“If she's amazing, she won't be easy. If she's easy, she won't be amazing.
If she's worth it, you wont give up. If you give up, you're not worthy...
you just gotta find the ones worth suffering for.”
Now I assume when Bob Marley said this, he was speaking about a woman...however, I couldn't help but have this quote pop into my head as motivation during the difficult trek out to one of only four GREEN SAND beaches in the entire world, Papakōlea!!! And let me be the first to tell you, she is definitely worth the suffering.
The journey to Papakōlea is worth every bit of effort it takes to get there, so put it on your 'must do' list if you are fortunate enough to be on the BIG Island of Hawai'i. Bring water, sunblock, at least one towel and snacks. You will also need, a hat, your swimsuit and hiking shoes...and yes, you are going to need them all. Remember, it's worth it!
To get there, from any point of civilization, take Highway 11 (the belt road) to the one lane South Point Road. Make sure your gas tank is full as you start your trip, because there are no gas stations anywhere remotely close to the South Point region. As with everywhere else on the Big Island, go slow and enjoy the awesome views! There are several big bumps you want to be careful of going over, watch out for oncoming traffic (again, this is a one lane road), and brake for any wild horses that like hanging around in the area.
You will reach a fork in the road where you must choose right or left. Head left, if you just want to experience Papakōlea....however, I recommend you go right first to check out South Point - The Southern Most Point in the United States!
As you can tell from the photo, I am super happy to have made it to South Point...but, you can also probably see that the weather was crazy! Locals say it is usually very windy and it certainly was when I was there. The gusts are strong enough to make you take a step or two just to keep your balance. I mention that because behind me in the photo is about a 75 foot drop into the Pacific Ocean. Don't go near the edge, unless you are planning on jumping in....which I went ahead and did :) Unfortunately, I don't have the pictures to prove that thanks to Papakōlea (more on that later). However, my girlfriend at the time, Sarah and the handful of others watching in disbelief can vouch for me.
If voluntarily throwing yourself from the high cliffs of South Point into the deep blue waters of the mighty Pacific sounds like something that is of interest to you, please make sure you are a strong swimmer. The current could easily slam you into the cliffs. Also, go as soon as possible because there is only one old fishing ladder left in order to climb back up and I hear that once this one breaks off into the ocean as the other two did, it may not ever be fixed. There are warning and danger signs posted, but if you choose to risk your life as I did then the rush is pretty darn incredible.
From there take the other fork in the road, all the way to the end of it and park your car. If you have a 4-wheel drive, you can risk going further if you like...but, I highly recommend you hike. If you just insist on taking a vehicle, most days the locals will be there and you can ride with them for around $10 to $20 a person. That price outweighs the risk of damaging your rental in my opinion, but again....hike if you can. Even though the walk can be very taxing...it's free, extremely beautiful and native Hawaiians really appreciate one less vehicle damaging their majestic land.
If the hike were a straight shot, it would be just over 2 miles....however you can probably see from the photos, it's not a super easy walk and it ends up being closer to 4 miles each way. Remember when I mentioned I didn't have proof from my South Point cliff dive? Well, this is where we lost the proof. One of our cameras fell out of a bag while we were high-stepping, jumping and balancing our way down to the beach. We had a blast doing it with the stunning views of the Pacific Ocean always in sight and keeping in mind the huge payoff at the end of the hike. I also took a couple tumbles during the trek....so definitely hike, but please be careful. You won't be able to finish the hike if you break an ankle, plus who knows where the nearest hospital is located.
Locals told us, "Oh yahhh, just follow the road." but there really is no road though. You can kind of follow one of the many tire tracks, but those are often filled with water. The higher ground has grass up to my knees (I am 6'1"). Also, the old lava rocks are pretty jagged, so just watch your step wherever your path takes you. Just make sure the ocean is always on your right on the way there and on your left on the way back :)
I've read and heard many stories of people getting turned around or just being too exhausted / frustrated with the hike that they end up quitting. I hate they didn't get that awesome feeling of gratification and amazement when one gets to see this:
That, my friends, is the view you are looking for!!!. You will know it as soon as you see it. It is nothing like you have ever seen before and may never see again. It is truly amazing. What a reward for your hike!!! A steep drop off down a cliff leads to what you came halfway across the world to see and this is the moment where you will say, "Tre' Day, and Bob Marley, were right... she IS worth it!" Just check out these photos!! Can you believe your eyes?? Yes, that is natural GREEN SAND!!!!
In full disclosure, I am color bind...so my experience of the color may be vastly different from yours. However, those aren't just sunglasses I am wearing, they are the color blind assisting specs called En Chroma! The green sand color reminded me of AstroTurf. The feeling of it though, was some of the finest sand that I have ever stepped foot on. Putting your feet in the ocean after that hike felt wonderful as well.
Please, please, please resist the temptation to take any of the unique green sand home with you. As I mentioned, the native Hawaiians highly respect their land, so please do the same. In fact they enforce heavy fines if you are caught with any, so just make plans to come back as often as you can to see it again and again!
Eventually the volcano that produces green crystals in the sand, will no longer do so and this beach's special sand will look like most others in the world...tan :( How boring! (I have been spoiled now, eh?) So, as with the South Point cliff dive...if this experience sounds and looks appealing to you, I strongly encourage you make this trip sooner than later. I still can't believe it....GREEN SAND.......WOW!!!!!!!! :)
Say it with me, "She is worth it!" #Papakōlea