Green Sand in hand in Green Sand Beach Papakolea in Hawaii

How to Visit Green Sand Beach on Big Island with Kids

Visiting Green Sand Beach on Big Island, Hawaii is definitely possible with kids. You can either hike or go visit it with locals. Here is how we did it.

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We have been to Big Island Hawaii several times but we still had one exciting place that we had never seen. On our last trip I started dreaming about going to a pretty special and secluded place called Papakōlea Beach, also known as Green Sand Beach.

We were told that getting down to the beach is challenging because there is no actual road to get there. You can get there by foot but the hike is quite stenious and very hot due to non exstent shade along the trail. And it was not doable with small kids.

At that time I was also pregnant so we abslutely could have not done that. And even the road down to South Point was in such a bad shape that the rental car companies forbid renters to drive down there.

But since then time has flown by. The road has been fixed and our baby was now four years old already. The hike was still of course, too long but this time I had found out there was another way to get there.

The friendly locals at South Point will gladly take a group of tourists to Green Sand Beach for a small payment.

What is the Green Sand Beach?

As I already mentioned, the official name of this beach is Papakōlea Beach but it is often marked into different maps as Green Sand Beach.

There are only three beaches in the whole world that have this kind of green sand; one in Big Island, one in Guam and one at Galapakos Islands. Now there is a rumour that there is also one in Norway, Hornindalsvatnet. However, it has not been confirmed!

The green colour of the sand comes from the mineral called olivine. It is found in the volcanic lavarock in this area. The harsh ocean waves hit the rocks by the beach creating more sand. This is how the Green Sand Beach has basically formed.

It is believed that at some point the lava rock containing olivine will be gone and there will be less and less green sand. The ocean washes away some of the sand and unfortunately, some people collect it even though it is illegal. We saw some of it sold at black sand beach close by, Punaluʻu Beach.

Eventually, the beach will turn into a regular sand beach which will be a real shame.

Green sand beach and turqoise water in Big Island.

how to visit Green Sand Beach in Hawaii

Green Sand Beach is located at the south of Big Island. Our drive from Kailua-Kona to the South Point, Ka Lae took about two hours. We thought it might of been a faster drive but the road was quite twisty and the speed limits were low.

At the South Point they had a few separate parking areas, bathrooms and an amazingly beautiful coastline. 

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The Southern Most Point of the United States

Before we headed out to Green Sand Beach we stopped at the Southern most of point of the United States, South Point. We had not been able to visit there before because the road had not been accessible.

You might of seen some pictures or heard of the Southern most point in Florida but that is actually the most southern point of the continental U.S.A. When you count in all the islands as well, Hawaii is even further south. This one though has no signs or big markers.

The views at the South Point are absolutely beautiful especially if you climb up to the rocks. There were many fishermen there and many people had marked their visit by building rock towers.

For the most bravest ones there is also the South Point cliff jump area. The jump is from very high up and it goes straight to the harsh waves, so I definitely don’t recommend it to anyone. Even the ladder for climbing up looked very wobbly. But sure enough there was some people jumping down while we visited.

If you walk a little further on the coastline you can find an ancient place of worship, Kalalea Heiau. Next to it is an old burial site. These are sacred places for locals so please be respectful while there.

The blogger Paula at the South Point in Big Island, Hawaii.

Some of the old rocks had holes that have been used for mooring canoes.

Canoe mooring holes in old rocks on the South Point of Big Island, Hawaii.

Green Sand Beach – Papakōlea Beach

After we saw the Southern most point and had a snack we headed over to Green Sand Beach.

Right before the South Point there is a small road that heads towards east. It ends to a parking lot where the locals usually wait for tourists to come find rides to the beach. We agreed the price to be $15 which took us down to the beach and brought us back after two hours.

We hopped into their truck with couple other adventurists. Since I was with a child we got seats inside the truck but everyone else sat in the truck bed. The trucks looked old and rusty, and the seatbells were not working in ours.

The ride itself was extremely bumby as there were no actual roads to follow. But our driver did a great job and got us there safely. She looked very young but was an excellent driver.

Once you get to the Green Sand Beach you will have to climb down some steps and a very steep rock wall in order to get to the sand. I want give a heads up to people with mobility issues that getting down to the beach can be challenging. Our four year however was able to get down with the help of her dad.

Looking down to Green Sand Beach in Big Island Hawaii.

Green Sand Beach of Big Island has a strong current and it is usually very windy there, so it is not the best place for swimming. It is not suitable for kids to go out in the water alone. We sat there enjoying the sun and the beauty of the ocean while our daughter played with her sand toys.

Our daughter and my husband enjoying the Green Sand Beach in Hawaii.

If you don’t want to get a ride from the locals then your only option is hiking. The walk is about 5,6 miles (9 km) round trip and there is no actual, marked trail. You will have to follow the coastline, car marks and some landmarks from previous hikers. Following only the car marks can be confusing because zigzag are all over.

Eventhough the hike itself is discribed as moderate, it is still stenious because of the heath and strong winds. There is also a lot of dust and sand flying in the air. I would recommend this only to experienced hikers and older kids as we did have to pick up some exhausted elderly people into our truck along the way back.

The best discription and a map can be found from AllTrails. Bring a lot of water and some snacks, a sun hat and sun block, and sturdy shoes! Sunglasses are great to protect your eyes from the dust and even a scarf or mask can be helpful. You can start the trail from the South Point or drive to the parking lot where locals hang out.

Some green sand sparling in the rocks from close at Green Sand Beach, Hawaii.
Blogger Paula's feet in the green sand at Green Sand Beach in Hawaii.

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The sand was spakling in the sun like diamonds and the water was turqoise. This was truly a beautiful place! And definitely worth the trek. I’m sure if it would be easier to visit it would be very crowed all the time but now there was only a handfull of people. That made the experience even more enjoyable.

If you decide to go, you should take this visit as an adventure. There are no services at the beach and the last bathroom is at South Point. I have seen some people mention that occationally there might be a porta potty at Green Sand Beach but don’t count on it. Bring some water, snacks and sun protection. And plenty of time so you can enjoy this rare place!

We were so happy that we got to see it and that everything went well on our visit. We have seen all kinds of beaches on our travels, for example black beaches, a Glass Beach and even a Bowling Ball Beach, but this was definitely something special! A true bucket list item!

On our trip to Big Island we also visited Volcanoes National Park which we highly recommend to everyone! Also Kaloko-Honokōhau, Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Site and Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historic Park are worth a visit.

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