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Green Sands Beach

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Cliffs over Green SandsGreen Sand Beach is located at the southern tip of the Big Island. The beach is covered with olivine crystals, a small green volcanic crystal that has been eroded from cinder cones and deposited onto the beach giving this unique green tint.

Located in Ka‘u at the base of Pu‘u o Mahana, this beach was formed during an ancient eruption of Mauna Loa. Open to the ocean, this area is under constant attack from the weather especially during high surf and stormy seas. During these periods the entire beach is inundated with this cone eroding assault and powerful rip currents that contribute to some dangerous conditions. However, many calm weather days produce wonderful conditions for swimmers, body surfers, or simply observers.

Students at Green Sands Beach The beach hike involves about a 2 ½ mile moderate walk (one-way) from the Kaulana Boat Ramp area all of which is relatively secluded. The only other access is by four-wheel drive vehicles only. The walk along the ocean will lead to a cliff area overlooking a small bay. There are two common entry areas: one involves walking down several sandy switch-backs down the face of the cliff while the other requires a small climb-down and walk into the beach area. Neither is really demanding and has ample footing, however, students will need sneakers. The left side of the cove, including those down the high, steep face of Pu‘u o Mahana are very dangerous and should always be avoided. The volcanic material that composes these structures is merely compressed together, is very loosely compacted, crumbles and slides quite easily underfoot. Hiking in this area can be hazardous.

Green Sand Beach, also known as Papakolea Beach, offers NO facilities, lifeguard, shade, or water. Students should remember to wear proper footwear. Backpack items should include: sunscreen, clothing, hat, towel, water, and energy food for the 5 mile round-trip trek. Remember to apply and reapply sunscreen after sweating and swimming even if the bottle says "waterproof." Since this is such a remote area, cell phone service may not be available.

Inherent Risks

It is the responsibility of each participant to evaluate the various risks that they may be exposed to if they decide to participate in this program. Some of the inherent risks include, but are not limited to, the following:

  1. Exposure to the sun and strong winds
  2. Drowning
  3. Transportation to and from Green Sands Beach
  4. Motor vehicle and/or boating accident or incident
  5. Dangerous water and/or weather conditions
  6. Dehydration
  7. Broken bones, cuts, scrapes, or bruises
  8. Exposure/contact with marine life
  9. Exposure to cold.(water temp. appx.75 °F)
  10. Strong ripe tides and off-shore currents
  11. Falling or slipping
  12. High surf and tsunamis
  13. Rapid changes in ocean and/or weather conditions

Students are required to remain with the group during this program and not go on un-authorized selected activities or excursions without the group. If transportation is involved, participants must wear seat belts if available and are expected to return with the group.