Hawaii’s famous green-sand beach is located at the base of Puu o Mahana, an old cinder cone spilling into the sea. The place has its problems: It’s difficult to reach; the open bay is often rough; there are no facilities, fresh water, or shade from the relentless sun; and howling winds scour the point. Nevertheless, each year the unusual green sands attract thousands of oglers, who follow a well-worn, four-wheel-drive-only road for 2 1⁄2 miles to the top of a cliff, which you have to climb down to reach the beach. The sand is crushed olivine, a green semiprecious mineral found in eruptive rocks and meteorites. If the surf’s up, check out the beach from the cliff’s edge; if the water’s calm, you can go closer, but keep an eye on the ocean at all times (there are strong rip currents here).

To get to Green Sand Beach from the boat ramp at South Point, follow the four-wheel-drive trail; even if you have a 4WD vehicle, you may want to walk—the wind-blown trail is very, very bad in parts. Make sure to have appropriate closed-toe footwear. After the first 10 to 15 minutes of walking, the trail leaves lava to cross pastureland. After about 30 to 40 minutes more, you’ll see an eroded cinder cone by the water; continue to the edge, and there lie the green sands below. The best way to reach the beach is to go over the edge from the cinder cone, not around the south side, to the beach trail.

At the base of Puu o Mahana.