Kiholo Bay sits midway between Kailua Kona and Kawaihae on the west side of the Big Island. There are two main access points to the bay. One is via a gravel road south of the Kiholo Scenic Overlook on the main highway. This road takes you down to Kiholo State Park Reserve where there’s a campground and access to the beaches. I usually go that way, but on my last visit I wanted to try the hike from the main road.
There’s an unmarked parking area north of the scenic overlook. From there it’s about a mile to the coast, along a dirt and gravel road. This passes through scrubby trees where it’s likely goats will be encountered. They’re abundant in this area. The private property alongside the road is well marked, as is the public trail through to the beach. This trail comes out near a funky building decorated with things the tide washed in.
I headed to the right, along the beach towards Wainanali’i lagoon. There are a couple of houses along here, a palm-circled pool, and usually a canoe or two under the trees. Beyond the houses, a small bridge traverses a channel which connects the ocean to Wainanali’i fish pond. This is believed to have been built by King Kamehameha I, as part of an extensive fish collection and farming operation in the bay.
A bit farther along, a blue Kiholo Bay Fisheries Management Area sign marks where the trail forks. To the right, inland, it follows the old King’s Trail to Keawaiki. To the left, it hugs the shoreline heading north alongside Wainanali’i lagoon (top photo). The trail is loosely marked with white coral and/or cairns, but it’s not vital to follow them. I stick to the shoreline.
The lagoon is the remnant of a much larger fishpond, which was around 2 miles across and protected by a 20-foot wide lava rock wall. Much of it was destroyed by a lava flow from Mauna Loa’s 1859 eruption. Today, the lagoon is a prime area for seeing green turtles. They haul out on a rocky island marking the mouth of the lagoon and on the spit that separates it from the ocean. This is where they rest so it’s important not to get too close and disturb them. I also usually see turtles in the water. They putter along the edge in blue-green water, which can give them a wavy appearance. Small fish are abundant here and are often seen.
Once at the head of the lagoon I watched humpback whales splashing and slapping offshore. It’s possible to walk down the spit (not disturbing the turtles), and if it’s calm you can wade or swim across the lagoon entrance back to the trail. Following the coast northwards will take you to Keawaiki, but I retraced my steps until I got back to where I first reached the coast. Then I carried on along the beach.
The waves were rolling in, good news for surfers. The beach here is sandy and vegetation borders it. If the tide’s in a bit of paddling is required. On the other side of this, some private houses border the beach including the Bali House and a sprawling, yellow structure.
Farther along, behind the beach, is Keanalele waterhole, also known as Queen’s Bath. This is a collapsed lava tube, filled with a mix of freshwater and saltwater, where it’s possible to take a dip in the manor of Hawaiian royalty of yesteryear. The parking area for Kiholo State Park Reserve, back in the trees, is followed by the Loretta Lynn house and the campground.
Here, along with several places along the walk, a fair number of birds can be seen including black-crowned night herons, wandering tattlers, Pacific golden plovers, yellow-billed cardinals, and northern mockingbirds.
The southern end of the park is marked by Waia’elepi anchialine pool. Anchialine pools form in volcanic rock and are connected underground to the ocean. The water is brackish, but the pools can be home to a wide variety of species. I saw goats drinking here as well as a variety of birds and insects flying about.
From there, I headed back to the car on the gravel road which parallels the coast and connects to the trail I came down on. My walk was about 5 or 6 miles, but I took more than 4 hours to cover that distance since I do tend to stop a lot!