Punaluʻu Beach (also called Black Sand Beach) is a beach located in the Ka’u District between Pāhala and Nāʻālehu on the Big Island of Hawai’i. Punalu’u is now the largest black sand beach on the Big Island. Punalu’u’s black sand basalt formed when molten lava from the active flows of Kilauea volcanoes spilled into the water and quickly cooled, exploding into the granules that became the sand. The creation of the sand is an extremely rare natural occurrence; nature’s rarest wonders. The serenity and beauty of the black sand beach is offset by a coconut tree grove, tidal pools and cresting waves crashing gently on the sand is truly breathtaking.
Punalu’u has gained fame as the home of 2 endangered native turtle species, the honu (green turtle) and the honu ea (hawksbill turtle), which both can be seen swimming in the water just off the main beach basking in the warm sun or crawling ashore at night to deposit eggs deep in the sand. The ʻio (Hawaiian hawk) nests in the trees at Punaluʻu while ʻopeʻapeʻa (Hawaiian hoary bat) are known to feed on insects at Punaluʻu. Spinner dolphins and humpback whales can also be sighted offshore from Punaluʻu. Hawaiian monk seals have been known to make rare appearances on the beach. Ancient Hawaiians called the monk seal ʻĪlio holo I ka uaua meaning “dog that runs in rough water.”
Sacred & Spiritual
Wahi Pana O Punaluʻu – The Sacred Sites of Punalu’u
There are several pre-contact heiau within the immediate vicinity of Punalu`u. To the south lies Ka`ie`ie Heiau, thought to be a fishing shrine. The heiau complex that sits overlooking the ocean and Punalu`u Beach is referred to by many names including, Halelau, Kane`ele`ele; Mailekini or Punalu`u Nui. The heiau complexes of Lanipau and Imakakoloa have vanished due to recent development. Ki‘i pohaku (Hawaiian petroglyphs) can be found throughout the Punalu’u area.
The name Punalu’u literally means “diving spring” and is derived from the bay’s bubbling underwater springs, where Hawaiians once swam out to sea and obtained their fresh water.