Kaimu Black Sand Beach

Experience The Power of a Volcano Flow as Kaimu Black Sand Beach
Local Expert's Rating:
4 / 5
The Bottom Line:

Visiting the Kaimu Black Sand Beach allows you to experience the lasting effects of a powerful lava flow. The beach today is formed from this lava flow overtop where the previous beach once stood, which was locally beloved and a tourist favorite. The beach as it stands today isn’t for swimming, snorkeling, or even lounging but instead offers you the opportunity to respect the immense power of a local volcano and its destructive forces. 

- The HawaiianIslands.com Local Expert Team

Located in the Puna district south of Pahoa, Kaimu Black Sand Beach is a fairly young black sand beach on the Big Island. As formerly one of the most beautiful beaches in the area, this young beach has formed some 50 feet above where the old one once stood. This beach is not ideal for swimming, tanning, or snorkeling, but that isn’t to say visiting is without merit. The ocean current and wave strength simply make casual swimming impossible and the lack of shade or other protection from the sun’s harsh rays and the island winds, means it is less than ideal for tanning or sitting on the beach. 

Although typical beach activities aren’t advisable on Kaimu Black Sand Beach, you can enjoy the new shoreline forming due to the destruction from the Kilauea, the most active of all Hawaii volcanoes. Relatively recently in 1990, a volcanic flow from the aforementioned volcano erupted burying the existing Kaimu Beach under 50 to 70 feet of lava, while simultaneously destroying nearby subdivisions and the entire Kalapana community. 

For several months after the eruption, the lava flow continued moving through the area, paving its molten path, ending up in the ocean, rebirthing the land on its way. Now, some 20 years later, the new land is forming, hinting at sandy patches that could lead to it becoming the playground and beloved beach destination it once was before it was destroyed. 

The original Kaimu Black Sand Beach before the eruption was a local favorite that also enticed visitors from afar. Soaring coconut trees, alongside jet-black sand, characterized this visitor favorite. Thankfully, in recent years locals have planted hundreds of coconut trees in the area in an effort to help restore Kaimu Beach to its former glory, speaking to the determination and vigor of the people whose neighborhoods and livelihoods were forever changed. 

Today’s Kaimu Black Sand Beach is still stunning, though a bit eerie due to what took place in the area negatively affecting so many Hawaiians. Visit the beach to experience the smoky sunlight rays coming from the area, and the bright green growth of coconut palm fronds and ferns, which contrasts breathtakingly with the deep black rippled lava rock. 

Access to the beach isn’t as easy as some other locations simply because of the lava damage that exists in the area. The easiest way to access it is taking a 10-minute walk from “Uncle Roberts,” which is off the southern section of Highway 137 where the road ends. The area features a tour desk, a parking area, and a collection of roadside stands. Sadly, where you park is exactly where many houses stood decades ago when the lava flow destroyed the area. 

The trail to the beach itself can be a fun experience as vendors, such as jewelry vendors, will sometimes open up portable stands on the trail. In addition, the information station provides brochures for those who are interested (for a small donation which goes to keep the area maintained). These brochures feature the historical photographic displays showing the lava damage that devoured the town. 

The beach is narrow and features an exposed, windy shoreline with a six-foot cliff, underneath which you can see the black sand being moved about by the thrashing blue waves. The water itself moves the sand around, forming the new beach, a little at a time. 

At the present time, there are no facilities available on the beach. This means no showers, no bathrooms, and no lifeguards are present. You are encouraged to stay out of the water here as well as mentioned above. Instead of the traditional activities you would enjoy on other beaches, like surfing, lounging, or snorkeling, this beach is instead a geological form in action. This in turn exemplifies the destructive and powerful force of mother nature, which is an interesting and educational experience. 

Insider Tip:
Combine a visit to the Kaimu Black Sand Beach with a scenic road trip between Kapoha and Kalapana.