Also known as Papakolea Beach, Green Sand Beach is a magical cove far off the beaten path in South Point of Big Island. Located between Na'alehu and Kailua-Kona, the beach is accessible only by four-wheel drive, yet it's an easy drive out. The beach's sand is made up of olivine, a green semiprecious stone created in volcanic eruptions. It has a green tinge and varies in brightness, and although it's not solid green, the beach derives its name from this uniquely colored sand.
Visitors to Green Sand Beach usually dedicate a whole day to the adventure, but it can be done in a half day. You'll drive at least an hour whether coming from Hilo or Kona, and either drive is beautiful within itself. You'll be far off the beaten path out here, so make sure to bring food, water and sunblock.
Green Sand Beach is beautiful and secluded — Photo courtesy of Tiffany Mueller
There are no facilities at Green Sand Beach, and swimming can be dangerous depending on wave size, so use caution. However, it's a beautiful and unique place to visit, so don't forget the camera. Use the trail down the hill to access the beac,h but go slow to ensure safe footing. This is a collapsed cinder cone, so the access is steep. Some visitors like to camp out here, but it gets really windy and there are no trees around for wind block.
It's less than three miles from the parking area to the beach, and takes about 45 minutes to walk in. Since it's necessary to drive slow to the beach, it's about a 20-minute drive in. Turn off of Highway 11 and onto South Point Road between mile markers 69 and 70. Drive to the end of the road where it turns to dirt, and you'll likely see cars parked there. Take a four-wheel drive in or walk in, but walking takes a while.
If you're heading to Green Sand Beach from Hilo on the east side, make sure to stop and enjoy sights along the way. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is along the way, and the Kilauea Lodge is a wonderful place to stop for dinner on the way home. In Na'alehu, the town closest to the beach, you'll find a few small food markets and a coffee shop.
On the way to the beach from Kona, make sure to stop at Kealakekua Bay. This historical location is lovely for swimming, or you can rent a kayak right on the beach and cruise the bay. End the day back in Kona with dinner at Huggo's or at the Kona Brewing Company.