Punalu`u Black Sand Beach – Hawaii - Atlas Obscura

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Punalu`u Black Sand Beach

This black shoreline is made up of exploded lava particles. 


Thanks to lava streams beneath the water just offshore, the so-called Black Sand Beach in Hawai’i has a unique deep color that is found almost nowhere else in the world.

Known formally as Punaluʻu Beach on Hawai’i’s Big Island, the volcanic sands create one of nature’s most stunning scenes. Unlike other beaches, the black sand of Punaluʻu is made almost exclusively of basalt that has washed up from beneath the waves. As underwater lava vents extrude magma out into the ocean the super-heated rock cools so quickly that it often explodes into the tiny basalt particles that continually feed the unique beach. 

Punaluʻu Beach is one of only a handful of sandy black beaches on the Big Island of Hawaii (others are rockier). Since the currents at Punalu’u Beach are strong enough to crush the volcanic rocks, this also means that the swimming conditions are not optimal here.

The area is also home to a handful of unique species of endangered wildlife such as the Hawksbill turtle and the Hawaiian monk seal which are shockingly common on the jet sands. The Black Sand Beach is yet another of the island state’s one-of-a-kind natural wonders.

Know Before You Go

Punalu'u Beach is easily accessible. Just exit Highway 11 between mile markers 56 and 57 and leave your car at the small parking lot. The beach is equipped with picnic tables and restrooms.

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