Hawaii: home to some of the most stunning beaches in the world. With the pristine blue waters, sunny skies, and golden sand, what more could you ask for?
But there are a handful of breathtaking beaches in Hawaii that don’t have golden sand. Instead, these beaches boast the much-rarer black sand, formed when deep black lava rock is crushed into small pieces by powerful waves. The result is an otherworldly, obsidian-colored shoreline that you’ll be adding to your bucket list ASAP.
Whether you’re hoping to snap some pics, pay a visit to sea turtles, or do a little snorkeling, here are 7 of the best black sand beaches in Hawaii.
Punalu‘u Black Sand Beach is definitely one of the most popular black sand beaches in Hawaii, and for good reason. With dark black sand, crashing waves, and swaying palm trees, it looks like it came straight out of a postcard!
And if the black sand and stunning scenery aren’t enough to entice you, Punalu‘u Black Sand Beach is also home to quite a few sea turtles. You’ll often see them lounging on the sand or swimming in the Ninole Cove area on the southernmost edge of the beach.
Don’t forget that these turtles are an endangered species. Please give them their space and don’t try to feed them.
Pohoiki Black Sand Beach holds the special title of being the newest black sand beach in Hawaii. In October 2018, Kilauea Volcano had one of its most destructive eruptions to date. In addition to hundreds of lost homes, this eruption also completely remade the natural landscape, including Pohoiki Black Sand Beach.
Located just fifteen minutes outside of the city of Hilo, Richardson Beach Park is filled with sparkling black sand. But the black sand at this beach is interspersed with green grains as well. These flecks of green sand are olivine crystals that are naturally present in lava rock. While these olivine crystals can be found at most black sand beaches in the islands, they are especially prominent here.
Richardson Beach Park also happens to be one of the best snorkeling spots on the Big Island. You can find colorful fish, sea urchins, turtles, and even the occasional dolphin. There are even lovely little tidepools that serve as the perfect place for children to look for sea creatures.
If you’re thinking about adding a visit to Waipi‘o Valley to your Hawaii bucket list, you’re not the only one. But it’s important to note that a trip there is no easy feat. You’ll need a 4WD, spectacular driving skills, top-notch hiking gear, and prime weather conditions in order to safely explore the black sand beach, beautiful waterfall, and greenery-laden cliffs of Waipi‘o Valley.
Maui is home to just one black sand beach, but it is definitely one of the best in Hawaii. The primary draw of Honokalani Beach is the striking colors. With the obsidian sand, turquoise waters, and bright green plants, it’s picture perfect.
To reach Honokalani Beach, you’ll have to wind your way along the famous road to Hana. Once you’re 32 miles in, you’ll come across Waianapanapa State Park, which is home to the gorgeous Honokalani Beach. While at Waianapanapa State Park, you should definitely make time to visit a few more of the park’s highlights, including the Waianapanapa Coastal Trail, the cool lava tube, the many sea caves, and even the ancient Hawaiian heiau (or temple).
The island of Kauai is the oldest Hawaiian Island, and consequently, its black sand beaches are the oldest as well. Kauai is home to just two black sand beaches, one of which is the Waimea State Recreational Pier.
Since the black sand at the Waimea State Recreational Pier is older, it has turned more grayish from sun bleaching. But that doesn’t make this beach any less beautiful. The best thing to do at Waimea State Recreational Pier is simply sit on the sand and watch the colorful sunset paint the sky. If it’s clear enough, you’ll even be able to see the small island of Niihau in the distance.
While most people know about the four main Hawaiian Islands–the Big Island, Maui, Oahu, and Kauai–the small island of Molokai, and consequently the beautiful ‘Awahua Beach, have somehow managed to slip under the radar.
Unlike all of the other black sand beaches on this list, ‘Awahua Beach’s dark sand actually isn’t from lava rock. It’s instead from dark sandstone, which makes it particularly unique.
Like many of the best things to see on Molokai, ‘Awahua Beach is very secluded. You’ll actually have to hike or ride a mule through an old, (mostly) uninhabited leprosy colony on the Kalaupapa Peninsula to reach this black sand beach. If you’re unfamiliar with the island, you’ll likely have to take a tour to access ‘Awahua Beach.