Hawaii's Punalu’u Black Sand Beach

BackHawaii's Punalu’u Black Sand Beach

Punalu’u Black Sand Beach is, per its name, composed of exotic black sand. The sand is somewhat coarse, but feels wonderful under the foot.

Punaluu Black Sand Beach - Black Sand - John Di Rienzo

With coconut palms ringing the beach and a gorgeous pond with lily pads fringed by lush tropical vegetation, this beach has a remote, stark and uniquely Hawaiian beauty.

Punaluu Black Sand Beach - Palms - John Di Rienzo

Punaluu Black Sand Beach - Lily Pads - John Di Rienzo

Getting to Punalu’u

Punalu’u Black Sand Beach is located on the southeastern coast of the Hawaii Island, aka the Big Island. The beach is remote, being around 67 miles south of Kailua-Kona, which makes it about a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Waikoloa, Mauna Lani and Mauna Kea resorts on Kohala Coast north of Kailua-Kona, and around an hour south of Hilo.

Exotic Estates - Map Big Island

Driving from Kailua-Kona, you will pass through the Kona coffee farms, Volcanoes National Park and landscapes of staggering beauty. 

The coffee farms are located high up on the slopes of Mauna Loa, and you may even smell coffee roasting as you drive through the area. Some farms operate stands on the side of the road where you can stop and purchase coffee directly from the producers.

Tip: if you really want to visit coffee farms and purchase coffee from them, do not go on a Sunday. We drove through the area on a Sunday and most of the stands were closed!

Still, the ride is scenic and traveling on Hawaii Highway 11 (Mamalahoa), you will climb quite high on the slopes of Mauna Loa and be able to enjoy scenic views of the coastline below.

An Eerie Beauty

Passing though Volcanoes National Park, the landscape is defined unique vegetation and high peaks, which mingled with the clouds as we passed. In contrast to the arid lava fields of the Kohala Coast, these lava fields are full of life. This side of the Big Island is wet and green, with big trees and the type vegetation found on the other Hawaiian islands.

Punaluu Black Sand Beach - Black Sand Shoreline - John Di Rienzo

Because of Hawaii’s size and the amount of time that it takes to get to Punalu’u Black Sand Beach, you get the feeling that you are driving to one of the most remote corners of the world. In fact, you will pass the southernmost tip of Hawaii, which is the southernmost point in the United States. This not to be confused with Key West, which is the southernmost point in the Continental US.

Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles

You will see signs posted asking people to give the Hawaiian sea turtles their space. The beach is a haven for them, and there were five large turtles lounging on the sand when we visited in December. They seem oblivious to onlookers and are a treat for visitors.

Punaluu Black Sand Beach - Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles - John Di Rienzo

Swimming at Punalu’u

The water was brisk when we visited in December, but also very refreshing. There were waves at the shoreline, which is rocky at the water’s edge. For this reason, we would recommend bringing reef walkers or other shoes to ensure you don’t hurt your feet.

Punaluu Black Sand Beach - Shore break - John Di Rienzo

Beyond the shore, several visitors were snorkeling, apparently taken by the tropical marine life that dwells just offshore.

This beach is not to be missed for anyone looking for a one-of-a-kind Hawaiian experience. Black sand beaches are famous but relatively rare in Hawaii, so do your best to take a road trip down to this beautiful and remote shoreline the next time you are on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Punaluu Black Sand Beach - John Di Rienzo


By John Di Rienzo

Blog Subjects: Big Island, Hawaiian Beaches