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Hawaii Black Sand Beaches That Will Leave You Mesmerized

Lava-covered wonderlands created by violent volcanic explosions form otherworldly landscapes on Hawaii black sand beaches. These beautiful spots offer their visitors exploring lush vistas, swimming in crystalline waters, encountering sea turtles and spinner dolphins and surfing on tides where legends were born. When planning your next Hawaii vacation, add visiting some of these dark sand heavens to your itinerary!

Anett Victoria - Author of SeaSpiration

Written by Anett Victoria

When it comes to a beach vacation, Anett is the person who certainly has tips on where to go and what to do no matter it is a luxury tropical holiday, a romantic seaside getaway, or a fun family trip to the ocean. As a world traveler with years of experience in exploring tropical countries and a water sports fan, she creates this inspiring site where she writes travel guides, reviews and recommends beach gear, and gives travel tips to make planning your trip quicker and easier! Are you curious about where She wanders now? Follow her adventures on IG too!



Big Island

Varied landscapes, historic sites, a wide range of activities for all ages and the fact that the highest number of black sandy beaches are found on Hawaii Big Island make the Hawaiian chain’s youngest member a top destination for Aloha State’s visitors. Going through this long list of beautiful volcanic beaches, I bet you’ll only have one question: which one to visit first?

Dark sand coast on Big Island - Hawaii

Punaluu Black Sand Beach

Located between Pāhala and Nāʻālehu on the south-eastern Kaʻū coast of the Big Island, Punaluu is famed for its jet-black sand made of black basalt formed by lava flowing into the ocean. This otherworldly spot is not only the best black sand back on Big Island but also one of the most beautiful beaches in Hawaii with unspoiled nature all around.

Punaluu black sand beach drone photo - Big Island Hawaii

While the striking sand is what draws visitors to Punaluu, visitors soon learn that this palm-fringed slice of paradise is also home to a population of Hawaiian green sea turtles. People are free to admire the creatures as long as they do not interact with them.

The beach also has some comfort amenities like showers, restrooms, and a souvenir shop. There is an area where you can go swimming, or if you want to snorkel, you can do that too since the surrounding reef has pretty corals and beautifully colored tropical fish.

Richardson Ocean Park

Located just east of Hilo, Richardson Beach is a Hawaii County park with large natural pools sheltered from big waves that make it an excellent choice for families with kids. This beach offers full of amenities (parking, bathrooms, lifeguard station, picnic benches) that take the hassle out of exploring the wild Hawaiian shore.

In addition to beautiful scenery, this popular Hawaii black sand beach has dreamy conditions for swimming and snorkeling. Although, note that the area is very rocky so bring water shoes.

49 Black Sand Beach

Lack of crowds and laid-back vibe make this beautiful black sand beach in Waikola a place of wonder! Unlike other black sand beaches in Hawaii, this beach isn’t the result of lava flow. The dark hue of the shore here is actually created by a breakdown of volcanic glass. Views from the shore of this beach show a volcanic bay rim bordered by striking lava cliffs.

Strolling through a sea-cliff trail offering views of tide pools and coves is a popular activity here. This is also a top spot for snorkeling in crystal-clear waters near the rocky rim of the shoreline to spot underwater rock formations, tropical fish, and other wonders.

This dark sandy beach is situated behind a gated community; to access it, you need to request a beach pass at the guard shack. Arrive early because the number of available passes is limited. Alternatively, you can get to the beach by hiking through the Fisherman’s Trail.

Kaimu Beach / Kalapana Beach

Considered a unique jewel of Puna, Kaimu Beach is a young black sand beach that attracts visitors for its rareness and novelty instead of its family-friendly factor. Kaimu Beach sits on top of a former town that was destroyed by 1990’s eruptive lava flow from the Kūpaʻianahā vent of the Kīlauea volcano.

walking on the lava field at Kalapana beach

This is considered a “rough” beach that’s not appropriate for swimming, snorkeling, or sunbathing. The lack of protection from wind on this beach can leave visitors quickly overwhelmed by currents, but Kaimu is still a beach that’s more than worth visiting when you want just to hang out and enjoy the wonderful scenery. Locals and visitors keep up a tradition of planting sprouted coconuts to restore the old coconut trees lost in the 1990 eruption.

