Save money on your next flight

Skyscanner is the world’s leading flight search engine, helping you find the cheapest flights to destinations all over the world.

With its unusual green sand and stunning scenery, Green Sand Beach is one of Hawaii’s most unique natural wonders. Getting there, however, can be quite an adventure.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: The only way to access Green Sand Beach is by taking a rugged 2.5 mile hike along the coast or arranging transportation from local guides in vehicles able to handle the bumpy, unpaved road leading to the beach.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about making your way to breathtaking Green Sand Beach on the Big Island, including an overview of your transportation options, what to expect along the hike, packing essentials, costs involved, and tips for staying safe.

Where Green Sand Beach Is Located

Green Sand Beach, also known as Papakōlea Beach, is a beautiful and unique beach located on the southern coast of Hawaii’s Big Island. Specifically, it is found in the Papakōlea area of Kaʻū district near South Point, the southernmost point of the Big Island and the United States.

To get to this secluded beach, visitors must embark on an adventure by making their way down a fairly steep 2.5 mile hike. The rewarding trek takes you through rugged terrain, lava fields, and rich Hawaiian nature.

Along the way are amazing coastal views and sights of the brilliant blue Pacific Ocean contrasted against vibrant green cliffs and black lava rocks.

The beach itself sits at the base of Puʻu Mahana, a green cinder cone formed by the Mauna Loa volcano. The green sand at Papakōlea Beach comes from olivine crystals eroded out of the volcano and washed ashore, giving the beach its distinctive greenish tint.

The Kaʻū district where Green Sand Beach is found has an incredibly diverse landscape, with black sand beaches, gray beaches, white sand beaches, and even a red sand beach located nearby. But Green Sand Beach is particularly unique in all of Hawaii for its green sand, earning its reputation as one of the most beautiful beaches in a state known for breathtaking beaches.

So for those looking to venture off the beaten path and discover one of Hawaii’s hidden gem beaches, Green Sand Beach awaits. Just be prepared for an adventurous trek along the Kaʻū coastline to reach this secluded shore!

Transportation Options for Getting to Green Sand Beach

Driving Your Own 4×4 Vehicle

The most popular option for getting to Green Sand Beach is to drive your own 4×4 (four-wheel drive) vehicle. The 7-mile dirt road leading to the beach is quite rough and has some tricky parts, so a rugged high-clearance vehicle is a must. Expect a slow, bumpy, and potentially muddy ride.

Budget 1-1.5 hours for the drive each way from the highway.

While a 4×4 Jeep rental from an agency like Alamo or Enterprise can work, some warn that their insurance may not fully cover mishaps on such remote backroads. Those lacking experience driving off-road may prefer the group camaraderie (and guide assistance if needed) of taking an organized tour instead.

Booking a Shuttle or Tour

Many small tour companies offer guided trips to Green Sand Beach from nearby Kona and Waikoloa resort areas. Guides drive attendees in air-conditioned vans or buses over the rough road and then often lead a walk to help navigate the trail’s tricky entrance and sloped beach.

Most tours run 4-5 hours and provide bottled water and snacks too.

Some top-rated operators for this excursion include Hawaii Active, KapohoKine Adventures, Hawaiian Lava Boat Tours, and About Hawaii Tours. Rates typically range $150-190 per adult.

Small group sizes, hands-on guides, hotel pickups, educational commentary, and flexibility to fit your schedule make booking a shuttle invaluable. This eliminates hassles over navigating, getting stuck, or dealing with vehicle issues.

Walking to Green Sand Beach

For the intrepid and fit, it’s possible to reach Green Sand Beach by walking along the coast from neighboring beaches like Punalu‘u Black Sand Beach. But be extremely cautious, as the rocky terrain and coastline here are treacherous.

This route covers over 3 miles one-way and requires scrambling up and down a tall cliff above violent open ocean by rope. It should only be attempted at low tide by those quite familiar with the area. Going solo or without an experienced local guide is never advised.

Walking enables more flexibility to enjoy sights along the way and cuts carbon emissions over driving. But the remote setting means any emergency would be challenging to handle, so proceed prudently. Shuttle transport with a guide remains the best option for most.

