The Papakōlea Green Sand Beach Is Like A Martian Landscape
You’ll find Papakolea Beach, also known as Mahana Beach, near South Point, in the Ka’u district of Hawaii.
Believe it or not, this is one of only four green sand beaches in the entire world! There are a couple in the Galapagos Islands, and yet another in Norway.
Why Are The Manaha Beach Sands Green?
This incredible sand that looks like it should be on Mars is the result of a cinder cone that erupted about 50K years ago. The sand itself is created by a common lava mineral on the Big Island known as olivine.
The erosive power of the ocean crashing into the bottom of Pu’u Mahana, the 49,000 year old volcano against which the beach is located, extracted olivine out of the cinder, giving the sand a green tint.
The sands stay green because olivine is heavier than the other components of the lava and sand crystals. Because of this, it stays put and doesn’t wash or blow away! Although the crystals are eventually washed away too, the constant erosion of the cinder cone ensures a steady supply of sand. However, eventually the supply will run out, and the beach will look like… just a regular beach.
How To Get To The Green Sand Beach?
It’s not easy to get to Mahana Beach. If you do decide to check this gorgeous beach off of your bucket list, be prepared for a three-mile hike.
Alternatively, if you want, you can hire someone to drive you from the parking lot of the trailhead. The road requires experience, as well as a 4×4 vehicle, so getting there yourself can be a bit tricky.
Plug this into your GPS and you should be good to go.
Finding The Trail Head
You can swim at this green sand beach, but keep in mind the surf is strong so be super cautious and only swim if you’re a strong swimmer.
To get to the trailhead for Mahana Beach, drive to Hwy 11. Between the 69 and 70 mile markers, you’ll find South Point Road. The road is bumpy and kind of sketchy, so make sure you’re careful. Drive about eight miles and then stay left at the sign indicating the Green Sand Beach. This will take you to the parking area.
From the parking area, you can hire a car, or you can take the hike. If you choose to take the hike, walk south on a paved road that will eventually turn to dirt. The easiest way to navigate this hike is to stay parallel to the ocean.
Make sure you stay out of all ancient sites along the way. Follow the signs, and it’s quite straightforward. After about two miles hiking the dirt roads, you’ll come to a stunning view of Papakolea Beach. If you hike around the rim of the eroded cinder cone, you’ll find the path down to the beach via a metal staircase.
Of course, be careful. The hike down to the beach is very steep, but once you’re there you can relax and enjoy all this gorgeous spot has to offer.
No Souvenirs, Please
We hope it goes without saying, but please do not remove anything (or leave anything) on this beach!
It’s tempting, considering that the sand looks so incredible under a microscope. But keep in mind it’s illegal to remove anything for a souvenir. Just don’t do it.
The beach is there for all who can make it in to enjoy, not to destroy. Remember, take only pictures and leave only footprints.
Related: We apparently dig alien landscapes. Check out White Pocket, Arizona, another super cool spot that looks like it’s from another planet.