HAWAII — Puna

The Puna area is found on the most easterly point of the Big Island and is near to Hawai´i Volcanoes National Park. Here you will find many black sand beaches, lava-rock pools and other lava formations. This is for the most part a dangerous place to swim because of the strong currents. The towns in this area have a very laid back attitude and this attracts those who like the alternative lifestyle and you will find retreats that you can stay at for a relaxing holiday.

The sights found here are:
Lava Tree State Monument
Cape Kumukahi
Kapoho Tide Pools
Ahalanui Beach Park
Isaac Hale Beach Park
Kehena Beach
Kalapana
Star of the Sea Church

Lava Tree State Monument

Lava Tree State Monument
The approach to this park is just amazing with its canopy of monkeypod trees. Inside the park you will see evidence of the 1790 eruption of Kilauea in the form of ‘lava trees’ which were created when the lava flowed through the forest and covered the ohia trees and then hardened around the trees which burnt away leaving the lava moulds you see today.
For information about the Lava Tree State Monument visit the following website at: http://www.hawaiistateparks.org/parks/hawaii/index.cfm?park_id=51

Traveller's Tip

You should stick to the tracks when visiting this area as the ground is very uneven in parts with hidden deep cracks. Also wear sturdy shoes and walk slowly.
Cape Kumukahi

Cape Kumukahi
To get here you will go past Lava Tree State Park to the end where it intersects with Highway 137 and turn down the dirt road. At the cape near the ocean is a lighthouse which was built in 1934 and marks the easternmost point of the Hawaiian Islands. The air from here is considered as some of the most purest in the world and scientists around the world collect samples to use as their benchmark for ‘clean air’. In 1960 a lava flow threatened to destroy the lighthouse but as the lava reached the concrete pad of the tower it parted into two and flowed around the tower. You can see this flow of lava all around the lighthouse.

Kapoho Tide Pools

Kapoho Tide Pools
Small tide pools filled with sea creatures and coral are found around the coastline in Kapoho. You can easily spend a couple of hours exploring them. The water around this area is crystal clear and for the most part calm so it is an ideal area for families with children. The pools are interconnected so it is very easy to go from one to another and you can snorkel in them as well.

Traveller's Tip

It is a good idea to wear sandals or shoes suitable for water when you walk over lava rocks as they are sharp.
Ahalanui Beach Park

Ahalanui Beach Park
The attraction of this beach is a geothermal hot pond which is heated by underlying volcanic activity to a comfortable 90 degrees Fahrenheit. There is a wall to keep the ocean out but at high tide waves splash over the wall which keeps it clean. There are facilities here including a lifeguard during the day.

Traveller's Tip

You can come here at night but you will have to bring a torch as it is pitch black.
Isaac Hale Beach Park

Isaac Hale Beach Park
This beach is found in Pohoiki Bay and is used by local fishermen to launch their boats. It is used mainly by locals but it isn’t a good swimming beach and only expert surfers are advised to surf here because of the strong currents. There is a small hot pond along a path in the undergrowth here but be warned as there are a lot of mosquitos.

Kehena Beach

Kehena Beach
Locally this is known as Dolphin Beach because spinner dolphins are often seen here. The black-sand beach was formed in 1955 when lava flowed down the sea cliffs and into the ocean here. This is one of the few nude sunbathing spots in Hawaii but everyone is welcome. This beach is quite dangerous when the surf is high because of the strong current and there have been many cases of near-drownings.

Kalapana
The former village of Kalapana which was found on Highway 137 was buried by a lava flow from Kilauea in 1990 . Today the highway ends at Kaimu Beach which used to be the eastern edge of the former village of Kalapana. This beach used to be the most famous black-sand beach on the Big Island but now it lies under hardened lava. Even though the lava flow buried around 100 homes in the village a few were all right and one of these called Uncle Robert’s is where you can take a walk and see photos of the devastation of the lava flow. From here you can reach a new black-sand beach but beware that there isn’t much here except for some baby coconut palms and you will need to wear shoes as the lava rock is very sharp.

Traveller's Tip

There is a viewing area of Kalapana found at the end of Highway 130 which provides safe viewing of the current lava flow. You will need to walk and it can take from 20 minutes to 2 hours depending on lava flow conditions. Make sure you are dressed appropriately especially sturdy shoes and bring food and water supplies. The platform is generally open from 2 to 10pm (last car permitted at 8pm) so if you are coming after dark bring a torch.
For information about current conditions of the Kilauea volcano and information about the viewing platform visit the following website at: http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov
Star of the Sea Church

Star of the Sea Church
This historic church is now a community centre and was moved from the Kalapano area before the 1990 lava flow to where it is now along Highway 130 near Pahoa. The church was built in the 1930s by a Belgian Catholic missionary priest, Father Evarest Gielen. The interior of the church has trompe l’oeil murals some of which were painted by Father Gielen depicting the life of Father Damien (of leprosy fame) who came to this area shortly after his ordination. The church also has some beautiful stained-glass windows.