The Black Sand Beaches of Maui

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The black sand beaches of Maui, Hawaii

Rare as they are, the world is dotted with spectacular black sand beaches. Typically, black sand is formed over time as lava, and volcanic minerals are broken down by the ocean. The result is a spectacular stretch of smoky coastline that stands in stark contrast to the blue-green waters of the sea. For U.S. residents, Hawaii is likely the most accessible place to explore these natural wonders. Read on to learn about the black sand beaches of Maui!

How many black sand beaches are in Maui?

There are two black sand beaches in Maui, including Honokalani Beach (also known as Pa’iloa Bay) and One’uli Beach (also known as Naupaka Beach).

Is there camping available at Maui’s black sand beaches?

Yes, visitors can camp near Honokalani Beach within Waianapanapa State Park. To reserve a campsite, click here.

Can you take black sand from Maui?

No, you cannot take black sand from the beaches on Maui. First of all, sand is not a limitless resource, and taking sand can shrink Hawaii’s beaches and affect the environment. There have been many cases of people collecting colored sand from Hawaii and selling it online, which is risky because removing sand is a finable offense up to $100,000. To read more about the illegal removal of sand from Hawaii, check out this article from the New York Post. Aside from the legalities of removing sand from Hawaii, legend has it you’ll be cursed if you do!

What is the Maui black sand beach curse?

Legend has it that Pele’s Curse falls upon anyone who takes a natural resource from Hawaii. Pele is the Goddess of Volcanoes and Fire and is said to live on Mount Kilauea. She considers the natural resources of the Hawaiian Islands to be her children and curses anyone who takes them from her. After more research, we found out that Pele’s Curse may not be rooted in Hawaiian history, but instead created by a tour guide who wanted to keep people from taking volcanic rocks. Legend or myth, it’s best not to take any natural resource that belongs to Hawaii.

We’ve personally read stories online of people who have taken small amounts of sand from the islands. Many people tell stories of being cursed since they decided to do so, and warn others not do follow in their likeness.

Where are the black sand beaches in Maui?

Honokalani Beach is situated in Waianapanapa State Park right off of the Hana Highway near the town of Hana. One’uli Beach is located in Kihei, Maui. It is an excellent option for those who don’t plan to travel the Road to Hana and are staying along the south shore of the island.

Continue reading for insights on each location so you can plan your Maui beach adventure!

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Honokalani Beach

Honokalani black sand beach at Wainapanapa State Park.

For travelers lusting after a unique tropical getaway and adventure, Honokalani Beach at Waianapanapa State Park fits the bill. 

Today, Waianapanapa State Park is made up of more than a hundred acres of lava tubes, jaw-dropping cliff-side views, lush green forests, and spring-fed sea caves just begging to be explored. There’s also an overnight camping option for adventure-seeking travelers determined to get their fill of wild, unspoiled Hawaii. 

Like many black sand beaches, Honokalani was formed by lava flowing into the ocean while hot, causing the molten lava to solidify and shatter into fragments of black rock sand. The water erosion causes the beach to take the form of fine black sand as well as rounded pebbles, which ancient Hawaiian natives gathered to use as flooring for their dwellings.

With no outer reef to protect the beach from open waters, swimming and snorkeling at Honokalani Beach is very dangerous and not recommended. Instead, visitors can enjoy exploring the caves carved in the beach’s cliffs, many of which are rooted in the island’s history and legends. Hiking is another great option, as Waianapanapa State Park is full of scenic outlooks. One popular route is the King’s Highway trail, which takes walkers past the ancient temple of Ohala Heiau, a sacred site along the trail.

Honokalani Beach is located near mile marker 32 of Waianapanapa State Park. The beach offers facilities such as restrooms and outdoor showers. Visitors can reach the beach by driving along the 60+ mile stretch of highway known as the Road to Hana. Initially built for sugar plantation workers, the drive itself is spectacular, made up of sharp curves circling tall cliffs, many of which reveal hidden waterfalls and lush vegetation. However, its treacherous curves and blind corners take considerable time to navigate, so drivers should plan accordingly. 

One’uli Beach

Oneuli black sand beach in Kihei.

One’uli Beach is another of Maui’s must-see black sand beaches. Also called Naupaka Beach, One’uli aptly translates to “dark sands” in Hawaiian. Because this beach can’t be seen from the road, it attracts fewer visitors, making it somewhat a hidden black sand beach in Maui. Most people are only aware of the black sand beach on the Road to Hana and are surprised to learn that there is one closer to hotels in popular Kihei. It lies north of Pu’u Ola’i, a 360-foot-tall volcanic cinder cone. At One’uli, years of the ocean pounding against the Pu’u Ola’i cinder cone’s deposits have given way to black sand fragments that washed up on the beach. In Hawaiian, “Pu’u Ola’i” means “earthquake hill,” referencing the cinder cone’s explosive formation over a week-long period in the 1700s. 

While the One’uli beach is covered with a dense layer of black sand, it gives way to hard lava directly at the water’s edge, making it less than ideal for sun basking and sea wading. Without lifeguards on duty, large ocean swells from the south can also create a rough surf and discourage any hopeful swimmers. However, it is an excellent spot for snorkeling. Its large, offshore lava shelf is a breeding ground for coral and abundant sea life, like Green Sea Turtles, manta rays, small sharks, and even the occasional endangered Monk seal. The gorgeous beach area is also near the Makua Wetlands, which is one of the few remaining natural wetlands along the coast. In addition to snorkeling activities at the beach, the wetland area features a trail that winds its way to the top of the cinder cone, showcasing panoramic views of the island. 

Unlike the more populated Waianapanapa State Park, One’uli Beach has no restrooms and only a gravel parking lot. Tourists and beach-goers can take a short drive south to Big Beach, which has beach facilities. Take note that One’uli beach’s parking lot is populated by a grove of Kiawe trees, which sheds thorns strong enough to pierce through sandals and flip-flops. It’s best to wear shoes anywhere near the Kiawe trees.

To reach One’uli Beach, look for a small dirt entrance with a yellow gate between Makena Beach and the Makena State Park. Follow the bumpy dirt road to arrive in the gravel parking lot area right on the beach. While four-wheel drive isn’t a must, it’s recommended to help navigate the rocky terrain.

During our time in Maui, we explored as many beaches as we could! Most are white sand beaches along the coast, so coming across a black sand beach is a memorable experience. We also loved that we could visit one close to our resort on the south side of the island. If you want to explore the many beaches that Maui has to offer, make sure to visit one or both of these black sand beaches!

Have you been to a black sand beach in Maui? Let us know which one in the comments!

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