Hawaii’s Newest Black-Sand Beach Was Created by a Lava Flow

Waves crash ashore at Isaac Hale Park on the island of Hawaii
Waves crash ashore at Isaac Hale Park on the island of Hawaii | © Design Pics Inc/REX/Shutterstock
Photo of India Irving
Social Media Editor7 February 2019

A pristine new black-sand beach has been created on the island of Hawaii, forged by a lava flow from a 2018 volcanic eruption.

The new beach has emerged on the heels of the May 2018 eruption of the island’s Kīlauea Volcano. The lava flow from the incident created the sparkling black-sand beach, as well as two new surf breaks and four natural ocean thermal ponds, all located within the Isaac Kepo‘okalani Hale Beach Park.

These new oases have been born from major devastation. The natural disaster destroyed homes and businesses and caused a $480 million loss in tourism dollars. However, the community has bounced back, and tourists and locals alike can see a silver lining in the form of a beautiful new beach.

Lava from Kīlauea’s 2018 eruption flows into the sea | © USGS/ZUMA Wire/REX/Shutterstock

The science behind the beach’s appearance has to do with the way in which lava interacts with seawater.

“Hot, molten lava interacting with cold ocean water produces explosions,” explained Tina Neal, scientist in charge at the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, to the LA Times. “Part of that is wave action breaking up the new lava. All of that produces a source of sand, and that sand is carried by the ocean current down the coastline to the places where it will naturally accumulate.”

Island officials are hopeful that this stunning addition to the coastline will help to rebuild what the eruption destroyed. “We hope our community and visitors can make new memories with loved ones at this special place, and always remember the island of Hawaii’s unique ability to be ever-evolving,” the Hawaii Visitors Bureau’s executive director, Ross Birch, told CNN.

Kīlauea erupts | © Usgs/Zuma Wire/REX/Shutterstock

Visitors to the island are welcome to spend a day at the new beach, but Birch urges travelers to use caution. Swimming is not advised, as per the county of Hawaii’s Department of Parks and Recreation, as extremely strong currents and a dangerous shore break make taking to the water especially risky. There is a lifeguard on duty just in case. The natural thermal ponds have not yet been disinfected but will presumably be open for exploration once that process occurs.

The only thing the park is currently missing is potable water, as the area’s water-supply lines were damaged by lava from the eruption. As long as you bring your own, you can add ‘spending a day at a brand-new beach’ to your life highlights.

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