Black Sand Beach

Black Sand Beach - A Unique Beach Crafted From Lava Flow & Ocean Waves
Local Expert's Rating:
4.5 / 5
The Bottom Line:

Maui's Black Sand Beach within Waianapanapa State Park is an iconic location and one that every visitor to the island should try to visit at least once. This gorgeous, unique beach is surrounded by lush vegetation and offers a unique glimpse at the natural forces that make up Hawaii. 

- The Local Expert Team

Black Sand Beach, also known as Honokalani, is a small, narrow beach located on the northeast end of Maui. This is a gorgeous beach that is beloved by visitors and locals for its sheer beauty, its historical significance, and its special attractions. 

To get to Honokalani, you must first enter Waianapananapa State Park. This 122-acre state park is often a highlight location on many travelers’ itineraries, but getting in and seeing all that it has to offer along with Black Sand Beach did get harder this year. To reduce human impact on the environment, Waianpananapa State Park requires reservations for entrance. You can get a reservation by visiting the state park’s website and clicking the date, time, and payment information. Note, this is a highly popular park and so you will want to reserve as far in advance as you can. Once in, you can explore all of Waianpananapa State Park, including Black Sand Beach.

The dark black shade of the Honokalani beach is because the sand here was once lava. Lava flowed out from nearby lava tubes and collected at this low point, cooled, and hardened into rocks centuries ago. Then, the constant smashing of the ocean’s waves against those same lava rocks slowly, but surely broke them apart until they were just grains of sand. The waves, in fact, are not done with this job. When you walk along this Maui beach, you will see very fine black sand that has been thoroughly worn down, but you will also see larger grains and even round, smooth pebbles. These are newer bits of lava that have not quite been so crushed and broken by the Pacific Ocean.

As you might expect, waves so rough as to break the rock into the sand are not the best for swimming. The surf condition at Honokalani is often harsh and chaotic. As such, swimming, snorkeling, kneeboarding, and other types of water-based activities are not recommended. There are some rare respites during the summer when the ocean becomes calm enough to swim in, but these moments are rare and cannot be readily planned for — especially with the new reservation system in place. If you are in luck to catch a calm period, then you’ll likely see people jumping off a nearby cliff and swimming to shore. Be honest with yourself about your swimming abilities before joining. 

But while swimming is generally not recommended, there is plenty to see and experience on land. Visitors can explore a cool little cave on the right side of Honokalani Beach. Most people will duck to enter, but the cave does open up and offer some exciting climbing and photography opportunities. 

Visitors can also follow a nearby loop trail that will take them past a small pool and lead into a second one that is swimmable. The water is this pool is spring-fed and crystal clear, but very cold. You’ll also find more hidden caves around the area of Honokalani. Just take care and make sure you alert someone if you’re venturing more into this area. 

Insider Tips:
-Remember, what is special about Honokalani Beach is its unique creation and the exploration the area offers. Do not go to this beach if you’re looking for a soft, sandy place to laze about and go swimming in. 
-You will be turned away if you don’t make reservations. The only alternative around this is to connect with a local bus tour of the island that includes the Waianapanapa State Park as these tours do get a slot of tickets every day. So if you want to visit the beach, but the state park website says they are all booked up, you might call a tour and ask if they have open seats.  
-Parking options are available: here at the Waianapanapa Campground Parking.
-Bring sturdy shoes. The sand here is not soft and if you want to explore the aforementioned caves and trails, you will want a supportive pair of shoes with good grip.