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Destination Guide Maui - Your Destination Guide to Maui, HI

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Wai'anapanapa Black Sand Beach

Wai'anapanapa Black Sand Beach
Wai'anapanapa Black Sand Beach

© Ken Curtis

It's not merely a black sand beach. All the lava rock features here don this deep charcoal hue. Smooth pebbles wash over each other as waves topple ashore. A cavernous rock shelter to the right opens up to the ocean. A sizeable boulder juts above sea level in the near distance. Just beyond, a sea arch rises before touching back down to the surface and wrapping around the cove like a curved arm. Jagged cliffs frame the scene and separate the intense greenery above from the startling blue ocean below.

Located in Wai'anapanapa State Park, Black Sand Beach provides unforgettable views on the Road to Hana. This isn't your typical "day at the beach" experience because the sand is pebbly and coarse, the 100-foot beach sees plenty of visitor traffic, and the ocean currents are often too powerful for swimming. Instead, what makes Black Sand Beach remarkable is its unique geological history. Black sand beaches are formed when molten lava flows into the ocean and shatters on contact. These pieces continue smashing into each other and breaking down into smaller pieces until sand and pebbles compile along shore. These beaches often disappear within a relatively short time span (500 to 1,000 years) after the lava stops flowing. You won't find black sand beaches on older islands such as O'ahu and Kaua'i.

The park provides picnic tables for a lunch break before getting back on the road. You'll also find restrooms, showers, ocean-side hiking trails, fresh water caves, and campsites and cabins available for camping by permit.

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