Saturday, March 28, 2009

Hawaii’s most-underrated scenic drive

The Kehena-Pohoiki Scenic Coast would rank right up there in a statewide beauty contest among scenic drives, but it is far from the resortlands of the Big Island, way out in the Puna District outside of Hilo—and few tourists see it. On weekends, locals show up in droves. The sleepy road hugs a coast of low cliffs and crashing waves, penetrating a tropical arboretum, and without any twisting curves to distract drivers, since this young island hasn’t had time to erode into streambeds.

Along the way you see: the massive lava discharge that filled Kalapana Bay (from where you can see the current towering steam plume); a black sand beach (the shoreline of which dropped 5 feet in an earthquake of 1995); Mackenzie State Park, with its acres of ironwoods; newly expanded Isaac Hale Beach Park, a magnet for surfers that also has a hidden natural hot pool;

Ahalanui Hot Pool (Olympic-sized), a free county park; the Waiopae Tidepools, which are large and smaller snorkeling pools in a lava reef (part of a Marine Conservation District; and (finally!) historic Cape Kumukahi, site of a 1960 lava flow that added a half-mile to the shoreline, and the trailhead for a short walk to the large Kapoho Seapool (a.k.a. Champagne Cove) a huge geothermically heated pool with sparkling clear waters. Whew. See Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer, pages 156 to 162.