Time: 3-4 HOURS
Distance: 5 MILES
Elevation Gain: NEGLIGIBLE
Foot Traffic: MODERATE
Challenges: Hot and shadeless
Sights: Green Sand Beach, South Point, Cliff Jumpers
What to Bring: Swimsuit, Sunscreen, Snack, Water
A hot shoreline trek to the famous green sand beach, formed from the olivine remnants of ancient volcanic activity. If the conditions are favorable, take a dip in the beautiful bay before you make the trek back. To add a little shot of adrenaline to your day, take a 35 foot leap off a cliff at the nearby South Point, the United States southernmost point! A pretty awesome day of adventuring if you ask me!
After an exciting two days on the eastern side of the Big Island in Hilo and Volcanoes National Park, it was time to head to Kona on the west side of the island for the second part of my island hop adventure. On the way, however, I knew I had to make a pit stop for the hike to the Papakolea Green Sand Beach and cliff jumping at South Point. Definitely a worthwhile side excursion!
I parked at the end of South Point Road in the designated parking lot. There is a sign as you get near the end of the road that will direct you to the lot. The lot itself is free, but if you want transportation to the beach, you can pay some locals to give you a ride. For me, half the fun of the experience is the journey to get there. Plus, some of those jeeps and trucks used to transport you do not look like the most comfortable ride.
This is what a lot of the hike looked like. I honestly felt like I had been teleported from Hawaii to another country. The hike is about 2.5 miles to the beach and there were some muddy spots along the way, but overall it was not very strenuous and very peaceful.
And there were plenty of spots along the way to get some nice ocean views.
About an hour later, I had arrived at the Green Sand Beach. All the different colored beaches around the Hawaiian Islands are pretty remarkable. From green to black to red to white the sand colors are formed from different varieties of ocean and volcanic activity (more info in this article). Sure it's not green like a lush lawn, but it was beautiful regardless.
The location of the beach itself is pretty amazing. It is located in a cove that was carved from one of Mauna Loa's cinder cones. It reminded me of Hanauma Bay in Oahu (but without the entry fee and the required reef safety videos you have to watch). The beach is protected enough that the waves were not that rough and it makes for a great swimming spot. There's a little hill beyond the beach that gives you a different perspective if you climb it. It requires some energy as it is a little steep, but it is totally worth it.
And it made for a phenomenal spot for lunch and even more expansive views of the beach and the rest of the ocean. After lunch, I took a quick dip in the ocean where, as I was floating in the waves, I was greeted by a turtle a few feet away from me. I know, "pics or it didn't happen", but its head popping out of the water a mere few feet away scared the crap out of me, so I assure you, it did.
And then, it was another 2.5 mile trek back so that I could get to my next, more adrenaline filled adventure--cliff jumping at South Point!
You have to drive from the Green Sand Beach parking lot to South Point, but it only takes a few minutes. There's a ton of street parking and its pretty obvious where the jump is. Just look for the sketchy ladder, the wooden platform, and the large group of people. Here's a little shot looking out into the Pacific.
A different perspective of the jump. Most people say the jump is about 40 feet. You won't get hurt at that height... as long as you land right.
Here's a selfie of my first jump. There wasn't anyone jumping when I got there, so I had an audience watching. It felt pretty cool to be the only one doing it... maybe that's why I forgot to take the sunglasses off my head.
And there they go, descending into the blue abyss. It wasn't until I went through the footage that I discovered what happened to them. Oh well. If anyone wants a free pair of sunglasses, they are at the bottom of the ocean at the southernmost point of the United States.
This is the ladder to get back up to the cliff. This was probably the most unnerving part about this experience because this ladder is a little sketchy. The rungs are really small which makes the footing a little difficult and the very bottom part of the ladder swings a good bit due to the extra hinge. Best not to think about it and climb quickly.
After a few jumps, some local talent arrived to knock me off my pedestal. Apparently the 40 feet wasn't enough for this guy.
I highly recommend going to Green Sand Beach and South Point if you are taking a trip to the Big Island, especially if you are traversing between the two sides of the island. It's a popular spot, but nowhere near as touristy as places like VNP and Kona. Even if you don't do the hike or take the leap, I'm sure you can get some enjoyment from this adventure.
Check out my short video of cliff jumping off South Point!
Do you dare to take the leap off the southernmost point in the United States? Post a comment below!
Also Check Out:
- Best of the Big Island's write up on South Point Cliff Jumping
- Big Island Hike's description of the hike to Green Sand Beach
- Cliff Jumping YouTube Video- this is my favorite video of this cliff jumping, short and well edited