Polulu Valley Beach

Perched in one of the seven valleys of the Kohala, Hawaii’s oldest volcano, Polulu Valley Beach is an otherworldly beach surrounded by lush, tropical forest and tall cliffs. The beach’s beautiful fine black sand stands in contrast to large boulders lining the shore.

Pololu beach

While the tides here are generally too rough for swimmers, visitors can hike the giant dunes and soldier-like ironwood tree trunks that guard the valley against flooding. During wintertime, the Polulu Valley Lookout is an excellent spot to watch humpback whales too!

Kehena Beach

Found on the eastern shore of Puna, Kehena Beach is a famous black sandy beach with a narrow footprint. It is often called Dolphin Beach too due to the frequent appearances of dolphins in this area.

This beach was formed by a massive lava flow that occurred in 1955. People come here to admire the contrast of dark sand and towering cliffs against clear glowing water. The vigorous tides make for dramatic, satisfying wave watching.

Kehena is one of the trickier beaches to access on the Big Island. An earthquake in 1975 demolished the stairway that once provided easy access. Today’s visitors must use a narrow, steep descent down a path made of lava cliffs to get to this beach. For those who make the trip, the reward of shade offered by large ironwood trees and coconut trees is more than worth it!

Kehena black beach Big Island

There is one small “buyer beware” warning with this beach. While nude bathing is prohibited at all Hawaiian beaches, Kehena has earned an “unofficial” reputation as a clothing-optional beach.

Waipio Valley Black Sand Beach

Hidden and underrated, Waipio Valley is less visited compared to popular beaches in Hawaii. Located on the eastern side of the Big Island, this gem among Hawaii black sand beaches is situated in a lush valley and features onyx sand bordered by forest-carpeted cliffs.

Waipio valley

One of the reasons why this beach flies under the radar is its accessibility level. It’s necessary to either hike or use an off-road vehicle to cover the steep road leading to the beach. One smart tip is to only plan to visit this beach during a dry period. The fallen trees and mud puddles scattered among sharp rocks on the path are much harder to navigate after rain has swept through.

Note: per a new legislation, Waipio Valley is only open to Hawaii residents with four-wheel drive vehicles until further notice.

Shipman Beach / Haena Beach

Nestled in a secluded corner of Hilo’s Puna District, Shipman Beach offers a low-key, off-the-radar paradise that’s only accessible by foot through a jungle-tinged trail that can be picked up at Hawaiian Paradise Park. People who discover Shipman Beach come in search of sea turtles and monk seals.

The beach’s rare contrast of fine black sand and white sand also makes the trek more than worth it! A stream that cuts between Shipman fishpond and the ocean divides this stunning beach into two distinct patches. While Shipman Beach is remote, shallow tides create calm conditions for swimmers. However, swimmers should be aware that the surf does get heavier than it appears to be at times.

Pohoiki Black Sand Beach – Isaac Hale Park

There isn’t a better place for families on a beach vacation on the Hawaiian Islands than Isaac Hale Park on Pohoiki Bay in Puna district. This beach offers a parking lot, a boat launch, on-duty lifeguards, toilets, BBQ pits and great surfing conditions.

lava rocks on the beach in Pohoiki - Big Island

Keep in mind that this is a new black sand beach, a result of Kīlauea’s 2018 volcanic activity. Those who have not visited the area since 2018 will notice that it looks much different. Now the beach is covered with 8-10 feet of new lava which makes it a lot smaller than it was prior to the lava eruption. You can’t really go swimming here but still can enjoy watching the waves crashing on the shore. Moreover, there are thermal hot ponds that give this beach a special vibe.

