Black sand beaches have been in Hawaii since the earliest days of geological formation. They have been reformed over the years as new lava flows have hit the sea. Coastal lava flows not only produce black sand beaches, but also anchialine pools. These land locked "lakes" are connected to the ocean through subterranean lava tubes. These pools are found in the coastal regions near Hawaii's black sand beaches and are home to a number of endemic species.
Punalu'u Beach Park is the most famous black sand beach on the Big Island of Hawaii. The beach's black sand is made of basalt and created by lava flowing into the ocean which explodes as it reaches the ocean and cools. Punalu is frequented by endangered Hawks-bill and Green turtles, which can often be seen basking on the black sand.
The beach has a large amount of underground fresh water that flows in it. This fresh water is very cold and looks almost like gasoline mixing with the water. During drought, the ancient Hawaiians living in the area would dive underwater with a jug to get their fresh water.
A black sand beach is created when a lava flow hits the ocean, instantly hardening and shattering into tiny fragments on contact. Much of the fragments are considered small enough to be categorized as sand, but some larger fragments and rocks remain. Usually more coarse than coral or quartz sand, the feeling a black sand beneath your feet is much different than that of any other beach.
Facts & Trivia
How long we stop here on tour: 10 - 15 minutes
Location: Black sand beaches are located throughout the Big Island of Hawaii and also on Maui, like Wai'anapanapa State Park.
Amenities: Some black sand beaches have beach parks with restrooms and shower, others do not.
Insider Tip: Be sure not to bring home black sand from the beach. Local legend states bad luck is supposed to follow anyone who removes lava rocks from Hawaii!
Fun Fact: Black sand beaches will eventually “disappear” if sand is not replenished by another lava flow.
What To Expect: A black sand beach will be unlike any other beach you have visited before! Bring comfortable shoes that can get wet, as black sand beaches often have rocky surroundings.