After dropping off the stuff from the market at our house, we filled up the car with swimming and snorkeling gear and drove east to a town called Kapoho. It’s on the very eastern tip of the Big Island and is famous for some thermally heated tide pools. The prospect of snorkeling and swimming in 90 degree heated water was just too compelling to pass up.
There are several pools written up in our guidebook so we decided to visit a few. The first one we visited is called "Champagne Pond." The book describes it as a crystal clear with sea turtles frequently visiting. To get there we had to drive down a two mile long rough dirt road and THEN turn down a road through the lava fields that is only passable with 4WD cars. Well, our bright white trailblazer rental has four wheel drive so we figured we’d give it a try. It turns out there are dirt roads, off roads, and then there are lava roads. I doubt the rental agency would be very happy to know that we took the car down in this area. We got so nervous about damage that we stopped about halfway down and decided to walk the rest of the way. It was still a long hike especially with all of our gear.
When we finally reached the pool we were surprised to see a bunch of other people in their cars plus a whole housing development right next to the pools. It was hardly secluded or secret. It was also hardly "champagne clear". The wind was particularly strong and the waves were very high and even though the pond is protected it still made it a bit wavy and less-then-crystal clear. The water was warm however, which was an interesting new experience and it was clear enough for some snorkeling. But no turtles showed up to swim with us — much to the disappointment of the kids.
Disappointed with our experience at this pond, Rusty went to get the car and bring it the rest of the way down the road to pick up the group. It took about 30 minutes to bump and lurch our way back out of the lava fields. When we finally made it back to smooth road everyone in the car went "ahhhh". We never knew smooth pavement could feel so good.
The next stop was Kapoho tide pools. We found these fairly quickly and were pleased to find that access didn’t require driving on any driving on dirt (lava) roads. These pools are connected to the ocean but protected by natural wall that seemed to be supplemented by work done by the locals to make perfectly rectangular swimming areas — large swimming areas. It was a beautiful setting with dozens of people in the water snorkeling around. We put on our gear with great anticipation. This time we were pleasantly surprised. The was warm, clear and there were hundreds of fish swimming around. There were deep holes, caves, and shallow areas. We saw puffer fish, super thin long-nosed fish (don’t know what they’re called), and after exploring a bit we also saw a three foot long eel. We explored from pond to pond out toward the ocean and then back. The Kapoho tide pools put the group back in a good mood and was exactly what we were hoping to find.
As a final stop we decided to try Ahalanui pool which was just another 2 miles down the road. Ahalanui is literally a pool surrounded by concrete set under a grove of palm trees. It’s man made from a spring in the area. At some point the thermal vents on the island shifted and it went from a cool swimming hole to a toasty 90+ degrees. The sensation of the first step in was fantastic — almost hot-tub level temperature. But the best part was that this secluded pool was still connected to the ocean through a cement breakwall. The waves would crash at the entrance and then surge down a ledge into the pool. The kids loved swimming right next to the ledge and waiting for the surge of water after each wave. Every now and then a wave would be big enough to crash over the wall with foam and a huge rush of water that carried the kids swirling back in to the pool. All three of the kids played in at the ledge for nearly an hour. They would have stayed in all night if we didn’t call them out.
We headed home around 5:30 so we’d still have time for a barbecue dinner out by the pool. We hoped that we could find the people selling fish by the side of the road for a repeat of the gourmet meal of the night before, but they weren’t there. We had chicken instead and great vegetables from the market. Ryan and Roby had on their new Hawaiian shirts and looked especially island-ish.
We ate dinner on our porch, or lanai, and enjoyed the sounds of the waves and the birds in the forest.