Kahalu’u Beach Park

This pretty Hawaii beach on the Big Island offers coarse salt-and-pepper sand shaded by towering palm trees just outside of Kona. It has many amenities lick outdoor showers, restrooms, lifeguard, and picnic tables to make it a convenient place.

Hawaiian green sea turtle on the shore

The interesting ecosystem at this beach is owed to the fact that the bay is protected by lava breakwater that creates clear, shallow conditions. You will have lots of fun spotting colorful fish from the nearby coral gliding by their legs in the transparent, still water.

While ocean swells can make the tides stronger and murkier at times, families can generally swim and snorkel without getting tossed around. What’s more, Kahalu’u Beach Park happens to be a top spot for seeing turtles and spinner dolphins too!

Honomalino Beach

A gem among Hawaii’s black sand beaches, Honomalino Beach on the Big Island is tucked away in the remote fishing village of Miloli’i. It is only accessible by taking a small hike through forested terrain that crosses lava flows from Mauna Loa, so therefore it is not visited by tourist crowds; mostly local families come here to swim and snorkel or just to enjoy a relaxing day on the beach.

While Honomalino Beach is often referred to as a black sandy beach, this is actually a salt-and-pepper beach with a mixture of white and fine black sand. Something that visitors find striking is that relatively fresh lava flows are visible here. If you come at high tide, you will notice a blowhole in the lava on the beach’s south side. As the waves crash against the shore, jets of water send fountains of ocean water skyward!

Maui

The second largest island of Hawaii offers many exciting things to do for its visitors. You can drive the stunning Hana Highway, watch the humpback whale migration, visit Haleakala, the largest dormant volcano in the world, and finally, enjoy its breathtaking beaches including many black and dark sandy ones!

Maui dark sand coast

Honokalani Black Sand Beach

Located 3 miles north of Hana in Waianapanapa State Park, Honokalani Black Sand Beach is not only Maui’s best blank sand beach but also one of the most famous black sand beaches in Hawaii. With bright green vegetation along the dark shore combined with transparent ocean waters, the Honokalani Black Sand Beach (also known as Pa’iloa Beach) is a place you need to see with your own eyes.

Honokalani black sand beach

More than just a beautiful spot for tourists to enjoy, Honokalani is a sacred place steeped in Hawaiian legends. This stunning beach covers 122 acres filled with beautiful black sand, lava caves, mature foliage, lava holes, and natural stone arches. Locals in the know can even point visitors to a small number of lava tubes and spring-fed caves. When the water is calm, it is an excellent beach for swimming and snorkeling too.

Oneuli Black Sand Beach

Geology buffs love One’uli Black Sand Beach! This rugged gem in Makena is famed for its thick blanket of black sand that transforms into hard lava at the shore’s edge. Although this Maui black sand beach is not as famous as Honokalani, therefore it is a lot quieter. On weekdays, it can happen that you find the whole place just for yourself!

Besides being a great spot to relax, Oneuli is a top spot for snorkeling too. The coral reefs found at the shore’s entry are full of colorful fish. Hawaiian green sea turtles also frequent this beach. Note that the waves can get strong here, so this place is not kid friendly and not the best for casual swimming. bad swimmer friendly and the waves are very strong.

Honomanu Bay Beach

Located between Paia and Hana on the ocean side of the famed Hana Highway, Honomanu Bay Beach is an undiscovered little spot with a tranquil beauty that hides the roughness of its tides. However, it is rather rocky than sandy which makes it not a good choice if your plan is just to lay out and enjoy the sun but might be worth visiting if you want to stay away from the crowds.

black sand and rocks at Honomanu Bay beach

While Honomanu Bay Beach is beloved by fishermen and surfers, swimmers generally avoid the area due to sharp reefs, violent currents, and the presence of many sharks. An interesting fact is that 17 shark species are present in Hawaii’s waters, and almost all of them can be seen around Honomanu Bay.

