Black Sand at Punaluu Beach
Punaluu Beach is one of the most strikingly beautiful beaches on the Big Island. Located close to the town of Naalehu, Punaluu is among a handful black sand beaches found in the world. The beach’s name means “spring diving” in Hawaiian and refers to the underground fresh springs that open in the bay. Hawaiians once swam out into the bay with gourds to collect the fresh water which floats on top of the denser saltwater.
The Black Sand of Punaluu Beach
The white sand found on most Hawaiian beaches is composed of broken coral and shells. Punaluu’s sand has a different origin. When lava from the Mauna Loa and Kilauea volcanoes reached the sea, it cooled so fast it shattered into tiny pieces, creating the beach’s black sand. Black lava sand is a rare natural phenomenon and a limited resource, so visitors are asked not to take any Punaluu Beach sand as souvenirs.
You might want to wear beach shoes when you visit Punaluu beach, as the sun can heat the sand to toe-burning levels. A grove of coconut palms offers shade and shelter from the sun--just remember to check that the trees you’re under aren’t carrying any coconuts (in Hawaii, you never turn your back on a wave, and you always look up before sitting under a coconut tree).
Punaluu Beach offers parking, a picnic area, restrooms, and an outdoor shower. You can camp at the beach if you have a permit. Be aware the beach has no lifeguard. The water can have strong currents and high surf, making swimming and snorkeling dangerous.
Getting to Punaluu Beach
Punaluu Beach is located just off highway 11 between mile marker 56 and 57. Turn makai (towards the ocean) on Alanui Loop Road.