Wednesday, July 14, 2010

DAYDREAM FACTORY: Big Island's Blue Lagoon

Blue Lagoon on the South Kohala Coast of the Big Island of Hawaii—a palm-fringed sapphire streak that is visible from a scenic turnout along a lava-desert highway—is the kind of place that has people staring wistfully through the partitions of office cubicles once they have returned to the Mainland.

To get to this idyllic vision, most visitors take a monkey-see-monkey-do trailhead, close to the turnout, which swerves through a sun-scorched forest of stickery kiawe trees. Others take a state park road a half-mile away, which leads to the coast and provides a shorter trail along the coast.

Officially named Wainanali’i, the five-acre inlet was created in 1810 by workers of King Kamehameha the Great, then a deep-sea fishpond with walls up to 8-feet high and 20-feet wide, and a shoreline of about 2 miles. What the king created Mauna Loa mostly destroyed during a massive eruption in 1859.

But enough of the lagoon remained to make it the island's best resort for lounging green sea turtles.  Normally a dozen or more of the large reptiles bake along the rocky shoreline.  Their salty shells crust white in the sun, but turn instantly amber when they scuttle into the turquoise waters. (Federal law, along with common courtesy, requires humans to stay well away from the turtles.) 

In spite of its allure, the milky, colder waters of blue lagoon, which result from silt and freshwater intrusion, are not the best for swimming.  Even adjacent Kiholo Black Sand Beach is better.  See pages 64 to 66 of Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer for more details.