Snorkeling Kahalu’u Beach Park

Kahaluu-bay Kona 2
Photo credit: lovebigisland.com

Kahalu’u Beach Park is one the most popular snorkeling spots on the Big Island of Hawaii. While we recommend Two Step and Kealakekua Bay as two of the best, Kahaluʻu Bay has its own charm.

The beach park is located in calm water only minutes drive south of Kailua-Kona. Its easy location makes it the perfect place to snorkel if you are staying near Ali’i Drive, or in one of the hotels around the waterfront.

Kahaluu-Bay-Aerial_Please-Credit-The-Keeper-of-Bay-Production-resized
Photo credit: Kahalu‘u Bay Education Center

The bay itself is well-protected by a fringing reef, providing safe, calm waters for your snorkeling adventure. The water is relatively shallow, at about 4-5 feet deep. Green sea turtles are often seen in the bay as they like to sun themselves on the rocks.

Some of the sea life you might see when snorkeling include: sea urchins, octopus, eels, turtles, and of course plenty of tropical fish such as yellow tang, parrotfish, rainbow fish, and more.

hawaii-snorkeling-at-kahaluu-beach-park-big-island
Photo credit: wanderwisdom.com

Take care to snorkel in the south part of the bay. Traditionally, the north part of the bay is where surfers congregate. But there’s plenty of room for snorkelers and surfers alike! 

Free parking is available at the beach park. There are also picnic tables, showers and bathrooms, and snorkel rentals. Lifeguards are on duty from 9:30am–4:45pm every day.

Keep in mind that this is a very popular snorkeling destination because of its accessibility to downtown Kona. During the busy season (Nov-Mar) it can get crowded. Your best strategy is to arrive as early as possible to avoid the crowds. The ocean will be at its most calm first thing in the morning before the wind changes to onshore. 

The best snorkeling is found in the cove directly out from where you first enter the water. The water is a little clearer further out, due to the fresh groundwater that comes up through the sand near the shoreline causing a blurry effect in the water.

Photo credit: paradiseinhawaii.com

When the tide goes out there are plenty of shallow tide pools to explore in amongst the rocks. The park also has large pavilions for added shade and the beach park is the perfect place to bring a picnic lunch. Don’t have a car? The beach park is close enough to Kailua-Kona you can walk to it (if you’re staying nearby), cycle to it, or make use of the Kona Trolley! 

If your stay on the Big Island is limited then a short trip to Kahaluʻu Beach Park for snorkeling is well worth it. Make sure you get there early to avoid the crowds, and before the parking lot begins to fill up! 

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Essential Big Island: Two Step snorkeling

The Big Island has some of the best snorkeling in the state of Hawaii. Two Step is one of those places (along with nearby Kealakekua Bay). We recommend you don’t miss out on this amazing snorkeling spot.

South Kona is perhaps most famous for coffee and snorkeling. Both Two Step and Kealakekua Bay have some of the best snorkeling on the island and in the entire state. Two Step is especially popular because it’s easy to get to and even easier to jump straight into the ocean and start snorkeling.

Two Step Hawaii
Photo credit: bigislanddivers.com

Two Step is the name of the beach and also the name of the two naturally occurring steps inset into the rock at the ocean’s edge. These steps are where you enter the water. It can get crowded at peak times, so we recommend getting to Two Step as early as possible. This way you will beat the crowds and also take advantage of the calm ocean surface which is best for snorkeling. Alternatively, the end of the day can be a less crowded time to go snorkeling too.

You will find parking right at the beach itself but keep in mind this fills up quickly. On the opposite side of the road is paid parking. There is more free parking on the side of the road which approaches the National Park next to Two Step. If you park here it’s just a two minute walk down to the beach. You can also park in the National Park itself.

Entering the water is easy because of the two naturally-formed lava steps (hence the name two step). It’s mostly lava here, and there isn’t much sand. But the snorkeling is easy and there are no currents, making it a perfect place for beginners to try snorkeling. We recommend using a flotation device (either a belt, or even a boogie board) if you feel apprehensive about being in deep water (10-15 feet). Using a boogie board is a great way to simply relax and concentrate on observing the marine life.

