Papakolea Green Sand Beach is a real hidden gem found in the beautiful windswept landscapes of the South Island. Combining the rugged trail out here with the fact that many visitors don’t make it out to this more remote part of the island, you will find that this unique beach is also very secluded.
The green sand found at Papakolea Beach comes from a deposit of olivine – a semi-precious stone that is often found in association with volcanic activity. Olivine is a common component of lava on the Big Island, but Papakolea is the only beach in Hawaii with green sand. This is because the bay’s steep cliffs are actually the walls of Pu’u Mahana – an old cinder cone that is slowly being eroded by the ocean. The cinder cone is the source of the green sand – as the waves cut further into the cliffs each year, more green sand is revealed.
Vehicle Access: If you rent a sturdy 4WD vehicle, you may be able to drive to the top of the beach. This depends on the road conditions, your vehicle, and your ability to drive on a very rough road. Sometimes locals will offer rides to the beach in their own vehicles for a fee.
Hiking to Papakolea: Alternatively, you can park your car and hike roughly 2.5 miles to the beach, following the trail outlined here. If you can hike it, this trail allows you to really experience the windswept, beautiful coastline of the South Island. The trail has some ancient sites along the way, including an old cave dwelling and the ruins of heiau (temples).
The beach is ringed with steep cliffs and there is no handrail or rope on the way down. Use your best judgement in finding a safe way down to the beach. Use caution if you decide to swim at this beach, the surf is often very strong and there are no lifeguards on duty or facilities nearby.