Papakolea Beach/Green Sand Beach - Big Island, Hawaii
Updated: Nov 21, 2018
Papakolea beach popularly known as Green Sand beach is one of our favorite beaches among all our travel destinations. This secluded shore of crystals like green sand close to the southern most point of the United States is simply out of this world. The green sand that gives this beach its name, is made up of fragments of a rich green mineral called Olivine, black lava rock and white corals. It is one of the only four green sand beaches in the entire world.
Papakolea Beach / Green Sand Beach - Big Island, Hawaii
We had visited this beach the first time more than 4 years ago, but for any reason did not want to miss going there again. Though it has become more and more busy over the years, we loved how absolutely nothing has changed. No new roads were built, still no proper trails, no food stalls, or restrooms. One could get to the beach either by hiking 2.5 miles (one way), self driving a 4WD vehicle suitable for rough terrain (which looks scary but some people do it) or ride with the experienced locals on one of their trucks.
4WD to the beach / Top angled view
Green Sand Beach - Big Island, Hawaii
We took the local truck, although hiking would have been fun. However, we saw hikers get a ride on their way back as the heat is intense and there is absolutely no shade to rest under. The ride was extremely bumpy and dusty. You could fall off the truck if you don't hold tight. But its a unique and fun experience topped with gorgeous ocean views.
Glittering olivine sand crystals
After riding for around 30 mins, we arrived at the cliffs above the beach. Then we had to climb down the cliff to get to the shore, which was easily manageable. The colors of water and sand were breathtaking. It looked like sparkly green gemstones were scattered across the shore. Must see the real color and beauty of the sand without sunglasses. Rough waves did not stop anyone from getting into the water. We had an hour to spend at the beach before our shuttle driver could give us a ride back.
Check out the color / Fun on the beach
Only difference the first time was that we rode in a covered truck and the driver was also our guide. He talked about the areas history, how the beach was formed, how the locals worship their land and so on. This time we didn't see any covered trucks and the ride was also 5 dollars cheaper. By the end of it, we were covered in a thick layer of dust. But this is once in a lifetime experience and we were lucky enough to go there twice.
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Where to Stay: We stayed in a vacation rental in Volcano town close to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Check out other options. For accommodations closer check here. Getting there: Whether you are driving from Kailua-Kona (55 miles) or Hilo (65 miles) or Volcano (40 miles) you will have to take HI-11 freeway to the south and take the south point rd. exit. Continue for 10 miles until the road splits, one leading to South Point and the other to Green Sand beach. Hours and Cost: Open 24/7. No parking fee. Local truck ride costs $15 per person. Trail: 2.5 miles one way. There is no proper marked trail, just hike along the coastline (with the ocean to your right on your way in) following other hikers and the truck route. What to Bring: Sunscreen, hat, sunglasses, plenty of water, snacks or food, sturdy shoes, bathing suit, towels and a camera. Things to do in the area: South Point, Punalu'u Black Sand beach and Punalu'u Bake shop.