Thursday, March 26, 2015

The easy way to the Big Island's 'Blue Lagoon'

From a scenic turnout at mile marker 81 on Highway 19 north of Kona, Wainanali'i (Blue) Lagoon beckons irresistably: a turquoise streak amid a grove of cocopalms. Most visitors park at a nearby turnout and take a mile-plus trail that drops 200 feet through a hot forest of stickery Kiawe trees, which affords a decent opportunity of getting lost.

A slightly shorter, flatter, and more scenic route is about a mile away, down a state park road. You drive down about .75-mile and park at a locked gate on a road that is open to foot traffic. Not far down the road is the Kihilo-Huehue trail and punches out to a black sand beach, where you hang a right (pass the remarkable home of cosmetic king Paul Mitchell) and reach Blue Lagoon.

Dozens of sea turtles haul out on the rocky shores of the lagoon, which was actually a huge fishpond built by King Kamehmeha the Great in 1810. In 1859, a stampede of lava from faraway Mauna Loa did a number on the pond, but the turtles don't seem to mind. The water is chilly and milky is places, due to underwater intrusions of fresh water, so the better swimming is at Kihilo Black Sand Beach—reachable via the same state park road. Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer has the deets, beginning on page 64.