In a nutshell: Oneuli Black Sand Beach is an excellent beach for snorkeling & diving. It is also packed full of educational value for naturalists & geology buffs.
Minuses: Not the best “basking-and-bathing” beach.
Sound-bite: “hey, what’s that rumbling sound?”
Part of Makena State Park, One’uli (also called Naupaka Beach) is found on the Wailea side of the Pu’u Ola’i cinder cone, a prominent geological landmark feature which can be seen from points up and down the coast. Appropriately, oneuli means “dark sands” in Hawaiian. While this is the closest black sand beach to the resort areas, most visitors (and many residents) only associate black sand with Wainapanapa State Park.
Unlike typical beach sand, which is make up of ocean-ground coral and shells, black sand is made up of ground lava. On this beach, the geologic story is laid out right before your eyes; the sand is ground from a giant cross-section of the pu’u that has been dramatically cut away by the ocean. Besides clearly illustrating how the sand came to be, the exposed layers of cinder and lava also provide an unusual opportunity to view the makeup of a cinder cone.
The beach is covered in a thick blanket of black sand, but at the water’s edge the sand abruptly disappears and becomes hard lava. Lack of sand-entry into the water makes this a not-so-good beach for casual bathers, but for what this beach lacks in “basking-and-bathing”, it makes up for in snorkeling. Coral and reef are found just past the water’s entry. Coral equals abundant sea life. Green Sea Turtles also frequent this area.
Pu’u Ola’i means Earthquake Hill. According to oral Hawai’ian history, it was the next-to-last place to erupt. The pu’u is told to have formed in the 1700’s, explosively, in about a week’s time. However, Hawai’ian history is not known for precise accuracy – especially when dealing with time. Hawaiians had no written language, and “our grandparents time” could very well mean many more generations than the actual story teller’s literal grandparents.
This area is also at the edge of the Maluaka Wetlands, this section of the wetland is called the North Pu’u Ola’i Wetland and has been the recent focus of restoring a historic fishpond not far from the beach. Informational signage has been installed in the parking area to explain what is being done, giving insight into several aspects of this protected area, including descriptions of some of the endangered birds you may see. Additionally, there is a trail which goes to the top of the cinder cone. The hike is not exactly an easy stroll for the less fit, but there are great views from the top.
Location: Makena Alanui Rd., (Dirt access rd is 3.8 Mi S. of Grand Wailea Resort, just before Pu’u & Big Beach lot)
GPS Coordinates: 20.639928,-156.446868
View One’uli Black Sand Beach (aka Naupaka Beach) in a larger map