The Big Island is the youngest of the Hawaiian Islands and still has active volcanoes. For this reason, you won’t find as many long stretches of sandy beach as you would on the other islands, but a lot of rocky lava beaches. However, on this island you will find hot ponds heated by volcanic energy, which are special and worth a visit. During my stay in Pahoa I visited three of these hot ponds, each with a very unique flair of its own. I would highly recommend the relaxing experience of swimming in a hot pond, but you must be informed before you enter! As with many places, it is best to go early to avoid crowds. It is especially important at the hot ponds because they are refreshed overnight with the tides from the ocean, so they are cleaner earlier on. Also, if you have any open cuts it is best to skip the hot ponds because you may be more susceptible to infection. That being said, I was fine, and this was one of my favorite memories on the Big Island!
Ahalanui Beach Park, Highway 137, Pahoa
The Ahalanui hot pond spoiled us! The water was as warm as a bath (90 F) and there was a lot of room to swim around.
The pool is very calm because it is mostly blocked off from the rough ocean by a rock wall. If you have snorkeling gear bring it, there are many fish in the pond. Even if you simply stand in one spot you will be able to see many fish, and they might even nibble on you.
There is no sand here so lay your things by the edge of the pool. Part of the floor is rocky so you may want to wear water shoes, I was fine without them. Be sure to walk around the park grounds checking out the open ocean and looking for wildlife.
There is a large parking area, lifeguard, and it is free to enter.
Isaac Hale Beach Park, 13-101 Kalapana Kapoho Beach Rd, Pāhoa, HI 96778
The hot pond here is less obvious, more off the beaten path. The beach is filled with surfers and said to have a strong current. We moseyed around looking for the pool along the shore for a few minutes before asking a local for directions. He pointed us past the boat ramp into the woods along a well trodden trail which ran parallel with the ocean.
After about a minute or so there was a small pool to our right. I wasn’t sure if it was it, but from the water our friend gave us the thumbs up, and then wiped out. If you’re reading this, thanks for looking out for us! We had found the Pohoiki Warm Spring, which is actually a collapsed lava tube. It looked tiny and shallow, but we decided to give it a try.
We scrambled down the ledge and carefully slid in. It was deeper than it looked and warmer than the other hot pond we had been to. It was beyond relaxing floating around natural hot tub. We enjoyed having the place to ourselves early in the morning, and when another group came an hour later we decided to give them the same luxury.
If you have a keen eye you might notice tiny red shrimp along the rocks, and more foreboding crabs. Stay in the middle of the pond to avoid confrontation with the crabs! We had no issues.
Kapoho Tide Pools, 14-5134 Alapai Point Rd Kapoho, HI 96778
These gorgeous crystal clear tide pools are another site warmed by volcanic energy.
To get to them you must walk about a quarter of a mile from the parking lot down Kapoho Kai Rd and make a left at the dead end on to Wai’Opae St, it is a beautiful neighborhood and there is signage along the way. Make sure you wear good shoes because when you get there you will have to walk over sharp lava rocks to get into the pools, there is no sand here. Some pools are shallow others are big enough to swim in. This area is best known for its fantastic snorkeling, rather than swimming or soaking. Some of the fish we saw include wrasse, sergeant major, grouper, moorish idol, and butterflyfish.
The tide must be right and viewing is best on not-so-windy days. Snorkeling and swimming in the warm waters is lovely, but even just walking around and looking into the pools you can spot many fish as well!