Near the southern tip of the Big Island, below South Point, is Papakolea Green Sand Beach, also known as Green Sand Beach. South Point is not only the southernmost tip of the Big Island, but is also the southernmost point of the United States. Situated on the eastern portion of South Point is a volcanic cinder cone that has been eroded by the ocean on one side to create beautiful crescent-shaped Mahana Bay, and Green Sand Beach.
Papakolea Green Sand Beach is a must-see when you visit the Big Island. It may seem difficult to get to, but will reward the adventurer well. The beach lies at the bottom of some tall cliffs that have been eroded into green sand. The sand gets its green color from elements in the volcanic lava. Please refrain from removing any sand -- it is illegal, as well as frowned upon by tradition.
With a giant green sand dune behind you and the unspoiled blue ocean in front of you, Green Sand Beach is like nothing you’ve ever seen -- almost like some sci-fi movie. To get there, follow Mamalahoa Hwy south of Kona until you reach South Point. It’s about a two-hour drive from Kona. You’ll see the green highway sign after mile marker 70. Take a right onto South Point Road. Continue on this road passing some space satellites and eventually passing a wind farm.
About five miles past the wind farm, there will be a fork in the road. Stay to the left. Continue for another 3/4 miles, and you’ll pull into a dirt parking lot. From here you still have a 2.5-mile coastal hike to Papakolea Green Sand Beach. There is a four-wheel-drive road, but it is very rough and will tear up your car unless you have the proper 4x4 vehicle and are an experienced driver. The hike is over this rutted four-wheel-drive trail with pits and crevices so proper footwear is recommended.
The trail breaks into many other trails, but just keep the ocean on your right and you won’t get lost. After the 2.5-mile hike you will reach the cliffs above Papakolea Green Sand Beach. It can be hot, windy, and dusty, and there aren’t any facilities in this remote area, so bring water, sunscreen, and even a hat to protect you from the sun. There are no lifeguards and swimming can be dangerous. Certainly, you won’t be disappointed if you take the time to visit this little known gem on the Big Island. It’s definitely worth experiencing once, because this journey will create memories that will last a lifetime.