Photo credit: Bigislandguide.com

Two Step is popular with local residents and tourists alike. Despite the lack of sand there is still shade and it makes a nice location to set up a beach chair and relax by the ocean. There is also a shallow bay to the left of the boat ramp that serves as a safe place for children to swim, or adults who aren’t confident in deeper water.

Two Step is one of the jewels of South Kona. You’ll see plenty of fish including yellow tang, butterflyfish, eel, parrotfish, and puffer fish, to name a few. You might even see dolphins and the occasional turtle. Keep in mind it’s now illegal to swim with spinner dolphins. A distance of at least 50 yards must be maintained at all times.

There are limited facilities at Two Step. There are porta potty restrooms, but no showers. There are also a few picnic tables.

Two Step is definitely an essential stop on your Big Island journey. Whether you’re a seasoned snorkeler or just a beginner, there is something for everyone at South Kona’s celebrated snorkeling spot.

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Parasailing Kona

Parasailing is a fun way to get out on the water, to get above the water, and to get some amazing views of Kailua-Kona and the surrounding coastline. We give you all the details on how it works and where to book to parasail your way above Kona.

(Check out the video below of our recent parasailing adventure!)

Once out on the boat you are strapped into the harness containing a nylon seat and a bar in front. The parasail is inflated and the speed of the boat is increased. As this occurs the parasail picks you up and you float up and back into the air. The process is smooth and easy.

As you float away from the boat the sound of the engine fades and you are left with simply the sound of the wind, and the gentle creak of the ropes attached to the sail.

The entire experience lasts about ten minutes. During this time the boat slows in order to bring you down closer to the water before sending you back up into the air again. At the end of the parasail they carefully winch you back in, at which point you float back onto the boat, landing on your feet.

Our captain and assistant were friendly and engaging, and the views of Kona and the coastline were amazing!

(*Special thanks to our friend Rob for taking the video of his tandem parasail with Clem!)

UFO Parasail

UFO Parasail offers parasailing at competitive prices and at two different heights (either parasail to 800 or 1200 ft). Book online or give them a call.

Parasailing Kona Hawaii

Check-in: Kailua Pier, next to the Courtyard Marriott King Kamehameha Hotel lobby. Look for the blue umbrella attached to our boat trailer on the left hand side of the pier.

Parking: Parking is available at the Courtyard Marriott King Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel. UFO offers discounted parking validation for the self parking section, 3 hours for $2. Regular parking fees are $10 per hour and $25 per day without UFO validation.

Parasailing Big Island Hawaii

Pricing:

800 Ft Express Soaring
Per Person
$116

1200 Ft Out of This World
Per Person
$136

Observer
Per Person
$79

Private Charter
$1199

Parasailing Kona is a great experience, don’t miss out on seeing Kailua-Kona from a unique perspective!

**Please note this is not a paid promotion for UFO Parasail, we just had a great experience with them!**

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All about the Jaboticaba tree

The Jaboticaba tree is found all over Hawaii. It produces a unique grape-like fruit that can be enjoyed picked fresh from the tree, or used to make a range of jams, jellies and syrups.

Origins

Jaboticaba is a Brazilian fruit tree that is also common in Hawaii. The name jaboticaba is derived from the Tupi (indigenous Brazilians) term ‘jabotim’ which translates to ‘like turtle fat’ meaning the flesh of the fruit. It can take years for the jaboticaba to fruit (our tree took 12 years to produce fruit!), but once it reaches maturity it will fruit about once or twice a year. If the tree is watered on a regular basis it may flower more often than this.

Jaboticaba fruit

The fruit resembles a grape or berry. The skin of the fruit is purple while the inside is a whiteish flesh. The skin has a strong, almost herbal flavor due to a high tannin component. You can eat jaboticaba fresh from the tree, although it is more often used to make syrups, jams, jellies and even wine.

The skin can be used medicinally. It has a long history of being used in Brazil to treat dysentery and asthma. Cutting a hole in the skin and sucking out the flesh is the best way to consume the fruit raw. Unfortunately, due to the short shelf life of the fruit (it starts to ferment soon after its picked) you will almost never see it for sale at local markets. Look out instead for homemade jams and jellies!

