving the beach's natural beauty.

The hike to Papakolea Green Sand Beach is a moderate-to-strenuous 4.5-mile roundtrip journey, with mainly flat terrain. The challenge lies in the sun and wind exposure. Starting early in the day is advisable, as it can get hot later on. The round trip typically takes 3-5 hours, depending on your pace and the time you spend at the beach. The trail begins at South Point Road, located between mile markers 69 and 70.

To reach Papakolea Green Sand Beach, drive to South Point on the Kona Coast of the Big Island, between mile markers 69 and 70 along Highway 11. As you near the road's bottom, South Point veers right, while the Green Sand Beach parking lot is to the left. During your visit, clear signage will guide the way.

Upon reaching the Green Sand Beach parking lot, head toward the boat ramp on the shore, which is approximately 0.5 miles from the parking area. Then, take an immediate left onto the trail once you reach the boat ramp. Accessing Green Sand Beach requires effort, with the hike to Papakolea spanning about 2.25-2.5 miles one-way from the parking lot, taking approximately an hour each way. The trail begins on flat terrain, passing over old lava fields and rutted sandy roads. Expect a dusty hike and exercise caution when descending to the beach due to steep parts of the surrounding cinder cone.

Papakōlea Green Sand Beach offers limited amenities, with no restrooms or other facilities in the area. Be sure to bring a trash bag to pack out your trash when you leave. During a previous visit in September 2022, port-a-potties were available near the parking lot. There was also a local vendor selling drinks and snacks, but this practice may change. Please note that there are no lifeguards at Papakolea Green Sand Beach, and swimming is not recommended due to challenging ocean conditions and strong currents.

No food or water is available at the trailhead or along the trail. Since you will be hiking over older dusty lava fields, wear sturdy shoes such as hiking shoes. It's important to remember that the Department of Hawaiian Homelands (DHHL) officially prohibits vehicular traffic to Papakolea. They do not issue vehicle permits or provide keys. The trek to Papakolea and Mahana Bay can only be achieved on foot and should be considered a "backcountry" trip for experienced hikers. While no permit is required for the hike, it's advisable to inform DHHL of your visit. You can contact DHHL at 160 Baker Ave, Hilo 96720, or call 808-974-4250 to let them know about your visit.

Papakōlea Green Sand BeachThe Big Island's Green Sand BeachPapakōlea Green Sand Beach, a hidden ge ....

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