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If you want to go as far south as possible without falling off the edge of the US, South Point at the southern tip of Hawaii’s Big Island is the place to go. It is also the access area for a 2.5-mile hike in to Green Sand Beach, one of only four green sandy beaches in the world, and definitely one of the most unique and beautiful beaches on the Big Island. The other green beaches are in Guam, the Galapagos Islands and Norway.
The drive and hike to Green Sand Beach
The South Point Road turn off is about 50 miles south of Kona, and it’s another 30 minute’s drive on South Point Road before reaching a parking lot, where you disembark for the hike in to the beach. Along South Point Road there’s the Swedish Space Corporation’s satellite tracking station, a grassy plain, and wind turbines in the distance, but not much else on the drive in.
One resource we found extremely valuable was Lonely Planet’s Hawaii the Big Island. Be aware it was written in 2017 though, prior to some volcanic activity since then in the southern regions. We’ve updated you here with our experiences since then.
The hike (more of a walk if you’re reasonably fit, since there’s no elevation change) follows the rugged open coastline, at times along rutted and worn sand and rock trails, from years of vehicle passages. There’s even a few abandoned vehicles along the way…
Some ruts are close to 6ft deep and have centers sure to remove a muffler! The area you cross to hike into Green Sand Beach is now deemed ecologically sensitive and prohibits public vehicles. However there is a thriving unofficial service by some locals who will shuttle you either way for $10 each. After a one-way trip in beating sun to get to the beach, with a wind whipped sandblasting facial exfoliation as a bonus, there were indeed several folks taking the entrepreneurs up on their offer for the return trip. We pressed on, determined to make the round trip as bipeds, but do be sure to take water, snacks and a sun hat. You need to be self-sufficient, since there are no facilities to replenish at the beach.
It’s best to plan a trip to Green Sands in lighter winds, but that can be tricky for such an open exposed area. Fortunately the beach itself offers some shelter in the wake of a large lava eruption rock face. Indeed the mineral run off from the cliff is what gives the beach its green sandy color. The granules sparkle and come to life like diamonds in your hand as you massage the taupe-green course sand for closer observation.
Beneath the wind-blown and ocean worn eroding cliffs are slabs of piled rock. After watching an Instagramer pucker and pose in her bikini for close to an hour, in search of the perfect selfie angle on the cliff, my husband and I moved in for a quick mockery glamour shot – much to the delight of other 50-somethings cheering us on. Let’s just say we held our breath for the shot!
Of course there’s more to do than sunbath at Green Sand beach with swimming and body surfing in the waves a possibility. But with a strong undertow and no lifeguard, it would be best to exercise caution, especially with younger children in tow.
leave time for the return trip!
Be sure to allow time for the 2.5 mile walk from the beach back to your parked car in daylight. The sun sets in Hawaii around 6pm daily, a fact that can trip up mainlander sun seekers who can equate warm weather with long summer nights in more norther climates . Although the stars would no doubt be outstanding in the thick of night from South Point, the hike from the beach is not one you would want to be doing in the dark.
Grab some coffee on the way home
A perfect way to top off the trip back to Kona is with a stop at a coffee plantation. There are numerous ones as you head back north. We visited Miranda’s Coffee Farm and learned about the family plantation, different crops which are grown, how the harvest is hand-picked and roasted locally. In fact is was truly a family affair with Jose and Berta Miranda’s nephew Nilo who showed us around, keenly educating us between sample sips. He also offered back stories and phone video about Uncle Roberts Night Market, which was another adventure we planned to take. Never hesitate to take the turn offs that lead to serendipitous moments!
We stayed in an Airbnb in Kailua-Kona, about 10 minutes from the airport. It was a wonderfully central location to explore all sides of the island, and offered up a beautiful sunset view from the hill, where we toasted to our days adventure each evening at sunset. We planned “adventure days” with relaxed “beach days” to recover in between, but admittedly many hiking adventure days involved a beach at some point – it is Hawaii after all. Why try to escape them?
Here’s where to find our little “Garden Paradise”, in Kailua, hosted by Martina. It was a short drive from the airport, offered great sunsets and was very central for all of our day trips. Book with Martina below, or check out other options in the area available through VRBO and Booking.com
If you really want to exhaust your accommodation comparison shopping, be sure to run a search on Hotels.com. While many listing start to overlap, the odd unique listing, or screaming deal leaks through. Heck, while you’re there you might as well check Expedia too. Who knows, maybe you’ll secure a cheap flight deal while you’re at it!
We rented a 4×4 Jeep at the Kona airport from Alamo, in anticipation of driving to the top of Mauna Kea, to experience the Polar Tundra climate at sunset, as well as being able to access some steep roads in the northern regions of the island by Waimea, and to travel lava rock roads in the south by Pahoa – not to mention seamlessly making the pass over the top of the island from Kona to Hilo, which can see snow at elevation in inclement weather. If you plan to venture beyond beaches and restaurants in the Kona and Kailua-Kona Coast areas, a 4×4 definitely is a consideration. Check here for car rental deals.
I’ve written about many of the beaches on the Kona side previously, which we revisited on our rest days. In fact, last year we rented twin scooters and visited eight. Link here to get a run down on some magic places to spend a restful beach day: Touring Hawaii’s Big Island Kona Coast Beaches by Scooter
Great for planning, and you’ll want to pack it along for the trip – check out Lonely Planet’s Hawaii the Big Island. Or search out all of the Hawaii guidebook options on chapters.indigo.ca or on Amazon. If you prefer immediate access in e-book format you can get that through Chapters/Indigo as well, or at ebooks.com If you’re interested in checking out organized tours, activities and attractions while on the Big Island, be sure to have a look at get your guide listings. Often there are deals when booked in advance. Be sure to check reviews to make sure it’s the experience you’re looking for though!
I also love what BookingCredits.com is doing in the accommodation space. Most hotel booking sites have access to rates not available to the public, but are required by the hotel to sell them at a the retail price. When you book your stay, they will pocket the difference between what you paid, and their commission — as profit. With BookingCredits.com instead of pocketing all the margin as profit, they give the majority of that back to you. Booking Credits was founded by former travel industry experts including the President of Delta Vacations and Senior executives from Expedia. There’s no membership required, and the credit goes back as cash on your credit card within 60 days of your booking. A simple, but cool concept! Do an accommodation search HERE and check them out.
Looking for a cheap flight to Kona? Be sure to check out CheapOair.ca (if you’re flying from Canada), or CheapOair.com from the US or elsewhere. They make it super easy to compare airlines and flight deals for the days you want to travel. Their When to Buy Flights Tool is handy for planning. They also have a site to search for car rental deals, making it super easy to compare companies all in one place. Of course Expedia and Trip Advisor are also solid options for searching flights as well as car rental and accommodation all from one dashboard too!
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