Punaluu Beach

Hawaii, U.S.A.

Starfish Rating of 4

Claim to Fame

Often cited by list-makers as the top black sand beach in the world, Punaluu Beach has very soft sand that becomes somewhat pebbly as it merges into the ocean. The basalt-based beach is the result of hot lava colliding intensely with cool ocean waters. It is drama of yore enjoyable in the present.

(click image to enlarge)
image courtesy of lora_313
  • Where is it?southeastern tip of the island of Hawaii, on the Pacific Ocean, just off Hawaii Belt Road
  • Coordinates: latitude» 21.5787°
    longitude» -157.884°
  • Water Type: saltwater
  • Climate: tropical
  • Development: rural or natural area; minor development
  • Length of Beach: 1m/1.6km
  • Type: black sand
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The Pacific Ocean waters at this beach are always warm and lovely for swimming, paddling and snorkeling. Those waters are infused with a stream of cold water from an underground spring at source, and have served as a supply of freshwater for natives over the centuries. There is a freshwater pond at one end of the beach, a perfect spot to rinse away the salty water gained by ocean bathing. The entry of the cold freshwater into the warm saltwater has the visual effect of an oil spill, but is not dangerous to the fragile marine habitat of animals.

One of the unique pleasures of Punaluu Beach is visits from endangered giant sea turtles known as Hawksbill and Green turtles, as they meander out of the water and onto the sand for a bask in the sunshine, seemingly oblivious to the presence humans! Also home to the very rare Hawaiian Hoary Bat, the beach offers protection for these creatures, and their limited numbers ensure they are not a threat to other beasts or humans.

The adjacent wetlands are where the spring water comes from; this is the second largest spring complex in the State of Hawaii, and an area of ecological concern. A large resort proposal was vastly reduced in size and a 2,000-unit residential project rejected thanks to local opposition.

The result is a pristine area with just enough amenities, like one golf course and a few cottages, ameliorated by camping at Punaluu Black Sand Beach Park, to make it a pleasant vacation destination, slightly off the beaten track.

Lined by palm trees that sway gently in the ever-present breeze, the beach sweeps like the cambered curve of a Formula 1 racetrack. The natural pulchritude of Punaluu Beach involves a study of contrasts; sand and surf, sky and flora.

In the native language, puna lu’u means, “spring [as in water] dive for”. The unusual combination of elements at Punaluu Beach make this an escapist treat, not to be missed on the plans of any trip to Hawaii’s “big island”.

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