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Hawaii Black Sand Beaches
Are you looking for a list of Hawaii black sand beaches? Then, you’re in luck because that is what we are discussing today. Hawaii has some pretty epic scenery, from beautiful mountains to turquoise waters and, of course, black sand beaches.
I also have a post with the 30 best beaches in Hawaii if you want to explore even more incredible beaches.
Black sand beaches are truly stunning spectacles of nature. The unique dark sands create an almost mesmerizing aesthetic and can be found in a variety of locations around the world, from Iceland to Hawaii. Of course, today we will be talking about Hawaii.
These beaches are often the result of volcanic activity, as the molten lava travels to the ocean and cools down, forming small basalt rocks, which then grind down over time to create the black sand. The sand itself is made up of small pieces of obsidian, olivine, and magnetite, among other minerals, giving it a unique texture and hue.
Before starting, let’s review some black sand beach FAQs.
Where are the black sand beaches in Hawaii?
Many of the Hawaii black sand beaches are found on the Big Island. However, there are also a few in Maui, and one on this list is in Kauai. So, if you are heading to Maui, check out where to find a black sand beach in Maui.
While most of the black sand beaches are found on some of the main Hawaiian islands (Maui, Big Island, Kauai), there is also one on the less visited island of Molokai!
You’ll need a rental car to access the beaches on this list of Hawaii black sand beaches. You’ll find the best prices anywhere at Discount Hawaii Car Rental.
Does Oahu have a black sand beach?
Oahu is the most popular island in Hawaii for tourism. Famous for Pearl Harbor, Waikiki Beach, Iolani Palace, and more, Oahu draws visitors from all over the world. However, you won’t find a single black sand beach on the island of Oahu!
Many visitors make the mistake of thinking that Oahu and the Big Island are the same, but they are very different islands! I guess that some people assume “big” means the most populated or visited island. Well, it does not! The Big Island (actual name, Hawaii Island) is a completely different place and home to many Hawaii black sand beaches.
HOW IS BLACK SAND FORMED?
Sand, any old sand, is formed when rocks and minerals break down due to weather and erosion over thousands or even millions of years. Black sand is typically found in volcano activity areas, such as Iceland, The Canary Islands, The Azores, and, of course, Hawaii.
Black sand can come from lava, which might be obvious, but also from varying minerals, basalt, and dark-colored rocks. This explains the variance in the color of the Hawaii black sand beaches. You’ll find that some beaches are truly black, while others are grey. Either way, you don’t want to miss the opportunity to see a black sand beach.
Hawaii Black Sand Beaches
Now, let’s get to the list of Hawaii black sand beaches. In addition to black sand beaches, there are many black, rocky beaches in Hawaii. However, I won’t mention those because there are so many, and most are more rocky than sandy.
This is a very remote part of Maui, you can see a bit of black sand behind us, but I don’t even know if it has a name!
Kehena Beach (Big Island)
Kehena Beach is known as Dolphin Beach by the locals. This is because of all the spinner dolphins that spend their time just off the shoreline of this beach on the Puna coast.
Kehena Beach is in the Puna district. It is pretty narrow. Walking to the beach’s eastern side, you will find a rocky point. It is a great place to see where the beach was located before part of it dropped during an earthquake.
One of the best things to do at this beach is take pictures of the palm trees lining the dark sand and the dolphins in the water. But, of course, the volcanic rocks can help create unique selfies too.
This is one of the best beaches for swimming. However, be aware there is a steep hiking trail to the beach. In addition, its slightly remote location away from the resort areas makes it one of the clothing-optional beaches on the island.
Punaluu Beach (Big Island)
Punaluu black sand beach is one of the most famous black sand beaches in Hawaii. This beach is closer to the southernmost point of the Big Island. There is a green sand beach closer to the south point, but this is the only black sand beach this far south.
Punalu’u Beach was formed by the active volcanoes within the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The volcanic eruption and lava flow caused the sand to turn black. I always recommend stopping here on the way to Volcanoes National park. Check out my Guide to Volcanoes National Park for everything you need to know about visiting.
Its name means “spring water diver” in Hawaiian. This makes sense once you know the legend that ancient Hawaiians would dive into the ocean to collect the fresh water that flowed in.
The fresh water flowing in makes the ocean water feel pretty cold. Swimming is not always enjoyable at this beach between the cold water and rocky ocean floor.
Visiting this black sand beach will have you enjoying amenities like restrooms, picnic tables, and lifeguards. Enjoy your lunch or a snack from the picnic area as you enjoy the views of natural wonders in the distance.
Sea turtles at Punalu’u
You will find many endangered species at Punaluʻu beach. This is the perfect place to see hawksbill sea turtles, Hawaiian green sea turtles, and (more rarely) Hawaiian monk seals.
It is illegal to get too close to any marine life in the United States. So, give the hawksbill turtles and other wildlife their space and admire them from a distance.
Don’t miss where to find sea turtles on the Big Island of Hawaii for even more spots to find sea turtles.
When you leave this beach, take a little time to visit Volcano Village. It is a charming village and shopping area near the entrance to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. You will enjoy exploring the galleries filled with blown glass, ceramics, and paintings.
Kaimu Beach (Big Island)
Kaimu Beach isn’t too far from the Kilauea volcano. That volcano buried the original white sand beaches here back in 1990. Therefore, Kaimu Beach is a new black sand beach on the Big Island of Hawaii.
You will discover coconut palms growing near the lava rocks. Many of the locals can be seen planting even more coconut trees. Their goal is to create one of the most stunning beaches in Hawaii once again.
This is another one of the black sand beaches of Hawaii that isn’t good for swimming. The strong currents prevent people from entering the water. However, it is still one of the best places to experience the black sand Hawaii is known for.
