Today was our day for exploring the Volcano National Park, and so we set off early (with iPads in tow for the drive) as we headed out to our first stop at Punaluu beach, another black sand beach. This beach was more popular (and more like a real beach) with a reasonable length beach of sand, and a lifeguard.
Sometimes you can see turtles on the beach and we were lucky to be able to see one in the water in the shallow rocky area. If you ask me it looked like it was having trouble getting out of the shallows to get back to the sea.
Next stop was a green sand beach at Papakolea beach. Like many of the cool beaches on the big Island it was a bit of a hike to get to the beach - it's a 4km one way trip from the parking lot to the beach in the blistering sun with no shade! Fortunately there are some entrepreneurial fellows there who charge you $20 return on a 4wd ute (where you ride in the back or in the cab, Mexican style) to take you to the beach. The trip is rough and dusty - much like a ride at Disneyland! I would not recommend standing in the ute part if you're unsteady on your feet or have back pain.
It's well worth the trip. The sand is green due to olivine crystals from an eroded volcano cone that formed this beach. The sand is green mixed with black sand and white sand.
As you can see there are no lifeguards at this beach so swim at your own risk. The walk down is a little steep but you could make it in beach sandals, but probably not thongs.
By that time it was 1pm and it was getting really hot. We left there and headed to Punaluu Bake Shop which is quite popular for their sweet bread. We had lunch there, tried their portuguese donuts (which was like a jam donut with icing) and took a bag of guava sweet bread with us for nibbles on our road trip.
Now it was time to go to the Volcano National Park! It does have an entry fee of $25 per vehicle but for $30 you can buy a 3 park pass. We stopped by the steam vents - there wasn't much of a sulphur smell there...
We still had time to kill before sunset (where you could see the glow of the volcano) so we did the crater drive down to the sea to look at the Hosei arch and lava landscapes. The Thursten lava tube was good to walk through as well.
Even in the late afternoon you can see lava spitting up a little!
But by sunset, the volcano cone looked really impressive with it's red glow. The car park was very full too! I would recommend going there about 45 mins before sunset and just wandering around the Jagger museum waiting for sunset.
Gorgeous! Well that's the last lava I'll see for a long time.