Punaluʻu Beach (also called Black Sand Beach) is a beach between Pāhala and Nāʻālehu on the Big Island of the U.S. state of Hawaii. The beach has black sand made of basalt and created by lava flowing into the ocean which explodes as it reaches the ocean and cools. Punaluʻu is frequented by endangered hawksbill and green turtles, which can often be seen basking on the black sand.
Punaluʻu Beach offers dramatic views of lava rocks and black sand. It’s formed of smooth, lustrous fragments of cooled lava resulting from lava hitting the ocean. The waves chip away at the sand, sending it back to shore. You won’t find a better black sand beach than Punaluʻu. The black color comes from lava from Kilauea Volcano. Lava flows into the ocean and cools rapidly because of the strong waves. The lava fragments turn into tiny pieces and, over time, build up to form black sand beaches. The basaltic lava rocks are also very porous, making them lighter in weight than other beach rocks.
The sand at the beach is made of small pitch-black fragments of lava. Try picking up a handful when you are at the beach to see if you can still recognize some of the larger parts as coming from an old lava flow.
The swimming area is very rocky, and it can be dangerous to swim. The beach also has a large amount of underground fresh water that flows in it. This freshwater is very cold and looks almost like gasoline mixing with the water. Legend has it that in the time of drought, the ancient Hawaiians living in the area would dive underwater with a jug to get their fresh water.
In the 1960s, Japanese actor and guitarist Yūzō Kayama composed a surf rock tune called “Black Sand Beach”. This song has since been played by Yūzō Kayama & Launchers, Takeshi Terauchi & Blue Jeans, The Ventures, & The Aquatudes.
According to the Internet