Hawaii has many legendary beaches on its eight islands. One of the more interesting beaches is the Punaluu Black Sand Beach, which is in the south of the Island of Hawaii (aka “The Big Island”). “Punaluu” is a Hawaiian phrase that roughly translates to “spring water diver.” This phrase refers to when locals would dive to get fresh water at Punaluu in the ancient past. As you could tell from its full name, Punaluu has basalt black sand created by cooled lava from nearby volcanoes. Anyone thinking about visiting Punaluu Black Sand Beach should take a quick look at this article. We’ll explore some of the major attractions in and around Punaluu and tell you the best way to get here.
Main Attractions On & Near Punaluu Black Sand Beach
1. Play With The Sand On The Beach
The main attraction at Punaluu Black Sand Beach is…the black sand! No surprise there, right? When you pick up the sand in your hands, you’ll notice that it glitters. That’s because most of the eroded lava here actually formed tiny crystals over the centuries. While you could step in the waters at this beach, please be extremely careful. Most tourists actually don’t like to swim in the waters by Punaluu Black Sand Beach because there are too many jagged rocks and the water tends to be very cold. Punaluu is better for photo ops than for swimming.
2. Observe Endangered Animals Along the Black Sand Beach
The turtles that show up on Punaluu are almost as famous as the black sand they so often rest on. Numerous tourists say Punaluu is the best place on earth to see rare turtles like the green turtle and the hawksbill turtle. A few other animals people have seen in and around Punaluu Black Sand Beach include humpback whales, Hawaiian monk seals, and even spinner dolphins. Without a doubt, Punaluu is a perfect spot for people who love wildlife watching.
3. Visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
To learn more about the volcanoes that created Punaluu and many other black sand beaches, take a 20-minute car ride to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. This incredible park has two of the world’s most impressive volcanoes: Kilauea and Mauna Loa. Kilauea is the most active volcano in the world and Mauna Loa has the largest volcanic shield. In addition to touring the volcanoes, you can learn more about current scientific research and the indigenous people who lived close to these volcanoes at the park’s visitor center and museums. There’s a good reason Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is one of the top tourist destinations in the state, so be sure to take a trip here.
Other Things to Do Near Punaluu Black Sand Beach
4. Sip Some Kona Coffee at the Ka’u Coffee Mill
Need a coffee break? Well then, you’re in luck! Punaluu Black Sand Beach is only a 15-minute drive away from the highly reviewed Ka’u Coffee Mill. Before you sample a special cup of Kona coffee, workers at the Ka’u Coffee Mill will take you on a tour of this mill’s orchards and show you how the staff here roasts their coffee beans to perfection. Afterwards, you can try some of the locally grown coffees for yourself and tour a cute gift shop. Ka’u Coffee Mill also sells macadamia nuts and crafts made by local artisans. Be sure to bring a bag of this superb coffee home with you for some friends…or for yourself! Ka’u Coffee Mill is at 96-2694 Wood Valley Rd, Pahala, and it offers tours seven days a week from 9:00am to 4:30pm.
5. Explore The Kula Kai Caverns
Although the Kula Kai Caverns are a 40-minute drive from Punaluu Black Sand Beach, they are well worth your time if you’re craving an adrenaline rush. Guides will take you through these 1,000-plus year old caves formed by hardened lava. You’ll also learn more about how caves form, how Hawaiians in the past used these caves, and the science of lava. There are many different expeditions to choose from depending on your skill level. You could go on a short 30-minute hike or a two-hour crawl through the caverns at nighttime. Whatever tour you choose, you won’t forget your time here. Kula Kai Caverns is at 92-8864 Lauhala Drive, Ocean View.
6. Check Out Nearby Papakolea Green Sand Beach
After touring Hawaii’s greatest black sand beach, why not take a look at the island’s most famous green sand beach? Officially called Papakolea Beach, this green sand beach is a 40-minute drive south from Punaluu in an area called South Point. Papakolea is actually one of only four beaches in the world that has green sand. The sand gets its strange color mainly due to erosion from the surrounding volcanic cone. There’s tons of incredible scenery to take in at Papakolea and all around the South Point area. Be sure to take a scenic drive, swim in the crystal clear waters, and hike around this incredible area. You won’t regret this day-trip.
How To Get To Punaluu Black Sand Beach
The drive from ITO to Punaluu Black Sand Beach is a little over an hour. All you really need to do is get on HI-11/Hawaii Belt Rd/Kanoelehua Ave and head south for 55 miles. It’s that simple. Soon you should see Punaluu Road on your left as you get closer to the beach. From here, follow the signage to Punaluu Black Sand Beach.
Nobody leaves Punaluu Black Sand Beach unsatisfied. Although you can’t really swim at Punaluu, this beach makes up for it with unique sand and rare fauna. Also, there’s plenty to see and do within less than an hour of Punaluu. So, if you’re into volcanoes, turtles, and Kona coffee, be sure to book a trip to the Big Island and this beautiful beach.