Perhaps the most famous of Hawaii’s black sand beaches, Punalu’u is located on the southeast coast of the Big Island. Along with the spectacle of jet black sand contrasting the verdant greens of the palm trees behind, the beach here is also known for its turtles.
Both the rare hawksbill and Hawaiian green turtles (Honu) frequent Punalu’u's black sands. Another endangered species that is often spotted here is the Hawaiian monk seal.
Whilst it might be tempting to try and get as close to these special animals as possible you should respect their space and give them at least 10 feet. If you’re lucky and the sea is calm you can snorkel in the little bay where you may get to see the turtles in their element.
There is a lifeguard patrol at Punalu’u Beach but you should only really swim when there aren’t any waves. Another bit of advice is to wear reef shoes as the bottom tends to be quite rocky and sharp.
Unlike many beaches that are touted as having black sand there is no arguing the sand at Punalu’u is the genuine article and about as black as it gets. The sand is produced from the rapid cooling of lava that spews into the sea and is instantly transformed into solid basalt. This shatters and is then broken down into sand by the waves and deposited on the beach.
Possibly the only downside with the strikingly colored sands of this Hawaiian beach is they tend to get very hot in the sun
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