A rare green sand beach in Hawaii called Papakolea

The cinder cone and beach at Papakolea

A rare green sand beach in Hawaii called Papakolea

Hawaii has so many beautiful and panoramic beaches of every shape and feature. There are little bays that are perfect for snorkeling, windy and rocky beaches that are just right for surfing and then there are those gorgeous crescent-shaped beaches that are fun to just lounge in and take a casual stroll along. But with a little effort, you can hike to some of the most exciting and rare beaches and only found in a few places around the world.

This includes one of the most unusual and stunning beach destinations – a green sand beach called Papakolea beach, on the southern tip of Hawaii Island. The beach along the South Point of Hawaii is also the southern most tip of the entire United States.  A rare green sand beach one of only four found in the world, it is worth the two-mile coastal hike in each direction.  But for those on limited times or have difficulty hiking, you can easily catch a ride with the many impromptu pick-up truck taxis that offer a $15 dollar roundtrip “contribution” to the beach.


A rare green sand beach in Hawaii called Papakolea

Starting point of the coastal trail


Exploring and hiking to Papakolea Beach

Indigenous groundcover with yellow flowers cover the black lava rocks beds along the entire coastline, adding some color and contrast to the mostly treeless and desolate landscape.


A rare green sand beach in Hawaii called Papakolea



We preferred to hike along the coastal trail to the beach which is relatively flat and quite panoramic walking through some interesting geology and beautiful coastal paths. The start of the trail begins with a downhill walk from the parking lot to the boat ramp area and you can easily spot the trail on the left side of the ramp with a Kapu “No trespassing” sign which everyone pretty much ignores. It’s a very easy and flat trail skirting around the coastal areas with scenic views of black lava rock, red earth and aqua to blue colored waters of the Pacific ocean, a dazzling combination. It’s actually a pleasant walk if you go early in the morning before the afternoon heat makes it more difficult – although the coastal trail is quite windy so that’s refreshing at various points of the trail.  You can even spot many salt deposits in many of the sandy dunes with a distinctive white crystal formed into large forms on rocks and the dunes.


A rare green sand beach in Hawaii called Papakolea

Natural salt deposits





A rare green sand beach in Hawaii called Papakolea

Finally we made it to the beach


Finally arriving the viewpoint area to Papakolea Beach

In no time, we see an uplifted form of a hill which is actually an eroding cinder cone which has slowly deteriorating into the rough surf of the Pacific ocean.  Fortunately, today there was no surf and rip tides on the beach making it a wonderful swim into the aqua and blue waters of this gorgeous inlet.


A rare green sand beach in Hawaii called Papakolea

Stunning aqua colors of the bay


I bump into some Austrian girls that wanted to take a shot of them after they find out that I am photographer, what do you think of the moment?  Definitely  a picture perfect moment with stunning landscape and beautiful models.


Austrian tourist sharing a picture perfect moment

Austrian tourist sharing a picture perfect moment






A rare green sand beach in Hawaii called Papakolea

Bay opening at Papakolea



Papakolea beach is right under a large lava cinder cone  thrusting upwards dramatically towards the ocean. The name Papakolea comes from the cinder cone and the land surrounding it formed over 49,000 years ago from the Moana Loa volcano rift. The beach gets it green color from the mineral olivine which is a mineral created when magma starts the cooling process. Since the olivine is heavier than lava rock, it tends to settle in place versus lava rock which gets washed away into the ocean.


A rare green sand beach in Hawaii called Papakolea

Detail of green sand beach




The green olivine sand is colored a drab olive, but in certain areas it sparkles in the sunlight, when it’s mixed in with the natural black lava rock sand.


A rare green sand beach in Hawaii called Papakolea

Cliff details






A rare green sand beach in Hawaii called Papakolea

Cliff detail hike back up from the beach


After the beach hike we drove to the southern most tip  the island, I wrote a post previously about the South Point area of Hawaii Island here. The short drive to the South Point is dramatic with jagged cliffs dropping sharply into the Pacific Ocean, a beautiful place to enjoy the panorama and capture some images of the coastline.

Here are some things to know when you visit the green sand beach at Papakolea

1) It’s a 12 mile mostly one lane road from the main Highway 11 road, you need to drive the shoulder if you come across someone going the opposite direction to share the road.

2) At the end junction, there is a sign showing the green sand beach on your left and straight ahead is the road leading to the end of South Point.

3) Follow the road all the way to the parking lot and you can spot the trail leading downhill to coast and boat ramp, follow the trail.

4) Or you can easily flag any of the 4 wheel truck taxis who can easily take you to the beach in a few minutes roundtrip is a suggested donation of $15, make sure you tell them around what time to want a pick up if you are staying at the beach for a few hours.

5) The area is exposed sun with no shade, so bring hats and cover for yourself.



Have you been to the Green sand beach at Papakolea Beach?

What stood out for your visiting the area? Please share in the comment section below.

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