Hamoa Beach

Easily accessible from Hana Highway, Hamoa Beach is a crescent-shaped wonder lined with Hala trees. Locally, it is often called a salt and pepper beach because it has white sand on its northern part and black on the southern one.

Unlike many scenic beaches in Hawaii that force visitors to “rough it” while enjoying the views, Hamoa Beach offers public bathrooms, showers, food-washing stations, moreover, pampering pockets of shade that make it a great choice for families.
This eastern-facing shoreline gets good sizes waves too, so water sports such as boogie boarding and bodysurfing are excellent here. Swimming is also possible here, but keep in mind that there is no lifeguard.

Kauai

The oldest of the Hawaiian Islands, Kauai is famous among outdoor adventurers thanks to its many hiking routes and fantastic mountainous scenery. Strictly speaking, it does not have a black beach, but there is still one spot where you find dark sand offering spectacular sights.

black basalt rocks on Kauai coast

Waimea Bay Beach

Situated on the western side of the island, the beach next to Waimea Pier is the only Kauai black sand beach (It should not be mixed up with Oahu’s Waimea Beach!)

In fact, the sand is not really black but rather grayish, but it is still a very unique and worth to see beach on the island.

Once a shipping port, the pier today is locals’ favorite place for fishing and crabbing. The area is not developed as other parts of Kauai; there are no amenities or restaurants here only in Waimea old town, but the laid-back vibes and fantastic sunset views make it a nice spot to unwind and relax surrounded by the ocean.

Molokai

Molokai is a hidden gem between the Hawaiian Islands; therefore, it attracts mostly adventure seeker vacationers. It has secluded beaches (even a dark sandy one), undisturbed landscapes with no crowds, and a fantastic relaxing vibe. Make sure not to miss out on visiting this forgotten paradise island!

Awahua Beach

Located on Molokai’s Kalaupapa Peninsula, Awahua Beach boasts some of the world’s tallest sea cliffs. While taking in the remoteness of this beach, it makes sense that it was chosen as an exile spot for people infected with leprosy during the years between 1866 and 1969. The views enjoyed at this beach are earned after a difficult entry that must be made by foot. The other option is taking a mule ride.

standing on a black sand beach

Awahua Beach is not a true black sand beach though. It does not have volcanic origin but is a so-called detrital sediment that gets it color from dark sandstone. But this, of course, does not devalue the beauty of this place! Indeed, this picturesque beach offers breathtaking sunset views.

However, anyone with aspirations of swimming at Awahua Beach should be warned that the ocean bottom drops off suddenly due to the lack of a protective reef, so you can not swim here; just enjoy the scenery from the beach!

FAQs

Not all Hawaiian Islands have black sandy beaches. The Big Island is home to the highest number of true black sandy beaches, but Maui, Kauai and Molokai also offer black sand. There is no black sand beach on Oahu and on Lanai. Black sand beaches are always young beaches. Hawaii’s constant volcanic activity means that new beaches are being formed all the time, so their number is increasing.

There are many black sandy beaches in Hawaii but the most beautiful and most popular ones are Punaluʻu beach on the Big Island and Honokalani Beach on Maui.

Hawaii’s volcanic origin story is the reason why the Aloha State is peppered with stunning dark sand beaches. The black sand that covers many Hawaiian beaches comes from eroded volcanic lava, basalt rocks, and minerals, mostly iron.

Hawaii’s black sand beaches were formed when black lava from volcanic eruptions seeped out of the ocean. When hot lava hits the water, the contact creates violent explosions that result in black sand beaches. These beaches are often formed in a single day! This is why Hawaii is one of the only places in the world where you can visit “new” beaches that have only existed for a few years.

Don’t leave with any sand after visiting the Hawaiian Islands! It’s illegal to take sand from any of Hawaii’s beaches. This goes for black sand, white sand and any other kind of sand you can scoop up in the Aloha State (and also for lava rocks). If caught with sand of any kind, it’s possible to face fines for carrying away even a small amount of it.

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