Punalu'u Black Sand Beach, Big Island

Punalu'u Black Sand Beach, Big Island

Know Before You Go, Shaka Guide's South Island Epic Coastal Journey

Shaka Guide

Map of South Island's epic coastal journey showcasing stunning landscapes and attractions.​​​​​​​

Start Planning

Did you know Big Island gets its nickname because it’s the largest Hawaiian Island?

This tour takes you from coast to coast and covers over 200 miles of this expansive island.

Because of this, you might want to plan some of the activities you’d like to do at the start of the day. This will allow you to skip others so that you’ll have enough time to hit the stops you want!

List of Activities

Kona Coast (1.5 hours)

We'll be driving straight from Kailua-Kona to South Point. Along the way, you'll hear stories about the rich history of the area and drive through the world-famous Kona Coffee Belt.

Note: If you'd like to explore the beaches, historic sites and coffee farms on another day, check out Shaka Guide's Kona Big Kahuna Tour.

South Point (1 hour)

This side trip to the southernmost point in the United States includes a quick stop at Paradise Meadows and Bee Farm. Just look for the red tractor.

This is the home of Hawaii's Local Buzz brand of Ka'u coffee, macadamia nuts, Hawaiian honey, tropical shortbread cookies and other treats. Stop by for their free samples or buy some goodies to take home with you.

Another 20 minutes down the road and you'll come to the windswept cliffs of Ka Lae or South Point.

This area features some of the best fishing on the island, so if the conditions are right, you'll see local fisherman catching everything from ahi tuna to marlin!

You can also explore an ancient Hawaiian fishing heiau or temple that is still sacred to Native Hawaiians today.

And definitely take time to appreciate the rugged beauty and dramatic cliffs that drop to the ocean below. 

You might spy some fish or sea turtles. If you're really lucky, maybe you'll see one of the migrating humpback whales that travel this route in the winter!

And if you spy a crowd by the cliff edge, it's likely folks watching the brave souls who come here for a real adrenaline rush--cliff jumping off the 40-foot cliff into the sea below! It's breathtaking to watch.

A word of caution: If cliff jumping is on your vacation bucket list, know that you do so at your own risk. Please make sure you are prepared and have read all the safety precautions before attempting this risky venture. 

Note: Papakolea Green Sand Beach is also a popular stop at South Point. However, we recommend skipping this stop. Rental cars are not allowed on the rugged, dirt road. So the only way to get to this remote beach is either hiking five miles roundtrip or paying $20+ per person to hitch a ride with a local in the back of a pickup truck. There are no restrooms at the beach, and often the conditions are unsafe for swimming.

Whittington Beach or Punalu'u Black Sand Beach (30 minutes-1 hour)

You'll have the option to visit the beach next, so make sure to pack your swimsuit--and water shoes. Between the rocky shore and burning black sand--your feet will thank you!

Whittington Beach features picnic tables and bathrooms. Although there isn't much of a sandy area here, there are shallow pools that are great for kids or for wading. It's also a favorite spot for the rare Hawksbill sea turtles who can often be seen at dawn or dusk.

Punalu'u Beach is not only famous for its stunning black sand but also for the green sea turtles that love to hang out on the shore and in the surf. The beach also features a covered pavilion, restrooms and showers.

A word of caution: Remember to keep at least 10 feet away from sea turtles. In Hawai'i, it's illegal to touch these gentle creatures and doing so can incur a hefty fine. 

Volcanoes National Park (3-4 hours)

If you plan to visit the national park, let us help you get the most out of your volcano experience! We offer a fully-guided driving tour of the national park--complete with hikes, stories, science and history. Check out Shaka Guide's Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park Tour

Once you’re in the park, simply switch over to the volcanoes tour. It takes about 3-4 hours to complete.

Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station (1-2 hours)

Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station is a great spot to spend the evening after a full day exploring. It’s known to have some of the best stargazing in the state.

Unwind as you search for constellations atop Hawaii’s tallest mountain.

Pro Tip! Plan to arrive just before sunset and watch the sun go down before the stars come out. It's also a good idea to call and check on weather conditions before your visit. You'll find the number in the Highlight section of the app.

