Papakolea Green Sand Beach on the Big Island’s South Shore

Papakolea Green Sand Beach on the Big Island’s South Shore

Photo Courtesy of Aren Elliot on Wikimedia Commons

One of only four green sand beaches in the world, Papakolea Green Sand Beach, also known as Mahana Beach, is a dramatic experience that is worth the work it takes to get there. The olivine crystals that are a residue of a volcanic eruption from nearby Pu’u Mahana nearly 50,000 years ago. The view of the  glittering green beach against the sparkling blue ocean will be one of those moments that gets burned into your memory.

Water Sports:

There is often rough surf here, and no lifeguards, so be sure to sit and watch the ocean before you attempt to go for a swim – no matter how hot you are after the hike! On calm days, be aware that there can still be dangerous ocean currents.


There is no shade at the remote beach, so be sure to bring your hat and sunscreen. It’s also advisable to venture here early in the day to avoid having to hike in the heat.


Papakolea Green Sand Beach is located in a very remote part of the Big Island, so be sure to stop somewhere in town and pack a cooler before you start this adventure. Pack some extra water for the hike, it can be quite hot. Sometimes there is a vendor selling snacks and cold drinks in the parking lot, but don’t count on it. 

Directions and Parking:

This beach is nearly equidistant from Hilo and Kona, so prepare yourself for a bit of a drive (almost 2 hours and a little less than that respectively). At the end of South Point road, there is a parking lot near the small harbor.  Parking is free. From there,  the hike is a little over 2 miles in one direction. Descending to the beach at the end of the hike can be a little tricky, so if you’re not feeling up for it, you can sit at the picnic bench up top and take in the view.

What’s in a Name:

Papakolea means “plover flats” named for the pacific golden plover, a species of bird that migrates to Hawai’i from Alaska for the Winter months.

Check out this video on YouTube by Big Island Pulse

Scroll to Top