Mr. Handsome and I just returned home from a trip to the Big Island of Hawaii. It was a long journey (two, five-hour flights each way) but we had a blast. We booked our trip months in advance and were able to find some fabulous deals. (Stay tuned for a post with all the details of how we saved money during our travels.)Our first full day on the island was our busiest. We rose early because of the five-hour time change, ate a quick breakfast, and threw together sandwiches for lunch. From where we were staying at Waikoloa Beach Resort on the west side of the island, we drove south, past the town of Kona and around the southern tip of the island, which is also the southernmost point in the United States. It is appropriately named South Point (or Ka Lae, meaning “the point” in Hawaiian).
Although the area is extremely windy (you can see windmills in the distance in the photo below) and secluded, there are a decent number of cattle ranches.
Located near South Point is a beach, but not just any old beach. This beach has green sand! The mineral responsible for the color is olivine. Apparently it is one of only four green sand beaches in the entire world.
The only way to access Green Sand Beach (also called Papakolea Beach or Mahana Beach) is by hiking or driving a five-mile-round-trip road. There are actually multiple roads that intersect throughout the drive. Some routes are impassible, so choosing the right one can be a challenge. Our rental car was 4WD, so Mr. Handsome drove us all the way to the beach, and boy was it a nail bitter! More on that later. Before determining whether is was safe, we spoke with locals and other tourists who had made the drive.
If you haven’t seen pictures of the beach, be prepared to be shocked. You can’t see it until you reach the parking lot and look down. It really is an incredible sight to behold.
The beach is located in a c-shaped cove and runs down the side of a cliff. It’s steep, but walking down to the water isn’t too difficult. For most of the way, there is a path worn into the side of the cliff.
We walked down to the beach to admire the unique sand.
One thing we did not do at Green Sand Beach was go swimming. The waters surrounding South Point have been forever infamous for their extreme turbulence, even by the ancient Hawaiians, who reportedly tied their canoes to the cliff before going out to fish. The currents flow uninterrupted all the way to Antarctica, so getting pulled out to sea wouldn’t be ideal.
We did, however, enjoy walking along the beach and dipping our feet in the water.
The wind was fierce (sunglasses were a must to keep the sand out of our eyes) so we only ended up staying a short time. We survived the drive back, which boosted my confidence in Mr. Handsome’s newly-acquired 4WD skills. He did an incredible job!
Below is a video that Mr. Handsome and I filmed at the beach to give you a better view (and a better understanding of just how windy it was!). After our stop at Green Sand Beach, we continued on to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where we saw an active lava lake on the inside of Halemaʻumaʻu Crater.