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Unique and Colorful Beaches in Hawaii

Beach on Oahu, Hawaii

Courtesy of Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson.

When one thinks of Hawaii, it is hard to separate the mental image of palms swaying over white sandy beaches and deep blue waters.  But the reality of the Hawaiian Islands is that the terrain is incredibly varied.  From raging rivers of lava, to soaring waterfalls, desert-like craters, and volcanic coastlines, there are many faces of Hawaii.  The distinct minerals and geologic aspects of these tropical islands have greatly affected the coast and beaches of the Aloha State.  Below are some of the most unique shores that any adventurous traveler will want to prioritize in their travels to Hawaii.

Wai’anapanapa Black Sand Beach, Maui:  While it is easy to picture the charcoal grains on Hawaiian black sand beaches, not until your toes have sifted the sand and you have walked the shores yourself, can you truly appreciate this unique feature of Maui’s coast. Set against aqua blue waves and emerald palms, the black shore looks ashen, lonely and wild with an occasional ancient turtle resting on the rocks. Another black sand beach created by volcanic lava and stone surrounding the beach, Punalu’u Beach, Na’alehu on the Big Island is also well worth the visit.  Experiencing these Hawaiian black sand beaches is a must-do for beach lovers.

Honu on black sand beach

Honu on Punalu’u Beach [courtesy Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson].

Glass Beach, Kauai: For all who appreciate preserving nature from waste such as bottles and trash, this beach is a good testimony that the sea can sometimes render the most worthless things, into something timeless. Bits of glass being tossed and turned by the sea, and molded into smooth brightly colored shapes, cover this “glass sand” beach. The soft, sea-washed pebbles of glass create a warm, colorful and shiny appearance; though it is perhaps a little difficult to walk on. Still this beach is a definite must-see for any traveler who likes to look closely and observe the small things in nature.

Papakolea, Big Island Hawaii:  Some may not have been aware that this even existed, but Hawaii is one of the few places in the world that has a beach of a jade hue. Green beach or “mahana beach” gets its bright green color from the mineral olivine in the cliffs over the shore. The nearby cinder cone, a steep conical hill of tephra (volcanic debris), is beaten by the wind and waves causing it to break down into granules of sand. The olivine-rich rock crumbles into crystals and rough sand, resulting in a decidedly green shore. This is an extremely rare kind of beach, as there is only one in Hawaii and few on the planet. Though Papakolea is not an easy cove to travel to, it is a once-in-a-lifetime place to visit.

Green sand beach on the Big Island of Hawaii

Olivine sand crystals. Photo © Brian W. Schaller / License: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0.

Kaihalulu Beach, Maui: Known as the “Red Sand Beach,” the granules of color are a dark red in the dust and sandy stones the come from the cinder cone hill that slowly disintegrates and contributes to the sand color.   The granules are a mix of red and black; the beach is a difficult beach to find, as it follows a steep and narrow hike.  While visitors need to be aware of the challenge, the trip is well worth a view of the crimson cove.

Barking Sands Beach, Kauai Hawaii: While this might seem like a strange name for a beach, the sand on this beach is said to bark like a dog.  Because of a certain kind of quartz in the sand, when rubbed together, the grating sound is not unlike that of a yapping puppy.  In other interesting factors, this beach also has a rocket-launch site and missile-defense testing center.

Issac Hale Beach Park, Big Island of Hawaii:  The pools here make for “swimming hole” type of experience without having to swim very far out.  In areas where pahoehoe black lava has flowed into the ocean, creating natural craters of water, has made some of the loveliest places to swim and watch marine-life.  They are also optimal places for snorkeling, as there tends to be a varied amount of fish and sea-creatures in these underwater holes. There is even a pool that is pleasantly warmed by geothermal heat in the park.

Punaluu Black Sand Beach

Punalu’u Black Sand Beach, Big Island [courtesy of Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson].

So while you may be thinking of the soothing palms swaying over sparkling golden and white beaches, bear in mind that Hawaii is a jewel of many facets and sides, filled with dynamic and distinct coasts that would be a shame for beach-enthusiasts to miss.


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