Exploring Green Sand Beach, The Big Island, Hawaii!
You know how my recap posts from the week are usually pretty long? Well, this post is lengthy, and it’s only one day of activities. I am going to have to break down each day of the trip into a separate post because they’ve been pretty eventful, and I like to take 1000 photos of course.
Today, I’m going to share something you must add to your itinerary if you’re planning a trip the Big Island, Green Sand Beach. Its one of only two green sand beaches in the U.S. Its real name is “Papakōlea beach,” but Green Sand Beach is way easier to pronounce. It was named Papakōlea because of the kōlea birds frequently seen at the beach. Before you head to the beach, assuming you’re coming from Kona, you’ll want a nutritious breakfast, and I know just the spot.
Caitlin and I were still adjusting to the time change, so we were up having coffee at 5 am out on the patio planning our day. Green Sand Beach isn’t a place you can just drive to. Even if you have a four-wheel drive vehicle, I’d bring your hiking shoes, or leave it to the charter vehicles. It’s a bit of an adventure. You’ll want to make sure to bring a camera because there are so many pretty places to stop along the way.
Last year, I had breakfast at The Coffee Shack, and it definitely made a lasting impression. I couldn’t wait to go back for their juicy papaya and fresh eggs. Even though their food is great, nothing beats the views.
When you’re heading to Green Sand Beach, stop and have breakfast at The Coffee Shack on the way. If you like geckos, you can put the little jelly packets on the windowsill, and they’ll come and eat it. It’s pretty fun to watch! (location map to get there)
We made it to the Coffee Shack around 7:30 am, right when they opened, so we had a lot of places to choose from.
How about this for a breakfast view?
I ordered their papaya boat with two eggs and a cup of coffee. I totally broke my one cup of coffee a day rule on this trip, but I’m not too mad about it. The Big Island’s coffee is too good to pass up. I’ll go back to my routine when I get home. The Coffee Shack grows their own coffee below their lanai. Its flavor and aromas are so good because it’s grown on the side of the mountain at an elevation level of 1,400 feet!
After filling our bellies with delicious food, we headed to the southern tip of the island to visit Green Sand Beach. Don’t let your GPS discourage you. It’s going to tell you that it’s a 2 1/2 hour drive, but it’s actually only 60 miles. It’ll take you a little over an hour, but they calculate the extra miles down to the beach (usually a 2.5 mi hike, or 4 mi charter) around an hour.
Once you get to South Point, the whole look of the island changes. It almost looks like Ireland, with its gorgeous green grass, and the temperature even dropped. It was much cooler. We didn’t even feel like we were in Hawaii anymore.
The road will eventually turn into one lane, so you’ll be pulling over a lot for the passing cars if it’s busy.
If you keep going down the road (about 11 miles), you’ll reach a public parking lot. You can park your car there and start your hike, or pay for a charter. There are people there with four-wheelers, jeeps, or very rundown vehicles.
We planned on walking, but it was so dry and windy out, and we wanted to make it back to the house before three so we could be with Kona. We settled on the charter to save a few hours. I definitely plan on hiking it next time.
We took the back trails (not walking trails) down to the Green Sand Beach.
It was a VERY BUMPY 45-minutes drive. I don’t think we’re ever going to forget that experience. We are pretty sure our driver cracked open a beer cannot/will not confirm.) The views on the way down were breathtaking.
And don’t bother showering before you go to the beach. You’re going to be FILTHY. The Green Sand beach is rocky and dusty, so you’ll find dirt in all the fun places.
It’s a steep drop to get down to the beach, but the cliff has a ladder, and rocks to hold onto.
It’s honestly breathtaking. As soon as you look down and see the gorgeous crystal clear water, it almost feels unreal. Don’t forget to pack a lot of water and snacks if you plan on staying out there for the day. We bought salads at Island Naturals Market to take with us.
The waves were pretty powerful when we were in the water, so we dried off, and started making our way back after having our salads. We wanted to stop at a few places on the way back, and then make dinner and watch the sunset in the backyard.
How incredible is the sand?
There are only four (discovered) green sand beaches in the world, and two of them are in the U.S. The green sand is made up of olivine crystals. Some people call them the “Hawaiian Diamond.” The olivine crystals come from the cinder cone that spewed olivine-rich lava 49,000 years ago. It doesn’t feel as light as white sand, it feels more like tiny little pebbles.
If you can, plan to visit the beach on a sunny day because it’ll appear “greener.” The light will shine down on the olivine crystals.
After making it back to the car, we washed off our legs and changed out of our clothes so we could have a clean drive home.
On our way back, we passed an adorable hidden coffee shop that we just had to stop at. Stop at Kalae Coffee on your way back from Green Sand Beach. There is nothing better than having a cup of coffee on a drive home. Oh, and the coffee was amazing! Are you surprised?
This wasn’t just a coffee shop to grab a coffee and go, it was a gorgeous coffee shop with gorgeous gardens to walk around in. And the really cool part about this coffee shop? It’s the southernmost coffee shop in the United States! Checked that one off my bucket list.
The coffee shop was beautiful and so fun! I was obsessed with the colors. This makes me want to have my own coffee shop so bad.
Caitlin ordered a chai and I ordered a coconut milk latte. We also grabbed a guava dessert.
This is basically succulent heaven.
A quarter mile up the road, we stopped at Paradise Meadows.
We tried coffee, macadamia nuts, played with the animals, and explored the grounds for a bit. This place was really neat! I loved the dark roast coffee we tried, so I bought a bag of that to bring home with me.
We were only 40 miles from Kilauea. Our parents didn’t find this photo that amusing.
I do want to say that it’s unfortunate what is happening to the people living near the eruptions, but the media is making it look like it’s the entire island that is being affected. The only thing affecting the big island is the drop in tourism. The island is looking at a 5+ million loss for May and June in cancellations. I’ve had many people ask about the island’s safety, and I can see why it looks like it’s unsafe because of how bad the media is making it look. Don’t cancel your trips, or fear the eruptions. That is in a contained area, and there is so much fun to experience on the Big Island. Tourism is what keeps the businesses afloat, so don’t let the media stop you from the fun to be had! Obviously, just stay away from Kilauea.
We picked up some fresh yellowfin mahi on the way home for dinner.
I seasoned it with minced onion, black pepper, sesame seeds, oregano, honey, and sesame oil. I baked it at 400 degrees for 7 minutes.
We made it outside just in time to watch the sun go down.
Man, I’m going to miss this place!
This was such a fun day, and if you’re visiting the Big Island, make sure to include Green Sand Beach on your itinerary! It’s totally worth it. Next, I’ll be blogging all about our manta ray adventure!
Questions for you!
- Have you ever visited Green Sand Beach?
- Have you ever found a hidden coffee shop?
- What was the last beach you visited?