Three Stunning Big Island Beaches Make Top 50 List

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Three Hawai‘i Island made FlightNetwork’s list of North America’s Top 50 Beaches.

Hawai‘i Island Beaches include Green Sand (Papakolea) Beach at the southern tip of the island, Hapuna Beach on the NW shore and Punalu‘u Beach to the SE.

FlightNetwork spoke with over 1200 journalists, editors, bloggers and agencies who live and breath travel to create this list, giving travelers a taste of mystical, tropical beaches in Hawai‘i.

The list also provides travel-lovers with the guidance to put together an unforgettable tour of the coastlines from the southern tip of Mexico, to the northern shores of Canada, highlighting the haven for tufted puffins in Oregon, a heavenly desert beach in Baja California, and crisp and clear shores in Canada.

For the complete list, click here.

No. 12: Green Sand (Papakolea) Beach

Green Sand (Papakolea) Beach. PC: FlightNetwork


“If we know about it, it probably isn’t an unexplored beach! But for a beach that is tough to get to (but worth the trek), Green Sand Beach on the south coast of the Big Island of Hawaii is fun.” —Nora Dunn, The Professional Hobo

One of the only green sand beaches in the world, Papakolea Beach is adjacent to Puʻu Mahana, a dramatic cinder cone that erupted about 50,000 years ago. The green sand beach was crafted by nature when the volcano blew out olivine-rich lava. Because the olivine crystals are fairly heavy, they stay accumulated on the shore, while the volcanic sand was washed away. Heightening the wow-factor of

Location: Green Sand Beach is closest to Kona. From Kona, take Highway 11 toward Volcano Village until you reach the turnoff for South Point between mile markers 69 and 70. Follow this road until you reach a harbor at the end of the road. You can park your car in the lot on the left and walk towards the beach until you hit a road that runs parallel to the ocean. Turn left on this road (east) and follow it for about 2.5 miles until you reach the bluff above the beach.

Click here for a Google Map of Green Sand Beach.


No. 25: Hapuna Beach

Hapuna Beach. PC: FlightNetwork

“Acres of sand and brilliant water (with impressive surf in winter) with plenty of parking — you can book an A-frame cabin in the state park or luxuriate in the adjacent hotel if you want to stay even longer, and you will.”—Jeanne Cooper

The water at Hapuna Beach is so clear you can barely tell where the beach ends and the sea begins. A half-mile long, this award-winning shore is fun for families as it has plenty of room to roam, a lifeguard on duty year-round, and picnic tables shaded by trees that line the beach. Snorkeling, swimming, and bodyboarding are common pastime here, when the currents aren’t too strong. To avoid the crowds, it’s best to hit this gorgeous destination earlier in the day.

Hapuna Beach scoring. FlightNetwork graphic

Location: Only 30-minutes away from Kona International Airport, it’s easy to grab a rental car and head up Highway 19 to Hapuna Beach.

Click here for a map of Hapuna Beach.


No. 31: Punalu‘u Beach

Punalu‘u Beach. PC: FlightNetwork

“From black-sand beaches to snow-covered peaks, this beach is majestic” – Rachel Ferrucci, Tools 2 Tiaras

Forget sparkling white sand—Punalu‘u Beach on the Big Island of Hawai‘i is the most famous black sand beach in the state. The strikingly dark beach contrasts beautifully with the sparkling blue water and lush greenery of the Hawaiian coconut palms, providing the perfect backdrop for lounging in the sun. You’ll know you are on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world as you picnic in the black sands, dive through the dark turquoise waters, and watch the famous Hawaiian sea turtles foraging for food and basking in the sun.

Location: Getting to this stunning beach is relatively easy. You can fly directly into Kona International Airport and from there Punalu‘u Beach is less than two hours away. From the airport, drive south along the west coast of the Island. On your way, you’ll pass through several small Hawaiian beach towns, perfect places to stop for a quick bite. Follow Highway 11 through the Kipahoehoe Natural Area Reserve and Manuka State Wayside natural area. Punalu‘u Beach will be on your right, just off Highway 11 between Volcano Village and the town of Na‘alehu.

Click here for a map of Punalu‘u Beach.

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