Black sand beaches in Hawaii: Where to see a black sand beach on the Big Island + are they on Oahu, Kauai, Maui?

Here’s a good article on black sand beaches in Hawaii by the travel blog on Flashpacking America.

Kailani Tours Hawaii’s Big Island Circle Tour includes a beautiful black sand beach.  Enjoy the tour

In comfort and luxury.

ALOHA!

So the list below focuses on black sand beaches on the Big Island. And there is a very good reason for that!

When it comes to seeing a black sand beach in Hawaii, the Big Island can be a GREAT Hawaiian island to visit for your first trip to Hawaii if you want to see many really black-colored black sand beaches.

The beaches on this list aren’t the only black sand beaches on the Big Island, but they are among the best to make a part of your Big Island itinerary when you’re short on time!

These are also some of the best black sand beaches in Hawaii!

I have probably seen close to 15 black sand beaches in Hawaii, although that depends on your definition of black. That number includes beaches that I would consider only “kind of” black sand (maybe closer to grey sand) but is often listed as being a black sand beach.

Best Hawaiian island to see black sand beaches

The top 2 contenders for best black sand beaches in Hawaii out of the main Hawaiian islands are the Big Island and Maui.

In terms of ease of access to a number of black sand beaches, and the ease of fitting it into your day’s itinerary, I would say the Big Island might have the best black sand beaches in Hawaii.

But Maui has at least one really black black sand beach. There’s the famous black sand beach on Maui, and then some more black sand beaches, including ones that are basically secret black sand beaches that no one’s talking about online.

So if you’re trying to decide between visiting the Big Island or Maui and you would be happy to see even just ONE black sand beach, you’ll be happy with either of these Hawaiian islands!

Kauai may or may not have a black sand beach depending on your definition of black.

Oahu has no black sand beaches.

Why are there black sand beaches in Hawaii?

Hawaii’s volcano activity and lava flows are what gives Hawaii black sand beaches.

This also might explain part of why the Big Island is the best Hawaiian island to see black sand beaches. The Big Island has the most recent volcano activity! It’s also the only island that currently has several active volcanoes, and the Big Island is where you can find Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Maui has one volcano, and Haleakala National Park is home to Maui’s only volcano.

According to a University of Hawaii professor:

In Hawaii, the term black sand beach has been used only for beaches dominated by grains of black volcanic glass.

Lava flows entering the ocean chill and their glassy rinds shatter.

Waves and currents may build a beach from the black grains of glass.

When it comes to seeing a black sand beach in Hawaii, the Big Island can be a GREAT Hawaiian island to visit for your first trip to Hawaii if you want to see many really black-colored black sand beaches.

The beaches on this list aren’t the only black sand beaches on the Big Island, but they are among the best to make a part of your Big Island itinerary when you’re short on time!

7 best black sand beaches on the Big Island in Hawaii

And these are also among the best Big Island beaches!

1. Punaluu black sand beach

This is probably the Big Island’s most famous black sand beach.

Punaluu Beach isn’t famous just for its black sand.

It’s also a place to visit for a good chance to see sea turtles when you’re on the Big Island!

Although the turtles can sometimes be found swimming in the ocean, there’s one spot near the lifeguard tower in particular that’s a frequent turtle resting spot on Punaluu black sand beach that can give you the best chance of seeing turtles when you’re on the Big Island!

This is a beach park, which means there are a number of beach facilities here, including lifeguards and bathrooms.

You can make a quick visit to Punaluu black sand beach if you drive along the southern coast to get from Kona to the Volcanoes National Park area.

This is a beach you can hang out at.

Relatively nearby this beach is also the southern most point of the United States (South Point Park) and the green sand beach.

2. Pololu Valley Beach

There’s an overlook to Pololu Valley which can be a quick stop. It might be a bit difficult to see the black sand beach from the overlook though.

If you want to head down to the beach, the way to get there is by foot on the hiking trail to get down, maybe about a 40 minute hike to the beach.

If you don’t want to go all the way down, you can go down part way for some viewpoints to get a better view of the black sand beach.

