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TREX 2018 Day 6: The Black Sand Beach

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TREX 2018 Day 6: The Black Sand Beach

By Suchan Vivatsethachai `20

As one of the three fascinating colored beaches located on the Big Island of Hawaii, Panaluu beach, became one of destinations TREXers couldn’t miss. In the morning, we had to move out to stay at a new place, a consequence of the federal government shutdown. So while we were waiting to check in, we decided to go to the black sand beach instead of sitting there doing nothing!

David and Josh entering the black sand beach

Stepping on the beach, I did not notice how amazing the black sand was, since I thought I was still walking on a normal road. The black sand literally looked like a black pathway breaking down into little pieces. Especially with green coconut trees on the left and white sea on the right, this beach was truly full of contrasting, but refreshing, scenes.

A close-up of black sand

According to Professor Kocar, the formation of the black sand beach started from lava flowing down to the ocean. After decades, the lava cooled down, became basalt, and weathered down to black sand. I could still see many tiny black rocks among black sand, waiting to become tinier grains of sand.

4 Honus crawling up the beach

Panaluu beach is a place to rest for not only tourists but also lots of green turtles, Honu. We reached the beach around noon, and we got a chance to see some Honus crawling up to the beach just to rest. However, when other TREXers also came to the beach in the late afternoon, all Honus were gone.

Warning sign not to get too close to the green turtles

If you don’t look closely, Honu will look just like a big green rock. Tourists give a lot of attention to these slow-moving turtles. Since the tourists usually block the path or scare Honu, it is not allowed to get closer than 20 feet. Nevertheless, the coast guard still had to warn people from time to time to get back off. I hope I didn’t interrupt their resting time when I was taking those pictures!


Every year, a group of MIT students and professors travel to the Big Island of Hawaii to gain fieldwork experience through TREX (Traveling Research Environmental EXperiences). The first TREX trip was held in 2000, and since launching has taken students on research activities in domestic and international settings. For more undergraduate opportunities, click here.