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Big Island Beaches, Hawaii

Hawaii, United States, North America's insider take:

Glorious white-sand beaches are not common on the Big Island, but Hapuna Beach is so perfect, it's unlikely you'll want to go anywhere else. Predictably crowded on weekends and holidays, it's at its best in the early morning, which is quiet and stunning. There's very little opportunity for shade, so plan accordingly (and bring your own snacks).

Black-sand Punaluu Beach, on the undeveloped Puna side of the island, is crowded with sunbathers—of the reptilian kind. You'll find one of the largest concentrations of green sea turtles here, and very few groups of people—the swimming conditions aren't great. (Note: Getting within seven feet of the still-endangered species can result in a fine of up to $10,000.) Parking lot robberies have been an issue, so be sure to lock your car.

Kiholo Bay isn't so much a beach as a Blue Lagoon–style paradise—a cool, shallow, brackish inlet populated by turtles and tame fish. Look for a gravel road turnoff from Highway 19 on the Kona side of the island between mile markers 82 and 83. If you don't have a 4WD vehicle, drive (slowly) as far as you can toward the shore, park, and walk south the rest of the way. Don't be surprised if you're the only one here—it's quite a find.

You've seen white, golden, black, maybe even pink—but a green-sand beach? Large deposits of a mineral called olivine have created this beautiful alien waterfront at Papakolea "Green Sands" Beach. Check ocean conditions before you make the trek (about a two-and-a-half-mile hike from the Kaulana boat launch parking lot near South Point, the southernmost point of the United States). If the surf is high and rough, not only will there be no exposed sand, but you'll be in danger of being swept out to sea.

The state recently paved the road to two, still relatively untouristed, local beaches: Kua Bay, on the Kohala Coast, north of the Four Seasons Resort and across from the veterans' cemetery, and "69 Beach" in Puako (the proper name of this spot is Waialea Beach, but the telephone pole that marks it is No. 69).

Many beaches on the Big Island lack public facilities so always bring your own supplies and be diligent about picking up after yourself: With the exception of Hapuna Beach, which is near a resort, the island's beaches are pristine and should stay that way.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.