Black Sand Beaches of Hawaii – a complete guide of the all the black sand beaches on the Big Island
There’s a lot of spectacular black sand beaches of Hawaii to explore and even a few of them that are very newly formed on the island to visit. There are about 8 major black sand beaches located on the Big Island of Hawaii and they are all spectacular to visit with different characteristics that make each place unique to visit and experience.
Why are there so many black sand beaches in Hawaii?
Being the youngest of the island in Hawaii, the Big Island has the largest share of black sand beaches which are created from volcanic activity with lava flowing to the ocean. Hawaii island, the only volcanic island with several active volcanoes is constantly creating lava. Many of the eruptions from the active volcanoes created large lava fields that run all the way down to the ocean. In the process of entering the ocean, the lava explodes into small rocks and particles once it hits the cooler ocean waters, and can even explode into finer sand. The black lava made of larger rocks to small glass lava particles is continually broken down from the rough surf. This effect leaves a beautiful black sand beach around the island for locals and visitors to enjoy.
These are the 8 black sand beaches of Hawaii in no particular order
1. Punalu’u Black Sand Beach
Probably the most well known of the black sand beaches, Punalu’u black sand beach is located on the south eastern side of the Island just a close drive from Na’alehu town. Outside of the wide black sandy beach at Punalu’u, the area is also well known for all the honu or green sea turtles that come into the bay and bask in the warm black sands to help regulate their body temperature. The turtles of Hawaii are endangered and protected by law so you actually have to stay a distance of 10 feet from any of the turtles which are not conditioned to any human viruses.
Just as famous as Punalu’u black sand beach is the even more exotic Green sand beach close by at Papakolea in the South Point area of the Big Island. You can stop by the small town of Na’alehu for provisions or a place to eat while visiting both spectacular beaches in the South Point area. One of the favorite places is at Punalu’u bake shop for their delicious sweet breads and malasadas.
2. Waipio Valley Beach
Not only is this valley the largest and most impressive to see from above at the overlook area, but the black sand beach is also amazing and over a mile in length which is spectacular to see and visit. Seeing the beach and valley from above at the overlook is easy and fun to do but if you actually want to walk on the black sand beach, that is a lot of work either climbing down one of the steepest roads on the island and trekking it to the beach or booking a shuttle service or tour outfitter that will show you different aspects of the Valley floor. The beach area is spectacular and looking back up the steep 2,000-foot walls and cliffs areas gives you a different feel for how the valley is. Also, to the far right of the beach is a waterfall that flows directly into the ocean when there is a lot of rain to keep the waterfall active. After you spend some time at Waipio, you can relax and have a nice meal or some shopping fun at the nearby Honoka’a town for a nice break or you can explore Waimea, at paniolo cowboy country.
Note that swimming is extremely dangerous on this beach with rip tides and amenities are limited with just port a potty and no life guards on site.
Check out this post on visiting the black sand beach of Waipio Valley for more details, images and information to visiting this fantastic beach on the south side of the island.
3. Pohoiki black sand beach
This new black sand beach was formed just recently with the volcanic eruptions flowing out to the Puna district and coastline and creating this large and impressive black sand beach on the far eastern side of the island. Pohoiki is part of the Isaac Hale Beach park and has no potable water, port a potties and life guard stations on the beach area. Although swimming is not advised because of the extreme surf and undertow on the beach areas. The beach is a fun beach coming area with hot ponds located all around the forest areas of the beach to also explore and enjoy. When you drive on the Red Road, make sure to also stop by MacKenzi state park for the gorgeous cliffs and hiking trails in the area or you can visit some of the local attractions around Pahoa town here.
4. Pololu Valley Black Sand Beach
On the western most side of the Big Island, Pololu Valley has a fantastic overlook area down to the valley and black sand beach. The hike to the bottom is not as difficult as Waipio on the other side but it can be slippery and muddy after any successive rains in the area. The black sand is fine at some points and then rocky and large boulders towards the ends of the beach areas where the cliffs jut out dramatically from the valley floor. The hike down to the valley is under a half an hour and the beach is just a short walk from the trail. Along the way is a stream that also empties out into the ocean and you can follow the trail for a short distance until it ends and becomes private property. A short drive from Waimea over the Kohala Mountain road, one of the most scenic drives to do around the island.
Note that swimming on this beach is also very rough with undertow and there are no lifeguards at the beach area so swimming is not advised here.
Check out this post on visiting the black sand beach of Pololu Valley for more details, images and information to visiting this fantastic beach on the south side of the island.
Richardson Ocean Park is the last of the string of Hilo side beaches and is unique with it’s black and also green sand beach combination. The area has a small black sand beach and other rocky beach areas to explore, sunbath and even see green turtles and other marine life on the sheltered bay area. Snorkeling is fantastic around the rocky parts of the beach that all the tropical fish congregate. With a short drive from Hilo town, the beach scene is fun and family friendly in the area and Richardson is one of the most popular beaches to enjoy on the east side of the island. Make sure to drop by Hilo Farmers market for food like some tropical fruits, poke or other popular Hawaiian foods to go for a fun picnic on Richardson park.
Check out this post on visiting the black sand beach of Richardson Ocean Park for more details, images and information to visiting this fantastic beach on the south side of the island.
6. Kehena Beach
The small clothing optional Kehena Beach on the Red Road of the Puna coastline is a popular alternative beach on the east side of the island and Sundays are crazy with pick up drum circles, dancers and impromptu singing and chanting occurs on popular Sundays at Kahena. The waves are strong and some rough undertow make it difficult but just watch the locals and time your entry to get into the water and you should be okay. If there are no swimmers in the water then you know that it is really rough on this black sand beach. There are no amenities and lifeguards on this beach so be prepared. You can also visit the scenic Mackenzie state park to explore more of the rugged Puna coastline.
Check out this post on visiting the black sand beach at Kehena Beach for more details, images and information to visiting this fantastic beach on the south side of the island.
7. Kaimu Black sand beach
Another newish beach on the Puna side is at Kaimu which changes constantly with black sandy beach area and then boulders the next time you visit and this is because of the constant shifting of lava sand into the surrounding areas and storms that make take away or bring back the beach here. The surf and undertow are extremely rough here and only the type of beach to enjoy for sunrise or just hanging out.
8. Kapoho Black Sand beach with no name
Another brand-new beach has formed at the Kapoho black sand beach along the Puna coastline and it really is spectacular but not easy to get to because you have to hike through a road around an hour to finally get to the beach area. It is pristine with not too many visitors on the black sand beach so you can practically have the beach area to yourself. On the left side of the beach in the rocky point, there are lots of green sand areas combined with the black sand to make the beach area here sparkle and look unique. Also, there are a few tidepools that you can enter depending on the tide and how rough the surf is around the semi protected tidepools.
There are a few more black sand beaches but too small and the size of little coves that are not well published or “hidden” to visitors and of course the locals like it that way so you’ll have plenty to discover with these black sand beaches mentioned above to explore and enjoy some beach time in Hawaii. The drive from Pahoa town to Kapoho goes from lush forest to black lava fields in such contrast to the landscape. Along the way, make sure to drop by Lava Tree State park to look at the lava tree molds formed by the rushing lava into the park area.
Check out these posts on visiting some other Hawaii attractions on the island
Visit the Green Sand Beach in South Point, Hawaii
An entire guide to visiting the Puna District of Hawaii
Have you visited any of these black sand beaches of Hawaii?
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