ALOHA!

So it definitely looks like it could be a fun experience to get a ride to the green sand beach (aka Papakolea Beach aka Mahana Beach) on the Big Island.

I didn’t do the green sand beach shuttle myself, but I did see people on it as I was walking the same road the cars were driving.

 

Green sand beach shuttle or drive. How to get to green sand beach. off-road driving car rental jeep to Papakolea beach. Best beaches in Big Island. Hawaii travel blog

Shuttle to green sand beach. How to get to papakolea green sand beach. Best beaches in Big Island. Hawaii travel blog

 

You might even think it would be fun to drive your jeep rental car there. (This is one of the Big Island drives in which a 4-wheel drive is required.)

 

Shuttle or drive to green sand beach in car rental jeep. How to get to papakolea green sand beach. Best beaches in Big Island. Hawaii travel blog

 

Taking the shuttle and driving are both popular ways to get to the beach and tons of people do both to get to the green sand beach.

 

Green sand beach shuttle or driving. How to get to green sand beach. Best beaches in Big Island. Hawaii travel blog

Green sand beach shuttle or driving. How to get to green sand beach. Best beaches in Big Island. Hawaii travel blog



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But…

You should totally consider NOT taking the shuttle or driving there

…and hike to the green sand beach instead!

Green sand beach shuttle or hike or walk. Best way to get to papakolea beach. Best beaches in Big Island. Hawaii travel blog

 

Why?!

1- Walking is free

2- It’s a coastal walk

3- It’s questionable whether driving is legal

 

is the green sand beach shuttle illegal in hawaii

 

 

What’s the closest you can drive to get to the green sand beach?

…with a normal car

Green sand beach parking lot for shuttle. How to get to green sand beach. Best beaches in Big Island. Hawaii travel blog

 

Once you get to the green sand beach parking lot, that’s when the hike begins.

The parking lot is from where you would take the shuttle too.

And it’s also where the off-road driving would begin, if you still choose to drive all the way to the green sand beach.

There are some reviews by tourists that say it’s a difficult off-road drive.

Otherwise, the walk will maybe be about 40 minutes to an hour from the parking lot.

It seems like it is around a 20 minute drive to get to the green sand beach from the parking lot.

 

 

So…

How much does the shuttle to the green sand beach cost?

In 2023, the cost of the green sand beach shuttle is $20 to $30 per person. You will need to pay in cash.

Since this is an unofficial shuttle by locals, there is no official green sand beach shuttle rate, and there is no official website that you can go to in order to see current rates.

The best way to try to figure out the current cost of the green sand beach shuttle is by reading through recent green sand beach reviews. Be sure to “sort” by “newest.”

As of spring 2023, there are relatively recent reviews that talk about a round-trip shuttle cost of $20, $25, and $30.

You can also take the shuttle one way for $15.

Before you go, you will want to decide if the green sand beach will be worth it to you (a little more on this in a bit), and then decide if it’s worth a hike or a $30 (possibly illegal) ride.

 

More below on what the shuttle is like.

 

 

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Side note!

Top Big Island experiences
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Things you might want to pack for your Big Island vacation
Read the reviews on Amazon! I'm an Amazon Associate.*
  • For women: Search for a rash guard for swimming and you won't have to worry as much about putting on sunscreen!
  • Water shoes for snorkeling if you won't be wearing fins, or just generally for the beach!
  • Cheapo waterproof phone case so you can capture pictures of colorful fishies swimming underwater!
    • I always have a camera float attached to my phone case that I put around my wrist
  • Snorkeling set: mask and fins
    • Fins allow you to propel further faster (aka see more in less time and energy!)
    • Go cheap if you accept that you need to come up for air frequently: regular swimming googles. They are not as fashionable but if you get swimming goggles, make them the clear kind so you won't be seeing dimmed colors of the colorful fishies!
    • If you are able, I recommend trying out the mask at your local lake (in summer) or pool so you will be good to go in Hawaii when there's actually stuff to see!
  • For women: Merrell hiking shoes (one of the best outdoor shoe brands, perfect for walking over rugged terrain like lava fields!)
  • For men: Merrell hiking shoes
  • Travel-friendly turkish towel for the beach (lightweight compared to regular beach towels)
  • For women: Teva walking sandals (one of the best sandal brands for the outdoors, perfect for lots of walking around outside - that's not a lava field!)
  • For men: Teva sandals
  • Moisture-wicking tech t-shirt for women perfect for hiking and hot days when you'll be outside a lot sweating
  • tech-t-shirt for men
  • For more ideas, do a search for hiking clothes or swimming clothes!

*As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission.


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This is how it goes to take the shuttle

Now, if you’re just hearing about the shuttle to the green sand beach for the first time, this isn’t any sort of luxurious (or even formal) shuttle!

