Ever heard of a green sand beach?
You might find some green sand in various beaches, but to find an all-green beach IS rare - only four in the world - one in Guam, one in Norway, one in the Galapagos, and the last one, called Papakolea, right here on the Island of Hawaii. Papakolea got its name from the combination of two words, Papa, meaning flat, and Kolea is a bird often seen here.
You can find green sand made from different green minerals in various places in the world, and they create different shades of green. Papakolea beach is a result of green olivine crystals that eroded out of lava. Olivine is a silicate material that contains iron and magnesium, which is what makes it heavier than other sands, and it is formed at high temperatures and are green and glassy.
The eruption of Mauna Loa some 49,000 years ago created these olivine crystals and the old cinder cone belonging to this volcano created the beach and the bay that we now call Papakolea. This beach has one of the highest olivine contents of the world, so that’s why it looks so green. Since these olivine crystals are heavier than most types of sand they remain behind when the lighter sand grains are washed away by strong wave activity.
Getting to Papakolea is not easy...
First you have to drive to the end of South Point Road on the island of Hawaii, and then hike about 2.5 miles each direction. NO facilities, very hot, very dry, often windy, and if you are going to do this, by all means bring water, sunscreen, a hat and wear good shoes. You may find folks offering you a ride in their truck but know that this is not legally permitted, and if you choose to do this, you are ‘on your own’.
You can swim at Papakolea, but remember there are no lifeguards and know that the surf can be rough at times, so if in doubt, don’t go out.
Lastly, remember your camera if you do go, as the scenery is dramatic, and please, take only photographs, leave nothing but footprints, and remember, it is illegal to take sand from this beach!
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