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USGS Geology in the Parks

Green Sand Beach, Hawai'i

Getting There

Eroded cinder cone
This image, and all pictures of the green sand beach were taken by Rianda and Adam Levin ©

Drive to South Point on the Big Island and get ready for a hike: sturdy shoes and plenty of water are required. The trail is about two and a half miles long, and towards the end of it you'll get your first look at the remnants of a cinder cone - the source of the green sand. Visible just above the rim is a glimpse of the olivines being washed down the slope.

The cinder cone is mostly eroded, only a fragment remains. The rapid erosion rate provides a contsant source of olivines for the beach sand. High wave energy of the beach washes the other grain types out to sea, however it also eventually wash away the olivines. Only the rapid erosion rate of the cinder cone keeps the beach supplied with its green sand. Eventually the last of the cinder cone will be completely eroded and the beach will look like any other.

Continue down to the beach

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