Papakolea Green Sand Beach

MODERATE 149 reviews

Papakolea Green Sand Beach is a 5.6 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Naalehu, Hawaii that offers the chance to see wildlife and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

DISTANCE
5.6 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
334 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

dog friendly

birding

hiking

nature trips

off road driving

walking

beach

views

wildlife

rocky

One of the only true Green Sand Beaches in the world! This is a must see. The hike is easy enough, just bring sunblock and water, there are no facilities nearby. Located in a bay cut by the ocean into a side of Puu Mahana, the green sand is created by a common silicate deposit of Big Island lava called Olivine. You can hitch a ride from the parking area, but why miss the raging ocean waves uninterrupted from Antarctica?! Walk the rough rocky terrain and enjoy the sights and sounds!

This is not an all day hike unless you make it one. We were the first to arrive at the beach early in the morning and left by 10ish. If you go any later (earlier’s better) take a hat as there is NO shade. Bring water and sunblock too. Sand will get in your eyes (windy).

The hike is 5 or 6 lanes of heavily eroded sandstone- easily 6ft in some parts- spread all along the area. I can’t recommend driving or paying the locals to drive you. The locals cars were beat up/missing bumpers, which along with their driving demonstrates their own lack of care (I take a dirt road to my house and the paid drivers did not demonstrate off roading knowledge as we witnessed from our walk). The hike itself is pretty flat.

If taking the “lane” closest to the ocean you’ll see heaps of trash blown in by storms. Nets, laundry baskets, buckets, tires, styrofoam, rope, etc. We planned to fill a bucket with trash on our way out but didn’t realize the path we took went inland instead of to the beach.

The green sand beach itself is very rare. The water is warm. Watch the waves first to get an idea of how they work and when you’re comfortable go in. The waves were large for us and honestly scary so we stayed where we could touch. The current wasn’t strong so it was a nice experience. Somebody took a floaty and got wrecked (they were at the break).

Walk back wet so it cools you; the sun will dry you anyway. I dressed for bugs, which wasn’t necessary. Also, you’ll probably get tan lines from your tank top/shorts so keep that in mind.

I really did enjoy this beach. The lack of respect from visitors is what lowered my rating.

If you go please be considerate to the environment and acknowledge it’s condition.

Mahalo

off road driving
1 month ago

My husband and I took our rental Jeep out to the green sand beach. It was the last day of our honeymoon and I have to say it was my favorite part of the trip! We didn’t hike the trail but we highly recommend you get a vehicle with 4WD and drive out there. Beware - it’s a BUMPY ride! But so worth it. The whole drive is along the coastline and is absolutely gorgeous. When you get to the beach itself you will be amazed. There are beautiful cliffs and you can go in the very warm water. Give yourself at least a half day so you have time to get there and back and to really enjoy the beach and go in the water. Honestly so beautiful and a spectacular memory that I will hold near and dear to me!

1 month ago

we listened to advice and went first thing in the morning. best time by far. even on the way back at 1030am it was starting to get too hot. it was a fun trek and a great beach to see. going at 8am kept tourists and heat down which made it a great hike. sad to see so much plastic that's come from the ocean, but still a must do.

1 month ago

It was windy enough to stay cool but not so windy as to throw sand at you...worth the walk out especially if you meet some new people to walk with.

walking
1 month ago

I can not recommend this hike. It is overrun with tourists and off-roaders who want to see Papakolea, or the green sand beach. This area suffers from neglect and exploitation. There are dozens of dusty roads rutted as deeply as six feet. Locals will drive you to the beach, about 3 miles away, in battered pickups for $20. The degradation of the terrain is depressing. The shoreline is glorious, but along many beaches heaps of plastic debris has piled up. It’s a sad site. The beach itself is beautiful and a unique site to behold. Thus the attraction.
If you go, go early to beat the crowds. It can be a hot, dry, dusty, and windy hike, so prepare accordingly. Leave the green sand behind.

2 months ago

HOT. Almost worth paying to have a jeep take you out there..

hiking
2 months ago

If you have a 4 wheel drive DRIVE!!! The 2 miles to get to the green sand beach are not much to look at. Better to drive there and enjoy the green sand. Also driving is fun as hell. Great beach to swim and let the waves throw you around. A bit dangerous.

hiking
2 months ago

Hiked this trail on my 28th birthday just a few days before we got married in Hawaii!

This is a great hike to take on early in the day, to beat the heat and the crowds! We arrived at the parking lot fairly early, maybe 8am? I don't quite remember now. There will be people offering to drive you out, if you are not fit enough to do this hike, I guess you could take them up on the ride, but it has been eroding the area and they do not want people driving out there. Better to prepare and bring water, a hat and some snacks and walk the trail and let this area remain beautiful.

The hike is completely exposed, but we had a strong wind on the way out. Great views of the ocean and if you wander off the trail to the ocean along the way, there are some areas with sand much greener than at the actual beach! (All of my photos of green sand were from these areas!) We had a great time exploring the area and taking photos on the way back, but hiked straight to the beach on the way in to avoid crowds. Getting there early really pays off, there was no one on the beach when we reached it and were able to snap a few photos from above of it completely empty before another couple made it there. There were some local kids who came running down the steep hill at break neck speeds and ran straight into the ocean which was fun to watch, but be careful with the decent as it is the one steep and challenging part of reaching this beach. We wore swim suits, but decided not to swim and instead just took some photos and explored the gorgeous, but tiny beach. A peaceful area to relax when there are not many people, but it starts to fill up fast. We passed a ton of people headed in on our way out. The hike is very hot with no shade on the way out, we did not have a breeze on the way back. Wear sunscreen, a hat and bring water! There are no restrooms nearby.

