Whether you visit the Big Island for a few days, a couple weeks or a few months, you want to make the most of your time in Paradise. With such a wide variety of natural and commercial attractions, it is natural for the visitor to get a little overwhelmed in the “Option Overload” and not be able to make a balanced and informed decision on what they want to do and how best to spend their time.
Even choosing which beach you want to spend time on, or where you want to hike can be an exercise in confusion and conflicting advice. Clearly, visitors to Hawaii could use help making quality decisions about how best to spend their time.
Tour Guide Hawaii is excited and proud to announce the release of their new GPS/WiFi enabled App for iPhone and iPod that helps you navigate your trip to Hawaii with hours of informative, location-aware video and information. Although our video guide will lead you to dozens of unusual, untamed and unspoiled spots, let’s look at a hike you might have heard about, but might not be able to find from maps and guidebooks and would otherwise miss if you did not have Tour Guide Hawaii’s new App.
South Point’s Justly Famous Green Sand Beach Hike; Papakolea Bay and Mahana Beach, Hawaii
Absolutely unique to the island of Hawai’i, beautiful and strange, are the handful of green sand beaches composed of crystals of the semi-precious mineral olivine (also known as peridot). The green sand beach at South Point is the best known, largest and most accessible of these.
To get there, turn left onto a signed, patchy-paved and dirt road immediately when you arrive in the Ka Lae area following signs to the Kaulana Boat Launch. Proceed down the road and park just to the left (south) of the boat launch, where there is a dirt road that leads to the green sand beach. The road has a gate which is sometimes locked as the road primarily provides access for hiking, ATVs or mountain biking: private vehicles are, ostensibly, prohibited but are becoming more and more common—this is the reason for the multiplicity of washed out tracks.
We suggest you walk—it’s more enjoyable and it saves wear and tear on a delicate ecosystem.
Hiking distance is 2 ¼ miles each way along rolling tropical prairie (and if you cannot envision that, you really need to do this hike). Despite the multiplicity of dirt roads, you really cannot get lost as you are never out of sight of the shore. Road conditions along the road to the beach vary dramatically from week to week and the road becomes impassable with even a gentle rain; this is another reason we do not suggest drive but rather enjoy the short, pleasant hike.
About mid-way you begin to see the far side of the cone, out of which the bay has been eroded, poke up above the rolling grassland.
When you reach the end of the trail, you are a hundred or so feet above the beach on the rim of the remnant of the crater. There is a weather-beaten, old sign about 100 feet from the crater rim that directs you to the path down. Look closely for the faint track to scramble safely and easily to the beach (there is occasionally a blue trash barrel to mark this spot, but always there is a cairn of rocks). There is one sort of tricky spot where you have to inch your way over a 3-foot ledge, but almost anybody from senior to child can negotiate the hike to the beach.
One can also easily scramble down from the middle (easternmost) of the cone using a set of stairs, but this can be slippery at the best of times—even dangerous if wet. Although tricky to spot on the way down, from the beach looking up the way back to the crater rim is easy to follow.
The sand grains on this beach are formed from olivine crystals weathering out of the lava and cinders from the cone over an eruptive vent that has been partially breached by the sea. The beach lies in the interior of the cone, and the somewhat protected cove formed by the remnant of the cone makes for a wonderful swimming/snorkeling spot.
Swimming, snorkeling and surfing are delightful within the confines of the bay. Be very wary of rip tides and ocean currents; do not go out far nor in at all if the surf is high or there are strong winds. The bizarre color of the water shrieks for color photographs, particularly underwater photographs taken while snorkeling.
No water is available anywhere along the hike or at the beach–be sure to take at least two liters of water per hiker for drinking. If you plan on swimming, you may wish to take an extra liter or two of water to rinse hair and torso, as well as a dry change of clothes. It’s miserable hiking in wet clothes with salty skin.
There are no services. At all. None. And a goodly long way to drive to get to any…plan and act accordingly.
To see the new iPhone/iPod Touch App, please visit http://www.tourguidehawaii.com/iphone.html. The best of Tour Guide Hawaii’s free content about traveling to, and exploring, the Big island, can be found here. For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general and on touring the Big Island in particular, please also visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.
All media copyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan. All rights reserved.