Hiking to Papakolea Green Sand Beach on the Big Island of Hawaii

It’s our last full day on Hawaii and there is still one place left on our “must visit” list: the famous Green Sand Beach, known properly as Papakolea Beach. It’s an almost three mile hike each way but we’ were determined to see it.

Spoiler alert! We made the hike successfully and even found a Geocache while there.

Afterwards, we head over to Naalehu and visit the Punalu’u Bake Shop, billed as the southern-most bakery in the USA. You can check out their offerings here: https://www.bakeshophawaii.com/

Of course, we’re not done — more beach stops and sightseeing followed by a drive along the backroad from Pahala to Naalehu to enjoy some non-highway miles. Just because it is our last full day doesn’t mean we’re not packing in the fun.

Video Recorded November 20, 2022

Copy of my Geocaching log for GC5MXRA “Not the Green Sand Beach”:

This was our last full day on Hawaii and this was the last location we had on our “Must Do” list that we needed to see. We arrived early to try and beat the worst of the heat and the crowds. While we were getting ready to start the hike, we saw a family drive up in a mini-van and they got out and started walking down towards the beach when they were approached by the locals who were offering rides. After a brief conversation we saw them get back in the van and leave. We weren’t sure if they were in the wrong place and got directions (they didn’t look prepared for the hike), if they had planned on getting a ride in and balked at the $20 / person going rate, or if they were simply uncomfortable and left. Either way, we were a little on edge wondering if we were going to get hassled as we started off. The locals paid no attention to us and didn’t say anything. From there it was the relatively long, dry, and hot walk to the top of the bay. At least there was a strong wind to keep us feeling a bit cooler.

Went down to the beach and we actually had it to ourselves for a few minutes before the crowds started to arrive. Some had walked in behind us and some had arrived by Jeep. It got very crowded very quickly. The other thing was the wind — our bare legs felt like they were getting sandblasted by the grains of Olivine being whipped up and tossed around.

We gathered our answers for the Earthcache and then made the climb back up to the top. From there EmOCan played it smart and waited for me while I decided to go for this cache. I should have read the description better as I climbed the ridge instead of following the path as described.

I got to the top and saw I still had a few meters left to go. Oh crap! Way out there? I’m not sure this is a good idea. Then I saw the direction the arrow was pointing. Oh, that seems a bit better.

I started dropping down and got to a point where I needed to start moving laterally again. Hmm, this looks a little sketchy. I seemed to have pretty good footholds so I slowly moved over to ground zero. OK, heart rate is climbing. This is still fun. This is still safe. Just a bit further.

I got to one spot where I jarred a couple of rocks loose and they tumbled down towards the ocean. Oh man, I sure hope no one was down there! I knew EmOCan would be starting to worry as this was taking longer than expected and I had dropped out of her sight on the far side of the ridge. Take it easy. Don’t rush. Stay calm. Never too later to turn around until it isn’t.

I finally started searching, determined not to let this end in a DNF. I finally found it! It was smaller than expected so that may have messed me up for a few minutes. Got a photo of me with the cache at ground zero so I would have something to remember this experience. Cache was replaced and then it was a slow walk/climb back to more safe ground and then back up the ridge and then down to EmOCan.

This wasn’t the first cache on Hawaii to leave me breathless thanks to a combination of the scenery and terrain. It made for a great story to tell EmOCan on our walk back to the trailhead. Wow, what an experience! An instant Favorite cache, for sure. (This is one of those rare caches where you know it’s getting a Favorite point before you even get close to ground zero.)

By the time we started our walk back there was a constant parade of people walking in (some looking prepared and some not-so-much) and others being ferried in by the locals in Jeeps and pickups. We even saw some dirt bikes. Our total trip time was roughly three hours — one hour in, one hour at the beach and finding the nearby Traditional cache, and one hour back out. What a great day! 

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