Everyone knows that Hawaii is home to gorgeous golden sand beaches. But did you know that visitors have other sand hues to choose from? No other single place on Earth has as many strangely colored beaches. Here’s a look at our three favorites, one black beach, one red and one green:
Black: Punaluu Beach Park
Hawai’i (The Big Island)
There are other spots in Hawaii to see black sand beaches but none are as scenic and expansive as what you’ll find at the Punaluu Beach Park, near~ish to Hilo on The Big Island. The black sand—and the black rocks at the edges of the beach—are the result of a long ago volcanic explosion. Removing any sand off the beach is not only a violation of state law but also, legend has it, an affront to Pele (the Hawaiian volcano goddess, not the Brazilian footballer). Those who remove volcanic material from the island will be cursed, a la Greg in the fourth season of the Brady Bunch.
In addition to its sand color, Punaluu is famous for the plethora of crabs and turtles that call this beach home.
[via Mastery of Maps]
There are only a handful of red beaches in the world. To achieve such a vibrant red, a beach needs to be near a rich source of iron and have a means for that iron to leach into the beach and be sheltered from harsh ocean waves. And that’s exactly the situation at Kaihalulu on Maui’s eastern shore. The iron comes from a cinder cone hill produced by a volcano. The replenishing happens because said hill is eroding. And because Kaihalulu is so well protected by a natural sea wall, all that iron doesn’t end up in the ocean as fast as it would at other beaches.
Kaihalulu is not a great swimming beach—the water is usually rough and there are many rocks about. It is, however, an amazing place to visit, partly for the beach’s vibrant redness and partly because it feels blissfully isolated. (In fact, Kaihalulu’s relative isolation makes it a local favorite for nude sunbathing). To get here from Hana take Uakea Road to where it dead ends (past Hauoli Road, across from the baseball field). There, next to the community center, you’ll find a path. Take it to the Japanese cemetery, turn right and prepare for a semi-precarious climb down.
Near Ka Lae, Hawai’i (The Big Island)
Like Kaihalulu (above), Papakolea beach owes its unusual color to the cinder cone hill that is eroding onto the beach. The hill semicircling Papakolea is extremely rich in olivine, a mineral that often appears green due to the presence of nickel. Though Olivine itself is not rare, it is very unusual to find it in such high concentrations. The mineral is also found in large quantities on the moon and Mars, which might explain why Papakolea looks so other worldly.
Of the three beaches in this review, Papakolea is easily the one we’d return to first. Of the three it is also the most difficult to get to. The way requires traversing a steep two-mile trail or finding a way along the coast in a 4WD vehicle. A good Hawaii guidebook and/or map is highly suggested.
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