Varieties

There are two types of jaboticaba grown in Hawaii. The first is called Murta, which is about an inch long, and the other is called Paulista, which is approximately two inches long. The trees are related to the Surinam cherry, java plum, and guava. The jaboticaba tree is a cauliflorous tree. This means that the flowers and fruit grow directly out of the trunk and branches. The tree is also a popular bonsai tree in parts of the world where the temperature causes the tree to grow slowly.

Every year we make a batch of jaboticaba syrup. This is served as part of our breakfast buffet as a topping on our banana pancakes and french toast.

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Exploring Kealakekua Bay

Photo credit: fair-wind.com

Kealakekua Bay

The crown jewel of South Kona is undoubtedly Kealakekua Bay. This beautiful bay is part of a marine reserve and is home to an amazing array of tropical fish. Dolphins are often seen here as they use the sheltered bay as a place to avoid predators and also a place to sleep.

On the south side of the bay is Napoʻopoʻo Beach, a small beach where access to the water is easy, though there are no lifeguards and limited facilities. 

On the north side of the bay is Captain Cook’s Monument. The monument was erected in 1874 by British sailors to commemorate the spot on which he was killed. The small plot of land on which the monument sits was actually deeded to the United Kingdom by Princess Likelike – so it is actually British soil! 

To access the monument you’ll need to hike down from Napoʻopoʻo Road. Read more about this hike in our blog post about top hikes on the island here. The north side of the bay is where the best snorkeling is located and you’ll find that the tour boats typically congregate here.

There are tour operators offering snorkeling and kayaking tours, or you can rent kayaks yourself. This is a great option if you want to snorkel but don’t want to join a tour. Kayak across the bay, and snorkel off the kayak (we’ve done it and we recommend this, especially if you aren’t keen on hiking down to, and back up from, Captain Cook’s Monument).

Kealakekua Bay
Yellow Tang. Photo credit: thatadventurelife.com
Captain Cook trail Kona
Captain Cook Monument Trail. Photo credit: Lang Parker

Dolphins. Spinner dolphins are often see in the bay. They are so-called because when they leap out of the water they are able to spin on their longitudinal axis.

Boat Tours

The Big Three

Fair Winds Cruises – Fair Wind II

60 ft catamaran with a capacity of about 100 people. The tour leaves out of Keahou Bay. The boat also has a water slide and a high dive platform. $159 for 4.5 hour morning tour or $115 for the 3.5 afternoon tour. The Fair Winds is the only company that has a mooring in the bay. This allows it to become a stationary platform from which to snorkel.

Fair Winds Cruises – Hula Kai

This boat is owned by the same company that owns the Fair Wind II. The boat is a little faster and the entire experience is a bit of an upgrade from the Fair Wind II. $165 for a 5 hour morning tour.

Sea Paradise – Hoku Nui

This company operates a 45 foot sailing trimaran that leaves out of Keahou Bay. The boat is a competitor to the Fair Wind II but is often less crowded and a more enjoyable experience. If there is wind they will use the sails. $165 for a 4.5 hour morning tour or $125 for a 3 hour afternoon tour.

Fair Wind II in the bay. Photo credit: adventureinhawaii.com
Smaller tours

Sea Quest

Their hard-bottom inflatable boats hold up to 14 passengers and the tour takes them to Kealakekua Bay and then on to Honaunau (Place of Refuge). $145 for a 4.5 morning tour (includes lunch) or $128 for a 4 hour tour (no lunch). Leaves out of Keahou Bay.

Dolphin Discoveries

This company also uses hard-bottom inflatables for their tours. $139 for a 4.5 hour morning tour, to both Kealakekua Bay and Honaunau (Place of Refuge) and another tour just to Kealakekua Bay (there are three different times during the day for this tour) $114 for 3 hours. The early morning tour gets to the bay by 8am so you’ll likely be the first boat there!

Sea Quest Tour with Captain Cook's Monument in the background. Photo credit: adventureinhawaii.com

Exploring Kealakekua Bay and the area around the Captain Cook Monument is a must-see activity. The bay has some of the best snorkeling in the entire state of Hawaii. Whether you decide to hike down to the monument, kayak across the bay, or enjoy a tour, this destination should be near the top of your list on your Big Island adventure.

