Not many places in the world offer a legitimate “black sand” beach. In fact, many beaches in the world that claim “black sand” are actually a mix of different sand types. What makes Punaluu so unique is the sand on the shore is actually volcanic glass – primordial magma supercooled by the crashing waves in an explosive manner.
World-renown Punaluu Beach is one of the most famous Black Sand Beaches on the Big Island. In Hawaiian, ‘Punaluu’ means “coral dived for”, or “spring dived for”.
Before science could prove them correct, ancient Hawaiians understood that fresh spring water flowed into the bay with nutrients for fish and honu (Green Sea Turtle). Honus are regulars at Punaluu, either floating a few meters offshore, basking in the sun on the jet black shores, or grazing in the crystal clear waters.
*Warning: “Getting close to these animals may constitute a federal or state violation if the animal is disturbed or if your action has the potential to disturb its natural behavioral patterns. NOAA and DLNR recommend, for your safety and the animals’ protection, that everyone stay at least 10 feet (3 meters) from all sea turtles.” (Source)
Also, avoid taking sand home – as tempting as it sounds, it’s a selfish act and benefits no one but the perpetrator while doubling up on destroying the environment.
If you don’t particularly find this spot nice enough to snorkel, it is a place of tranquility. Rows of coconut trees in the backdrop of the beach allow for creative photography and cooling shade. There are facilities (bathroom/restroom), picnic area, and modest food vendors in the parking lot.
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Punaluu Black Sand Beach Location:
Ninole Loop Rd, Pahala HI 96777
Punaluu Black Sand Beach Directions:
Punalu’u is just off Highway 11, 55 miles from Hilo and 65 miles from Kailua-Kona between the 55 and 56-mile markers.
Punaluu Black Sand Beach Map: