Between unusual coloured beaches and beautiful landscape, let’s go on a sustainable trip through the shades of red, green, and finally black across the Hawaiian Islands.

In Times of Coronavirus, we are unable to take a plane to the other side of the world. So why not do it by reading? So we can get our adventurous spirit going for that time when travelling will be available activity again. It is also an opportunity to regroup and implement responsible and sustainable travel that benefits us and the future of our planet.

The Hawaiian Islands (a U.S. state ) located in the Pacific Ocean miles from the coast of the United States are the archipelago furthest from the mainland, with a landscape in constant transformation. It is precisely in these islands that the environmental challenge and efforts to preserve the indigenous culture have been gaining momentum for some years now. In recent years, large-scale development is being supported in support of local efforts to push the state towards sustainability.

Hawaii’s thousand-year-old culture is being preserved alongside its mighty, volcanic nature. Layers of lava accumulated over 25 million years of underwater eruptions have created an archipelago of eight main islands crisscrossed by cliffs and deep canyons hundreds of metres high.

Hawaii map and Coloured Beaches across the Hawaiian Islands

About the many curiosities of this archipelago, the various beaches characterized by sand, that could be described as anomalous. Actually, these beaches are characterized by colours that are out of the ordinary, or at least different from the colours we are used to seeing on a beach. This is why we are going to unveil their marvellous nature by going on a colourful journey through shades of red, green, and finally black. Let’s set off to discover Hawaii through three of the most incredible coloured beaches in the world. Always bearing in mind that when you visit a place, you should do consciously, learning about local history and culture.

Let’s find out the top 3 unusual coloured beaches of Hawaii islands.

First stop: Kaihalulu Beach

red sand - coloured beaches in hawaii
Coloured beach of Kaihalulu, Haway. In the Hawaiian archipelago, it is one of the most striking coloured beaches in the world. Ph. by Slava via Unsplash

Let’s start with the first colour on this route: red. We are on Kaihalulu beach. Undoubtedly one of the most fascinating and spectacular corners of the Hawaiian Islands, where the contrast between the red of the sand, the bright green of the vegetation and the blue of the ocean make the landscape even more striking. It is located on the beautiful island of Maui, on the east coast. It is not easy to reach: it can only be reached on foot, following a path that languishes along with the cliff profile, which is steep and sandy in places but not particularly challenging. However, it is advisable to reach it with the help of local guides, to avoid any inconvenience on the way. The spectacular view it offers and its unspoilt beauty is well worth the effort. The bay is protected on the ocean side by a wall of jagged black lava rock and rich vegetation, which contribute to the almost otherworldly scenery.

Over the centuries, the deposit of lava ash residue and iron-rich debris from the mountain overlooking the beach have given this colour to the sand. From a mythological point of view, according to the best-known legend, the creation of this colour came from the battle that took place between the goddess of fire (Pele) and her older sister (Goddess of the Sea). Pele was killed and her body deposited on the beach, and it was from her ashes that the sand took on this reddish-black colour. Nature is revealed in all its beauty. Visiting this beach is an experience that should not be missed, discovering one of the most enchanting and surreal places on the planet while respecting the natural environment.

red sand hawaii
Red sand saw from close up, photo by Scott Smorra

Second stop: Papakōlea Beach

green sand - coloured beaches in hawaii
Papakolea Beach, one of the colourful beaches of the Hawaiian Islands. Photo by Thomas via Flickr

We continue with the second colour: green. Here we are on Papakolea beach. The very first peculiarity of this beach, apart from its green colour, is the fact that it is one of only four beaches in the world with sand of this colour. The others are in Norway, the Galapagos Islands and Guam. The green colour of this beach is due to the Pu’u Mahana volcano, which has not erupted for 49,000 years and is located right in front of the Hawaiian beach.

The beach is located near South Point (located on the island of Hawaii) and can be reached by a trek, about 3 kilometres long, which runs along a coastal path to the beach. It can be done for a fee, but it is advisable to do it with local guides. Again, the incredible views and unique destination make up for the effort. This beautiful beach is enclosed in a bay protected by a partially collapsed volcanic cone, eroded by the force of the sea.

