The Champagne Pools
Round Trip Mileage: 2.6 miles
Elevation Gain: negligible
Gear: The eastern point of Hawai'i is windy and humid and sees lots of rain. Hiking around Kapoho Bay to the Champagne Pools involves slogging on murderous fresh ʻaʻā lava. This stuff will shred a pair of running shoes in just a few miles. Sturdy boots are recommended. Bring your swimsuit.
Map: Topographical Map of Kapoho Bay
Overview: Kapoho Bay on the eastern shore of Hawai'i is home to mixed freshwater-and-saltwater pools known as the Champagne Pools that offer a sublime way to appreciate the usually violent and dangerous eastern shore of the Big Island. This hike follows four-wheel drive roads for a little more than a mile to the pools. The drawback is that the pools and the bay overall are very developed. Remember that all land up the the high tide line is public according to state law. Enjoy the Champagne Pools and return the way you came. Respect private property in this area. The roads you see on maps that go closer to the pools are private and offer no parking.
Getting to the Trailhead: From Hilo, take Hwy. 11 south toward Puna. Near Kea'au, turn south on Hwy. 130 toward Pahōa. At Pahōa, turn east on Hwy. 132. Follow Hwy. 132 until it intersects Hwy. 137 and you're looking at a dirt road. Cross the intersection onto this unmarked dirt road (it is still technically Hwy. 132) and follow it for about a mile until it dead-ends near a Coast Guard beacon. This road is usually in fine shape and can be negotiated by any passenger car. Park near the beacon in an obvious area.
The Hike: From the parking area, locate a rough four-wheel drive road going due south along the sea cliffs of Kumukahi. Once you find the road, follow it along the coast for 1.3 miles until you find the Champagne Pools in Kapoho Bay. If you can't locate the road, just follow the shore, which is probably more interesting anyway. Enjoy the pools, watch out for sea turtles, and return the way you came. Water shoes or sandals are handy for walking around and exploring the pools.