beaches big island

Punaluu Beach

Punaluu Beach
Hawaiian green sea turtles are often seen at this beach

This classic Hawaiian black sand beach includes a palm-lined freshwater fishpond.

The jet black sand on the beach (true black, not gray or salt-and-pepper) was created when the molten lava from Kilauea Volcano flowed into the cool sea causing the lava to break apart into tiny fragments that later washed up on the beach. Plenty of coconut palm trees provide shade and places to relax and enjoy this beautiful beach. One unique feature of Punaluu is that the water is often a bit colder, and more exhilarating than the average beach due to the freshwater springs in the area which bubble out of the ocean bottom near shore. The water then rises to the top since it is less dense than saltwater, forming a thin layer of ultra-cool water atop the sea.

Great For

Sunbathing, swimming, snorkeling, picnics, fishing, surfing, sea turtle watching.


Hawaiian green sea turtles are often seen at this beach because it is a known sea turtle nesting site, and the sea turtles also feed on the limu seaweed growing just offshore. Make sure to stay far away from these endangered species and appreciate them from a distance. Just inland from Punaluu Beach is a memorial to a famous Hawaiian named Henry Opukahaia who as a boy traveled to the United States, inspiring the first visit by American Protestant missionaries to Hawaii in 1820.

Need to Know

Strong rip currents may form on the left (north) side of Punaluu Beach in the area beyond the boat launch. Avoid swimming in this area, particularly during times of rough water. During times of high surf do not go in the ocean.

Black Sand Beach at Punalu’u Hawaii by naalehujim




Restrooms, barbecue grills, picnic areas, drinking water, paved parking, phones.


Punaluu Beach is about an hour’s drive from Hilo or a 1/2-hour drive from Kailua-Kona. The beach is about 25 miles from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and many people visit the beach on the way to see the volcano. The beach is located just off Hwy. 11 between the towns of Pahala and Naalehu. Well-marked signs will guide you to the beach.