The Island of Hawaii is the only island to have white, black, and green sand beaches. Punalu`u has a black sand beach made of basalt and created by lava flowing into the ocean which explodes as it reaches the ocean and cools. This beach boasts a shore of shiny, jet black sand, made up of ground lava rocks. It was created by a'a lava flowing into the ocean.
Local tradition says that if any volcanic rock or black sand from Punalu`u Beach is taken away from Hawai`i, that the person that took it will be cursed by the Hawaiian volcano goddess Pele until it is returned.
Punalu`u is also a well-known nesting place for hawksbill and green sea turtles. Both endangered species and the target of many conservation efforts. Especially the hawksbill turtle is hunted for its striking shell. which can often be seen basking on the black sand.
The hawksbill turtle’s tapered head ends in a sharp point resembling a bird’s beak, hence its name. They also have a distinctive pattern of overlapping scales on their shells that form a serrated-look on the edges. These colored and patterned shells make them highly-valuable and commonly sold as "tortoiseshell" in markets.
Sea turtles are the living representatives of a group of reptiles that have existed on Earth and traveled our seas for the last 100 million years. They are a fundamental link in marine ecosystems and help maintain the health of coral reefs and sea grass beds.