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Click on any picture to enlarge

Ahalanui Hot Pond

 

Kapoho Tide Pools

 

Lava Cliffs of Puna

 

Mango Road

 

Star of the Sea Painted Church

 

Slack Key at Uncle Roberts

 

 

 

 

Touring Puna

 

Puna is Hawaiian for spring (of water) and is quite appropriate as the district abounds with springs and thermal ponds heated by geothermal action. There are any of a number of things you might choose to do in Puna some of which are addressed in the suggested driving tours below. For a text only version to print and carry with you click here -> Two Puna Tours.

 

 

Pahoa -> Opihikao -> Mackenzie State Park and Isaac Hale Park-> Kalapana ->

Kalapana (New Black Sand Beach) -> Star of the Sea Painted Church


 

There is a lot see so if you take your time this tour can take 2-3 hours or more. From the house head out Maku'u back to the main road. Turn left on Hwy 130 and travel through the Pahoa Roundabout. Continue on 130 past the entrance to Lealani Estates and you will come to an area where the speed limit has been reduced to 25mph. With your windows up to keep out the sulfur steam, pass over the special plates in the road. Once past this are you will shortly come upon a sign to Opihikao. Turn left and head towards Opihikao. You can ignore the Residents Only signs – this is a public road. But this is a rural area and though recently paved it is one lane so drive carefully. The people here went through some miserable times when the 2018 lava flow was active. The air quality was terrible. In fact as you descend at some point you will be able to see a ridge on the left that is covered with dead vegetation. After about five miles the road will end at Hwy 137. Turn left to travel a mile or so to Mackenzie State Recreation Area.

 

Mackenzie State Recreation Area (2018 lave flow) – this is a low cliff, wild volcanic coastline with wonderful views and is a good picnicking spot. You'll recognize the ironwood trees as the same invasive non-native trees you see near our house. To view one of the ocean entries of the 2018 flow walk towards the lava cliffs turn left and hike about a quarter mile and eventually you come to a wall of lava - very impressive. There is a rough trail onto the lava flow but be sure to wear good shoes (no sandals), carry water, and be careful - the lava is quite sharp. As of November 2018, there are no active surface flows on Hawaii however it continues to flow underground. When you are ready to leave turn left oat the exit turn left onto 137 and drive to Kalapana. As of December 2018, the road from MacKenzie has been opened through to Isaac Hale Park (closed for cleaning every third Thursday of the month).  This short drive allows you to view three fingers of lava from your car. Very impressive. Do not attempt to swim in the ocean at Isaac Hale - it's too dangerous. But you can walk a long ways on the new huge black sand beach.

 

Kalapana and the new Black Sand Beach – at the end of highway 137 is what’s left of Kalapana. The original beach here was covered in a volcano flow in 1990. If you have time park the car and hike out to the new beach. The water is quite dangerous here so I have never dared to venture into the ocean and suggest you stay out of it too. The original beach was one of Hawaii’s most picturesque. What we have now is a very young, wild black sand beach. Make note of the many small palm trees that have been planted and which some day will provide shade. In the far distance you should be able to see Pu’u O’o crater venting smoke. Kalapana has acouple eating choices. One is a drive Inn the other is found under the large covered area. When ready head towards Pahoa on Hwy 130 and after one mile you will come to the Star of the Sea Painted Church.

Star of the Sea Painted Church – on highway 130 between the highway road makers 19 and 20 is the Star of the Sea Painted Church. This church was saved from the 1990 lava flow by the people of Hawaii that swallowed much of the area. Stop and take a tour of the uniquely painted interior. Open daily 9am-4pm, free. When finished continue on Hwy 130 back to Pahoa and our home.

 

  Off the Grid

 

This takes 90 minutes or so. First a word of caution. Some maps will make you think that certain roads connect up certain areas when in fact even with a 4 wheel drive they can be quite challenging. Avoid both Railroad Ave. and Government Beach Road as routes in and out of Hawaiian Paradise Park. If you would like to take a drive through what an off-the grid area then follow this tour - provided it's not raining.

From the house head out Maku'u back to the main road. Turn left on Hwy 130 and travel about 5 miles and just past Longs turn left onto Kahakai Blvd. Follow this road all the way to the ocean, about five miles, where it ends in Hawaiian Beaches (sorry no beaches here). Turn right at the ocean onto Government Beach Road (yes this stretch is OK to drive as it was recently paved as an emergency exit route for Kapoho residents to flee the 2018 lava flow). This mostly one lane route (plenty of places to pull over and let others pass) will travel along the ocean before heading inland. You can ignore the local residents only signs. This is a public road just be respectful and keep your eyes on the road.  It’s an interesting area with many homes creating all their own electric and capturing all their water from rain. After 8 miles or so it ends at a wall of lava that was emitted by Fissure 8 in the summer of 2018. The lava is very sharp and not safe to walk on. At some point the road will be reopened but for now turn around and exit the way you came.

 

 

Uncle Roberts

 

Uncle Robert’s Awa Bar and Farmers Market in Kalapana: is the worst kept secret in lower Puna. The market is held every Wednesday night from 5-9 p.m. at the end of Kapoho-Kalapana Road and is more a festival than a market. This is as close to real Hawaii as you will experience on your vacation no matter which of the main Islands you visit. It’s the only nighttime farmers market on the island and is also one of the busiest with vendors offering locally grown produce, baked goods, hand made jewelry, gifts, freshly cooked food, and great live music. This is the place to go in the hope that you will hear some great Hawaiian Slack Key guitar. You can park on the side of the road but it may be easier just to drive to the lava lot at the end of the road ($2) to park. Plan on eating dinner here while enjoying the live music. Bring a flashlight for the walk back to the car.

 

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