Hiking to a Green Sand Beach in Hawaii

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If you’re a baby boomer who’s “been there, done that” on the Big Island of Hawaii, here’s an off-the-beaten-path adventure for you. Travel to South Point for a hike to a green sand beach, Papalokea. You’ll feel like you’ve come to the ends of the earth, or at least the southernmost end of the United States, which you have.

Dirt trail on the hike to the green sand beach in Hawaii.
Road to the green sand beach on Hawaii

The drive to South Point is an adventure in itself. Alan and I approached the area from the Kona side, where the road travels across lava fields on the flanks of Mauna Loa.

Between mile markers 69 and 70, we turned right on the road to South Point. After passing a few houses and bed and breakfasts, civilization seemed to disappear.

The wind blows constantly here, which is why the few trees that dot the grassy plain all lean in one direction. It’s also the reason for the wind farms that you’ll pass on your way to the end of the road.

Once the pavement ends, a rutted dirt road leads to a parking area and the path to the green sand beach. We started this adventure with the intention of driving our 4-wheel-drive rental jeep all the way to the beach, which violated the rental agreement, of course.

After driving up the first section of the dirt path, we chickened out, parked the car and started the hike. The dirt track turned out to be very doable for a 4-wheel expert like Alan but we were glad we took the hike to the green sand beach instead.

Turquoise water and green sand at the Green Sand Beach in Hawaii.
The green sand of Papalokea Beach on Hawaii’s Big Island

According to our trusty guidebook, Hawaii The Big Island Revealed, the walk to the green sand beach is a little over 2 miles each way. The wide open terrain is crisscrossed with red dirt tracks created by 4-wheel-drive vehicles. We saw fishermen casting for fish on the rocky shore and plenty of other hikers on the trail.

An ancient volcano created the littoral cone of olivine, the reason for the green sand. To access the beach, hikers walk down a steep cliff face, something this acrophobic baby boomer chose not to do.

Later, we learned there is an easier path to the shore, if you know where to look. But the view from the top is stunning with plenty of photographic opportunities.

Planning a trip to Hawaii? Start your research at our Hawaii Travel Planning Resources page.

If you visit South Point, be sure to continue on Highway 11 to Na’alehu for lunch at Hana Hou Restaurant and Bakery. Try the loco mocos, a combination of rice, hamburger patty and fried eggs smothered in brown gravy. Although not exactly a healthy meal, they were the best loco mocos we’ve ever tasted.

And the next time we’re on the Big Island, we’ll book a room at Kalaekilohana, a bed and breakfast on the road to South Point. The Hawaiian-owned property offers luxury lodging combined with lessons on Hawaiian culture.

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Tips for hiking to the green sand beach on Hawaii. Read our advice for this fun adventure on the Big Island.

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