Summer is almost here. (If you live in LA like I do, it has already been here for a while.) That means beach season is almost here. While most people think of beaches as blue sea and yellow or white sand, this amazing planet gives us all sorts of interesting alternatives, especially when it comes to sand color. Most people have heard of, or visited, black sand beaches where the sand is finely ground volcanic rock. Bermuda is known for a beach of pink sand, while Moloka’i in Hawaii has a red sand beach. I have never seen those, but when I was on the big island of Hawaii earlier this year, I visited the most unique beach I have ever seen: Papakolea Beach, or Green Sand Beach.
Drive as far south on the island as you can get, and right near South Point, past wind farms and cattle ranches, we reached a small dirt parking lot. There, a young native islander asked us if we wanted to walk to the beach or, for $20 round trip per person, be driven. Knowing what we were getting into, we chose to be driven. Frustration mounted as we waited around for more people to join us, and we wondered if we had made the right choice as a dozen or more people began their walk. Finally, enough people had decided to be chauffeured, and we piled into the back of a pickup truck. (Cushions had been set up, and some of us sat on those while others sat on the tool box. They were very efficient in their use of space.) Feeling like we wouldn’t fly out the back, we set off down a dirt road.
The road wasn’t a road for long. This two mile drive took nearly 20 minutes (and we passed the walkers pretty early on) over what would generously be called an undeveloped ditch, crossed by mounds, other ditches, and parts of cars that should not have attempted this drive without knowing the exact route to take. We passed open fields of long grass, watching the coastline for signs of whales. Dirt was everywhere, in our eyes, hair, teeth, and ears, but the Hawaiian sun made it tolerable, along with the knowledge that soon we would see something amazing.
Finally, the truck came to a stop at the edge of a cliff. There was a steep path carved into the side (it was part ladder, so this was not for anyone with a fear of heights or trouble ascending/descending steep grades) and just a few minutes later, we were on the beach. The beach itself is not as bright of a green as I expected, but looking closely at the sand, the hues definitely come out.
The green color in the sand is from the mineral olivine that forms as magma cools, and Papakolea Beach is one of only four beaches in the world where it is found as sand. Sadly, as with so many other places in the world, tourists have absconded with vials of the amazing green sand to take home as souvenirs, leaving less for everyone else to enjoy. But enjoy, we did!
What is the most unique beach you have ever visited? Please share!