A hike to the green sand beach on the south end of the Big Island is a fantastic and unique hiking experience. Papakolea is the name of the beach located close to the south point of Hawaii Island and it is an easy and relatively easy hike along the coastal trails leading to the beach. If you love to see something rate and unusual, then go hiking the green sand beach on the Big Island and discover this gorgeous place on the south side of the island.
Hiking the green sand beach on the Big Island
Papakolea is named after the cinder cone that was formed along the beach which collapsed and eventually weathered down to a crater tuffed form with the beach area below the crater cliffs that protect it. (Very similar in nature to the more famous tuffed ring cinder cone called Diamond Head in Honolulu).
Getting to South Point and Papakolea
Follow the road going to the southern tip of the island and past scenic pasturelands and wind turbines heading to South Point. You will eventually reach a sign that points to the green sand beach and entrance to the parking lot area. Once you parked, there are a few trails leading directly to the ocean and take any of these which eventually will lead you to the main trail that also has a Kapu “No Trespassing “sign that is jokingly the mile marker and ignored by locals and visitors. There are two main trails one right on the ocean and the other just a hundred yards further inland. Beyond the trails are larger dirt roads that local taxi’s (pickup trucks that offer roundtrip rides for a donation) and other 4-wheel drive vehicles take to go directly to the beach.
Starting Point to hiking Papakolea
The hike to the beach takes about a two- and one-half miles in each direction on the coastline and is only one of four green sand beaches in the world. The rugged terrain and coastline are untouched and scenic with beautiful native wildflowers blooming against black lava rock. Along the hike, you’ll start to spot green olivine crystals on the sandy stretches which is what the beach is made of – Lava hitting the ocean breaks up into many particles and the green olivine is predominant in this sandy beach mixed in with the black lava rock. The olivine is a heavier crystal and stays intact on the beach, the finer version of olivine is better known at Peridot when it is of gem quality.
The Coastal hike to Green Sand Beach
The hike is easy to do on gently sloping terrain and the ocean views are nice and fantastic to photograph the many small coves and rocky coastline heading to Papakolea. You’ll know when you are close when you see the large cinder cone sticking out directly from the flat shoreline. You’ll definitely get better photo opportunities along the coastline when you reach the cinder cone and spot some fantastic views to capture the moment. Once you get to the entrance, you’ll notice that the beach is below the tuff cliffs and there are ladders that you can climb down to get to the beach area. Since there is only one access going up or down, be patient with hikers going in both directions and share some aloha.
The well protected Mahana bay and surf is variable so do take precaution since there are no lifeguards on site. There are also no facilities available on this rugged beach area.
Gorgeous green olive colored beach at Papakolea below
Climbing down the face of the cliffs via ladders and rocks to reach the bottom of the beach area below.
Here’s a cool video highlighting the entire hike to Papakolea
Things to do and see in South Point
Once you head back to the parking area there are a few other places of interest to see in the South Point area below. Also check out the other attractions and fun things to see in the immediate area of South Point.
Gorgeous coastal views from the South Point area
Other fun things to do in South Point area
- Go visit the tip of South Point – the jagged cliff areas of South Point are spectacular and wild it is definitely worth the short drive to see this place
- Those on an adventure kick actually love to jump from the cliffs for a real thrill ride.
- You can also just walk along the cliffside trails for more fantastic views in the area.
- Check out the Kula Kai Caverns for lava tube explorations in Ocean view
- Visit Punalu’u black sand beach and the gorgeous turtles that bask on the lava rocks and sandy beaches there.
- Get your fix of delicious Kau coffee at the Kau Coffee Mill in Wood Valley
How to get to Papakolea and South Point
From Kona area, the drive is about 63.6 miles driving down Highway 11 and in between mile marker 69 and 70. Look for South Point road and make a right, then drive down to a sign showing the Green Sand Beach on the left side. Drive to the parking lot area and look for the trails towards the ocean.
From Hilo area the drive to Papakolea is about 81.7 miles on Highway 11 and in between mile marker 69 and 70. Look for South Point road and make a left, then drive down to a sign showing the Green Sand Beach on the left side. Drive to the parking lot area and look for the trails towards the ocean.
Public transportation is limited and there are no tour outfitters going to this area. If you plan on doing this trip, then you should rent a car from either Kona or Hilo airport and drive down to the South Point area.
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