Uncovering the truth about Hawaii’s green sand beach

The Big Island of Hawai’i has at least two different kinds of sand that I can vouch for: black and white. There is also a third if you count the hybrid of the two, salt-and-pepper sand.

Hapuna Beach
Hapuna Beach – white sand beauty
black sand beach
Punalu’u Beach – black sand turtle haven
Honomolino Bay
Honomolino Bay – hard to tell by this phone photo, but its sand is of the salt-and-pepper variety.

At the Volcanoes National Park, a display claims that there are two other kinds of sand hidden on the island: red and green. The existence of red sand remains a mystery I never investigated, but I’m confident that the green sand beach is a myth. Our guidebook alleged that the “green sand beach” was at the southwestern corner of the island, very near to the spot that also happens to be the southernmost point of the United States. This wasn’t far from our rental in the mountainside town of Miloli’i so we drove down to check it out.

Not only was the “green sand beach” in the guidebook, it was also labeled as a point of interest on the map we’d picked up at the airport. Its existence was further corroborated by a number of handwritten signs posted along a 12 mile stretch of paved road. The road ended in a fork: to the right, the southernmost point in the US. To the left, a secret beach of sparkling emeralds ready to blind you with their beauty.

We turned left and pulled into a barren patch of land operating as a parking lot; another handwritten sign advised any non-four-wheel-drive vehicles to traverse the remainder by foot. A couple of people were manning a stall, selling cold bottles of Coke and Fanta to the tourists. Figuring we wouldn’t be gone long, we locked the car and chose a dirt path at random. I was wearing thongs; Jared was barefoot.

I suspect that as a reader, you are able to put together the evidence – a ‘last chance’ drink stall, a dirt road with an ambiguous destination, the protagonists’ foreboding footwear – but we walked on, oblivious. It was ten minutes before we reached a small boat ramp, which also heralded the beginning of a second, more treacherous path made up entirely of rocks.

“We must be nearly there,” I said, as if I had anything to base my statement on.

“Well, we’ve come this far,” Jared said, casting a brief glance at his feet.

Big Island
I’m sure it’s just around that bend.

To make a long story short, we were not nearly there. We walked for a fruitless twenty minutes when a couple appeared over the rise, heading in our direction. Both were dressed in hiking gear, sweating profusely, and had a look on their faces that I recognized from my personal experiences with hunger rage.

“Excuse me,” I asked. “How much further is it?”

The guy responded, a haggard, dead look in his eyes. “Far. One hour, maybe more.”

“An hour?”

“Yes,” the girl agreed. Their accents were European, Scandanavian, maybe? “One hour.”

He quickly gauged our level of preparedness and shook his head. “Not without food. Not without water. And not without shoes.”

“Stuff this,” Jared said. “I’m going back.”

“How was it?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” the girl shrugged. “We got too hungry and had to turn around.”

It didn’t take any more convincing to decide that we, too, should abandon our mission and return to the car park. On closer inspection of the guide book, it did, in fact, warn of a 2 1/2 mile hike during which one should wear appropriate footwear.

There wasn’t a picture, so I’m sticking to my original story: the beach was made up in order to test visitors who have a tendency to skim over important information in their guidebooks.

Big Island, Hawaii
The southernmost point, though, that’s definitely a thing.

Similar Posts


  1. Lauren- I can only imagine how much you are still thinking about not getting to see this but being so close. If it actually exists, that is. 🙂 Still so sad I had to miss this trip!

    1. Nooo!It’s real. After looking at your pictures I think they should sell it more on its merits as an impressive beach – the sand isn’t convincingly green, but the beach itself is pretty spectacular! (Really cute pics of you guys by the way!)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *