North of Kona is the Kohala Coast where many beaches are marked by tall palms, blue waters, and tidal pools. A perfect destination for a day of beach-hopping. Many believe beaches are scarce on the Big Island; but there are many that appear and disappear regularly. Some are hard to find, hidden behind big hotels or at the end of unmarked roads, but the state prohibits restricting beach access so one must hunt for them. Often the entrance is a highway mile marker rather than the standard sign. The best beaches are known by the locals, so it's good to ask around. This time we wanted to explore the land rather than snorkel, so we sought sites with a unique location and history.
Kiholo Bay is a mix of salt and fresh water with a rocky lava island in the middle. It's surrounded by private property but we found public access at mile marker 82 where a small dirt road led us to the water. The bay was once a fishpond built by King Kamehameha with a 6 foot wall 20 feet wide and two miles long. In 1859 Mauna Loa lava destroyed the pond but the walls and water sluice still remain. At low tide, tidal pools dot the bay with abundant sea life and inland freshwater pond where sea turtles spend the night.
Walking along the beach we passed the Bali House, the large home of Paul Mitchell of hair products fame. The building had been moved from Bali and reconstructed here as the name suggests. Further down the beach was the Queen's Bath, a lava tube filled with spring water that rises and falls with the tide.
The bay was a gradation of blue water with a black sand beach of pulverized gravel. The site was breathtaking with the calm water protected by a natural barrier. It was here we found those celebrated Hawaiian turtles and shore birds that we sought.
Further up the coast we discovered tiny little Puako Beach hidden behind the Mauna Lani resort. The beach was sandy, somewhat popular, and a perfect place to explore tide pools. The gently sloping white sand beach was great for kids, but parents were warned to keep an eye on the waves. The surf can be hazardous in the winter but during the summer the beach was ideal for swimming, snorkeling, and body surfing.
We explored the rocky points at either end where lava entered the sea and found small fish and corals. This was a great discover with crystal clear water and a peaceful hideaway atmosphere. The calm sea and small empty coves were perfect to be claimed as our "private spot" for the day.
In contrast, further down the coast is Spencer Beach State Park, a large stretch of white sand with developed facilities, great for swimming and snorkeling. It's popular with local families because of its reef-protected beach. Large shady trees, barbecues picnic tables, campsites, bathrooms and showers make this a very different setting from our previous stop at Pauko Beach. Small black-fin reef sharks were spotted in the shallow beach waters but we were advised "Don’t worry, they're harmless." However, I'm glad we're not swimming today! Above Spencer Beach are bluffs where you can spot humpback whales when they're migrating.