Wedged between Volcano National Park and the southern town of Na'alehu, Punalu'u is an exquisite black sand beach, one of Big Island's most beautiful, in fact. It's nestled in the district of Ka'u, roughly a 1.5-hour drive from Hilo and a bit longer from Kailua-Kona. Facilities include picnic areas, restrooms, cold showers and lifeguards. You'll also likely find ample privacy, since few visitors make it this far south, save an occasional sea turtle.
Sea turtles are a common sight at Punalu'u. — Photo courtesy of Julian Fong
Freshwater springs that bubble up from the cove's floor chill the water somewhat, making it all the more refreshing during summer months.
Fans of exploring will spark an interest in the property bordering the back of the beach. Here, an abandoned resort that once housed a flourishing tourism industry lies overgrown in the jungle. Wooden boardwalks weave from the beach, through the jungle and over lily pad-laden ponds.
Deeper into the forest, you can walk past empty stone buildings covered with thatched palm frond roofs.
Sea turtles laze on the beach on a daily basis. An interesting tidbit: local legend suggests that the northern and southern tips of the cove here were once sites of sacrificial stones.
Explore the views in Volcano National Park before you visit Punalu'u Beach Park. Then after your beach time, drive ten minutes further south to find a bite to eat in small Na'alehu Town
Punalu'u Beach — Photo courtesy of Forest and Kim Starr