| August 13th, 2023 | No comments

Are you looking for the best Hawaiian black sand beaches? 

If you’re looking to spice up your beach life, consider checking out the black sand beaches of Hawaii! Black sand beaches are a beautiful, unique sight to behold, let alone explore!

Typically formed by volcanic rock – whether it was an eruption or erosion – these beaches are only found on volcanic islands. They’re few and far between, so if you find yourself on a volcanic island, be sure to check them out.

The Best Black Sand Beaches of Hawaii

Before you head to the black sand beaches of Hawaii, though, there are a couple of things to know. First, bring shoes! The black sand can get ten times hotter than a regular white sand beach. And second, it is illegal to remove black sand from these beaches, so don’t be pocketing any.

So, let’s start planning your Hawaii vacation!

Please note – Some of our selections contain affiliate links. These allow us to earn a small percentage every time you make a booking. Using our links enables us to provide all the information found on this site free of charge.

Punalu’u Black Sand Beach, Big Island

turtles on Punaluu Beach in Hawaii

Let’s dive right in with the most famous black sand beach of Hawaii: Punalu’u. Located on Big Island, this beach is easily accessible and is one of the biggest in Hawaii. Surrounded by palm trees, the bright colors of the blue water, the black sand, and the greenery will take your breath away at first glance.

Punalu’u is famous for more than just its beauty – it’s also a popular hangout spot for turtles! If you’re lucky, you’ll find Hawaiian green sea turtles and maybe even the endangered Hawksbill turtles soaking up the sunshine. Just be sure not to get too close.

You can also swim or snorkel, with caution, at Punalu’u. The beach is manned by lifeguards every day and you’ll also find a picnic area, restrooms, outdoor showers, and parking at the beach, making it a perfect lounging spot for the day.

How to Get There

Punalu’u Beach is on the southeastern coast of the island between the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and the small town of Naalehu. The best way to get there is to take Highway 11 and you’ll find it just past mile marker 55.

Where to Stay

Punalu’u is pretty remote, nestled between small towns and a national park. This means that it’s fairly difficult to stay super close to this black sand beach. Most people opt to stay in hotels, inns, vacation rentals, or campsites in Kailua-Kona, north of Kailua-Kona on the Kohala Coast, or in Hilo. The beach is about two and a half hours by car from Kailua-Kona and an hour from Hilo.

If you’re staying in Kailua-Kona, the Kona Tiki Hotel is a great reasonably priced option and it’s right on the beach!

Waipio Valley Beach

Ariel view of Waipio Valley

Another black sand beach of Big Island, this one is a little more difficult to get to. You’ll find this beach towards the end of your Waipio Valley hike, so it’s the perfect place to relax after all that hard work. This beach is known for its strong rip currents, so swimming isn’t recommended, but it’s popular with experienced surfers.

How to Get There

Waipio Valley Beach is best reached on foot, as the valley’s roads are steep. It’s recommended to park at Waipio Valley lookout and hike the 1.5 miles down to the valley. This trek isn’t done by many, so this beach will be less crowded than the others! If you don’t want to do the hike on your own, you can take a guided tour of the valley, including the beach.

Where to Stay

Many people who visit the Waipio Valley choose to stay in Kona or Hilo, but if you’re looking to stay closer to the valley, then we’d recommend Waipio Lodge. Reasonably priced and an authentic local experience, it’s hard to go wrong.

Waianapanapa State Park, Maui


Waianapanapa is considered to be the best black sand beach in Maui. Surrounded by lush, green vegetation and steep cliffs, the scenery here is unrivaled. Also known as Pa’iloa Beach, it’s famous for the quick drop off of the ocean floor and the strong currents.

This beach is steeped in ancient Hawaiian legends and is considered sacred by the locals, and it’s easy to see why. “Waianapanapa” literally means “glistening water” and on especially sunny days, the beach lives up to its name.

This is also a great place to go bird-watching. The freshwater sea cave pools and the lava tubes on the beach offer exploration options for the more adventurous spirits, as well.

How to Get There

To get to this beach, you’ll have to go through the state park. The beach is located just off the Hana Highway on the outskirts of the town of Hana.

Where to Stay

The best option for accommodation is to camp in the state park. Not only is it convenient, but it’s beautiful, with access to many facilities and activities. With both cabins to rent and space for tents at a fairly cheap price, you’ll have access to bathrooms, public grills, recycling, and pay phones. Just be sure to bring your own food and beverages as there are no restaurants inside the state park.

Kehena Beach, Hawaii Island

We’re heading back to the Big Island now to Kehena Black Sand Beach. This beach was formed during a lava flow in 1955. Kehena is a favorite of the locals and is affectionately known as Dolphin Beach, as it’s not uncommon for spinner dolphins to make appearances here.

One of the most unique black sand beaches of Hawaii, it’s also worth mentioning that this is one of the few beaches where clothing is optional – so make sure you know what you’re getting into! It’s also a popular hangout for drum circles, dancers, hula-hoopers, and more.

With a lot of eclectic personality, ample shade, and marine life, this is one of the best black sand beaches in Hawaii. However, be careful if you decide to swim, as strong currents are common.

How to Get There

You can find this black sand beach at mile marker 19 off Highway 137 in the Puna district. We’d recommend parking at the lookout point and walking down the trail to the beach.

