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Volcano, Black Sand Beach, and Green Sand Beach, all 1 day?

Arlington, Virginia
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Volcano, Black Sand Beach, and Green Sand Beach, all 1 day?

Hi everyone,

I am looking for some advise. I will be traveling to Oahu for 6 days. I'd like to spend most of my time there, but I'd like to take one day to visit Big Island. I don't want to take a tour that includes airfare so, I thought I'd purchase my plane tickets separately and either rent a car or take a local tour once I get to Big Island. There are 3 things I want to see: The Volcano, The Black Sand Beach, and the Green Sand Beach.

I have 2 questions:

1. If I only have one day (not spending the night), Do you think I can do this on my own by just renting a car and stopping in these 3 places? or would it be safer (and recommended) that I go with a tour operator? I have no idea what is like driving there so, this is why I ask.

2. I've seen many tour operators that include the volcano + black sand beach and other things but not the green sand beach, and I really want to see that. Do you know of a tour operator that would cover all 3?

Any advise will be much appreciated. Thanks!

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1. Re: Volcano, Black Sand Beach, and Green Sand Beach, all 1 day?

It's difficult to even explore Volcanoes National Park in one day, let alone travel further afield.

Although I'm aware that uninformed travel writers and bloggers do sometimes use those terms, there are no such places as "Green Sand Beach" and "Black Sand Beach." Our island has many black sand beaches and several with varying shades of greenish sand. The beaches to which you are probabley referring are Punalu'u (blackish sand) and Papakolea (greenish sand). Please keep in mind that 90% of the photos you see of Papakolea are color-enhanced to make the sand appear more green than it really is.

A trek to Papakolea is pretty much out of the question for a day trip to Hilo from Oahu. The rental car companies prohibit driving down South Point Road, so you'd have to go with a local friend even to get to the trailhead. The hike is long and hot, and the only legal way to access Papakolea is by hiking or via boat. You'd have to set aside a minimum of five hours for that trek.

Access to Punalu'u is easy, and it's only about 30 minutes from VNP. So you'd have to allot at least an hour and a half out of your day for that side trip.

Just seeing the major sites at VNP would necessitate a good 6-7 hours, and you won't be able to see the fantastic night-time glow of the lava lake in Halema'uma'u Crater unless you spend the night.

If you do really want to do this day trip to see VNP, by all means rent a car rather than take a tour, so you can go at your own pace. Once you get there, there is a lot of information available to enhance your visit, as well as ranger-led hikes that can be fascinating. Save the journey to Punalu'u and Papakolea for another visit when you have more time.

Arlington, Virginia
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2. Re: Volcano, Black Sand Beach, and Green Sand Beach, all 1 day?

Amazing! Thank you so much for your response. I'll think about the options and evaluate if I can spend a night there. What mentioned about the "night-time glow of the lava lake" sounds too amazing to miss. Thanks again!

Big Island, Hawaii
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for Island of Hawaii
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3. Re: Volcano, Black Sand Beach, and Green Sand Beach, all 1 day?

The view of the glow from the lava lake inside Halema'uma'u is indeed amazing. This time lapse video shows you what you can expect to see.


In addition to all of wahineokawaa's spot on advice I will add that I would say VNP takes more like 8 hours for the basics if you plan to do the hike into Kilauea Iki and the walk to Puu Loa, which will take about 2 or 2 1/2 hours and one hour respectively.

If you spent the night you could arrive fairly early, spend all day in VNP, overnight in Volcano, and then the next day drive to Punalu'u and perhaps spend a little time in Hilo before a later afternoon flight out.

But with such limited time IMO you should stay out on Oahu and save the BI for a trip when you can come back and spend at least a week.

Edited: 28 August 2014, 21:28
Clearwater, Florida
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4. Re: Volcano, Black Sand Beach, and Green Sand Beach, all 1 day?

I sure would not want to be in a hurry when feasting my eyes upon the vast features of an active volcano. I am allocating an entire day just to the volcano alone. The colorful beaches are just that- colorful. Sand is coarse and does not lend itself to wallowing, so you can just have a look, take the photos and move on.

5. Re: Volcano, Black Sand Beach, and Green Sand Beach, all 1 day?

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