Papakōlea – Green Sand Beach

“This is what hell feels like”, I thought as we made our way across the scorching southern coast of Big Island on foot. If you’ve never been lucky enough to visit the Hawaiian Islands you might think that it’s all rainforest and rainbows. But the lush green paradise of the imagination usually only dominates half an island. The other side can be dry and hot without a cloud in the sky due to weather patterns.


With scant water and poorly chosen footwear we were ill prepared to attack a 5-mile round trip hike in the desert. But the knowledge that we wouldn’t always live in Hawaii pushed us to take advantage of our relative proximity to one of the unique wonders of the islands – Hawaii’s one and only green sand beach, Papakolea.


The green sand beach is like a myth among travelers. Backpackers from Brazil to Bali have asked me “Is there really a GREEN sand beach in Hawaii?” I would always shrug and say that green is only one of the many colors of Hawaii beaches. We also have black and white and gold. Had I ever been to green sand beach? Well…..not yet.


But that was about to change. After what seemed like hours but could realistically have been about 60-90 minutes of trekking in the sand we finally arrived atop the cliff overlooking this mysterious beach. Feeling victorious after our sunscreen-soaked pilgrimage I snapped a picture and could not wait to circumvent the rim and descend into the cove of this ancient crater.


As we arrived at the top of the trail to go down to the beach we were greeted by half a dozen off-roading vehicles, one of which was a Land Rover filled with Japanese tourists. Needless to say we were significantly grittier than these well-dressed sightseers, who were sporting even more inappropriate footwear than us.


The sand upon inspection was an olive green that glimmered in the sun, and when mixed with the waves created a dark cloud in which to swim in the protection of the cove walls. After some swimming and lounging the hike back didn’t seem nearly as long, until that is we got passed by a Land Rover.


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