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Big Island Sights

Papakolea Beach (Green Sands Beach)

  • Hwy. 11
  • Naalehu
  • Beach–Sight

Updated 01/06/2014

Fodor's Review

Tired of the same old gold-, white-, or black-sand beach? Then how about a green-sand beach? You'll need good hiking shoes or sneakers to get to this olive-green crescent, one of the most unusual beaches on the island. It lies at the base of Puu O Mahana, at Mahana Bay, where a cinder cone formed during an early eruption of Mauna Loa. The greenish tint is caused by an accumulation of olivine crystals that form in volcanic eruptions. The dry, barren landscape is totally

surreal but stunning, as aquamarine waters lap on green sand against reddish cliffes. The surf is often rough, and swimming is hazardous due to strong currents, so caution is advised. Drive down to Ka Lae (South Point); at the end of the 12-mile paved road, take the road to the left and park at the end. Anyone trying to charge for parking is running a scam. To reach the beach, follow the 2¼-mile coastal trail, which ends in a steep and dangerous descent down the cliff side on an unimproved trail. The hike takes about two hours each way and it can get windy, so bring lots of drinking water. Four-wheel-drive vehicles are no longer permitted on the trail. Amenities: none. Best for: solitude.

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Sight Information


Hwy. 11, 2½ miles northeast of South Point, Naalehu, Hawaii, 96772, United States

Updated 01/06/2014


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May 16, 2012

Papakolea Beach Review

Unlike "pink" beaches or "peach colored" beaches where, if you use a little imagination, you can see the color, this green sand beach really is olive green with flecks of gold! This beach is so unique that it is a must see, but see it with a little preparation! It is remote and takes some driving time from Hilo or Kona so buy gas and plenty of water before setting out. Its also more like 2.8 miles from the Green Sand Beach parking lot back to the

beach itself so hiking will take about hour and a half each way over shadeless, hot, dusty, rocky terrain with no signs, water, bathrooms, or Burger King. Even with a 4-wheel drive Jeep I wouldn't try driving back to the beach over the couch-sized ruts although some tourists do at the risk of paying $1,500 for towing out. As an alternative, the local "characters" hanging out in the parking lot are not there to break into your car but to hire for a ride to the beach. The ride, in a beaten up, high-clearance, 4W-drive vehicle makes a New York City taxi ride seem absolutely serene and will jar loose your internal organs. The ride will take about 10 minutes and your driver will stay with you if you only want to take a few pics or drop you off and return about 40 minutes later if you want to climb down to the waters edge. The short climb down the volcanic cliff is tricky but not precarious, using the well worn, carved footholds in the soft rock. The proper "donation" for this taxi service is about $15-$20 per person. Take water, take sunscreen, and take a local driver!

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