We spent several weeks exploring the east coast of The Big Island, spending the majority of our time in Hilo and the Puna District as we didn’t think our rental car would take too kindly to ventures reserved for four-wheel drive vehicles.

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Hilo is home to Hilo International Airport and the town can get quite crowded, at least Hawaiian style. We went to several farmers’ markets to check out the local fare as well as to try and offset the high prices (ouch !!!!) in the grocery stores. Hilo is situated around a bay. Even with the hustle and bustle of the weekend crowds, we found the beautifully designed park grounds serene and inviting.

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The Puna District is located South of Hilo and it covers the most eastern landmass of The Big Island from the ocean to Kilauea Volcano (located in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park). To get there you have to travel through the town of Pahoa where it is rumored many unsavory characters hang out. Or not!

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Driving all the way to the coast we found our destination: the Kapoho Tide Pools. We had to park outside a subdivision and take a short walk to access the pools but the local residents have erected signs for parking and welcome respectful visitors. The surf is not swimmable as it crashes over the rocks during high tide. Luckily, though, this leaves plenty of water and fish in the pools for curious snorkelers to explore. Impressive!

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Further down the coast we found the Ahalanui Warm Spring, naturally warmed by the steam of the volcano and connected to the ocean through the rocky lava cooled long ago. We noticed that the further back into the pool the warmer the water, and then closer to the ocean it cools off. Can you say “free hot tub”?!

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Back in Pahoa we ventured out to the viewing area of the East Rift Zone (the break out that has become the leading edge of the June 27th lava flow of Kilauea Volcano). Closed to the public because of active flow about a quarter mile from Highway 130, part of the area was opened shortly before we left The Big Island. We noticed that most of the merchants had closed up shop and the National Guard was on site just in case the lava decided to move ahead and cross the only available road into the area. The scene is surreal, to say the least.

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Up next: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Akaka Falls is also found on the east side of The Big Island. Separate blog here.