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Your guide to shopping in Hilo

Photo credit: lovebigisland.com

We check out the best shopping destinations in Hilo. Whether you’re hunting for that perfect gift or souvenir, or just looking to escape a rainy day, we have the best options for retail therapy. 

1. Hilo Famers Market

Corner of Mama Street and Kamehameha Avenue, Hilo

The Hilo farmers market is a must-visit attraction. First started in 1988, the Hilo farmers market began with only 4 vendors and grew rapidly. The open market is now held on the corner of Mamo Street and Kamehameha Avenue in downtown Hilo. Contained within the space of approximately 3 city blocks, the market has free parking nearby. The biggest (and best) days are Wednesday and Sunday. Get there early to get the best of the produce and the freshest flowers.

The market opens at 6am and runs until 4pm. Most of the market is situated under large tents and includes sections with produce, food and flowers, as well as an arts, crafts and retail section. Deal direct with the farmers, the growers, the crafters and the bakers. And don’t miss out on the amazing range of food on offer from the food trucks. There is even an indoor food court

Whether you’re on the look-out for some locally-grown coffee or fresh fruit and vegetables, the market has a huge selection. Find jack fruit, longan, mangos, papayas, pineapples, rambutan, strawberries, white pineapples, dragon fruit, passion fruit, apple bananas, lychee, sapote and much more! Vegetables you’ll encounter include – baby ginger, bok choy, eggplant, taro, avocados, hydroponic lettuce, organic spinach, sweet corn and more.

2. Manono Street Marketplace

Photo credit: Roguegunn Works

681 Manono Street, Hilo

A nice collection of shops catering to locals and tourists. Stores include – Cupcakes, Boom!, The Full 9 Yards (home of the Braddapop and other snacks), Kilauea Kreations II (a fabric store) and Big Island Pearl Tea restaurant, among others.

3. Prince Kūhiō Plaza

Photo credit: Hawaii Tribune-Herald

111 E. Puainako Street, Hilo

The perfect place to spend a rainy Hilo afternoon! Browse the great selection of stores in the Big Island’s largest enclosed mall. The mall is spread out on one level, and includes Macy’s, Sears, the Hollywood Movie Theaters among the mall’s 72 stores.

For more information www.princekuhioplaza.com 

Photo credit: hawaiianislands.com

4. Basically Books

Stacey, Christine and Dave from Basically Books. Photo credit: bigislandpulse.com

334 Kilauea Avenue, Hilo

Basically Books has been in business for over 30 years. Not just a comprehensive book store, they also sell gifts and souvenirs. It’s also a community hub – they often have book readings, Hawaiian live music and other events.

Basically Books specializes in books about Hawaii, both current and classic, including history, mythology, fiction, travel guides, natural history, marine science, children’s books, and much more. There are also plenty of rare and out of print Hawaiiana books.

For more information www.basicallybooks.com

Photo credit: Ron Paul/HAWAIʻI Magazine

5. Big Island Candies

Photo credit: onlyinyourstate.com

585 Hunan Street, Hilo

What would a trip to Hilo be without a visit to the famous Big Island Candies location! Baked treats, chocolates and their famous chocolate-dipped shortbread are all available for purchase here. They also have free tours of the factory!

For more information www.bigislandcandies.com

Photo credit: hemispheresmag.com

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The 5 must-see waterfalls on the Big Island of Hawaii

Akaka Falls
Photo credit: nextishawaii.com

If you’re a fan of waterfalls then look no further than our list of the 5 must-see waterfalls on the Big Island of Hawaii.

The Big Island has some breathtaking waterfalls. Most of these are located near Hilo and along the Hāmākua Coast, and most are easily accessible. Enjoy the awesome power of these amazing natural wonders!

1. Rainbow Falls

Rainbow Falls
Photo credit: lovebigisland.com

Rainbow Falls Park, 40 Rainbow Drive, Hilo

The Rainbow Falls are located on the Wailuku River, the longest river in the state. The park is located within the town of Hilo, so this makes it the most accessible of all the waterfalls on our list. If you only have time for one waterfall on your Big Island adventure, then this is it!

The falls drop 80 feet over a lava cave into the river below. It’s easily seen from the parking lot viewing area (see photo below), or if you’d like to see it up close you can hike to the top of the falls. The hike is less than a mile long.

