Punalu’u Black Sand Beach

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Punalu’u beach is the most famous black sand beach of Hawaii and for this reason is known as ‘Black Sand Beach’. Another reason for the popularity of this beach is that you can often see endangered Hawksbill turtles and dreen turtles basking in the sun on the beach!

Punalu’u is an expansive and easily accessible black sand beach on the Big Island, and great for swimming, snorkeling, coastal hikes, camping (with permit) or a picnic.

Punaluu beach
Turtle on Punalu’u Beach | Photo credits: Steve Cadman on Flickr under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

Punalu’u: swimming and the beach

The sand at the beach is made of small pitch-black fragments of lava, and the beach is lines by rows of coconut palms. The shade below the palms is a good place to set up ‘camp’ because the black sand can get very hot in the sunshine.

Swimming at Punalu’u is possible but be careful when going into the water because there can be strong currents at times. The best place to enter the water is from the small boat ramp on the left (facing the water) of the beach.

Stay out of the water if the surf is high.

Snorkeling at Punalu’u beach

A good place to snorkel is Ninole Cove. Ninole Cove is a short walk from Punalu’u, and offers a sheltered bay with sand channels that provide decent entry to the action.

You can either drive there (park below the clubhouse of the sea mountain golf course) or take a sort but rewarding hike from the black sand beach parking lot. Follow the unmarked grassy trail southwards (going right if you face makai/the ocean) for 5 minutes.

The best place for swimming it at the protected cove at the north-eastern side of the beach
The best place for swimming it at the protected cove at the north-eastern side of the beach

Directions to Punalu’u Beach:

Punalu’u beach is just off highway 11 between Volcano Village (31 miles) and the town of Naalehu (10 miles).

The beach is  easily accessible from the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, and is one of our recommended activities while spending time in Volcano. To get to Punalu’u from Volcano Village, take Hwy 11 towards Kona, and turn Makai (towards to ocean) between mile marker 56 and 57 on Alanui Road. If you pass Whittington Beach Park, you have driven to far.

Facilities at Punalu’u beach

You can find parking, a picnic area and restroom facilities at the beach, as well as an outdoor shower in the beach area.

There are no security or lifeguards at the beach.

Punalu'u is a good place for swimming, taking in the sun and snorkeling (turtles!)
Punalu’u is a good place for swimming, taking in the sun and snorkeling (turtles!)