Islands that sport volcanoes often have black sand beaches. The black coloration usually occurs over time as the wind and water break up the volcanic lava into light particles that form sand. An exception -- Hawaii's Punalu'u Black Sand Beach -- occurred rapidly when the hot lava clashed with the cold sea water. The lava quickly crumbled up to create sand. Famous for their black sand beaches, the islands of Iceland, Hawaii and Maui attract tourists each year to view the impressive sand coloration.
Iceland's Vik Beach
Located 110 miles from the town of Reykjavik, Iceland's remote Vik beach draws visitors who want to enjoy the striking scenery. The chilly and often wet weather make beach lounging less than desirable, but the sheer beauty of the area will captivate. The beach consists of a combination of black sand, large rocks and boulders. The black color showcases the deep blue of the water. Offshore, basalt boulders rise from the water, drawing the eyes to the horizon.
Black sand beaches in Hawaii consist of Pololu Valley Beach, Kaimu Beach, Punalu'u Beach and Kehena Beach. Not easily accessible, Pololu Valley Beach requires a hike of approximately 400 feet. The waters along the beach can get treacherous due to high waves and strong currents. Visitors should refrain from swimming or snorkeling. Kehena Beach often attracts exhibitionists who abandon their clothes. The coves along the shoreline are a favorite hangout for dolphins. Kaimu Beach offers compelling scenery, but the area has strong currents, so visitors should abstain from swimming. Swimmers and snorkelers can enjoy the black sandy expanse of Punalu'u beach and also catch glimpses of sea turtles.
Maui's Oneuli Beach rarely draws large crowds, but visitors can enjoy lounging, swimming, snorkeling, kayaking and hiking. The smooth black expanse of sand can become extremely hot from the sun, so do not forget to bring a pair of shoes. Honokalani Black Sand Beach will appeal to the explorer with a wide range of cliffs and lava caves. The beach, comprised of small black pebbles, is also a safe place to wade out into the water and snorkel or swim. Visit Waianapanapa Beach during the summer months when the surf is low. The area around the beach has sea caves, rock formations and remnants of the King's Highway.
Changes and Protection
Black sand beaches arise from natural causes. Some take thousands of years to develop and others are created immediately. Black sand beaches can also disappear. Hawaii's Kamoamoa Beach once drew a wealth of visitors, but now it is gone. A lava flow has engulfed the beach. When visiting black sand beaches, always try to protect the area by not disturbing the natural formations. In Hawaii and Maui, it is illegal to collect vials of the black sand.
- Universe Today; Black Sand Beaches; Jerry Coffey; January 2010
- Good Life Review; A Place To Chill: Vik Beach, Iceland; Angela York; June 2011
- Let's Go Hawaii; Punalu'u Black Sand Beach; 2011
- Sease: Beaches of My Favorite Big Island, Hawaii
- Top Tenz; Top 10 Black Sand Beaches; 2011
- Volcano Gallery: Punalu'u - Black Sand Beach
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