The best viewing time is early on a sunny morning – this is the best time to see a rainbow!

Rainbow Falls
Photo credit: lovebigisland.com

2. Onomea Falls

Onomea Falls
Photo credit: world-of-waterfalls.com

Hawaiʻi Tropical Botanical Garden, 27-717 Old Mamalahoa Highway, Pāpa’ikou

Located within the Hawai’i Tropical Botanical Garden, Onomea Falls drops gracefully down a number of different levels before eventually finding its way to Onomea Bay, north of Hilo.

Surrounded by an abundance of tropical vegetation, the best viewing spot for this waterfall is a small wooden bridge on the path to the waterfall.

Note: there is a small fee for entering the Botanical Garden in which the falls are located.

3. Umauma Falls

Umauma Falls
Photo credit: umaumaexperience.com

31-313 Old Mamalahoa Highway, Hakalou

The Umauma Falls are three waterfalls located closely together on the Umauma River. The falls are found 16 miles north of Hilo on the Hāmākua Coast.

To view the falls, which are on private land and part of a botanical garden, you will need to pay an access fee. This is currently $12 per person. Access to the waterfall is managed by a company called Umauma Experience. They also offer a zipline tour and ATV tours of the gardens.

Alternatively, there are a number of helicopter tours that fly over the falls. This is also a great way to see the waterfalls. See our blog on helicopter tours.

UmaumaFalls
Photo credit: umaumaexperience.com

4. 'Akaka Falls

Akaka Falls
Photo credit: thatadventurelife.com

‘Akaka Falls State Park, 975 ‘Akaka Falls Road, Honomū

One of the most famous of all waterfalls in Hawai’i, ‘Akaka Falls are located just north of Hilo. They drop an incredible 422 feet into the gorge below, draining into Kolekole Stream. 

Access to the falls is via an easy half mile hike through some beautiful lush rainforest on an easy path. Great views of the falls can be had at the midway point on the hike (see photo below). This hike is suitable for all levels of fitness and takes about half an hour at a slow pace.

Admission to the park is $5 per car, or $1 per person for pedestrians.

Photo credit: lovebigisland.com

5. Hi'ilawe Falls

Hiilawe Falls
Photo credit: Hawaii-guide.com

Waipi’o Valley Lookout, 48-5546 Waipi’o Valley Road, Waimea

The Hi’ilawe Falls are one of the tallest waterfalls in the state. The height of the falls is 1,450 feet. It is not possible to hike directly to the waterfall but you can view the falls from a number of places within the valley itself. Due to access now being closed to non-residents, it is only possible to access the valley as part of a tour, like those offered by Waipio Valley Shuttle.

Hiilawe Falls
Photo credit: hawaii-zip.com
Waipio Valley Coast
Photo credit: lovebigisland.com

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Horizon’s LEGO Star Wars Collection: AT-AT 75313

The LEGO AT-AT 75313 is a huge set with an incredible amount of detail. There are a large number of minifigures, and the set has fully adjustable legs. I modified it further with extra minifigures, a display case, lighting, and a diorama snow scene featuring more minifigures and speeders.

The LEGO AT-AT (All Terrain Armored Transport), as featured in the Battle of Hoth, includes legs that are adjustable (at two positions on each leg) and a head that also rotates. The front cannons have a realistic firing action to them, and there’s even a ‘rope’ from which to attach Luke Skywalker on the underside of the AT-AT.

The AT-AT measures 24.5 inches high and 27 inches long. It features multiple removable panels in order to easily view the interior. The main body has the capacity to fit 40 LEGO minifigures and 4 speeder bikes. Within the cockpit of the head is room for three minifigures.

The set includes the following minifigures:

General Veers, Luke Skywalker, Snowtrooper Commander, 4 Snowtroopers and 2 AT-AT drivers.

This set is a huge – 6,785 pieces! The plan for this set was to order a custom display case with a printed Hoth planet background and a white surface on which the AT-AT would stand. To complete the diorama I would add the AT-ST and a collection of speeder bikes, snow troopers and rebel alliance figures to the scene. And finally, I would light the entire AT-AT by using a custom lighting kit which I would then modify further.

