Mahana Beach Green Sand Beach In Hawaii (Papakolea): 1 of 4 Spectacular Green Sand Beaches in the World!

There are only 4 green sand beaches in the world, and only one of them is in the 50 states; the Mahana Beach (also known as Papakolea Green Sand Beach) on the Big Island of Hawaii. Known for its olive-green sand accentuated by beautifully clear water and jagged cliffs forming a cove, it’s a must-see on any tourist’s Big Island vacation. Look no further to find all the information you need about this hike leading to a beach to remember.


The Mahana Beach is located on the southern side of the Big Island (Ka’u). Right off the main Hawaii Belt Road, traveling south, it’s located near the end of the island. The surrounding area is sparse, with few people and amenities. In order to reach the beach, you need to take a hike; parking is available at the trailhead.

A sneak peak at the trail right past the parking lot.

The Trail

This trail is an out-and-back, 2.9-mile trek one-way. Despite the daunting numbers, the trail is on level ground and is relatively easy to traverse, albeit long. However, taking a hike in your flip-flops all the way to the beach isn’t recommended; wear good walking shoes for this one, along with a change of slippers for the beach.

Note that the trail to Mahana Beach has no amenities; there are neither restrooms nor water.

A rugged and beautiful view on your way to the Green Sand Beach.

The trail itself is beautiful; walking alongside the beach the entire time, you get picturesque views of the coastline throughout the hike, full of black rock beaches interspersed with greenery and the waves. To the other side is lush grass, and below you is striking red dirt. Especially as the weather is great in Hawaii, the sights aren’t one to be missed by walk.

However, a nearly 6-mile hike can be daunting, particularly after being wet and tired walking one way and enjoying the beach. For that reason, there are plenty of trucks at the entrance and at the beach that offer a shuttle there and back. Though a rough ride, it’ll shave off hours off your time for just a few bucks. For that reason, to get the best of both worlds by enjoying the hike and the comfort and quickness of a vehicular return, bring your wallet and opt for a walk one-way and a shuttle back.

The trails frequented by the shuttles. Mind the bumps!

The Beach

Mahana Beach
Turquoise water, olive sand, verdant brush, and brown-black cliffs. Truly a sight to see.

Mahana Beach itself is a sight to behold; a crescent-shaped inlet surrounded by steep cliffs. The surrounding rock formations are majestic, with smooth lines accentuating the landscape, which also leads to a steep climb down (keep your shoes on!)

A quick look at the path down. The hike directly down to Mahana Beach isn’t something to be done in flip flops. Crocs work, though!

As for the beach, the effort will be well-rewarded. The beach is spacious and full of soft sand. Though the sand is more of a greenish-brown, any green sand beach is one-of-a-kind regardless and picture-perfect.

As for things to do, unfortunately, the waves aren’t big enough to surf or boogieboard on. However, they are quite gentle, allowing for wading, floating and relaxing, snorkeling, or a photoshoot. Many people also choose to hike around the sides of the crescent; be sure to exercise caution.

A view of Papakolea Beach closer to ground level.

Thankfully, the beach isn’t too crowded due to its distance away. Expect a range of people from relatively sparse to a decent amount of people, but don’t worry about it being too crowded.

Overall, Mahana Beach is a sight in Hawaii that you can’t miss. The Big Island boasts countless wonders, such as an active volcano, lush jungles, sparse magma plains, and an ultra-rare green sand beach. Be sure to keep an eye on Papakolea Green Sand Beach for a South Big Island experience you won’t forget!

Thank you for reading this installment of the Big Island of Hawaii Collection. Other articles in this series include:

  • Mahana Beach Green Sand Beach In Hawaii (Papakolea)
  • Hawaiian Food: Things You Need to Try on the Big Island
  • Seeing a Live Volcano in Volcanoes National Park!
  • Manta Ray Night Dive: Snorkeling and Scuba Diving
  • Best Beaches on the Big Island
  • First Time Ziplining? This Article is for You

This article also accompanies the series 7 Days in Hawaii. Here are the other articles in this trip:

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