I don’t recall there being any toilets in the parking area or down by the beach.

This is another beach you can hang out at.

You can make it a black sand beach day by going to Pololu Valley before or after Waipio Valley.

These could be good stops to make if you’re going from Kona to Hilo, or Hilo to Kona, along the northern coast.

I did a hike to the Pololu Valley beach when I was on my way from Volcano village to Waikoloa village.

I consider this a “kind of” black sand beach.

3. Kaimu black sand beach

You get to this beach in Kalapana on the Puna coast by taking a short walk on a trail that leads to the coast, maybe about 10 minutes.

It’s a trail with black sand too!

And, there are palm trees among the lava fields, as well cliff views, and this makes for a stunning landscape!

Going on this black sand beach hike will give you some amazing cliff views along with the possibility of walking through lava fields. It’s an amazing spot to go if you’re looking for places to see old lava flows on the Big Island all around!

Just be careful as you’re walking across the lava!

After you’ve finished up walking around the area and return to the parking lot, there are some places to eat and drink right nearby.

Go for a tropical fruit smoothie to refuel!

The crashing waves meant absolutely no chance of going onto the beach itself.

So this was something to view from above and enjoy watching and listening to the waves crashing against the shore!

You can start off your day by going to this black sand beach before doing the scenic drive down Red Road aka Kapoho Kalapana Road aka Highway 137.

You can make it another black sand beach day by going to more black sand beaches that are located along this drive, including the Pohoiki Beach.

I did a hike to the Kaimu beach cliffs at the start of my drive on Red Road as a day trip when I was staying in Kalapana surrounded by lava fields!

If you’re staying around Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the Puna coast can be a nice day trip.

4. Waipio Valley Beach

This is another black sand beach with an overlook which means this can also be a quick stop if you just want to see the beach from above.

Or, the way to get down to the beach is by driving or by foot. If driving, this is one of the Big Island drives in which a 4-wheel drive is required.

This is considered to be among the world’s steepest roads, thus the need for a 4wd vehicle.

This also means that if you’re going by foot, expect the return to be a tough walk with a supposed slope of up to 37%!

There were portable toilets near the beach.

This is a beach that you can hang out at.

Again, it can be a perfect black sand beach day if you do this on the same day as a visit to Pololu Valley.

I did a hike to the Waipio Valley beach on the same day that I did the hike to Pololu Valley. You can make it a day of these two “valley beach hikes” only and it can be a perfect day! Pack water and snacks!

I consider this a “kind of” black sand beach. This is another older black sand beach.

5. Pohoiki Beach

This is a new black sand beach on the Big Island that was created after the 2018 volcano eruption.

This is located at the Isaac Hale beach park.

This beach was previously closed off as they were making it ready for visitors, but now it’s simple to access, as all you need to do is walk from the parking lot to the beach!

And then you can walk across the beach.

As a beach park, there are beach facilities like lifeguards and portable toilets.

This is a beach you can hang out at.

I did a walk along Pohoiki Beach at the end of my drive on Red Road as a day trip when I was staying in Kalapana.  

6. Kehena Beach

If you can ignore (or are comfortable with) the people who are beach lazing or swimming without swimsuits on (it’s a clothing optional beach in Hawaii), then this can be a nice little beach with really black sand.

It’s in a slightly “hidden” area, as the way to this beach is going down a steep trail off the side of the road.

It might take a bit of patience to get to the beach itself though if the waves are strong, because ocean waves can come crashing to the spot where the trail meets the beach.

It also might require jumping down, which also means it can mean pulling yourself up on the way back.

This is another stop you can make on the scenic drive on Red Road.

There are no beach facilities here.

7. Richardson Ocean Park

And then if you’re looking for a black sand beach in Hilo…

Then Richardson Ocean Park is your beach!

This is another black sand beach that will give you a good chance of seeing turtles!

There’s not that wide of a beach here, but you can hang out at this beach.

There are bathrooms here.

You can make it one day in Hilo with a black sand beach, turtles, lava cave hike, and waterfalls!