Basically, it’s a bunch of locals who saw an economic opportunity and decided to provide a service for something they saw a demand for. (You not wanting to walk so much in hot weather with no shade.)

They are basically offering you a ride in their own car.

So you can think of it as something like ride sharing.

So, if you decide to take them up on this service…

You drive to the green sand beach parking lot which is the green sand beach trailhead on google maps.

This will get you in the general direction and then basically you will arrive at the green sand beach trailhead.

It is a great scenic drive just to get there through rural Hawaii!

 

green sand beach shuttle map. green sand beach parking map.
👆 Map of where the green sand beach parking is located. You will be near the southernmost point on the Big Island, in Hawaii, and in the United States! Explore the Big Island tourist map!

 

Green sand beach shuttle. How to get to green sand beach. Best beaches in Big Island. Hawaii travel blog



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Green sand beach shuttle. How to get to green sand beach. Best beaches in Big Island. Hawaii travel blog

Green sand beach shuttle. How to get to green sand beach. Best beaches in Big Island. Hawaii travel blog

Green sand beach parking lot for shuttle. How to get to green sand beach. Best beaches in Big Island. Hawaii travel blog

 

You get out of your car, and you will probably almost immediately be approached by someone telling you that it’s a long way to the beach and asking if you want a ride.

And then basically…

Off you go!

Or maybe there’s some waiting time to get more people.

 

Green sand beach parking lot for shuttle. How to get to green sand beach. Best beaches in Big Island. Hawaii travel blog

 

And then off you go.

 

Green sand beach shuttle tour. start. Best beaches in Big Island. Hawaii travel blog



 


 

Also know that it’ll be a bumpy ride.

And you might end up standing the whole ride!

 

Green sand beach shuttle tour. standing. Best beaches in Big Island. Hawaii travel blog

 

Or you could be in a car in which you’ll get the luxury of sitting.

 

Green sand beach shuttle tour. sitting. Best beaches in Big Island. Hawaii travel blog

 

 

What’s the drive to the green sand beach like?!

…in photos!

 

Green sand beach shuttle or off-road driving. How to get to green sand beach. Best beaches in Big Island. Hawaii travel blog

Green sand beach shuttle or off-road driving. How to get to green sand beach. Best beaches in Big Island. Hawaii travel blog

Green sand beach shuttle or off-road driving. How to get to green sand beach. Best beaches in Big Island. Hawaii travel blog

Green sand beach shuttle or off-road driving. How to get to green sand beach. Best beaches in Big Island. Hawaii travel blog

Green sand beach shuttle or off-road driving. How to get to green sand beach. Best beaches in Big Island. Hawaii travel blog

Green sand beach shuttle or off-road driving. How to get to green sand beach. Best beaches in Big Island. Hawaii travel blog

Green sand beach shuttle or off-road driving. How to get to green sand beach. Best beaches in Big Island. Hawaii travel blog

Green sand beach shuttle or off-road driving. How to get to green sand beach. Best beaches in Big Island. Hawaii travel blog

Green sand beach shuttle or drive. Parking near green sand beach drive. Best beaches in Big Island. Hawaii travel blog

 

 

Is the shuttle actually illegal?

Green sand beach shuttle or driving. How to get to green sand beach. Best beaches in Big Island. Hawaii travel blog

 

The green sand beach shuttle is so popular on the Big Island that it seems like it’s just another regular tourist activity.

As you may or may not learn when you’re on the Big Island, some things are just not enforced on the Big Island and people do what they want.

The shuttle to the green sand beach seems to be a case where this tourist-inspired activity is illegal, but the law isn’t enforced.

The area leading to the green sand beach is considered protected land because of the cultural and historical significance of the area.

There is a concern that the off-road vehicles are essentially tearing up this land.

This resources management plan from the State of Hawaii Department of Hawaiian Homelands says there needs to be control taken of the green sand beach area, which is around the South Point area of Kau district of the Big Island.

 

Over the years, the lack of on-site enforcement at South Point has allowed for unrestricted vehicular access to continue and has resulted in miles of deep, wide, and extremely severe erosion scar, ranging from several feet to over 8 feet in depth.

This sacred and treasured place for the people of Kau has been desecrated and exploited by off-road enthusiasts, thoughtless actions of visitors, and sports fishermen despite the presence of sacred sites.

The people of Kau are pleading to “let the land heal” so that what is left of this fragile ecosystem can be shared with future generations.

 

There are also numerous references to the “illegal shuttle.”

And, meeting notes also indicate the community’s preferred way for tourists to go to the green sand beach:

 

The department should allow only eco tours instead of shuttle, everybody walks in and out.

There will be at least 90% less impact on our fragile eco system.

 

The resources management plan is from 2016.

