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Punalu’u Black Sand Beach





Visiting Punalu’u

Punalu’u is one of the most stunning and popular black sand beaches on the island. It is easily accessible from Highway 11 on the south side of the Big Island. There is a beautiful freshwater pond behind the beach and a picnic area with tables and great views!

Genuine Black Sand

True black sand is created when molten lava hits the ocean, cools rapidly, and explodes! Over time, the black sand washes out to sea and the waves replace it with white sand. This type of black sand is rare, even on the Big Island, so it is prohibited to take any home with you.

Endangered Sea Turtles

This is a great place to watch and photograph sea turtles! You can often see Hawaiian Green sea turtles and endangered Hawksbill sea turtles hauled out at Punalu’u Beach. You can also see them grazing on algae underwater here.





Black Sand: This is the main attraction of Punalu’u Beach – as true black sand is very rare. Genuine black sand only forms when lava flows hit the ocean, solidify quickly, and shatter into tiny grains of sand. Other black sand beaches are formed from eroded old lava rock and don’t have the beautiful jet-black shine found at Punalu’u. Enjoy this unique sight and take photos, but do not take any sand from this beach – it is prohibited since this sand is rare and will eventually wash out into the Pacific Ocean!


Punalu’u Black Sand Beach is unique and memorable for its jet-black sand.

Sea Turtles: This is a great place to see rare and endangered Hawaiian Green and Hawksbill sea turtles! You can often find them basking on the warm black sand or swimming in the bay. Enjoy watching and photographing these turtles with your family, but please view from a respectful distance (15-feet away) and do not touch the sea turtles, as they can get sick or be scared away by human contact.

Swimming: Swimming can be challenging at Punalu’u Black Sand Beach, as there are strong currents and an undertow, especially if the surf is high. There are many rocks underwater and there is a freshwater spring that makes the water very cold in the top layer. But if you do swim here, you may be able to watch sea turtles swimming underwater. Make sure to enter carefully, stay close to shore, and pay attention to safety advisories.

Snorkeling: The strong currents at Punalu’u Black Sand Beach mean that this is not an ideal place to snorkel. However, if you really want to snorkel, you can walk to the more sheltered Ninole Cove – about a 5-minute walk south of the main beach area at Punalu’u.


Climb up to the lookout near the restrooms and picnic area

Facilities: There is a great picnic area with tables near the south end of the beach – where you can enjoy lunch or a snack while taking in the sights. There are restrooms near the picnic area. A lifeguard is usually on-duty.

Directions: Punalu’u Black Sand Beach County Park is accessible from Highway 11 between mile markers 55 and 56. You can park at the north or the south end of the beach.

We recommend contacting organisations directly to get the most up to date information about their operations.