What to Expect on the Hike to Green Sand Beach

The Trailhead

The hike to Green Sand Beach begins at the trailhead located in the rural South Point area of the Big Island. The trailhead is relatively obscure and is not marked, so use GPS coordinates or follow signs for South Point to locate the unpaved parking area where the trail begins (GPS coordinates here).

Be prepared for bumpy, uneven terrain as you drive down the dirt road to access the trailhead parking.

The Hike

From the trailhead, set out walking along the relatively flat dirt path that will soon narrow into a more rugged uphill trail. This 2.5 mile hike takes around 1 hour each way as you ascend and descend gentle slopes through barren lava fields.

Be extremely cautious of loose rock and uneven terrain, watching your footing with each step. The landscape is striking yet desolate, with little shade or reprieve from the beating Hawaiian sun. Bring plenty of drinking water and protective layers like hats and sunscreen.

The moderate inclines make this hike of medium difficulty overall.

As a bonus during the hike, you’ll pass by striking sights like the cliffside Mahana Bay. This tranquil turquoise cove framed by lava rock formations makes a great photo stop. The ruins of an abandoned village and a small fishing shack also dot the shoreline along the route.

Arriving at Green Sand Beach

Once the trail ends, you’ll approach breathtaking Green Sand Beach, recognizable by its distinctive olive-green shore and sparkling emerald waters. It earns the green hues from the mineral olivine found in the neighboring volcanic cinder cone called Puʻu Mahana.

This secluded beach cove is framed by soaring cliffs on either side that provide a picturesque backdrop for photos. Given its remote location and challenging hike required, Green Sand Beach remains blissfully uncrowded, even during high season.

Green Sand Beach Fun Facts
  • One of only 4 green sand beaches in the world
  • Caused by erosion of the neighboring cinder cone containing the mineral olivine
  • Located in a remote, difficult to access area with few facilities
  • Uncrowded and unspoiled thanks to challenging hike
  • Once you arrive, enjoy a relaxing afternoon swimming in the refreshing waters, sunbathing on the olive shore, or simply admiring the one-of-a-kind views. Just be mindful of ocean conditions and exercise caution, as the waters can have strong waves and hidden currents at times.

    What to Pack for Your Trip

    Shoes and Clothes

    When packing for a visit to Green Sand Beach, the most important items to include are appropriate shoes and clothing. The beach terrain contains coarse green sand crystals and rocky sections, so wearing sturdy shoes like water sandals, aquatic socks, or old sneakers is highly recommended.

    Avoid flimsy flip flops that could easily get damaged on the uneven ground.

    For clothing, bring items like swimsuits, rash guards, quick-dry shirts and shorts. Pack layers like lightweight hoodies or pants in case the weather is cool or windy. Hats and sunglasses also come in handy to protect from the Hawaii sunshine.

    Place clothes inside waterproof or sand-proof bags to keep items clean during transport in trucks or UTVs en route to the beach.

    Sun Protection

    One must-have item for Green Sand Beach is ample sunscreen and after sun care. Hawaii has intense UV rays with a daily average Index of 12 (EPA), making high SPF sunscreen (30+) essential. Opt for waterproof or sweatproof formulas.

    Also pack aloe vera gel and moisturizing body lotion to soothe skin after long hours in the sun.

    Water and Snacks

    The remote beach has no shops or hotels nearby, so visitors should self-supply all food, drinks and refreshments needed for their stay. Pack 2-3 liters of water per person. Coconut water or hydration supplement packets help replace fluids and electrolytes lost sweating.

    Prepare sandwiches, fruits and veggies, granola bars and other filling snacks you can easily carry to the beach in a small cooler bag.

    Recommended Foods & Drinks Items to Avoid
    Reusable water bottles Plastic bottles or wrappers
    Fresh fruits like pineapple and mango Greasy or crumbly foods
    Sandwiches and energy bars Alcohol


    A camera is absolutely necessary to capture the incredible scenery of Green Sand Beach. The sparkling aqua waters against the Hawaiian cliffs and unique green sand make very Instagram-worthy views. DSLR cameras work beautifully, but waterproof disposable cameras or your smartphone should also suffice.

    For the best photos, use accessories like selfie sticks, waterproof phone cases or floating hand grips. Portable mini tripods keep cameras steady on the uneven terrain. Remember extra batteries or portable chargers since electricity access is limited.

