Hiking to the Green Sand Beach – Papakolea, Big Island

Hiking from the South Point area to Papakolea (Green Sand Beach) is one of the more popular Ka’u hikes. It’s not extremely challenging – mostly flat and is fairly interesting. But, when we’ve been there, we’ve seen fellow hikers who are stunningly unprepared (wearing slippers and having no water, for example…or littering) and pretty disrespectful of an ecologically sensitive area. From Ka Lae (South Point) it’s about a 6 mile round-trip hike. We’ll bet you Green Sand Beach, South Point Hawaiiare visiting the Ka’u District because you are more interested in Hawaiian culture, places and people. If you wanted to sit and drink Mai Tai’s…you wouldn’t be here in the first place.

There’s a problem with erosion from vehicle traffic in the soft, dusty sands of the South Point area. You’ll find that the orange material is a compact powder, I’m told it’s old volcanic ash but haven’t verified that, that erodes very easily. So, exercising good hiking etiquette is a must. Use your head, be prepared and be respectful of the fragile ecosystem.

One of Four Green Sand Beaches in the World

We choose to hike the beach as much as possible because it often offers a rocky, as opposed to powdery, hiking surface. Plus, nature is consistently refreshing and reworking the coast. Additionally, there’s more to see, usually a sea breeze and it’s cooler.

You may be amazed, or disturbed as we were, by an alarming amount of plastic trash washed ashore from God-knows where. If you don’t leave here resolved to 1) pitch in and help with a coastal cleanup and 2) change the way you think about throwaway plastic, well, you just aren’t looking.

It’s not practical to make the whole journey strictly along the coast, so you’ll have to join in the parade of walkers on the well worn vehicle and foot paths to the beach. It’s about being respectful of the aina (land). Perhaps it’s best summed up by Bruce Fisher, owner of Hawaii Aloha Travel, who wrote in a piece for Civil Beat, (read the whole article on the Huffington Post here) “Visiting Hawaii is like visiting a living memorial. Culture, history and people are deeply embedded in the volcanic soil of each island, and there is a power that passes beyond most visitors’ comprehension.”

5 Tips for Hiking to the Green Sand Beach

  • If hiking on a trail, walk single file and avoid widening the trail.
  • No trails? Spread out in open country. Spreading out, rather than following each others footsteps, disperses impact and avoids creating a new trail.
  • If possible, travel on hardened surfaces such as lava rock or in sand washes.
  • Comply with all signs and respect barriers.
  • Above all, realize Hawaii is a special place and respect the aina.
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