The Puna coast is GREAT.
If you are on the Big Island for volcanoes and black sand beaches, I think it’s definitely worth considering making a part of your circle the Big Island itinerary!
You’ll see lots of lava fields, there are relatively recently made black sand beaches (because of volcanoes and lava), and you’ll get nice coastal views too.
This is also the area that saw homes devastated by lava in 2018.
Things to do in Puna are also things to do near Hawaii Volcanoes National Park!
Puna can be considered to be pretty near Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
So it can be perfect to make a visit to Puna after a visit to the national park if you have a couple of hours to spare.
Or you could visit Puna if you’re coming from the south coast and you’re on your way further north after a drive from Kona to the national park… Or before a visit to the national park if you’re coming from Hilo and the north side of the island!
From Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to the first Puna activity listed below is about a one hour drive.
👆 Map of where Puna is located on the Big Island of Hawaii. Explore the Big Island tourist map. Explore the circle the Big Island itinerary! Explore more things to do on the Big Island!
Below is the list of what to do along the Puna coast!
Here are some ideas for your time on the Big Island!
Among the most popular things to do on the Big Island are Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Akaka Falls State Park, and Waipio Valley!
For Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the main road to drive is Chain of Craters Road and it will take you to see the best lava fields in Hawaii! Before that though (or after!) you will want to make a stop for the Thurston lava tube. You can also hike into a former lava lake by doing the Kilauea Iki Trail!
Other Big Island activities you may want to make time for are the best black sand beaches in Hawaii (including Punaluu black sand beach to see turtles maybe!) and the Papakolea green sand beach of Hawaii.
Read more for your Hawaii trip prep:
Volcanoes in Hawaii: There was a time in December 2022 that 2 volcanoes were erupting in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. This was a special occasion because even in the past few years, there was a quiet period where there was NO active lava to be seen anywhere in Hawaii. As the National Park Service says, it was the first time in nearly 40 years that TWO volcanoes were erupting in Hawaii at the same time! But what seems like nearly just like that, they stopped erupting. As it goes with volcanoes, things can change in an instant! So be sure to check National Park Service updates when your Big Island trip gets closer: What's going on with the volcanoes?
Spotted yesterday at #MaunaLoa – a lava boat rides the waves! On Dec 7, a lava boat was spotted floating down channel. Lava boats can form when portions of the cone or lava channel break away & are rafted downstream. Hot lava cools to its surface to create that smooth exterior. pic.twitter.com/D9gdoFolfq— USGS Volcanoes🌋 (@USGSVolcanoes) December 9, 2022
7 best things to do in Puna on the Big Island
You just need one day to visit these top spots in Puna, maybe even just a few hours, especially if you cut out a couple of things!
1. Kaimu black sand beach trail
Take a 10 minute walk on a black sand trail to get to a black sand beach!
This is a very black-colored black sand beach.
This is a beach to just look at (not swim at) on the Puna coast, and the views are amazing!
There are lava fields around here too that you can walk around as you take in the coastal views.
Afterwards, grab a fresh fruit smoothie from the cafe near the parking lot!
See more about this Puna activity: Kaimu black sand beach
2. Red Road
One of the best scenic drives on the Big Island on a road that runs along the Puna coast.
It’s a pretty short drive – point to point might be 30 minutes, but you can make stops along the way.
This is also route 137 aka Kapoho Kalapana Road.
3. Kehena black sand beach
The trail to this beach can be found right off the side of Red Road.
It’s a short but steep trail to get down to Kehena Beach.
This is another very black-colored black sand beach, but it’s important to know that this is a clothing optional beach.
See more about this Puna activity: Kehena black sand beach
4. Pohoiki black sand beach
This is another very black-colored black sand beach.
This is located at Isaac Hale black sand beach.
It’s considered to be the Big Island’s newest black sand beach, in that it was created due to volcanic activity (lava flows) from quite recently – in 2018.
The Kaimu Beach is also sometimes referred to as the “new” kaimu black sand beach, and that “new” dates back to 1990 when that beach was created.
The Pohoiki black sand beach is at one end of the Red Road for another one of the black sand beaches you can see along the Puna coast.
You can make it a black sand beach day by starting at Kaimu Beach, driving on Red Road, stopping at Kehena Beach, and then finally make your way to Pohoiki Beach!
5. Lava tree state monument
You can see how lava took the shape of trees as a result of the lava flowing over the trees.
6. Leilani Avenue
Maybe you saw on the news about the 2018 volcano eruption in Hawaii that destroyed homes.
That’s the neighborhood of Leilani Estates on the Big Island.
Not all homes were lost in this neighborhood, but you can see where the lava flows stopped with a drive to what’s now the end of Leilani Avenue.
Some residents of Leilani Estates don’t like to see tourists flocking to their neighborhood so just keep this in mind if you do take the drive down Leilani Avenue.
7. Pahoa Lava Zone Museum
This is located in downtown Pahoa, so you can make a slight detour on your way to the Puna coast, or on your way back.
If you look at some older lists of top things to do in the Volcanoes National Park, you’ll see the Jaggar Museum on the list. It’s not possible to go to the Jaggar Museum now, as it’s permanently closed because of the effects of the volcano eruption.
It seems they’ve moved some of the items from that Jaggar Museum to the Pahoa Lava Zone Museum. There was also a sign at the Pahoa museum indicating this.
Visiting this museum before you head towards the Puna coast could be a nice way to get some background of the volcano activity of the area (and the Big Island!) as you see more hardened lava flows around the coast.
As the museum says:
The 2018 eruption took hundreds of homes, but it gave us unprecedented scientific discoveries.
See these artifacts in our new collection.
This is a volunteer-run organization. While they are open most days, it’s best to call ahead to confirm opening days.
Basically they are open when they have people to volunteer.
I missed out on going because I didn’t call. I was around Puna for a couple of days and it likely would have been open another day if I would have just called to check! Instead I stopped by a closed museum as I was leaving Puna so didn’t have a chance to go back when it was open.
Where to stay in Puna
If you’re staying directly near Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, you can make it a day trip to Puna from there.
You might also consider staying in Puna too, to give you another unique Big Island experience by staying at a place surrounded by lava fields!
You might also be able to find an airbnb in Leilani Estates. This might give you a chance to speak directly with a resident about the experience of having volcano destruction hit so close to home.
If you’re new to airbnb, use my referral link to get a discount on your first airbnb booking. I’ve seen it say up to $55 off!
And those are a few things to do in Puna!
If you’re interested in Puna Hawaii, then you may also be interested in these Big Island activities:
- Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
- Kilauea iki crater hike
- Waipio Valley
- Punaluu black sand beach
- Kealakekua Bay hike
- Where to see Big Island lava fields
HAPPY EXPLORING THE PUNA COAST!
See the list:
- Things to do on the Big Island (for VIEWS!)
- Things to do in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
- Things to do in Kona
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Top things to pack for your Hawaii vacation!
The ultimate beach towel for travel?!Turkish towels are considered to be more absorbent and lightweight than your average beach towel. Be sure to check out turkish towels like these!
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