Where to Stay

There are many vacation rental and hotel options in the Puna district, some of them even walking distance to this bizarre beach. If you’re looking for one of the super close options, you’ll most likely want to rent a chalet.

Shipman Beach, Hawaii Island

Also located in Puna on Big Island, this black sand beach is less well-known than most of the others, making it a secluded and remote little paradise. This unique beach is a mixture of both black and white sand, making for views and an experience you won’t soon forget.

Often completely empty, this beach is only accessible via a long hike since the land is privately owned, so make sure you’re up to the task before you get started. However, the reward is worth it. Once you’re at the beach, the water runs over lava rock and the ocean appears calm, but be careful if you decide to swim. If you’re lucky, you may see some Hawaiian sea turtles perched upon the rocks soaking up some sunshine.

How to Get There

Shipman Beach is accessible only on foot. To get here, you’ll need to hike the Puna Trail, a five-mile loop taking you through lush rainforest to get to the coast. To get to the trailhead, you’ll take highway 130 until you get to Beach Road, where you’ll find a parking lot and an information kiosk.

Where to Stay

If you’re looking to hike the Puna Trail and visit Shipman Beach, we’d recommend staying in Hilo, as it’s only a few miles south of the city. The Hilo Bay Oceanfront Bed and Breakfast is a well-priced and homey option for those looking for a more intimate Hawaiian experience.

New Kaimu Beach, Big Island

This beach is unique in that it actually is fairly new! Formed in 1990 by a lava flow from the volcano Kilauea, this beach has overtaken what was formerly Kaimu Beach as well as the subdivision of Kalapana.

After this new beach was formed, the locals made it their passion project to make New Kaimu into a favorite just as it used to be. They’ve planted hundreds of palm trees and other vegetation to try to bring life back to the area.

Not yet swimmable due to strong currents and hazardous rocks, this beach is slowly coming back to life. As you stand on the narrow strip of jet black sand, you can watch Mother Nature in action as the waves crash upon the lava rocks and deposit the sand.

How to Get There

New Kaimu Beach is located in the Puna region and is easily accessible. The best way to reach it is to take either Highway 130 or 137 until the very end, where you’ll find a parking area near the Kalapana Village Cafe. After parking, you’ll need to walk Kaimu Beach Eco-Path for about 10 minutes to reach the shoreline.

Where to Stay

There are dozens of vacation rental properties in the Puna district close to New Kaimu Beach, so we’d recommend searching around online and finding the one that best fits your needs.

Awahua Beach, Molokai

This stunning beauty is located on Molokai’s Kalaupapa Peninsula. This particular black sand beach of Molokai is off the beaten path, so be sure to take advantage of this secluded gem. Surrounded by the world’s tallest sea cliffs and beautiful greenery, this quiet, serene black sand beach will take your breath away. 

Swimming here is not advised because of the steep ocean floor drop-off and strong currents, but the scenery is worth the visit. If you don’t want to go all the way to the beach (it’s fairly difficult to access), you can head up to the lookout point next to the trailhead that leads you there. From here, you’ll have a panoramic view from 1664 feet above the Kalaupapa Peninsula.

How to Get There

As one of Hawaii’s most remote black sand beaches, Awahua Beach is also one of the most difficult to get to. Reaching the beach requires either a hike or a mule ride, but you’re not allowed to do it on your own.

You must be taken to the beach as part of a tour group because the trail leading to it goes through the historic remains of a leprosy settlement, where a few members of that settlement still live to this day.

Where to Stay

Accommodation on the remote peninsula itself is scarce, but there are a few hotels and beach rentals in Ho’olehua and Kualapuu just outside the peninsula. Hotel Molokai is a beautiful option.

Oneuli Beach, Maui

This black sand beach of Hawaii has some of the best diving and snorkeling on the island of Maui. Less well-known than Maui’s other black sand beach on this list, this one is located in Makena State Park and is closer to the resort areas.

With a coral reef close to the shore, you’ll be able to see tons of marine life, including green sea turtles if you’re lucky! This beach also can’t be seen from the road, so it doesn’t attract as many visitors, meaning a less crowded experience for people who are in the know.

How to Get There

This beach is located in between Makena Beach and the Maui Prince Hotel. Take the Wailea Alanui Road past the Old Makena Road. Shortly after the bend, you’ll see a dirt road turnoff through an unlocked orange gate. This will lead you to the small parking area and the ocean will be right in front of you.

Where to Stay

There are dozens of resorts and vacation rentals located in Makena. This beach is also close to the resort areas of Wailea and Kihei, but if you’re looking for the closest possible option, check out the Maui Prince Hotel.

The black sand beaches of Hawaii provide a beautiful and unique tropical getaway. These rare gems are each different in their own way, from the clothing-optional Kehena Beach to the strange mixture of sand colors at Shipman Beach. All well worth a visit, you won’t regret exploring the black sand beaches of Hawaii no matter which one(s) you choose.

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If you're planning a trip to Hawaii's black sand beaches this guide's for you! These beaches are magical, beautiful, and a unique sight to behold. So, don't miss out! Visit the black sand beaches on this list and you won't be disappointed!

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Written by Michael Miszczak

Michael has been traveling the world while writing, photographing, and sharing his stories and travel tips since 2010.

He is originally from New York City, and currently lives in Prague.


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