But it’s 2021 now and it seems like there’s been no formal action taken. (As indicated by the informal shuttles that seem to be continuing to operate with recent reviews still mentioning them.)

 

So…

While you CAN take the shuttle, and you CAN drive your own off-road equipped rental car there (no one’s going to stop you), and both options WOULD be more convenient for you…

It would be great if you consider hiking instead of driving so it won’t be possibly contributing to a larger issue in the future!

Walking is less destructive to the land than driving, so consider walking it if you want to go to the green sand beach.

This is considered the “eco-friendly” way of visiting the green sand beach.

Also to note, your car rental agreement might restrict driving on these roads too, so that might be something to check.

 

 

What’s the alternative to driving like?!

If you’ll be walking to the green sand beach, you’ll take the same road as driving.

 

Green sand beach shuttle or hike. Walking trail same as driving roads. Best beaches in Big Island. Hawaii travel blog

Green sand beach shuttle or hike. Walking trail same as driving roads. Best beaches in Big Island. Hawaii travel blog

Green sand beach shuttle or hike. Walking trail same as driving roads. Best beaches in Big Island. Hawaii travel blog

Green sand beach shuttle or hike. Walking trail same as driving roads. Best beaches in Big Island. Hawaii travel blog

 

You won’t really have any issues of getting lost, as you just go in the same general direction as the road goes.

So basically the entire walk is out in the sun.

 

Green sand beach shuttle or hike or walk. How to get to papakolea beach. Best beaches in Big Island. Hawaii travel blog

Green sand beach shuttle or hike or walk. How to get to papakolea beach. Best beaches in Big Island. Hawaii travel blog

 

And it will likely be a 40 minute walk at least.

But at least you have the coastal views almost the whole way!!

 

Green sand beach shuttle or hike or walk. How to get to papakolea beach. Best beaches in Big Island. Hawaii travel blog

 

Just come prepared for a hike in Hawaii and it will be fine!

But DO make sure you come prepared!!

 

Also noted in the document referenced above:

 

Many hikers to Green Sand Beach suffer from heat stroke and exhaustion because they were either unfit or unprepared with adequate attire and/or fluids.

 

Don’t let this be you!!

So you can come prepared and you don’t need to pay so much to go to a green sand beach and a more secluded beach.

 

 

So…

Is it worth it to go to the green sand beach?!

Well…

The views are amazing!

 

Green sand beach shuttle. Is it worth it. end of green sand beach trail. Best beaches in Big Island. Hawaii travel blog

 

So I would say if you’re looking for a Big Island hike to do, then yes it can be totally worth it. (Also be sure to see more hikes on the Big Island with amazing views.)

But if you’re considering a visit here because you’re wanting to see a super amazing color green sand beach, you may be disappointed.

Does this look like a green beach to you?

 

Green sand beach shuttle. Is it worth it. what color green. Best beaches in Big Island. Hawaii travel blog

 

You need to get up close and personal and inspect the sand to really start to notice the green.

 

Green sand beach shuttle. Is it worth it. green olivine mineral up close. Best beaches in Big Island. Hawaii travel blog

 

If you’re looking to see a type of beach that (supposedly) exists at only 4 places around the world, then it will be worth it. So then in that case, maybe the green sand beach will amaze you.

If you love different types of minerals and want to see the green mineral called olivine, then you will also love the green sand beach.

If you love to see a rare natural phenomenon, you will also love this green sand beach. (Apparently olivine is rare to be found in sand, and that’s why there are so few green sand beaches in the world.)

As for the beach itself…

This can be a beach-lazing beach, but do expect people.

 

Green sand beach shuttle. tourist crowds. Best beaches in Big Island. Hawaii travel blog

 

As for the ocean conditions…

The waves can be rough and unexpected.

This isn’t a beach where you can get in the water and then just float around without paying attention.

It would be more of a beach where you need to pay attention in the water and have fun riding along with the waves.

 

Green sand beach shuttle. Is is a safe beach or dangerous. currents, ocean waves. Best beaches in Big Island. Hawaii travel blog

Green sand beach shuttle. Is is a safe beach or dangerous. currents, ocean waves. Best beaches in Big Island. Hawaii travel blog

Green sand beach shuttle. Is is a safe beach or dangerous. currents, ocean waves. Best beaches in Big Island. Hawaii travel blog

 

And that’s a bit about the drive to the green sand beach!

 

Plan more of your trip around the southern part of the Big Island!

 

More colored beaches in Hawaii?!

 

HAPPY DRIVE-LESS VISIT TO THE GREEN SAND BEACH!

 

Green sand beach shuttle or drive. How to get to green sand beach. off-road driving car rental jeep to Papakolea beach. not a scam. Best beaches in Big Island. Hawaii travel blog

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Where to stay near Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
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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.

👇 Explore the Big Island map on google maps! big island map

See the list:

ALOHA!