One of the most amazing things about visiting the Big Island is its beaches. And none make jaws drop quite like the Big Island black sand beaches you’ll find on the island!
These are the most beautiful black sand beaches on the Big Island. Let us know if we missed any or if you’ve visited one on this list! Thanks!
Big Island Black Sand Beaches
Punaluu Beach is located between Pahala and Na’a’ehu in Hawaii on the coast of Big Island. It is one of the seven Big Island black sand beaches that was created due to lava from the Kilauea Volcano.
A total of seven black sand beaches were formed because of the volcanic eruption. The black sand beach is made from basalt and therefore classified as a genuine black sand beach.
Punaluu Beach is one of the most popular Big Island black sand beaches because of the presence of endangered green turtles and hawksbill turtles. You can swim, snorkel, hike, camp, or go picnicking there.
Punaluu is a Hawaiian word that is roughly translated to mean the ‘coral dived for’ or ’spring diver’ or ’to dive for corals’. There are lifeguards present on the beach to oversee the activities of swimmers and snorkelers making it a great place for kids to enjoy.
The beach is open daily from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm. The facilities available there include restrooms, parking spaces, showers, picnic grounds, and boat ramps. The green and hawksbill turtles can be seen swimming on the shores of the beach.
Visitors are prohibited from touching the turtles as touching them could compromise their immune system—making them susceptible to infections that are otherwise harmless to humans.
You can view them from a distance of at least 10 meters, so please be respectful of that!
Although Punaluu Beach is isolated, it is easily accessible unlike some of the other black sand beaches in Hawaii. Animals are not allowed entry into the beach.
Pohoiki Beach is a black sand beach that is part of the Isaac Kepo’okalani Hale Beach Park in the Puna district.
This black sand Hawaiian beach was named after Isaac Kepo’okalani Hale, a U.S. soldier who fought in the Korean War in which he was killed. He served as a private in the 24th Infantry Division and died on the 12th of July, 1951.
Pohoiki Beach was formed by the Kilauea Volcano. During the eruption, lava from the volcano flowed into the sea and solidified. The black sand was thus formed as a result!
Swimming on the beach is not advisable as the currents can get quite strong. The park is accessible after the construction of a road in 2018. Before then, one could only get to the park after a dangerous and strenuous hike.
There are restrooms available on the beach. Camping, picnicking and other activities besides fishing are not allowed. It is open daily from 9 am to 6 pm.
This beach is also one of the Big Island black sand beaches that were formed from the Kilauea Volcano’s Lower East Side eruption.
Due to the eruption, black sand has occupied the area where one of the most stunning beaches existed. It is now covered by about 70 feet of lava that flowed into the beach in 1990. Kaimu Beach is in the rich and lush Puna district.
Swimming, snorkeling, and tanning are not allowed on the beach due to the high current. The beach is not easily accessible, so you would need to find a parking lot for your car at the Kaimu Kalapanu beach park before hiking the rest of the way to the beach.
There are lava rocks about 7 to 8 feet high and the hike to the beach will take you about 10 minutes. There are no facilities available in the vicinity, therefore, it is only suitable for sightseeing and is a quick and easy day trip from Hilo.
There is a 6-foot cliff you will encounter when you hike to the beach. From the cliff, you can see the shoreline and where the black sand began to form.
The continuous action of water on the sand causes part of it to wash into the sea and it truly is one of the most impressive beaches on the Big Island!
Polulu Valley Beach
This Hawaiian black sand beach was formed due to a part of the Kohala volcano that last erupted over 100,000 years ago, falling into the ocean. The Kohala volcano is the oldest in Hawaii.
Polulu Valley Beach is one of the black sand beaches on the Big Island that has a beautiful emerald-green ground cover. The emerald color creates a contrast with the black sand rimming the ocean.
To access the beach, you need to hike down the cliff into the valley. This hike is short, steep, and satisfying. However, it can be dangerous to hike during the rainy season as it gets slippery.
The cliff is about 0.6 miles and it could take 25 minutes for an average hiker to get to the valley floor. Also, note that the water is not safe for swimming due to undertows and high tides.
There are humpback whales you can sometimes see if you look out to sea, especially during the winter. This Hawaiian beach is located at the end of Highway 270 in Kohala and there are no lifeguards or facilities available on this beach.
Kehena Beach is located on the eastern shore of Hawaii. This black sand beach is also called Dolphin Beach because of the spinner dolphins that are often seen in the ocean.
It is long, but quite narrow and there are rocks on each end of the beach limiting the flow of water. The beach was formed in 1955 due to lava flowing into the ocean.
Kehena is located on Highway 137 in the Ouna district. Access to the beach requires an intense hike as the trail is quite steep.
It is one of the most unique beaches in Hawaii as it is labeled a ‘clothing optional’ beach which is exceedingly rare in Hawaii. Therefore, when you visit, don’t be too surprised when you see nude sunbathers!
Swimming is allowed, but with caution as the swim area is small and there could be dangerous currents.
Waipio Valley Black Sand Beach
*This beach and road is closed until further notice.
Waipio is a Hawaiian word that means ‘curved water’. This Hawaiian black sand beach is located at the end of one of the steepest roads in the United States!
Access to Waipio Valley Black Sand Beach is limited and the road is only open to 4-wheel drive cars. Not all rental cars are allowed access to the road, so you may need to check with your rental car company to know if you will be allowed access to the beach.
When you eventually get to the end of the road, you would need to hike to the valley floor. This hike takes about 35 to 45 minutes for an average hiker. The trail is steep and the hike is intense.
There is a stream called the Wailoa Stream that divides the beach into two; the northern and southern beaches. The water is not safe for average swimmers or snorkelers because of the high tides and currents.
This beach is perfect for sightseeing, camping, and hiking. There are no facilities or amenities available there so please take note before planning your visit.
Did we miss any of your favorite Big Island black sand beaches? Let us know in the comments! Thanks!
Additional Big Island Travel Guides
- Best beaches near Kona
- 7 days on the Big Island
- Things to do in Kona
- Things to do in Waikoloa
- Big Island state parks
- Best helicopter tours on the Big Island
Pin these Black Sand Beaches in Hawaii
Megan is a travel blogger and writer with a background in digital marketing. Originally from Richmond, VA, she has been traveling frequently to Hawaii for the last 15 years and loves exploring every corner of each Hawaiian island, while trying to promote sustainable travel and small, local businesses along the way. Megan has written for or been featured by National Geographic, Forbes, Lonely Planet, the New York Times, and more. She has co-authored a guidebook with Fodor’s Travel and has visited 45 US states and 100+ countries.