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When people envision a perfect beach in Hawaiÿi,

one of the first images that likely comes to mind is pristine white or golden sand. With its famed black sand beaches, the Big Island offers a twist on this typical postcard image of Hawaiÿi. To stretch the imagination even further, if you venture out to the windswept southern shore of the Big Island, you can find a beach with an even more unlikely shade of sand—olive green. The official name of this extraordinary beach is Papakölea, but it is commonly referred to as Green Sand Beach. Green Sand Beach is located in a remote part of the island near Ka Lae, the southernmost tip of the Big Island. It is not easy to get to Papakölea, but if you make the trek, you’ll find yourself at one of only four green sand beaches in the world. The others are located in Guam, Galapagos Islands and Norway. The main way to access this beach with the least environmental impact is via a 2.5-mile hike (one-way). It is a rugged and exposed stretch of land where the winds can be exceptionally strong. If you plan to hike, prepare for a sunny, arid trek with the possibility of high winds that whip up the dirt. In the event that you are unable to do the hike or if you just prefer to catch a ride, local folks with fourwheel drive vehicles are often around providing an unofficial shuttle service. Prices may vary depending on how much the drivers decide to charge, so if there is any chance you think you will want to hop on one of these unofficial shuttles, make sure to have enough cash on hand. Due to the rugged nature of the landscape, it is not recommended that visitors attempt to drive themselves all the way to the beach, even if they have rented a four-wheel drive vehicle. Because of the increased popularity of this unique beach, concerns have been raised about the wear and tear on the terrain of the area and damage to cultural sites due to the numerous off-road vehicles that drive through the area each day. In 2018, a plan was developed by the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands to better regulate this area after an environmental assessment determined that vehicles are having a negative impact on the landscape. While there are no updates about when or if the plan will move forward, it is possible that there may eventually be a gate, a charge for parking, and a ban on vehicles driving all the way to the beach. The goal would be to allow the land to recover and to put the funds acquired from the parking fee towards developing a walking trail and services such as bathrooms and signage.


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Big Island Traveler