This volcanic ash cone is rich in a mineral called Olivine, which contains magnesium and iron, and is very present in Hawaiian lava as it is one of the first crystals to form when the magma cools. It is also known as Peridot: when this mineral is in the crystalline form it forms this precious gem. Olivine is also known for its detoxifying and revitalising action, especially on the skin. It is the erosive force of the ocean that extracts this mineral. The force of the water erodes the volcanic ash cone and drags the olivine crystals onto the beach. Because these crystals are heavier and denser than the fragments of ash and other rocky materials released by the water, they accumulate on the beach at the point where the volcanic sand touches the water. These crystals come and go as erosion is constant, which is why they are always present.

green sand hawaii
Green sand saw from closer, photo by J Gates via Flickr

Third and last step: Punaluʻu beach

black sand hawaii
The black sand of Punalu’u beach, one of the most incredibly colourful beaches in the Hawaiian Islands. Photo by Geoff Sills via Flickr

Finally, there is black, with Punalu’u beach. Another of the most beautiful coloured beaches in the Hawaiian archipelago, formed from volcanic lava, which gives it this dark colour. When the lava from the volcano reached the sea, it cooled so quickly that it broke into small pieces, giving it this beautiful colour. The black sand of the beach is made even shinier by the seawater that penetrates many metres into the foreshore, slipping between the tiny stones that form the beach. Characterised by an immense expanse of black sand, this beach is located on the south-eastern coast of the island of Hawaii. The main component of the sand is pulverised basalt from the eruptions of the Mauna Loa volcano. The bay is surrounded by an expanse of palm trees that make the landscape even more impressive.

This area is also known for the presence of freshwater springs, much colder than the ocean water that flows over the saltwater: it is said that the ancients used to dive with jugs to fill them with water from these springs. In fact in the Hawaiian language he pena ‘ u, from which the beach takes its name, means “coral diving for” or “spring diving for”.

Another reason why one of Hawaii’s most colourful beaches is so famous is the presence of hawksbill and green sea turtles. They are an endangered category as they are the rarest species of turtle in the Pacific Ocean.

Sea turtles
Sea turtles on the black sand of, photo by Jan Lackie via Flickr

It is interesting to note a study carried out by the US and Japanese researchers a few years ago. This study exposed the murky world of unregulated illegal fishing of these animals. It initially aimed to analyse the behaviour of sea turtles on the island, which are at serious risk of extinction. However, the study drew attention to the many illegal activities surrounding the turtles by analysing various customs records and meticulously verifying this information. The meat of these turtles is poisonous, so fishing was, and still is, carried out mainly to obtain and subsequently process the shells of these turtles. It has been seen that the main export activities of these turtles have taken place in South East Asia, probably due to problems of governance and long-standing trade relations that have formed complex and opaque trade networks.

The presence of these beautiful turtles attracts more and more tourists every year. What people can do, by getting in touch with the local culture, is to actively contribute to discouraging these practices. For example, by refraining from buying turtle products from illegal vendors and by favouring the purchase of local fish products from environmentally controlled suppliers.

These are just a few of the most beautiful and fascinating beaches on our planet. Which one of the most unusual and coloured beaches of the Hawaii do you like most?

In this archipelago, tourism has become a major source of wealth for the state, but the need to implement safe and responsible methods is necessary if the local culture and its territory are to be promoted and sustained.

We can also contribute, in our own small way, to sustain the landscape and nature that characterise these beautiful beaches. How? On holiday we often find it hard to give up our habits. But isn’t the great thing about travelling the right balance between what we like best and the culture that hosts us?

For example, visiting these beaches in a more ecological and convenient way: on foot. The visit becomes slower, but also deeper and more sustainable. Alternatively, local transport is perfect for getting around without impacting too much on the environment and getting to know local customs and habits.

Asking for suggestions, especially from locals, allows you to get in tune with the local culture and environment. All this makes a holiday a stay that allows you to live for a while in a place and not just visit it as a tourist.

I like to quote a few verses of Italian song that, in my opinion, representing this very idea of travelling:

“Paese significa storia
And history means language
Learn your direction
From people who don’t look like you
The traveller travels alone
And he doesn’t do it to be happy
He travels because
He chose the profession of wind”

From “Il viaggiatore” di Mercanti di liquore”

Cover Image: photo of Peter Vanosdall, Unsplash

Author: Chiara Grottola

Hi! My name is Chiara, I grew up in the land of good wine and peará. When I am not studying Law, I like to imagine myself in some remote place in the middle of Nature. I don't have a great sense of direction, so I often get lost, but most of the time I find wonderful alternative routes. I love to travel because I like to discover familiar places and faces. Why not searching them while taking care of the environment? It's worth it, I guarantee it.
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