Black Sand Beaches of Hawaii – a complete guide of the 10 black sand beaches of 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 10 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.
Located throughout the island, the black sand beaches of the BIg Island are exposed and tend to be in areas where the surf and tides are difficult and make swimming dangerous except for a few that locals do hang out in and are familiar with the area and conditions for swimming in. Be cautious and watch others before you attempt to enter the ocean from any of these black sand beaches in Hawaii.
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.
There are now over 10 black sand beaches in Hawaii for you to visit and explore these gorgeous beach areas of the Big Island.
Why visit a black sand beach in Hawaii?
Black sand beaches in Hawaii island area unique on the youngest island in the chain. They are very pretty and instagrammable and surprisingly many of the black sand beaches also host a variety of marine life from green sea turtles, monk seals, spinner dolphins to fantastic snorkeling venues. You’ll definitely get better photo opportunities when visiting and hanging out a black sand beach and having a unique experience on the beach here. Also, black sand beaches in Hawaii also have some green olivine mixed into the black sand and creating some really interesting effects when you walk through them.
These are the black sand beaches on the Big Island of Hawaii
Most of the black sand beaches on the Big Island are located on the Southern and east side of the island and white sand beaches tend to be on the western side of the island. Although there are also black sand beaches on the Waimea side at Polulu and Waipio Valley.
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.
Also a little further down from Punalu’u and a beautiful hike down the coastline is the black and green sand beach at Kamehame which is a special breeding ground for native hawksbill and green honu turtles at the beach area.
2. Waipio Valley Beach – a gorgeous black sand beach in Hawaii
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.
5. Richardson Ocean Park along Hilo’s string of beaches
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 in East Hawaii
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. The black sand at Kaimu tends to ebb and flow with the tides, currents and storms that hit this area of the puna district leaving lots of black sand and then eroding directly into large boulders left on the beach areas.
8. Kapoho Black Sand beach with no name
Another brand-new beach has formed at the Kapoho black sand beach along the Puna coastline. This new black sand beach has no official name 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.
9. Black sand beach at Honomalino Beach
One of the least visited beaches in Hawaii is just a short hike from Milolii Village at Honomalino Beach. Even though the area is exposed and barren, the trail going to Honomalino Beach is lush with dense jungle, local mesquite and coconut trees and snack like Cereus night blooming plants climbing up fallen trees.Skirting secret lagoons, coves and rugged coastline and then through a vast and exposed aa lava field you eventually come across a grove of coconut trees that mark the fringe of the black and green sandy beach of Honomalino. The crescent shaped beach is beautiful, not visited by hordes of tourists and mostly local families just hanging out and enjoying a day on the beach. Find out more on hiking to Honomalino Beach here for more details and images to see on getting to this beautiful black sand beach in Hawaii.
10. Ha’ena beach AKA Shipman beach
Along the puna coastline starting from the Hawaiian Paradise Park subdivision, Ha’ena beach is a fun hike through the coastal Puna trail leading through jungle and dense forested areas with lush coconut trees, native palms, ferns and other indigenous plantings. The hike to Ha’ena beach takes about an hour and twenty minutes and you reach a lagoon area with a black and green sand beach. The waters ebbing and flowing create these fascinating patterns from the changing and swirling black and green sand and you’ll also see various sea turtles, endangered nene goose and other native marine life from the area. Check out this post on visiting Ha’ena beach here for more details and inspiration to visiting this fantastic black sand beach.
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
Tips to visiting the 10 black sand beaches of Hawaii
Wear slippers or water shoes on the beach because the black sands are hot.
Please do not take any of the black sand or rocks from Hawaii it is not allowed, but do take a lot of pictures here.
Watch for the surf, rip tides or water conditions and other people entering the water before you attempt to enter the ocean.
Many of the black sand beaches have no lifeguards except for the popular black sand beach at Punalu’u, so be very careful.
There are turtles resting or even nesting at many of these black sand beaches so be aware that you have to stay at a distance of 20 feet from these marine animals.
If you go swimming make sure to use a sunscreen that is coral safe to protect the local coral reefs in the area from contamination of the oils from the sunscreen.
Cloudy days on a black sand beach can also cause severe sunburn, so do cover up and wear sunscreen.
Drink plenty of water on the beach so you do not get dehydrated or even get sun strokes, the sun is definitely more intense on black sand.
How to get to these gorgeous black sandy beaches in Hawaii?
Most of these beaches are remote and hard to get to while visiting the BIg Island so renting a car is better so you can really see all around the Big Island.
For really good deals on car rentals covering the Big rental companies, check Discount Hawaii Car rental here to check for prices on your rental car needs on the island. You’ll definitely want to visit many or most of these spectacular beaches when you visit the island.
Have you visited any of these 10 black sand beaches of Hawaii?
The 10 black sand beaches of the BIg Island are impressive raw and usually not swimmable because of the areas that they are exposed with rough conditions, currents and undertow at the various beaches. But they are still fun to hang out, explore and hike and even on a few enjoy tidepool areas and hot ponds to soak into.
If you have visited any of these wonderful Hawaiian black sand beach beaches do you have any comments or tips to share? Please share on the comments below.
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