Green Sand

It sounds like something you could only see in the Emerald City or along the yellow brick road, but in fact, all you have to do is go to Hawaii, Guam, Norway, or the Galapagos Islands.  As fortune would have it (although at this point it shouldn’t be a shocker), we were on the island of Hawaii.  Along its southern shores near Nā‘ālehu is Papakolea Beach, better known as the green sand beach.

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And yes, the sand is actually green.  The green hue comes from olivine and, while it’s not the easiest beach to get to, it is totally worth the effort!

As you will recall in the last post, we were heading south down the western part of the Big Island and turned off the main highway to follow signs to the green sand beach and Ka Lae.

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A few winding turns and suddenly we found ourselves at the green sands parking lot.  But here’s the thing: the parking lot is about 3 miles away from the beach.  The general public is not allowed to drive directly there.  You can totally hike it, however if that’s what you want to do, you need come prepared and make sure you carve out a good chunk of time because it is a lot more rugged than the yellow brick road!

OR you could buy a ride to the beach in a van from a kid who looks about 14, but assures us he’s 16.  Trust me when I say that it’s the best $15 you’re going to spend in Hawaii.

THE BEST $15 YOU’RE GOING TO SPEND IN HAWAII.

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So we paid the kid $15 each and piled into a dodgy van packed with other tourists.  We were hoping beyond hope that we didn’t just spend $90 to be kidnapped and sold into slavery.

I liken the trip to driving in the back pasture of the ranch–despite being on some sort of semblance of ruts that look like a road–you will hit every bump along the way.  And our driver liked to drive fast.  Not 85 mph fast, but when you’re bouncing around on a makeshift road in the middle of rugged terrain even 15 mph feels like 85 mph and like we were making jumps even the General Lee would have problems navigating!

Despite only being 3 miles away, the drive was a jolting, bumpy, sometimes laughing, sometimes praying 30-40 minutes.  When the van stopped,  we were let out at the top to a stunning view.

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But of course, we weren’t happy just standing at the overlook point–we had to go down and check it out.  So we carefully made our way down, down, down the steep path to the green sands below.

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We made it to the bottom and hit pay dirt, uh, sand!

Sure enough, it wasn’t an optical illusion–it was green!

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We cooled off by wading around in the water, especially April who got splashed by a wave that was deceptively big.  There were a few people swimming the rough waters, but for the most part everyone was there to take a gander at the green.

We eventually trudged back to the top where our ride was thankfully still waiting and the driver was happily taking what he called “the money shot” for everyone.

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The ride back was just as bumpy and laughter-and-prayer filled as the ride out.  We passed several groups of hikers and as we bumped along discussed if they’d make the hike all the way there and back or if they would cave and ask for a ride.  There were several in each group, especially the latter as their dress code suggested that they were in for a painful walk.

Just a tip if you’re planning on hiking it to Papakolea beach: take water and wear appropriate footwear (hint: wedges are NOT appropriate footwear).

Regardless of how you get there, it’s definitely worth the trek!

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And with one more thing crossed off our To-Do in Hawaii list, we were ready to get back on the road and tackle the next one!

Aloha!

A Little Geography Lesson

I don’t know about you, but when I think of the location of the Hawaiian Islands I tend to think of it as smack dab in the middle of the Pacific Ocean due west of California.

However, it is actually a little bit further south than “due west of California.”  Okay, quite a bit south of “due west of California.”

The Hawaiian Islands lie just below of the Tropic of Cancer–so if you want a “due west of” think Southern Mexico. To put it in USA geography terms, Key West (the Southernmost point in the continental United States) lies north of the Tropic of Cancer.  In fact, Hawaii is so remote that it is not even considered part of the North American continent (see the map from World Atlas below)!

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The reason I’m mentioning this is because we decided to split our trip to the Big Island by spending a couple of nights in Kona and then a night in Hilo.  April & I were in charge of selecting the route and finding fun things to do along the way to Hilo.  We opted for the Southern Route, which afforded us options to drive through the mountainous terrain of Kona, the overlook of Kealakekua Bay (where the fate of Captain Cook was decided), the volcano lava fields, the Mauna Loa macadamia nut company, a green sand beach, and the actual southernmost point in the United States.

After we left Greenwell Farms, we headed south down the main “highway.”  Actually, highway was a bit of a stretch–much like our “yacht” in Greece.  Winding, narrow two lane road is a bit more accurate, but it was scenic, so we didn’t care!  Or perhaps Tracy did, since he was the one driving….but we girls didn’t mind one bit!  😉

Our first stop came only a few minutes down the road when we drove by the South Kona Fruit Stand.  We decided that smoothies were the perfect thing for our trip south, along with some very interesting fruit we had never heard of…or heard of but never tried, like lilikoi, star fruit, and dragon fruit!

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With smoothies in hand and fruit in the trunk, we continued south along the Mamalahoa Highway taking in the picturesque coastline views on one side and the lush mountain on the other side.  Our next destination was Nā‘ālehu, home to both a green sand beach (more about that later) and Ka Lae, the southernmost point on the Big Island, which is the southernmost island, thus is the southernmost point in the United States.

Why, yes, I do like saying southernmost–thankyouverymuch!

So we turned off the “highway” onto an even smaller road and wound our way here and there whilst following signs to the green sand beach and Ka Lae.  We actually went to the beach first but it is deserving of its own post.  After our trek to the beach, we stopped at Ka Lae for a glimpse of what seemed to be the edge of the world.

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For those of you who would love the chance to jump off the edge of the world, there was even a platform–and a group of people willing.

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And just in case you didn’t feel like scaling the steep wall back up or drifting out to sea (although I don’t see why not, after all the Kiribati Atolls are only 1200 miles away!), there was even a ladder to help you.

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I peeked over and decided I was perfectly happy not jumping and drifting off to sea and/or climbing the ladder of death back up.

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A few more quick shots and then we were on our way–having crossed off another item on our Hawaiian to-do list!

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