Monday, June 16, 2014

Hawaii ~ South Point and Punalu'u (Black Sand Beach)

One of the reasons we love the Big Island is because of the different ecosystems there are on one island. It is also the reason why it's the only one of the Hawaiian Islands that I could ever see myself living on. The two areas we'll be visiting today are great examples of how different the parts of this island are here on the Big Island.

First up is South Point. Driving South from Kailua-Kona for about 60 miles you will pass through some really gorgeous areas, lush and tropical. 
 We stopped for coffee...naturally...on our way. Coffee is like pineapple in Hawai'i. Get it fresh while you can. It's simply amazing. So find one of the roadside roasters who, if not grow their own, roast beans from coffee plantations right there on the island. 
 This coffee stand came with a couple of surprises. The first one was finding the largest orchids I have ever seen in my life. These were bigger than my hand! Not to mention just breathtakingly gorgeous.
 This flower, a Pink Quill, looked completely fake to me. I was encouraged to touch it so I could see it wasn't plastic! It is a form of ginger and just amazing.
 And then the terrain changes...drastically! The volcano on the island, Kilauea which we'll tour later, erupts rather regularly and when there are big lava flows this is the direction they flow, South. Fortunately a big flow hasn't happened for a long time so the people have been fairly safe for years. You can see the path all the way to the ocean.
 But nature has taken back her own in this area with pasture lands that extend down to the cliffsides. We were very surprised to see pasture land and horses grazing. Take note of the trees...they give you an idea of what the winds are like on this part of the island!
 Driving out to South Point Park feels like you are driving for forever. If it were not for the fact that it's only one road you would think that maybe you had gotten lost. The windmills are not really the end of the road, it just takes a turn there! But, once again, the windmills give you an idea of how high the winds are out here.
 When you get to the park you find that it's really just cliffs and water. There is a blow hole that you need to be careful around but the kids here don't think anything of just jumping off into the water. Now the winds are really, really strong here. I am not a little person and they were practically knocking me off of my feet. And here there were little kids just running along the cliff edges and jumping off into the water! See the metal grate in the foreground? That's actually a ladder. This made for a great spot for Hawaiians to pull their canoes back up the cliff face and onto the island from the sea. The kids just scurry up those ladders to jump off the edge again. Click on the little photo to see just how small the kids are in this's amazing!
 Of course the original ladders were not metal, they were wood. High winds, sea salt deteriorating wood...doesn't give me a high sense of confidence in climbing these things. Yes, that's a propane tank there...for night diving.  
 But once you get to the edge, after battling the winds, the water is simply amazing. That color! The blue of the Hawaiian waters always takes my breath away but these deep blues were just stunning.
And you can see for miles. Past the beautiful lava formed cliffs to the windmills and pastureland all the way back to the tropical part of the island. 

A side note. There is a "green sand" beach here. You can not drive to it, you have to take the 2.5 mile hike out to it. I've been there. It's a tiny crescent beach and it's green because of the olivine that is formed from the lava thanks to the current in this one area. It's very pretty, it's a lovely place to visit but it's not easy to get to so if you are not a hiker then you may just want to enjoy the views from South Point but if you are a hiker then take a walk for a very unique experience.

The Black Sand Beaches of Hawai'i are often described as being very romantic and lovely. And they are...but they are also hot. The sun is absorbed into that black sand and on a cold blustery morning it is simply divine to snuggle your toes down into it! But that also means you have to be careful on a hot summer day because the sand is going to be very warm. I'd happily take my chances! Add in the sea turtles, of Punalu'u, who love to sun on these shores and you have one of the most perfect places on Earth!
 When you arrive at the little parking lot, after passing by one of the most beautiful golf courses I've ever seen, you will see a little Visitors Center area with restrooms. Walk behind that for this gorgeous view!
 The lava coastline is simply gorgeous. The bright green algae is one of the reasons the green sea turtles love this area.
 This is a lovely spot to spend the day as a family as well. Back along the shady treeline, looking like any Hawaiian based movie you have ever seen, are lots of little groups of families just enjoying the view, the sunshine, the cool water, warm sand and the sea turtles. One of the reasons they are set back up on the beach is for the sea turtles.
 Part of Hawaiian culture is the utmost respect of nature. The green sea turtle is high on that list. they pull themselves from the water up to the edge of the sand to bask in the sun here.
 And there are usually several here to see each time you visit Punalu'u park. BUT please be aware not to get right up on them. I have a VERY long lens that allows me to take close ups but please respect these wonderful animals and don't crowd them. Stay back at least six feet and don't ever touch them no matter how tempting it may be.
 I sat down on the sand about 8 feet from this guy and just hung out with him for awhile. That is part of being in Hawai'i...just hanging out with nature. Within a few minutes of realizing that the only danger from me was having his photo taken he drifted off to sleep. 
The black sands of Punaluu are simply gorgeous. Tiny little pieces of lava that have been pounded into grains of sand that warm up in the sun. But don't be tempted to take any home. Legend has it that if you take any lava back home with you from Hawai'i that you will be cursed until you return it to the island. Of course the real reason not to take any sand or shells home with you is to leave them there so you can come and see it again. If everyone who visited took home just 1/4 cup of black sand with them there wouldn't be a black sand beach to visit and nowhere for the sea turtles to sun themselves so we can hang out with them.  But do take the time to really soak up the sun, soak up the view and hang out for a long while with the turtles. It's an amazing way to spend an afternoon!

Next time we'll head up to Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. Hope you can drop in again next Monday!


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