Kiholo Bay

Highway 19 takes the shape of the letter S as it rides north along the coast. Inside the lower curve of the S, you’ll find the stunning Kiholo Bay about 30 miles north of the city. Tourists from all over the world flock to this incredible destination for its shallow tide pools and crystal clear waters. 

But this attraction is popular, and it may have been “loved to death.” The lava shelf that traps the tide pools has been trampled under foot, and you’re likely to find unsightly trash left behind by uncaring visitors. It’s a place of unparalleled beauty on the Hawaiian Islands, and it’s also a place that exposes the uncaring and harsh reality of tourism in the Aloha State.

Treat this beautiful bay with respect, and you and your family can have a wonderful day exploring all the nooks and crannies of the tidepools. The water here seems to glow green and blue against the deep black of the lava shelf that creates this wondrous place, and you’re likely to see green sea turtles during your visit to make the entire day even more magical.

This was once the site of a great fishing village, and the water here used to be crowned by a stone wall. Construction of the fishpond was order by King Kamehameha I back in 1820. The walls were razed in 1859 by Mauna Loa’s great eruption, but the lava didn’t destroy everything man-made in this lagoon. On the northern side of Kiholo Bay, you’ll find a man-made channel connecting Wainanali'i Pond to the ocean beyond. 

Kiholo Bayn the south side of the bay, you’ll find Luahinewai Pond. This beautiful freshwater pond, which is crowned by towering palm trees, sits on private property and is off-limits to visitors. This pond is often referred to as Queen’s Bath, and you might find some locals and tourists taking a dip. Just make sure to rinse all the sunscreen off of your body before taking a swim in this lagoon should you take the risk of entering private property.

The middle of the bay features a natural island of volcanic rock. Wade out of the island and look for the green sea turtles that like to feed in the calm waters of the bay. They are easy to spot in such clear ocean water. And you’ll notice that the water in the bay changes temperatures quite a bit during your swim to the island. That’s because cold freshwater springs pour into the lagoon to mix with warmer ocean water. You’re just swimming through pockets of the hot-cold mixture which adds to the sensory theater that is Kiholo Bay.

And it’s easy to get down to this beautiful little bay. Simply drive north on Highway 19 out of Kona, and then turn left on the dirt access road between mile markers 82 and 83. You’ll have to walk for about 20 minutes over crushed volcanic rock, so make sure to wear sturdy shoes or sandals. You’ll need them. Kiholo Bay has no beach. You’ll be entering the water carefully off of the lava shelf, and you’ll have to wade over gritty black sand. Water shoes are recommended as well as plenty of water and sunscreen.

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Price: Free
Kailua-Kona, Big Island