In this case, which has now made international news, the famed South Point beach, Papakolea Beach, one of only four green sand beaches in the world, has been overrun by residents offering visitors illegal paid rides to avoid the two-hour round trip hike. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated issue and highlights how poorly the precious natural, cultural and historic resources of our State of Hawaii are sometimes being protected.
Polihale Beach Kauai was handled differently.
In another case, Polihale Beach Kauai was closed for camping by the state. In December 2020, the beach, hugely popular with Kauai residents and visitors alike, became day use only. That indefinite camping shut down by the state was the result of “camping without permits, driving on the beach and dunes, and careless behavior in general,” according to the state. That largely at the hands of residents. Polihale Beach was reopened in July 2022.
How South Point’s Papakolea Beach is being destroyed.
At South Point, deeply rutted dirt paths have damaged the environment, and the adjacent coral reef, and threatened Hawaiian ancestral remains in the vicinity. As far back as 2017, the state’s plan (included below) was to restore, preserve and protect cultural and natural resources. And yet, since then, it has gotten far worse. And the state has not provided funding for any remediation at places like South Point.
For the record, the only other green sand beaches in the world are Guam, the Galapagos, and Norway. These beaches get their unique light olive green sand color from olivine, which is a silicate mineral that contains iron and magnesium. When of gem quality, it is called peridot. Olivine is a component of lava. Did you know that Olivine is also found at the iconic Diamond Head Monument on Oahu?
The desire to experience one of the world’s four green sand beaches in the world has resulted in illegal off-road driving, often for financial gain. The state said in the report, “This sacred and treasured place for the people of Ka’u has been desecrated and exploited by off-road enthusiasts, thoughtless actions of visitors, and sports fishermen despite the presence of iwi kupuna [ancestral bones and burials] and sacred sites.” But talk about the problem is cheap, and there has been no action.
Tourists plus entrepreneurial locals have destroyed the area for $20.
Visitors who don’t wish to walk the one hour each way on the moderate hike have teamed up with unregulated, entrepreneurial locals with trucks and other off-road vehicles. Instead of the inspirational ocean view walk, they are shuttled directly to the green sand beach for $20 a head.
Some people have complained that they were told by drivers that the hike was longer than it really is. The reality is that it is about 2.5 miles and usually under one hour. Do be aware, however, that there is little shade, so hikers should be prepared and bring water.
Another hiker commented that there was such a long wait for 4WD transport, such that they pretty much walked the entire distance in the same time it would have taken to be driven illegally.
And now, if you choose to walk, you must also beware of the illegal vehicular traffic. We’ll be hiking out there again shortly to bring more news of this to you.
At the same time, the state says it doesn’t have the budget to enforce the rules prohibiting off-roading except on one boat ramp approach.
There are no signs indicating this is an illegal activity, and there is no regulation of any kind at this point.
Driving off-road violates the terms of the rental car agreement. But…
Rental vehicles, 4WD and others, are also regularly seen there, even though such off-road driving is specifically against the terms of rental car agreements in Hawaii.
South Point Complex – National Historic Landmark.
Hawaii has designated approximately 710 acres of land as a National Historic Landmark. South Point is where the first arrivals from the Marquesas took place some 2,000 years ago. It sits at the southernmost point in Hawaii and the U.S. and is comprised of sites that are among the oldest found in Hawaii. In 1956, a Bishop Museum team found remains of a house, and a fire hearth, amid some 14,000 artifacts there.
TripAdvisor forum: “Where do you catch the shuttle to the green sand beach?”
Tourists are either unaware or unconcerned about the illegality of transportation services or the fact that these are destroying the environment. Instead, they ask, “How often does it run? How much does it cost?” Tours are not permitted, and while they can still be seen on sites like Viator, it has become too hot a topic and has gone largely off-grid, so to speak, and cannot be booked any longer online.
Hikers comment on the experience.
A recent hiker comment caught our attention. “I rate this as a 1 because many hikers are riding to the beach via 4WD vehicles driven by locals. These 4WD vehicles are destroying the land along the ocean. There is severe erosion plus getting passed often by vehicles during the hike was not pleasant. It was sad to see the destruction to the land being caused by these vehicles.”
You have to wonder why our state has done nothing to regulate this activity in some way.DHHL-South-Point-Final-Plan_101916_to-DHHL_low-res