    Other Essentials

    Some other recommended items for your Green Sand Beach trip include:

    • Beach towel
    • Small first aid kid
    • Biodegradable toilet paper
    • Plastic bags for waste and wet items
    • Cash for entry fees and vendors
    • Headlamp or flashlight if staying until sunset

    By packing properly for the environment and activities, you can safely enjoy your adventure to Green Sand Beach in South Point, Hawaii! Just remember to always respect nature and follow Leave No Trace principles when visiting any natural areas.

    Helpful Tips for Your Visit

    Check Current Conditions Before Setting Out

    Green Sand Beach is certainly worth the effort to reach, but the journey can be challenging, especially for first-timers. Before embarking, be sure to check online resources or call the park to get up-to-date information on road and trail conditions.

    Weather and high surf can sometimes cause closures or make accessing the beach difficult or dangerous.

    Start Early to Beat the Crowds and Heat

    This unique beach has been gaining popularity over the years. To avoid congestion on the hike down, and to secure parking, strive to start your day at Green Sand early. Additionally, earlier hours mean avoiding the hot afternoon sun beating down as you make your way to the shore.

    Those wanting the beach nearly all to themselves should plan on arriving before 9 AM if possible.

    Watch Your Step While Hiking

    Sections of the route lack protective railings despite fairly steep dropoffs. For safety, remain alert, wear sturdy shoes, and use caution in slippery areas. Taking frequent breaks allows you to enjoy the dramatic landscape while ensuring you don’t overexert yourself navigating the rugged trail.

    Secure Belongings Carefully at the Beach

    Heavy winds and waves mean you can’t always keep an eye on your stuff at Green Sand Beach as closely as at other shores. Some key ways to keep your phone, keys, and other must-haves safe include storing items in a waterproof bag or case, leaving nonessentials secured in your car, and asking a friend to watch things if you take a dip.

    Practice Green Sand Etiquette

    Preserving this unique beach requires care by everyone visiting it. When here, be sure to stay only on marked trails, carry trash out with you, keep sand extraction to a bare minimum, and gently shake out towels or clothing before leaving rather than beating to remove sand grains.

    Following park guidelines conserves the ecosystem and allows future generations to enjoy the incredible Green Sand Beach!

    Cost Breakdown for Transportation Options

    Getting to the stunning Green Sand Beach in Hawaii can be an adventure in itself. With no roads leading directly to the beach, visitors must choose from a few transportation options that each have their own costs and considerations.


    Driving a rented Jeep or other 4×4 vehicle is a popular do-it-yourself option. The 12-mile dirt road to the beach is unpaved and rough, traversing over lava flows. Visitors must have an adventurous spirit and skilled off-road driving abilities. Costs include:

    • Renting a Jeep or similar 4×4 vehicle ($100-$150 per day)
    • Gas for the round trip drive
    • Possible vehicle damage from rough road conditions

    Guided Tours

    Booking a guide tour removes the challenge of navigating the rocky terrain. Knowledgeable guides drive visitors in trucks or Jeeps directly to Green Sand Beach. Tour costs generally include round trip transportation only. Prices range from $60-$100 per person for a half-day.

    Shuttle Services

    Private shuttle vans take travelers along the coastline as close to Green Sand Beach as possible. Visitors then hike the remaining half mile to the beach. Shuttle services run around $40 round trip per person. The advantage is not having to navigate the tricky dirt road.

    Helicopter Tours

    For travelers short on time with a bigger budget, helicopter tours provide an exhilarating bird’s eye view of Green Sand Beach. Tour prices normally start around $300 per person for a 60-90 minute tour with aerial coastal views beyond just the beach area.

    When deciding how to reach Green Sand Beach, weigh the pros and cons of these transportation options against your budget, time constraints and comfort level with off-road driving.


    A rugged yet rewarding adventure awaits at Green Sand Beach. While reaching this remote Hawaiian treasure takes effort, the chance to sink your toes into glittering green sand makes it all worthwhile.

    By reviewing transportation options, packing properly, taking safety precautions, and respecting local guidelines, you’ll be well on your way to an incredible day along Hawaii’s southern shores. We hope our guide gives you the information you need to plan a safe, smooth, and incredible trip to magical Green Sand Beach!

    Sharing is caring!

    Similar Posts