Punalu’u Beach on the South Shore of the Big Island

Punalu’u Beach on the South Shore of the Big Island

The combination of black sand, blue water and coconut tree lined coast makes Punalu’u uniquely picturesque. Add to that the high likelihood that you’ll find turtles basking in the sun make this renowned beach well worth the visit. As with anywhere else in Hawaii, avoid coming too close to the turtles, they are a protected species.

Water Sports: Swimming and snorkeling are both exceptional here, though you want to be sure you keep an eye on your location, as rip currents can occur. If the ocean is rough, or you aren’t confident in your swimming abilities, you can dip into the shallow freshwater tidepool. There are no lifeguards on duty, so follow your discretion and stay safe.

Shade: Although coconut trees line the beach, they don’t provide available shade due to the foliage growing beneath them. Bring your own shade, and remember that black sand absorbs a lot of heat, so have a towel to lay on and shoes to protect your feet.

Food: There is no food available at this beach, but the nearby town of Naalehu offers various options. Be sure to stop into Punalu’u Bake Shop and pick up their malasadas or sweet bread for your beach picnic.

Directions and parking: It takes a little over an hour to get to Punalu’u from Hilo or Kona. Located off of Highway 11, take Punalu’u road towards the ocean and you’ll find ample parking, restrooms, pavilions, and even picnic benches and grills if you want to make a day of it. Outdoor showers are also available, and if you plan ahead, there are permits available for camping in the designated area.

Historical Opportunity and Name: Punalu’u means “diving spring”, and history tells of divers traveling here with gourds to access the fresh water from the springs that empty into the waters offshore. Rich with the resource of fresh water, this is a place that was likely reserved for royalty in ancient times.

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