Pohoiki Beach (Big Island)
The Kilauea volcano has been quite an active volcano over the years. Back in 2018, hot lava flowed over this beach. That lava flow changed the entire geology of this area.
You will find Pohoiki Beach in Isaac Hale Beach Park. This is one of the best black sand beaches for families in Hawaii. Your family will enjoy spending the day swimming, snorkeling, and relaxing on the sand.
There are warm natural thermal ponds and springs near this beach. It is said these springs have healing properties.
Parking is available near the old boat ramp. The beach is a short walk from the parking area.
Oneuli Beach (Maui)
Oneuli Beach can be found on the southern coast of Maui. It is one of the beautiful black sand beaches on Maui.
You will find this beach within Makena State Park. The black sand was created when the Pu’u Ola’i volcanic cylinder cone eroded nearby. Add the pebbles and broken-down shells; you won’t find white sand in this beach area.
All those pebbles and shells can be difficult to walk on. Therefore, I recommend wearing water shoes to visit this beach instead of walking around barefoot.
Out in the water, you will discover lava tubes and stunning coral reefs on the ocean floor. Green turtles and manta rays love to spend time swimming near the reefs. You may even spot a shark or two among the ocean waves.
This is an excellent beach for swimming and snorkeling. You can even launch a kayak from the sand. However, keep in mind there are no lifeguards on duty. Therefore, it is best to check the currents before entering the water.
Pailoa Beach (Maui)
Pa’iloa Beach is another beautiful black sand beach in Maui. This beach is located on the east side of the island. It is in the Waianapanapa State Park.
Most people visit this black sand beach when they drive along the Road to Hana. This famous road is known for its gorgeous views of the coastline. Pa’iloa Beach is known for its sea caves, blow holes, and sea stacks.
The currents at this Hawaiian beach are strong. Swimming is not recommended. It is the perfect place to enjoy a picnic or take photos. You can also go hiking on the nearby trails.
It is important to note that you need a reservation to enter Wai’anapanapa State Park. Those reservations must be made in advance. Once you have your reservations made, you should make a note of the mile markers for the park entrance. This will ensure you know when to pull over at your destination.
Pololu Valley Beach (Big Island)
Pololu Valley Beach is considered a hidden gem on Hawaii Island. It is located on the west side of the island. Unfortunately, you won’t find a short walk to this black sand beach in Hawaii. Instead, you must walk down a rocky hiking trail for about 20 minutes.
It’s a short but steep hike, and parking is limited, so arrive early. Also, the sand here is more of a grey color, making it even more unique.
Strong rip currents are common at this beach. Therefore, this isn’t one of the beaches you should be swimming at during your vacation.
If you don’t want to make the trek down to this beach, you can enjoy the views from above. Planning your visit between December and March will allow you to see whales breaching from this vantage point.
Richardson Beach (Big Island)
Richardson Beach, or Richardson Ocean Park, as it is often called, is a wonderful black sand beach on Hawaii’s Big Island. This is a good spot for swimming or relaxing in a tide pool. The ocean waters are pretty calm at this beach.
As you walk along the shoreline, keep an eye on the sand. The olivine crystals give the sand a green hue. Those crystals may trick you into thinking you are on one of the green sand beaches in Hawaii instead of a black sand beach.
The parking area is small at Richardson Beach. So, if you want to park in the parking lot, arrive early in the day.
Honokalani Black Sand Beach (Maui)
Another one of the beautiful beaches in Waianapanapa State Park is Honokalani Black Sand Beach. Tiny pieces of lava pebbles and lava fragments line the shoreline of this beach in Maui. Lava cliffs surround the black sand.
During your visit, you should check out the sea arch, seaside lava tubes, and sea caves. You may even want to hike along King’s Highway. It is an ancient Hawaiian footpath that follows the beach towards Hana.
Waipio Valley Beach (Big Island)
Waipio Valley Beach is currently closed to the public. However, you can still drive to a spot above the beach to look out towards the beach and the valley floor. Simply park on the side of the road to enjoy the views.
Waimea Beach (Kauai)
You might be surprised to find out that there is a black sand beach on Kauai. You’ll find Waimea Beach on the western side of the island, and it has the distinction of being Kauai’s only black sand beach.
A word of caution, this beach is not ideal for swimming, snorkeling, or surfing. However, there are plenty of other beaches where you can do those things in Kauai!
Check out the 16 best beaches in Kauai for swimming if you want to take a dip after viewing this beautiful black sand beach.
Awahua Beach (Molokai)
Kauai is famous for the beautiful sea cliffs on the Na Pali coast, but Molokai has the highest sea cliffs in the world! In addition, one of the Hawaii black sand beaches is in Molokai. Awahua Beach is extremely remote and backed by the beautiful sea cliffs of Molokai.
If you are fortunate enough to make it to this beach, know that swimming is not advised due to currents and a steep dropoff.
Hawaii Black Sand Beaches
What did you think about this list of Hawaii black sand beaches? If I missed your favorite, make sure to let me know in the comments.
Leave me a comment if you’d like to know more about Hawaii’s green sand beach and red sand beach. Or if you have any questions or blog post suggestions, you can leave that too.
Want even more Hawaii travel ideas? Check out some of my top Hawaii travel tips
- 10 things to know before going to Hawaii
- 20 things you should never do in Hawaii
- 100 things to do in Hawaii
- The 15 best golf courses in Maui
Although I am a Hawaii Travel Agent, I am only taking on a few clients per month. You can contact me if you’d like more information. I recommend starting with my Hawaii travel guide if you plan to DIY your vacation!
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