A Smaller Stream That Flows Into A Larger Stream Do They Really Have Green and Black Sand Beaches on the Big Island of Hawaii?

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Do They Really Have Green and Black Sand Beaches on the Big Island of Hawaii?

Going to the beach is a big deal in Hawaii, as we not only have consistently beautiful weather year-round, but also many beautiful beaches to enjoy our golden days on.

Because our Big Island is geologically so young and the landscape so immature, our beaches are smaller than those of the older islands and therefore more valuable. What the Big Island has that some other islands don’t have are beautiful colored sand beaches. White sand, black sand, green sand and even gray sand.

The creamy white sand beaches of picture postcards and hapa haole songs are formed by the accumulation of tiny coral reef particles and crushed shell fish shells. As the reef grows, wave and storm action breaks it into smaller pieces, and many fish, such as parrotfish, nibble the coral whole and spit out sand-sized particles. Other fish, such as Humuhumunukunukuapua’ swallow coral and expel sand-sized pellets of sandy debris. Thus, one coral-eating reef fish can produce one ton of white sand per year. Our white sand beaches are soft, due to the physical degradation of biological material resulting in rounded edges to the sand grains. Thus, unlike sand obtained from rock and mineral sources such as California beaches, they do not stack well and create poor sand castles.

Beautiful white sand beaches are found all over the Big Island, but the largest and best developed are along the Kona and Kohala coasts, as coral reefs are best developed on the lee-side of the island. Prime examples of white sand beaches are Anahoomalu, Hapuna, Waiale and Makalawena beaches. Snorkeling on these white sand beaches is a delight – the water is a brilliant turquoise due to the light reflecting back into the water from the sandy beach bottom. However, this sandy bottom itself is relatively barren of life, so if your main goal of snorkeling is to see fish, be sure to choose a nearby reef beach like Wailea Beach, as the fish live among the rocks and rocky reefs.

The black sand beaches are quaint and spectacular and, thanks to their thermal properties, are warm even on cold days (oh, yes, we do have cold days in Hawaii–mid-winter temperatures can drop into the low 70s and rarely even the upper 60s!). In fact, the Big Island’s black sand beaches are favored by nesting female Hawaiian green sea turtles because of their warmth.

Black sand beaches are caused by the fiery, explosive mixing of hot liquid lava entering the sea. The skin of a lava flow cools instantly as it flows into the water, and then explodes when the seawater evaporates into steam. Black sand also occurs due to mechanical action during natural physical erosion of basalt (the name given to the rock when it cools to become lava). You might think that volcanic sand would be hard and durable, but in fact, it’s very fragile and black sand beaches don’t last very long over time. For this reason, although sand is beautiful and rare, we ask you not to take any home with you.

Black sand beaches are found all over the island, with the two largest at the north end of the island, crossing the mouths of Waipi’o and Pololu Valley respectively. It is not visited as often as some of the others because both do something to get down into the valley. Hilo Town once fronted Hilo Bay on what must have been a heart-wrenchingly beautiful, large black sand beach, but much of it has been eroded by industrial encroachment, polluted and laid bare as a result of urbanization. By far the most popular black sand beach is at Punaluu. Not only is the beach beautiful, inviting and easily accessible, a visitor is almost guaranteed to see Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles basking on this beach. Kaimu Beach is the newest and most vibrant black sand beach at the end of the Kalapana-Kopoho Road, where the village of Kalapana was engulfed by a volcano a few years ago. Snorkeling on black sand beaches can be dark and mysterious, as little light from the sandy bottom reflects back into the water, but the rocky nature of the seabed outside the beach ensures abundant life and the potential for many reef fish. Be careful…because the black sand beaches are mostly young, and therefore in the most exposed parts of the island, many are characterized by big waves, strong currents and nasty tides. Swim only where you see others swimming, and only when a life guard is present.

Wild, surreal, mesmerizing, the green sand beaches of the Big Island are a rare geographical phenomenon that can only be seen in a select few places on our island and almost nowhere else in the world. Although they require a bit of effort to get to, you shouldn’t travel all the way to Hawaii and not see these jewel-like beaches.

Greensand is composed almost entirely of the mineral olivine, or peridot as gem-quality crystals are known. These crystals emerge from molten lava when it sits in a magma chamber reservoir before erupting to the surface. Liquid lava melts from rocks at great depths within the earth; The chemical composition of the melt is in equilibrium at very high pressures and temperatures. As magma migrates several miles upward through the Earth’s crust, it cools and depressurizes; This causes crystals to form during melting. In magmas world wide, olivine is almost always the first to emerge. Aerial lavas migrate to the surface so quickly, and are then ejected from the magma chamber so quickly to the surface, that they have little time to form many crystals. But when the lava sits in the magma chamber for a while, the olivine crystals precipitate and slowly settle to the bottom of the melt. As liquid lava begins to flow to the surface, much of the olivine is left behind in the residual liquid. Thus, lavas ejected from the latest stages of these magma chambers are sometimes enriched in crystalline olivine. Because late-stage magmas are also relatively cooler and less fluid, their eruptions are more explosive and produce more spatter cones than flows. The sea has breached one or other of these spatter cones along the green sand shores of the Big Island, and the disruptive action of the waves has washed away all the particles except the relatively dense olivine grains.

There are small green sand beaches on the southern coast either side of South Point, but the largest and most accessible is Papakolia Beach at South Point, reached by a moderate hike of about 2 ¼ miles along the wooded coastline northeast of South Point, following an old 4WD two-track. Once again, due to its rarity and the irreplaceable nature of this resource, we ask that you enjoy our green sand beaches, but do not take any sand home with you.

Warm, comfortable and inviting, gray sand beaches are the result of black sand particles mixing with white sand on the beach and, as such, are represented by a continuum of gray. In fact, many Big Island beaches probably fit more into the definition of a gray sand beach than the two distinct end member structures, black sand or white sand beaches that properly occupy. Ho’okena, Kahalu’u and Honomalino are the three largest and most popular gray sand beaches on the Big Island.

Then there are fun sands that are either extremely rare or seasonal. Consider the totally unique beach of Ke-Awa-Iki, which today is a black sand beach, but the black sand is imperfectly mixed with the old white sand on the southern side of the beach, creating a strange, but strangely artistic. , piebald black and white sand. And then pink sand forms in the winter when storm-generated deep waves wash in and grind up more coral, and some otherwise white sand beaches turn completely pink; Wailea Beach and Keakaikua beaches are prime examples.

Now picture yourself on vacation on the Big Island… your only assignment is to splash around on every colorful beach you can find and see which one is right for you! Sounds pretty sweet right?

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