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Ways to Experience Papakolea Green Sand Beach
from $10.66
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from $21.32
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from $750.00
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Reviews (2,088)
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Traveler rating
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All reviews south point pickup truck mile hike ka lae parking area actual beach wheel drive parking lot to the beach long hike rough terrain off road climb down the big island bring water unique beach high clearance hitch a ride
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Reviewed January 15, 2020 via mobile

Breathtaking secluded beach! 45 minute drive with 4wd or a 2+ hour hike, but all proves worth the task. Some of the clearest water I've seen around the island. Crisp white rips of waves and awesome detail in the cove formations.. Another interesting and unique view is the sand... which haddad a green and gold particles. Spectacular!! Worth the time and effort to enjoy this experience..

Date of experience: December 2019
Thank shonl46
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 11, 2020 via mobile

I will be honest we really only went to say that we went to a Green Sands Beach (as there is only four in the World). It was one stop of many that day. We read mixed reviews and I still think your experience could be mixed. We already planned on hopping on a truck to go down and back due to time. We got there way too early (the initial plan was to see sunrise in the south). The spot Waze took us to looked like a junkyard (FYI it was the spot). There were no people hiking or locals to contract for a ride. We didn’t really know where we were going and we were not prepared to hike. We were really disappointed but on our way out around 7:30 we ran into Dangerous Don. He was the first local driver at the beach. If you are looking for a ride they do not start that early and they try to fill up their vehicles which accommodate 10??? So who knows how long it will take to go out if you get there early and expect a ride. Dangerous Don worked out something with his family and us. He ended up taking the three of us out before anyone else. This meant that we sat in a better vehicle, in the cabin, and no one was at the beach. The ride looked treacherous but it was such a fun adventure! Don is the Man!

Overall:
- If you are going to hike be prepared. Go early and stay close to the beach.
- If you are planning on taking a ride don’t plan on being there before 8.
-If I were to go again and $$ is not a consideration. I would try to contract out a private ride with Dangerous Don.

Date of experience: December 2019
1  Thank 166laraa
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 9, 2020 via mobile

Like others have said skip the truck rides and just hike. Make sure to have good shoes, water, sunblock, and maybe a hat. It will take over an hour for children or seniors to complete the home so be sure to plan complete your trip before sun down.

Date of experience: January 2020
1  Thank jeffd2000s
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 9, 2020

There are only 4 green sand beaches in the world (the others are in Guam, the Galapagosos and Norway). Are you going to visit any of these and are they any easier to get to than this one? This is also the southernmost point in the US (the keys are the southernmost point on the mainland -- look at a map).

The beach is composed of a fine sand of olivine which, when larger is the gemstone peridot. As a beach sand it has more of the look of some kind of mold or dirt when viewed from a distance. Up close there are some brilliantly green pieces.

Kids were enjoying the waves (small body boards and body surfing) or playing in the very fine sand (no seashells). The water really is that blue and the cliffs are dramatic. There is no lifeguard and the water can be rough so you don't want to go too far out. It is not a place to snorkel but there are many places where you can do that. Don't go too far out unless you've packed a tour book for antarctica because there is a very strong current just off shore.

Our group was myself, husband, 2 sons (22 and 17). Both boys are / were Eagle scouts who hike regularly. All of us had on hiking boots and bathing suits with coverups that had sunscreen protection and sunscreen. We'd brought 6 large water bottles. I have a knee that can sometimes cause me pain though I had been logging 7,000 to 10,000 steps a day before the trip (for at least the month before). Since I knew I sometimes had trouble, we also had enough cash that we could hire a ride back if it came to that. I also had a hat.

Now, about the journey. We decided to come out on January 1st because it was a unique sight and because my sons like hiking and wanted a challenge. I figured if I could get there and back under my own power that the rest of the year would have to be easier (the eat a frog philosophy). The drive from the main highway loop is generally good. It looked like the road had been widened in places. With the exception of a few spots, you could safely pass a car coming from the opposite direction. The drive from the loop is 20 to 30 minutes. The windmills off to the right and the way the land ends gives the illusion that it is much shorter. If you've been to Montana you know what I mean. There are tall grass fields on either side of the road. When you get to the end of this road there's an area straight in front of you for a beach area -- this is not it. The road continues to the left. It is essentially one lane from there to the gravel parking lot. There are lots of potholes in the parking lot and people park on the shoulder when the lot is ful.

When we were there there was a woman selling water and locals were driving people in the back of their pickups out to the beach (if you want that, you will need cash). There were portajohns but they were unusable (FULL past the brim) and I'd been told they weren't always there. (This was New Years Day so maybe they'd be better on a non-holiday.)

