Daily Photo / Hawaii / Hawaii Sights / Travel

Into Kalapana: Kaimu Black Sand Beach

Dipping my feet in the ocean at the Kaimu Black Sand Beach.

Dipping my feet in the ocean at the Kaimu Black Sand Beach.

After seeing the freshly cooled lava at the Pahoa Transfer Station, Jake’s dad had mentioned that we should stop by the “new black sand beach,” since it’s nearby. A new beach? I couldn’t help but think it sounded like a new store that had just opened up. I guess you’re used to things like new beaches when you live near an active volcano, since the island is always growing.

Just to get you up to speed, Jake and I recently got back from a trip to visit his family in Hilo. We always do at least a little sight-seeing while we’re up there — I think mostly for my benefit, since I am an Oahu girl. I’m fortunate to know some locals who really have the inside scoop!

Located in Kalapana, a short drive from Pahoa, the Kaimu Black Sand Beach is relatively “new” because it was formed by volcanic flows from Kilauea in 1990. That’s only 24 years old!

Jake walking through the lava rocks towards the black sand beach.

Jake walking through the lava rocks towards the black sand beach.

Kaimu was actually a small town that got destroyed by the 1990 lava flow. The flow covered both the town and the original Kaimu Bay with about 50 ft. of lava. That’s what you’ll have to walk over to get to the beach. Kaimu Bay originally started near the road before the lava, but the flow added an extra half mile of land — and therefore, a “new” black sand beach further away.

As you walk over the lava rock, you’ll see a red path that will lead you to the beach (as shown above). It’s a short walk that should only take about 15 minutes. Even though you’re headed toward a beach, I’d recommend wearing shoes along this portion and packing your slippers for later.

You could get to the beach in slippers if that’s all you’ve got… You’re walking over pahoehoe lava rock, which is smoother than a’a.

Newly planted palm trees on the way to the black sand beach.

Newly planted palm trees on the way to the black sand beach.

Jake and the family, nearing the beach.

Jake and the family, nearing the beach.

The views before you even get to the beach are already breathtaking. As you walk along the path, all you can see is lava rock in the distance. On a sunny day, it’s crazy to see the contrast between the bright blue sky next to the darkness of a seemingly endless black dessert.

The newly planted palm trees dotting the path to the beach actually make it seem like you’re walking into an oasis. Locals bring these sprouted coconuts and plant them to help restore the beach. It’s amazing to see so much life in a place where everything was once smothered and destroyed.

Eventually the lava rock will slowly fade away and give way to patches of black sand. You should be able to see the beach just a few yards away at this point.

Finally made it!

Kaimu Black Sand Beach — finally made it!

I’m told that when I was a baby, I wasn’t into sand. I can imagine my little toes curling in disgust as I stepped onto the mushy ground that stuck to my feet. If you’ve never grown out of that mindset, a black sand beach is the perfect place for you. It’s not very fine since it’s made up of volcanic minerals and lava fragments, so you won’t be stuck finding sand in your hair for weeks.

I actually couldn’t wait to bury my toes in the sand. I love the feeling of the not-so-fine particles giving way to my feet… I could’ve stayed at that beach all day, but we had other stops on our list.

There were also some fun-sized waves the day we went — so if body boarding is your thing, don’t forget to bring your board! We watched some kids rush the waves, ready to enjoy the sun on such a beautiful Big Island day… The beach the path leads you to isn’t very expansive, but I’m sure if you explored a little you could find some more secluded areas.

If you happen to be in Hilo, it’s worth the drive! It was truly one of my favorite stops of the trip. Be on the look out for my next post — some of my favorite Big Island eats!


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