Things To Know to Help Plan Your Day

  • There’s limited cell service in the remote parts of the island. Be sure to download the tour before you start!
  • If you begin in Kona, the tour will go counterclockwise. If you begin in Hilo, the tour will go clockwise.
  • The tour is designed to explore the south and southwest part of the island during the day and end up at Mauna Kea in the evening. It has the same stories and stops no matter where you begin.
  • You’ll travel through remote parts of the island. However, there are several towns where you can get gas and food, such as Kailua, Kealakekua, Captain Cook, Hawai'i Ocean View Estates, Na'alehu, Pahala, Volcano Town and Hilo.
  • If you want to visit Volcanoes National Park, we recommend budgeting 3-4 hours for this stop. To beat the crowds, it's best to arrive before 10 a.m. or to come on a weekday.
  • Ka'u Coffee Mill is open daily from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. They offer free 20-minute guided tours Monday through Friday at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. No reservations required.
  • Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Visitor Center is open from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Closed Sundays.
  • Akatsuka Orchid Gardens is open Mondays and Wednesdays from 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
  • Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo is open daily from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Closed Christmas, New Years and the first Thursday of each month. Admission is free.
  • Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station is open daily from 9 a.m.-9 p.m.
  • Pack clothes for hiking and swimming. You’ll have the option to do both on this tour.
  • This South Island itinerary does not include a tour of Hilo or Kailua. If you're interested in exploring either of these two towns, we have a tour for that! For an in-depth tour of Hilo check out the North Island Jungle Adventure Loop. For an extensive tour of the Kona coast including Kailua, check out our Kona Big Kahuna Tour.

Note: Please check individual websites for the most current hours of operation and admission fees as they may change.

What to Expect

1. To Get An Early Start

We recommend starting the tour before 8:00 a.m. We know it’s early, but there are a lot of fun activities to get to, and you’ll need to start early to make it to them all.

Pro Tip! If you plan to visit Volcanoes National Park, it's best to arrive at the park entrance well before 10 a.m. to beat the crowds. You may want to head straight there.

2. To Spend 8-12 Hours or Multiple Days Exploring

If you want to do EVERYTHING on the tour -- South Point, Volcanoes and Mauna Kea -- plan to spend at least 10 hours on the tour. You may need more time if you want to relax at the beach, explore the national park or do multiple hikes.

But don’t worry if you don’t get to it all in one day. The tour never expires! Just come back another day.

3. To Be Active

There are a few optional hikes on this tour. Most are short and in Volcanoes National Park.

If you are not up for hiking, you’ll still want to get out of your car and explore.

Take a walk along a black sand beach, stop for photos at the southernmost tip of the United States and visit some of the historic sites.

4. To Beach Hop

This tour features two beaches. Both of them are popular places to view sea turtles! The beaches on this tour are:

Pro Tip! The black sand beach is a must-see! Remember to bring water shoes as the black sand can get very hot.

5. To Try Local Goodies

There are some awesome foodie stops on this tour: 

  • Grab some chocolate bark at Paradise Meadows on the way to South Point.
  • Sip coffee from Ka'u Coffee.
  • Try a malasada or Hawaiian sweet bread from Punalu'u Bakeshop.
  • Sample a variety of flavors of macadamia nuts at Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Visitor Center.

6. To Learn

Big Island might be the youngest Hawaiian Island, but there’s no shortage of history and culture. You’ll visit historic sites and ancient temples and hear some of Hawaii’s most famous legends.


How much you spend truly depends on what you do along the tour route. Here's a breakdown of some costs: 

  • $20+ per person: Lunch and a local snack
  • $19 per adult: 'Imiloa Astronomy Center entrance fee.
  • $30 per car: Volcanoes National Park entrance fee (valid for seven days)

Pro Tip! To save time at the park entrance station, purchase a digital pass online prior to arrival and either download it to your mobile device or print it out. (Connectivity at the park is limited.)

Start Packing!

Here’s our packing list for this tour. It may seem a little long, but remember, what you bring depends on the activities you choose to do for the day.

  • Layers and a jacket (Temperatures and weather vary drastically across the island. Bring warm clothes if you plan to visit Mauna Kea.)
  • Sneakers
  • Hiking Clothes
  • Water Bottle
  • Bug Spray
  • Towel
  • Swimsuit 
  • Sandals or Water Shoes
  • Reef-safe Sunscreen
  • Sun Glasses and/or Hat
  • Snacks
  • Cash
  • Car Charger *Very Important*
  • Phone Mount

Malama 'Aina

In Hawaiian, the word malama means “to take care” and the word 'aina means “land.”

When you’re in Hawaii, we ask that you practice this and pick up your trash; respect the marine life, plants and animals; and avoid spots that are unsafe.

Hawaii’s natural resources are precious. It’s up to all of us to help preserve these resources for generations by respecting the 'aina when you visit.

We hope that we’ve given you all the information you need to make the most of your day. Your vacation is extremely important to us so if you have any questions feel free to reach out at aloha@shakaguide.com.

For more detailed information to help you plan check out our South Island Epic Coastal Journey suggested itinerary.


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