So what are among 2 of the top things to do on the Big Island?!
- See turtles!
- See a black sand beach!
And, with a visit to the Punaluu Black Sand Beach Park, there’s a good chance that you’ll be able to check off 2 of the Big Island bucket list items at once!
You will definitely see a black sand beach with a visit to Punaluu Beach.
As far as seeing turtles at the Punaluu black sand beach, there is a chance that you might not see them.
Turtles are wildlife (marine life) after all, so it’s not a 100% guarantee that you’ll have the chance for a turtle sighting.
But at least they are predictable in the sense that they do visit this beach often.
Big Island turtle beach: You could call Punaluu Black Sand Beach the “turtle beach” of the Big Island!
Punaluu Black Sand Beach is the beach on the Big Island that is known as a location where turtles frequently come up onto shore and lay on the beach.
So if you’re looking for a “turtle beach” on the Big Island, Punaluu Black Sand Beach can be it!
For a great chance of being able to see turtles on the Big Island without snorkeling or stepping foot into the ocean, Punaluu Black Sand Beach is the Big Island beach that you want to go to!
Punaluu Black Sand Beach is where you can see turtles on the beach on the Big Island. (Or probably where you have the best chance to see turtles on the beach on the Big Island!)
You might see turtles swimming off the shores of Punaluu Black Sand Beach too!
You may be able to see them swimming without going swimming yourself, but you could also get in the water to go snorkeling and swim with them!
I visited Punaluu Beach 3 times in the span of a week, and I saw turtles every time!
And basically there were 3 main areas that I saw the turtles. (On some days I saw them in 2 different areas.) More below on where you have a chance at spotting turtles!
When to go to Punaluu black sand beach
The Punaluu black sand beach can be a perfect part of your Big Island itinerary when you make the drive from Kona to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
If you’re on a Hawaii cruise, you can also reasonably make the trip from the Hilo cruise port too.
Here's some info on Hawaii trip prep!
- The perfect type of shirt for swimming in Hawaii
- Hawaii packing list: THE top things to pack for Hawaii
- Things to do in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
👇 Black sand beaches in Hawaii: Explore the Big Island beaches map on google maps! Or see the list of the Hawaii black sand beaches on the Big Island. The best Hawaiian island to see the blackest black sand beaches is the Big Island!
The best of the Big Island:
- Big Island hikes with amazing views
- Where to see (old) lava fields on the Big Island
- List of (mostly free) things to do on the Big Island
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
And Punaluu Beach isn’t the only black sand beach on the Big Island. If you’re interested in more (probably no turtle spotting), there are more black sand beaches on the Big Island with amazing overlooks! And for another colored beach, many people make a trip to the green sand beach on the same day as Punaluu Beach.
And if you’ll be headed to another Hawaiian island:
Where on Punaluu black sand beach to see turtles?!
This will basically be a walk-through of the beach and where I saw turtles during my visits to the beach!
Parking at Punaluu black sand beach park
There are 2 main parking lots at this beach park.
To see turtles, it doesn’t matter too much which lot you park at since this beach is not that long.
But, so you can walk from one end to the other directly, this turtle spotting beach walk will start at the parking lot that you’ll reach from taking Ninole Loop Road off the highway.
This is the parking lot that’s closer to the bathrooms, if that matters. 😉
This is also at the south end of the beach.
So once you’ve parked…
Walk to the black sand beach!
Yes, it really is BLACK!
You’ll see old lava rocks everywhere on this beach.
The turtle spotting beach walk
So once you start walking across the beach, in a very short time you may come across an area of beach that is seemingly blocked off by rocks.
If the blocked off area is there, it will also come with signs about not getting too close to the turtles.
The sign reads:
- Please give turtles space
- Please never touch turtles
- Please never feed turtles
This is your first indication that this is a spot that turtles like to rest up at!
I saw 2 turtles laying in this area on one of the days I went to the beach.
This was also the area that I saw one turtle swim off into the ocean too.
Then, continuing the beach walk…
Well, side note, one of the things that makes this a nice beach (aside from the bathrooms of course) is that there is a lifeguard here.
One of the days that I went to the beach, there were cones set up in front of the lifeguard tower.
There was a turtle!
I saw one turtle here on one of the days I was at the beach.
Then, continuing the beach walk…
You’ll come across the other parking lot. This one actually has less parking spaces, so you might even have better luck with parking at the other parking lot anyway.
And then, keep walking basically to the other end of the beach.
As you’re walking, keep an eye out on the water, because you might see turtles popping their heads out!
Unlike the other sections of the beach in which the turtles came to rest on shore, it’s in this area that I saw several turtles swimming in the water on multiple days!
So if you want to go swimming with turtles on the Big Island, it seems that this might be the best spot on the beach to go snorkeling.
The way I saw them was from shore when they would pop their heads up.
If you’re in the water, you might see even more that are just feeding on food underwater.
So, you might want to get in the water here to go snorkeling for some fun swimming alongside turtles! (But not too close!)
So if swimming with turtles is on your Big Island bucket list, then you might try Punaluu black sand beach to see if you can check it off your list!
This end of the beach can be a good area to find a spot to rest up at a picnic table or under the palm trees.
Walk back to the parking lot!
Be sure to check the same areas to see if more turtles have arrived!
Turtles come and go so new ones might come, and the ones you saw earlier might also have left!
What else to do near the black sand beach?!
If you’re trying to figure out how to make this black sand beach a part of your Big Island itinerary…
A perfect day might be:
- Visit to the green sand beach
- Visit to South Point aka the southernmost part of the US
- Visit to the black sand beach!
A perfect day on the south coast of the Big Island with the black sand beach
Visit the Papakolea green sand beach
Visit South Point park
I saw a pod of dolphins swimming off the coast here!
Visit Punaluu black sand beach to see turtles
Also, the drive from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to Punaluu black sand beach is around a 30 minute drive. So it can also be reasonable to go for a visit to this beach on the day you visit the national park.
HAPPY VISIT TO PUNALUU BLACK SAND BEACH TO SEE TURTLES ON THE BIG ISLAND!
- Best things to do in Maui
- Things to do in Haleakala National Park
- Best things to do in Oahu
- Best Oahu beaches
- Best things to do in Lanai
There are affiliate links on this page. Among other partners, as an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission from this.
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!
The cheapo way to waterproof your phoneYou can take underwater pictures with a simple waterproof phone case like this. Touch screen may not work well underwater - try the volume button to snap the pic instead!
Get your suitcase more organized!Packing cubes can make it so you're spending less time on your vacation looking for things! They are basically a form of drawers in your suitcase. Take a look at these packing cubes.
Wear less sunscreen by wearing a UPF swim shirt!Wearing a swim shirt means less skin that's exposed to the sun which means less sunscreen you need to apply! See about wearing swim shirts with UV protection like these when you're snorkeling.
More for your Big Island packing list
- How a cheapo waterproof phone case works
- Why wear water shoes for the beach
- Why a personal swim buoy is an essential for snorkeling and swimming in the ocean
- Essentials to pack for Hawaii
- Best shoes for Hawaii