The Build

I worked on the build over the course of multiple weeks but not continuously, and sometimes only for short periods at a time. LEGO estimates the build time for this set to be between 18-19 hours.

The build was relatively straightforward, beginning with each of the legs. This process became a little bit repetitive. I found building the main part of the set more enjoyable. There are a lot of interesting features and clever detail in this build and it was fun to construct. It was also great to discover how the engineering allowed for the set to become freestanding. 

The legs can be adjusted in order to pose the model as if it were in motion. This requires a gadget that is part of the build and makes the process highly interactive. 

Despite knowing the size of the finished model before I started, it was still a shock to see how BIG it actually is. It’s massive. The fact it can hold up to 40 minifigures in the main body – AND four speeder bikes – is amazing.

The construction techniques used to connect the main body to the head are astonishing. It almost shouldn’t work since the head is so bulky, but somehow it does. There is not an actual interior tunnel between the head and body in which the minifigures could walk through but this doesn’t detract from the overall effect. 

The option to display the set with or without the panels is a great one. They are easy to remove and I found no issue with them remaining in place as some other reviews have highlighted.

AT-AT Lego 75313
AT-AT Lego 75313
AT-AT Lego 75313
AT-AT Lego 75313
AT-AT Lego 75313

The stickers that are used in this set look great. Sometimes stickers in LEGO sets don’t always work well, but here the stickers are used to represent the background lighting, and it gives the interior of the body a real feeling of depth.

AT-AT Lego 75313

Modifications

The first major modification to the set was a simple one. I wanted to fill the main body with as many stormtroopers as possible. This meant purchasing a number of Snowtrooper Battle Packs (75320) and filling up the empty seats. 

AT-AT Lego 75313

Lighting the AT-AT proved a little more challenging. I found a custom made set for this model but the method they used to rig the lighting was too complicated, and it resulted in lighting that was too bright. I rewired the model and placed the lights in locations that reduced some of the glare that can happen with the LED lights on these models. Pro tip: the key is to light the model but not make it difficult to look at!

The display case and diorama

The display case is from Wicked Brick who have created an amazing case for this set. With a Hoth planet background and a white acrylic base plate, the AT-AT sits comfortably in four cut-outs designed for each of the four feet.

There was plenty of room around the AT-AT to create an interesting battle scene as well as room for the AT-ST (75322). More low-lighting may be added at some point to brighten the ‘snow’ in the diorama.

Overall the AT-AT was a fun and satisfying build. Expanding the impact of the set by creating my own diorama was also worth the extra work. The lighting brings the model to life and the display case is a great way to keep the set secure and also dust-free.

Look out for future blogs on our LEGO collection. We have a number of sets waiting to be built and will feature them as they’re constructed.

 

Angus
Horizon Guest House

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Visit the Painted Church in South Kona, Hawaii

The St. Benedict’s Roman Catholic Church in South Kona is worth a visit if you’re in the area. Located not far from Two Step, the church is famous for its detailed frescos dating back to the turn of the 20th century.

History

The church itself was built in 1842 and was moved to its current site in Honaunau in 1880. It wasn’t until 1899 that Father John Velge started work on what would become an extensive collection of frescos on the inside of the church.

The frescos depict a large array of biblical scenes including the Temptation of Christ. The paintings themselves were actually used as a teaching tool. Very few Hawaiians could read during this time period and Velge was able to use the paintings as a way to explain the events in the Bible.

Velge painted the scenes directly onto the wooden surface of the church walls using house paint. He was not professionally trained.

The paintings took Velge almost five years to complete. He was recalled to Belgium soon after completing the paintings and he died in 1939.

The church and grounds

The exterior of the church is notable for its belfry and the lattice work that adorns the front entrance. There is a small museum of Hawaiiana at the rear of the Parish Hall across the parking lot. In front of the church is a cemetery, and beyond that a view of the ocean in the distance.

How to get there

Painted Church Hawaii

The church is located about 45 minutes from downtown Kona. From the intersection of Highway 11 and Highway 160 (the Honaunau Post Office is at this intersection), turn towards the ocean and follow Hwy 160 for about 1 mile. Right after the green one mile road marker, you will see a sign for the ‘Painted Church’. Turn right on to Painted Church Road and follow the winding road for slightly less than a half mile. Turn right into the church grounds.

