“One of only 4 green beaches in the world!”
Papakōlea Beach (also known as Green Sand Beach or Mahana Beach) is a green sand beach located near South Point, Hawaii. One of only four green sand beaches in the World, the other being in Galapagos Islands. It gets its distinctive coloring from the mineral olivine found in the enclosing cinder cone. Papakōlea Beach is located in a bay half circled by Puʻu Mahana, a cinder cone formed over 49,000 years ago and associated with the southwest rift of Mauna Loa. Since its last eruption, the cinder cone has partially collapsed and been partially eroded by the ocean. The beach is sometimes named after the cinder cone, and sometimes after the area of land called Papakōlea, which comes from papa kōlea, which means plover flats in the Hawaiian language. Papakōlea is the area near the crater where the Pacific Golden Plover (Pluvialis fulva) are sometimes seen in winter. The cinder cone is rich in olivine, a silicate mineral containing iron and magnesium, also known as peridot when of gem quality. Olivine is a common mineral component of Hawaiian lavas and one of the first crystals to form as magma cools. Olivine is locally known as "Hawaiian Diamond" and is notably found in Oʻahu's famous Diamond Head landmark. The source of the green coloration of the beach sands is due to the olivine crystals which are winnowed from the eroding headland by the action of the sea. Olivine, being denser and tougher than the ash fragments, glass and black pyroxene of the rest of the rocks and lava flows, tends to accumulate on the beach whereas the usual volcanic sand is swept out to sea. Although these crystals are eventually washed away as well, the constant erosion of the cinder cone ensures a steady supply of sand for the foreseeable future—eventually, however, the supply will run out and the beach will look like any other. The beach is located about three miles east of Ka Lae (known as South Point) on the island of Hawaiʻi. It is surrounded by pasturelands and is only accessible either by foot, or raised vehicle such as a pick-up truck or Jeep. The paths are extremely rugged (due to both vehicular traffic and erosion) and should not be attempted by an inexperienced driver. Some locals are known to offer rides between the parking lot (the end of the paved road) and beach for a nominal fee (typically around $10 USD per person as of 2012). To actually reach the beach, an additional climb down the cinder cone is required..
Pictures really don't do this beach justice. You drive to the parking lot and then I'd suggest hiking in. It's about an hour hike, but the beach at the end is totally worth it. There will be locals around the parking area offering to drive you in for a small fee (it's an off road drive and pretty bumpy though). Be careful when you walk down the stairs to the beach, they can be slippery. The current here is also pretty strong so be careful when you go in the water if you're not a good swimmer. I'd recommend going early before the crowds get there.
It's a nice 1.5 mile hike from South Point and is gorgeous to see.
Embrace the adventure and hike!! There will be someone there to bring you back! Take sunglasses and water. Swimming is hit and miss.
The drive to South Point, where Papakolea Beach is located, is an adventure in itself. Be sure to bring water because it's a hot, 2-mile hike to reach the beautiful green sand. And if scrambling down the rough hillside is more than you care to do, the view is just as beautiful from the top of the trail. Read more about my hike to Papakolea Beach.
It's a long hike down into the beach from the parking area. There are locals that will shuttle you to the beach. It's not recommended to drive your own vehicle there.
Once there enjoy the views and green sands. It needs to be sunny to really see the full color.
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- Sun - Sat: 12:00 am - 11:59 pm
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Credit Cards not Accepted
Not Wheelchair Accessible
No Public Restrooms