Picture this: a quaint single lane drive south on highway 11 leads to the southernmost point of the United States. This rural portion of the Big Island, the Kau district, is hidden with little treasures snugged behind orchards of macadamia nut trees and coffee shrubs scattered along the way. Mom & pop shops and roadside stands wait eagerly, each with its own tempting lure to passersby with homegrown fruit, signature Kona coffee and other local favorites.
Then down past the ascending pastures, at the end of South Point road is the start of a footpath to the jewel of the south. There, at the southern tip of the Island of Hawaii awaits a beautiful oasis, carpeted with semi-precious gems and a painted backdrop of waves from mother nature’s brush strokes. Being one of only four green sand beaches on earth, access to such a spectacular geological gem is worth dedicating a whole day, if not a weekend.
There are two options to choose from once at the trail head to Papakolea Beach (Green Sand Beach). Off-the-beaten-path, this 2.5 mile moderate hike spiders along the coastline, while the spectacle of green sand seems to appear the closer you get to the beach. The northbound wind and occasional mist from the ocean is the perfect companion on a bright sunny day.
If you choose to save all your energy for the beach or are short on time, there is a shuttle that travels back-and-forth frequently for a fee. It is also to be noted that there are no facilities once you leave the parking lot. The leisurely stroll to the beach is full of picturesque sights along the coastline for your own personal photo session and plenty of ideal spots for a picnic.
Coming over the horizon the seaside dormant Puu Mahana volcanic cinder cone appears in the distance. Its tall dark contrast to the beige pastures that surrounds its regal stature is only a fraction of what once spewed magma into the Pacific Ocean. This hydrovolcanic landform turned into a gem mine once magma and water became acquainted.
At the start of a young magma flow, at its hottest temperature, iron and magnesium elements form a silicate material that crystallizes into the green, glassy, semi-precious olivine stone. As the lava cools the olivine becomes trapped within the lower chambers of the magma. In a few millennia, you have have yourself a green sand beach.
Over time, erosion from the ocean’s constant powerful strikes carved into the Puu Mahana cone revealing the charming ocean-side nook. As the basalt rock gets washed away, the denser olivine stone is left behind, leaving Hawaii with the rare green sand beach.
Adrenaline becomes difficult to contain as the final steep descent into the volcanic cinder cone reveals the robust billows of waves entering the cove before setting back out to sea. Olivine green stones are generously deposited amongst smaller grains of lava rock. Scaling down the mouth of a volcano, which once held molten hot lava, now lends itself as a refreshing afternoon delight and a surreal adventure. If you time the day just right, ending with a hike into the sunset will become the setting to the perfect bedtime story.