Overall: WORTH IT! You can not skip this one if you are visiting!

hiking
2 months ago

The hike is easy, mostly rolling hills and some scrambling over rocks, but there are many trail options that eventually lead to the same destination. If it’s windy, you’re in luck, as there is no shade to shelter from the sun. But the destination, while small, is beautiful. It is a fairy easy climb down the cliff (don’t worry, this is a fairly touristy destination—no rock climbing experience required). The water is not really appropriate for swimming as the waves are super harsh and choppy—definitely not good for snorkeling—but it’s enjoyable to relax on the green sand and take in the natural beauty of this hidden little gem.

walking
3 months ago

A very long, hot and windy walk but I feel definitely worth it. Once we figured out the way down the cliff at the end I spent a lot of time taking tons of photographs and exploring the small beach and rock formations. Be careful in the sun if you have fair skin.

hiking
3 months ago

My legs were still recovering from the Waipi'o Valley hike a few days before, so given the heat and uneven terrain, I did not find this hike to be very enjoyable. We got there as the tide was coming in, so we weren't able to spend a lot of time on the beach. The surf was crazy! We actually ended up wimping out and taking the shuttle service back down - which I found to be like being on an amusement park ride, standing up, and without being strapped in. The beach was breathtaking, so I'm glad we did it.

hiking
3 months ago

Plenty of parking and a few portable toilets at the parking lot. People offer 4x4 shuttle service to the beach but we opted to walk along the road. We passed some great views of the water and there were a few other people walking to the beach. The green sand is more of a green tint. I actually found the rock formation over the cove and the water’s color to be more impressive than the green sand. It was warm and windy along the walk, which was relatively flat and straight-forward.

3 months ago

Hot and dry, bring plenty of water, sunscreen, and a swim suit to enjoy the best reward at the end!

hiking
4 months ago

Many trails to take to the green sands beach. Its a fun adventure with beautiful views of the ocean. Terrain is rocky and may be hard for young children / older people. It’s very open, so it’s incredibly windy the whole time. When you get to the beach, you climb down the face of it which is easy for the most part just watch your step! The water was lovely and the waves were too rough so it’s easy to swim/ boogie board. It gets deep quickly though. It is hard to hangout there because it’s so windy you end up just getting whipped by the sand. Try to take cover on the right side by the rocks. And don’t bring your lunch! But amazing and surreal views

hiking
4 months ago

There are no trail markers but they're are plenty of people hiking and several vehicles shuttling people to the Green Sand Beach so you can find your way easily. Mixture of two types of paths, all carved out by previous 4-wheel drive vehicles. The path closest to the shoreline is rocky and the one furthest is sandy. If you're going to wear flip flops (several people out on the trail were

4 months ago

long Rocky or dusty ( depending on which road you take ) walk. Beautul ocean views all the way, wide open and windy.
The beach at the end of the trail is gorgeous and worth the walk.

hiking
5 months ago

Really pretty, hot and sunny though. But way too many people out on the trails in trucks and jeeps.

hiking
6 months ago

Beautiful walk to a gorgeous green sand beach. The dirt road is grass on one side and rocky/ lava rock coast on the other. There are tide pools along the way with intense green sand and the payoff of great swimming at the larger green sand beach. Not a hike as much as a walk. Well worth the trip. The walk in took about an hour

hiking
7 months ago

Very hot and rocky hike. Landscape is a study in contrasts - wind swept grassy plain meets desert-like trails meets rugged ocean coast. Beach is at the bottom of a steep cliff but there are paths to help you down and up. Sand is truly green. Amazing view.

hiking
7 months ago

On a cool & breezy day, it's an awesome hike with amazing ocean views; on a hot & sticky day, it's a bit of a dusty slog. Go early and bring lots of water!

7 months ago

This hike is actually 5.75 miles fr the parking lot before becoming a dirt road only usable by 4x4s and atvs. The area is beautiful but in all honesty the sand doesn’t even look green. I followed the advice in a previous review and found sand that looked greener about a mile from the beach near the ocean. It wasn’t the hike I had hoped for but we made the best of it. It was really busy and crowded.

8 months ago

Loved it a must see!

hiking
8 months ago

A nice, relatively easy hike. Deceptively hot, given how windy it is. The green sand beach and bay are beautiful and it’s a great spot to swim. Pretty heavily trafficked, including by cars (which are supposed to be banned).

8 months ago

Very cool hike. The route itself is consistent with a great view. The destination is definitely worth it. Amazing water color.

hiking
8 months ago

Coast line trail that is more nature walk than hike. That is, until the end. There are no doubts when you arrive at the beach. There are a couple of picnic benches at the top and some wood stairs down. We'd recommend bringing a snack and some swim trunks to enjoy the beach

8 months ago

Bring lots of water, no shade.

9 months ago

It was a great hike when raining because it wasn't too hot!

hiking
10 months ago

Although the destination is indeed breathtaking, the hike to and from just flat out isn’t. It’s merely hot, dusty, and littered with garbage that has either washed up on shore or is left by people making their way to the green sand beach. For these reasons, the hike is far from pleasurable and becomes quite the chore on the way back to the parking lot.

Avoid the lackluster hike by enlisting the help of a local and their 4x4. Or just drive it yourself in your rental Jeep (no signage as far as I could see citing any regulation preventing you from doing just that). Either way, save the energy for another more beautiful hike or for swimming at the green sand beach.

If you still decide to hoof it, I’d suggest AT LEAST 4L water per person on the typical 85-90 degree F day. Sunscreen is an absolute must-have, as there is ZERO shade.

11 months ago

Beautiful views and unique coloring of the sand. We were short on time so took the "shuttle." This was a fun experience riding in the back of the pickup truck. Takes you back to the earlier years before seatbelt laws.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

*LOVED* the map feature on here!!!!
Thank you!

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