Punalu'u Beach

#10 in Best Things To Do in Hawaii - The Big Island
Punalu'u Beach picture
Punalu'u Beach
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Tor Johnson/Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA)

Key Info

Highway 11

Price & Hours

Free

Details

Beaches, Swimming/Pools, Free Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
3.3scorecard
  • 5.0Value
  • 2.0Facilities
  • 3.5Atmosphere

Some say the waters here are too rough and rocky to really enjoy swimming, but that's not the real reason to visit Punalu'u, anyway. This beach in southern Hawai'i is ideal for its picture-taking potential. For one thing, the onyx-tinted sand here owes its unique hue to the ongoing volcanic activity of Kilauea in Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. And for another, this beach is often visited by Honu (or Hawaiian green sea turtles) that like to swim to and sun on the shore. You might also catch a glimpse of a hawksbill sea turtle from time to time. 

Past travelers were in awe of Punalu'u and said it's a quick "must-see." Other described the beach as "calm," though they cautioned that the beach's black sand can get very hot. 

It will most likely take you some time to get to Punalu'u – located off Highway 11 and at the turnoff between mile markers 56 and 57 – because most of the popular accommodations aren't located nearby. Many past visitors recommended making a stop here either before or after a visit to Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park as the beach sits about 35 miles south of the national park. If you're looking to experience its wonder with fewer spectators around, heed the advice of past visitors and plan a weekday trip. Pack a picnic for the beach; you'll find plenty of picnic tables set up for just that purpose. Restroom are also located nearby.

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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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