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Black Sand Beach at Punalu'u Hawaii

Updated on November 20, 2009

A Unique Beach

On the southeast coast of the Big Island of Hawaii is a little park with a beautiful black sand beach.

As I described in my Hub The Island of Hawaii and its Six Volcanoes the black sand is the result of the continuing volcanic activity on the island. The black sand is created when hot, black lava from a volcano is suddenly cooled when it falls into the ocean and the sudden cooling causes it to shatter into sand and small rocks.

With six live volcanoes on the island of Hawaii and a seventh just off shore and still under water, nature continues to produce black sand in the area around the island. Currently the Kilauea volcano, located just up the road from thePunalu'u's Black Sand Beach, in the Volcanoes National Park, has been active and spewing lava into the ocean since April 2008.

My wife's bare feet in the black sand.  Note the course grain of the sand.
My wife's bare feet in the black sand. Note the course grain of the sand.
The beach with concession stand in background.
The beach with concession stand in background.

Normally, black sand would be washed out to sea by the waves and tides leaving the more common tan sand behind.

This is what happens on most beaches over geologic time. But for now the volcanoes on the island keep replenishing the black sand leaving an all black beach.

The sand itself is is very course and not at all like the fine grained sand found on most beaches. It is not very comfortable to walk barefoot on.

And, if you play and body surf in the waves be careful not to let the surf wash you in to the shallows where your body will scrape bottom.

The effect on your skin from this will be the same as a brisk massage with a piece of very course sandpaper.

Sea Turtle Coming Ashore

Honu - Green Sea Turtles

Like some other beaches on the Island of Hawaii, green sea turtles, or Honu as they are called in Hawaiian, are frequent visitors to the black sand beach at Punalu'u.

These turtles make an impressive sight, but they are a protected species and the Hawaiians are especially protective of their turtles. Visitors to the beach can look at and photograph them but are not suppose to touch them let alone threaten or harm them in any way.


At the right is an engraving of Kauila carrying a sleeping child on her back.  Kauila was mystical turtle that made her home in the Ka'u district where Punalu'u bay and the Black Sand Beach are located.

According to Hawaiian legend, Kauila had the ability to turn herself into human form which she did regularly.

However, unlike some other mythical animals that had this power, Kauila's intentions were always good and she never sought to harm or cause trouble for people.

Kauila liked people, especially children, and when in human form she would play with the children on the beach and, in either form, she would always watch over and protect the children along. This has endeared her to the native Hawaiians ever since.

Monument to Kauila
Monument to Kauila

Green Sea Turtles

Turtle sleeping in the warm sand.
Turtle sleeping in the warm sand.
Don't Bother the Turtles
Don't Bother the Turtles
Turtle coming ashore.
Turtle coming ashore.
Two turtles resting together in the sand.
Two turtles resting together in the sand.
View of the beach
View of the beach
Black Lava rock at north end of the small Punalu'u Bay
Black Lava rock at north end of the small Punalu'u Bay
Vegetation taking hold in the lava rock
Vegetation taking hold in the lava rock
Close-up of vegetation growing in the crevices of the lava rock.
Close-up of vegetation growing in the crevices of the lava rock.
A View of the beach
A View of the beach
Another view of the beach
Another view of the beach
Punalu'u Bay
Punalu'u Bay
Waves hitting rocks at north end of the bay
Waves hitting rocks at north end of the bay
Close-up of the course black sand.
Close-up of the course black sand.


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    • April Reynolds profile image

      April Reynolds 

      9 years ago from Arizona

      Very interesting! I just recently visited friends on the Big Island and had the privilage of seeing the turtles and the black sand beaches personally. I can't wait to return.

    • TattooKitty profile image


      10 years ago from Hawaii

      Punalu'u is a true Big Island treasure! Beautiful hub ;) Much mahalo for reminding everyone not to mess with the turtles!!

    • 2uesday profile image


      11 years ago

      Interesting hub, lots of nice pictures. I have been to a beach with black volcanic sand in Greece it was so hot that you could not walk on it bare foot.

    • mercon profile image


      11 years ago

      a very nice place, I want to go there

    • Dao Hoa profile image

      Dao Hoa 

      11 years ago

      Great hub and good pictures. I can imagine that the sand is hard to walk on!

    • elayne001 profile image


      11 years ago from Rocky Mountains

      You wrote about one of my favorite places - the Big Island. I love the botanical gardens there too and of course the volcanos. Great hub! Aloha!

    • Chuck profile imageAUTHOR

      Chuck Nugent 

      11 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      Nan Mynatt - Thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed the Hub.

      In answer to your question, yes, my wife, son and I spent a week at the Sea Mountain timeshare resort located next to the beach.

    • Nan Mynatt profile image

      Nan Mynatt 

      11 years ago from Illinois

      Good information and beautiful pictures! Did you vacation there?

    • girlpower profile image

      Diane DeVillers 

      11 years ago from eugene oregon

      great hub bub, i always wanted to see a black sand beach ever since my aunt and uncle came back from Hawaii and brought me a chuck of black volcano rock. Never heard of the hard to walk on part. THe turtle are amazing. THis is the third travel hub i viewed of yours. love them

    • Rose West profile image

      Rose West 

      11 years ago from Michigan

      Great photos of the honu!

    • sutrapu profile image


      11 years ago from kuwait

      very clear pics, entertain hub.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      11 years ago from Sunny Florida

      I liked the pictures of the turtles. Interesting hub.


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