The initial walk down to the boat ramp was on a gravel road with many ruts and potholes (down hill) but was drivable -- including by those towing a boat. When you get to the ramp, turn left. There are multiple winding paths that were once where the off-road vehicles would drive to get to the beach. As far as we could tell, all paths lead to the beach. As the crow flies it might be 2 1/2 miles. Realistically it's longer -- possibly 3 to 4 miles depending on the path you take. The boys could have gotten there in an hour and 15 minutes. I took 2 hours. It was unfamiliar, rough and rutted terrain and I wanted to get in and out under my own power. If you are following the path closest to the beach it is possible to pause at a smaller, rocky beach area and see a mix of green and black sands.

When you finally get there, there are some picnic tables at the top and then it's a climb down. I don't see this mentioned in most reviews, but if you are afraid of heights it is a real challenge getting down. My husband, unhelpfully suggested I look to see that it was doable. Honestly, it was the two hour hike out there that convinced me I was going to get on that beach. That, and seeing a big Hawaiian guy scoop up his black lab and carry him part way down (on the ladder). Figured if he could do that and the dog could make it the rest of the way on his own, I could do it. Tips: Stay close to the wall on the right. It's lava and rough but it helped me to touch the wall. Angle your feet somewhat so you don't feel like you're sliding. Have someone taller go in front of you. Take your time and look at your feet. Don't look out. Once you're off the steps (I would call it a ladder), pause on the big rock and let anyone that's behind you pass. Take your time and go in the passage between the rocks. It's a little tight but other than one area where you have to step down about the height of 2 steps, it's doable. There's a youtube video of someone hiking out and down to the beach wearing a gopro so you can get a sense of it. My kids didn't even think twice about getting down, but if you have this issue, it is scary. I was tearing up halfway down and it took a few minutes once I reached the beach for my breathing and heart to return to normal. (The trip up was significantly easier since all I could see was the path and my husband's back until the very top.) I do wish I'd brought a pair of climbing gloves to protect my hands.

Timing wise, we got to the parking area about 1, to the beach at 3. We stayed till 4 and, pushing it, we got back to the car by 5:45. Part of that was that we took the path farthest from the beach on the way back (we were less interested in scenery) and that one looked the least difficult. We went through all of our water by time we reached the car. It's important to note that sunset was at 6 and by 6:10 it is DARK. There isn't a couple of hours of twilight here like there is in Canada or the Northeast. It would be quite difficult and dangerous to try to hike back in the dark.

We saw people hiking to the beach as we were heading out. We mentioned this the next day to our guide at Volcano National Park and he said that it was pretty common for the authorities to have to go in to get the tourists... don't be that guy!

(Practice leave no trace: Don't deliberately take any of the sand -- trust me, if you went in the surf it's in your suit anyway. Port out your trash.)

Don't try this in flipflops. Wear hiking boots, a hat, possibly a scarf (it really is that windy), definitely sunglasses (but take those off before you go in the water or they will be gone). Bring water and one of the folding mats to sit on (better than a towel so you can just shake off the sand).

Other than walking to the car from our hotel room (and back) and a brief walk around the grocery to get lunch and snacks, the hike in and back was my only walking for the day (call it 1000 to 1500 steps for the grocery and hotel). My total steps for the day were 24, 466. At least 22,000 of them were going to and from the beach. This equates to 10.17 miles for the day. My fitbit also tracks floors. I am aware of 1 long set of stairs that we went down and then back up at the hotel (call that 4 flights total). The fitbit loged 50 floors. That gives you a sense of the changing terrain. I was sore by the end and did need some tylenol but I got in and out under my own power.

If you want to be back on the main road before dark you will need to find out the sunset time and make sure you are starting on that side road with about 6 hours to spare (1/2 hour to parking area, depending on your condition, up to 4 hours hiking time and at least an hour on the beach and 1/2 hour back to the main road). If you are a fit 20 something, you need about 4 1/2 hours. If you don't mind driving in the dark you can take that last 30 minutes off your time.

If you are just wanting a pretty beach, there are much easier ones to reach. This is something different and is more of a quest (at least for those of us in slightly worn condition). It was worth it for me. I know this is long but I hope the details are helpful!

Date of experience: January 2020
8  Thank MomfromMaryville
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 8, 2020 via mobile

When the sun hits the sand at the right angle, you do see the sand shimmering green. It was very windy when we were here but did enjoy the little private beach.

Date of experience: January 2020
Thank Xanerin
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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