The Painted Church is a popular local attraction in the South Kona area and is worth a visit to admire the unique frescos.

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Visiting Green Sand Beach Hawaii (Papakōlea)

Green Sand Beach on the Big Island of Hawaii is one of the most unique beaches in the world, in one of the most isolated places in the world. Access to the beach isn’t easy and we explore the best ways to get there.

Kau District

Green Sand Beach is very close to Ka Lae (South Point) in the Kau district of Hawaii. South Point is the southernmost point in the United States and is also well-worth a side-trip or a separate trip on a different day.

Green Sand Beach is not far from the small settlement of Naalehu, one of the few towns on the main highway between Volcanoes National Park and South Point. The beach is about 2 hours south of Kona.

How to get there

Drive towards South Point, between mile markers 69 and 70 on Highway 11. At the end of the road it will fork. To the right is South Point itself and to the left is the Green Sand Beach parking lot.

We visited Green Sand Beach on a beautiful sunny Thursday afternoon and found the parking lot at the end of the paved road already close to full. There are a couple of options for visiting Green Sand Beach from this point:

  1. Take your own car – keep in mind that you will need a 4×4 and you will need to check your rental car company’s policy to ensure that you can take it off-road in this location (we recommend against this option – the road is extremely challenging and the landscape had been devastated by the off-road activity).
  2. Hitch a ride with a local. Locals do a roaring trade here by offering a ride on the back of truck for around $20 per person. (We also recommend against this option. Potentially dangerous, you’ll be standing in the back of pickup truck hanging on as best you can while the truck bounces precariously around like a demonic rollercoaster).
  3. Hike. Our recommended option. Park in the parking lot and walk in.

The hike

The hike to the beach is approximately 4.5 miles roundtrip. Key to making this an enjoyable hike is avoiding the sun. There is no shade on the hike and it will be dusty (passing cars kick up significant amounts of dust). Start early, bring plenty of water and proper hiking shoes.

From the parking lot, make toward the boat ramp and once there head to the left and onto the trail. The hike will take about an hour each way depending on your pace.

There are no restrooms but there are port-a-potties in the parking lot and also back at South Point.

Papakōlea Beach

Did you know that Green Sand or Papakōlea Beach is one of only four green sand beaches in the world? The others are located in Guam, the Galápagos Islands and Norway.

The beach used to be a cinder cone volcano. The lava ejected from the volcano was full of olivine. Subsequent to the eruption, erosion caused by wave action and weather began to erode the basalt rock until only the olivine was left remaining – hence the green sand!

We discovered the hard way that the road from the parking lot to the beach is in fact a collection of roads, many of which are treacherous, even with a 4×4. Unfortunately, these dirt tracks have caused significant damage to the landscape and the land is deeply scarred by the effects of large-scale traffic. 

We had to backtrack a number of times when we found that the route we had taken would not be passable, or the ground too unstable. At one point we followed a local truck ferrying people to and fro which turned out to be the best strategy. 

A parking area is visible just above the access to the beach.

Access down to the beach by foot is steep. A ladder makes the descent easier but make sure to wear sensible shoes, especially if you intend to hike there and back.

What is olivine?

The olivine group is made up of eight minerals, including forsterite (magnesium silicate, MgSiO4) and fayalite (iron silicate, (FeSiO4). These minerals are end members of a solid-solution series based on the mutual substitution of iron and magnesium.

Olivine crystals are formed at depths of at least 25 miles below the earth’s surface, in the high pressure zone of the Earth’s upper mantle. Volcanic eruptions bring the magma to the surface and these magmas solidify into basalt and basaltic pumice.

For example, Kilauea has a magma chamber that is between 3 to 6 miles beneath the surface but draws magma from much deeper where olivine crystals are present.

Visiting Green Sand Beach is well-worth the effort but how you get there is just as important. Off-road access is causing significant damage to the landscape, while catching a local ‘shuttle’ is not only considered illegal by the state it’s also dangerous. We recommend reducing your environmental footprint by hiking in and enjoying one of the Big Island’s amazing natural attractions.

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