Punalu’u Black Sand Beach & Turtles on the Big Island, Hawaii
Eighteen members of my family, aunts, uncles, cousins, sisters and all were lucky enough to have time off to meet up in Hawai’i for the holidays. We flew in from Korea, my sister and her family from Australia and still more came in from Colorado, Texas and Ohio in the States. To be with family during the holidays is just so precious as so many of my years abroad have seen the holiday season come and go without them. While my friends abroad have made every holiday so special together, being with family is truly special when the holidays with them are so few.
When Hawaii was first mentioned, I immediately Googled what we should do and black sand beaches and turtles were high on the list of must-sees. The Punalu’u Black Sand Beach on the Big Island is the largest black sand beach on the island and had it all. Black sand to dig our toes into and even sea turtles basking in the sun were said to be there. There were tide pools for little ones to play and bathrooms and showers to wash up, too. While I’d seen black sand beaches in Jeju, Korea before, this one was quite different. The sand was a bit darker and honestly, you can’t beat a beach with sea turtles in my opinion. From our house in Kona, we took a drive south deciding that we’d take the day to see this black sand beach and the turtles and we’d also hit the nearby Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park as it was in the vicinity and it would take more than an hour for the drive anyway.
The black sand is made of basalt and was created when the lava from Mauna Loa and Kilauea volcanoes flowed into the ocean. Rocks go from the beach out into the water, so if you’re swimming be careful and watch where you step. One good thing about the rocks is that they provide some nice tide pools for the babies and they weren’t nearly as sharp and uncomfortable as the lava rocks we’d found in Jeju, Korea so we didn’t need to wear shoes on them. While the tide pools are baby friendly, the water is not. The waves were choppy and swimming in the sea just off the coast here wouldn’t have been all that fun. As our babe played, we also started to notice how much wildlife there was. Because of the black sand and the rocks it was difficult at first, but we soon realized there were little black crabs, black fish and other black sea life in the tide pools that of course our little one immediately got a kick out of.
The sea turtles that bask in the sun have their own protected area surrounded by rocks to come up to and visitors are kept at bay, only allowed to photograph the giant beauties. Rare and endangered animals like the hawksbill turtle, honu or green turtle and Hawaiian monk seal come to the area to rest and if you’re lucky you’ll spot some on your visit like we did. We even saw one as he came up to shore and took 30 minutes to make his way up to the beach as the waves pushed him in and then pull him out again before he could finally get ashore. We were sort of astonished at how they all managed to make it ashore at this one location in the protected area as the rest of the beach is open to people. I assume there’s something about the way the water pushes them in and where the rocks are that makes this location easier for them to beach.
There are also plenty of places along the road around the island for everyone to get out, stretch and enjoy some gorgeous overlooks providing views of the sea and the surrounding as well. On the way, we took our time and were sure to enjoy the scenery as we passed the blue sea above. This trip out of Kona was worth every minute and introduced us to how much of the Big Island is empty and devoid of people which gives it a very adventure like feel when you’re out on the roads with very few cars passing by.
Punalu’u Black Sand Beach
Address: Highway 11, Island of Hawaii, HI 96777
Amenities: parking lot, bathroom, outdoor showers