Hawaii is known all over the world for its warm beaches and crystal clear water. Yet, Hawaii’s volcanic geology has also made it world famous for another quirky phenomenon–colored sand. Apart from familiar white sand beaches, you can find black, red and even green sand beaches in this tropical paradise. The colored sand beaches of Hawaii are incredible “once in a lifetime” sights to see. Just what makes each color different?
Everything you need to know about the colored sand beaches of Hawaii
Red Sand in Hawaii
1. How Red Sand Forms
The Red Sand Beach of Hawaii is formed by the erosion of cinder cones, which form from volcanic ash and lava over a volcanic vent. As waves and the elements erode the cinder cone hill, it fragments and produces red sand. The high iron content in the sand gives it its signature red color.
2. How Red Sand is Different
The mineral composition of red sand is mainly iron. In Hawaii, the waves are constantly eroding the iron-rich cinder cone hill behind Kaihalulu Beach so the bay continues to increase in size.
3. Where to Find Red Sand Beaches in Hawaii
Kaihalulu Beach on the Island of Maui is a small red sand beach south of Hana Bay on the eastern coast of the island. Access is via a steep cliff-side trail that can be challenging for those not accustomed to physical activity. The view of the deep red sand against the blue ocean is exceptional.
Black Sand in Hawaii
1. How Black Sand Forms
Dark volcanic minerals and lava fragments make up black sand beaches. These fragments form when a lava flow hits the ocean causing it to cool quickly and shatter into sand. A large lava flow entering the ocean can create a black sand beach almost instantly.
2. How Black Sand is Different
These beaches can be short-lived. If wind and currents remove the sand it will not be replenished unless another lava flow occurs.
Another unique aspect of black sand is that due to its dark color, it retains more solar radiation. So it can become very hot under the sun and can burn your feet.
3. Where to Find Black Sand Beaches in Hawaii
Punalu’u Beach, on the southeastern Kau coast, is the most famous black sand beach in Hawaii. Other black sand beaches on the Big Island include Kehena and Kaimu Beaches in the Puna district and Polulu Valley Beach in the North Kohala Peninsula. You can also discover black sand beaches on Maui.
Compare the beauty of Hawaii’s black, white and green beaches from the air on the Hawaii Circle Island Experience!
Green Sand in Hawaii
1. How Green Sand Forms
The main component of green sand is olivine crystals. The Papakōlea Beach, for example, formed from the erosion of the olivine-rich cinder cone of the Mauna Loa volcano. Its sand consists of a mixture of green olivine crystals, black lava, and white shell fragments.
2. How Green Sand is Different
Olivine minerals are heavier than other sand materials and are less likely to get washed away by the waves. So they accumulate on the beach. This leaves patches of beach that are greener than others.
3. Where to Find Green Sand Beaches in Hawaii
On the southern tip of the Big Island of Hawaii, you can find the green sand beach, Papakōlea. Its other name is Mahana Beach, after the cinder cone that created it.
Book your Hawaii Circle Island Experience to see the stunning variety of colored sand beaches in Hawaii!