Papakolea Beach

#9 in Best Things To Do in Hawaii - The Big Island
Papakolea Beach picture
Papakolea Beach
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Praveen P.N/Getty Images

Key Info

near Ka Lae

Price & Hours

Free

Details

Beaches, Swimming/Pools, Free Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
3.7scorecard
  • 5.0Value
  • 1.0Facilities
  • 3.5Atmosphere

Putting Papakolea Beach on one's travel itinerary is not for the faint of heart. For one, its secluded location makes it tough to reach. Plus, there is little shade and nothing in the way of amenities, and it also experiences rough waters. But intrepid travelers brave the journey because they want to say they've visited one of the world's only green sand beaches. 

Papakolea earned this distinction thanks to the Pu'u Mahana cinder cone (or volcanic fragment) that circles the beach's shoreline and erodes into the sand. Allot at least two hours for an excursion here, time enough to get to this secluded spot – you'll find a dead-end road in South Point off Highway 11 – and then to make the 3-some-mile hike or drive to the cinder cone's steep descent to Papakolea.

Recent travelers recommend wearing sturdy shoes, a hat, and bringing along plenty of sunscreen and water. If you don't rent a four-wheel drive vehicle, you can still catch a ride to the beach – locals are stationed near the area and offer to shuttle visitors back and forth for about $20 per person. And though you may be tempted to bottle a bit of this unusually colored sand for a unique souvenir, keep in mind that removing any sand from the beach is illegal. To avoid the most punishing mid-day heat, plan your adventure in the morning. 

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Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park
Akaka Falls State Park
Type
Time to Spend
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#1 Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park

Four months after closing due to intense and damaging volcanic activity, Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park reopened in mid-September 2018. "The Volcano," as it were, loosely refers to two active volcanoes in Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park; specifically, it's Kilauea that's the real must-see. A 4,000-foot-tall mountain, Kilauea has been spitting, spewing and oozing since Jan. 3, 1983 and in May 2018, it started erupting, forcing evacuations and destroying entire communities. Although the eruptions have stopped, Kilauea is still at the top of America's list of volcanoes to monitor. 

Most people who come to the park hope to see some lava flow; some travelers see a little bit, others are not as lucky. Check in at the Kilauea Visitor Center for up-to-date information on trails, safety precautions and where to expect lava flow. 

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