To enjoy a truly black sand beach, you will want to go to Waianapanapa State Park on Maui’s eastern shoreline. But if you are looking for beaches to enjoy in South Maui, then you will find a place with beautiful dusty-black sand. That place is called Oneuli Black Sand Beach.
Oneuli Black Sand Beach is located on the north side of a small peninsula that juts out into the Pacific. Makena State Park and its beaches comprise most of this piece of land, except for the nice strip of beach that is Oneuli Beach. This beach has its own access point that is just north of the access point for Makena State Park and signs you will see for the Big Beach Parking Lot. Now, it is easy to miss this access road as it is a dirt road without much signage. You will see two yellow gates on the shoreline side of the road and a dirt road forking into two. Veer right and follow down to the small parking lot at the end. Note, this is not a free beach as you will be expected to pay $5 for parking.
Unlike its neighboring state park, you will not find any amenities at Oneuli Beach. Of course, this also is not a beach many are apt to linger at for long, unless they bring snorkeling gear. The main reason for this is that as beautiful as the dark sands are here, they are not comfortable to walk upon or sit. The dark dusty color of these sands is due to their being made of ground-up lava. That lava came from the 360-foot tall volcanic cinder cone named Puu Olai that rises near the center of this jutting outcrop of land. The lava oozed down the cone and into the ocean where eons of crashing waves slowly ground it into sand and mixed it with similarly crushed seashells. Pretty to view but often painful to tread upon — so make sure to bring sturdy shoes even if you plan on just strolling the beach.
Those with snorkeling gear will also find plenty of wonder underneath the waves. Walk to the water’s edge, and you will find that the dusty-colored sands end and the ocean flooring transitions into hard lava (part of what makes this beach unappealing to swimmers and sunbathers). Continue on just a bit more, and you will find an abundance of coral and reefs that are teeming with sea life. Green sea turtles are particularly fond of this part of the island, and it would be rare to snorkel or dive here without catching sight of their hard-shelled backs. Manta rays and small sharks are also common here as they slip around coral and rocks in hunt of prey.
Whether swimming, snorkeling, diving, or kayaking (the closeness of the parking lot to the shoreline makes this an amiable place to launch small watercraft), it is important to be alert and cautious before entering the water and before venturing far from shore. This is because the currents here can get pretty dangerous, especially if you are venturing out beyond that reef. For a safer swimming experience, stick to the beaches that are a part of the Makena State Park to the south.
For those looking for more picturesque views, there is a hiking trail you can access via this beach’s parking lot that goes up the cinder cone. This is not an easy trek due to big elevation gains and rocky slopes, but it does afford fantastic views of the area once you reach the crest.
Between the Oneuli Beach access road and the access road for the Big Beach Parking Lot, you will commonly find two food truck options. Both Jazzy’s KItchen’s food truck and the Jawz Taco Truck pop-up here during busy beach times and are great choices for those looking for something hot and fast during their visit to Oneuli.