Hawaii just emerged from about a week of rain, thunder and lightening, puddles and blustery days. Personally, I enjoy the rain when it’s that heavy, when it’s truly fitting to where long pants, a cozy sweat shirt, and maybe even those fluffy Ugg boots that a lot of us girls in Hawaii long to wear. So the rain and the perfectly defined purple lightening bolds on the horizon got me thinking, what are visitors to do who visit the rainy side of the Big Island and do in fact, find themselves with a rainy day?
The east side of the Big Island has a reputation as the rainy side. I learned in a geology class once that this has something to do with the clouds getting stuck on the east side of the mountains, preventing the rain from moving over to the Kona side. (An interesting note is the the now dry barren area below Waimea used to be a sandalwood rainforest, but now that it’s gone since it was exported back in the day, the are is dry, hot, lonely rock). Anyway, Hilo, Puna, and up towards Volcano Village gets the rain, and it’s quite nice. It’s this rain, or ua as the Hawaiians called it, allows a majority of residents on this side of the island to live on water catchment. This mean, a water tank that collects rain, out in the yard feeding showers, toilet, hoses, and drinking water (but only with a filter) to entire households for lifetimes.
So, Hilo is said to be the wettest city in the U.S., receiving about 150 inches of rain per year. With the wet season ranging from about November to March, and surprises to should be expected, there’s the chance visitors may show up and get rained out. But, the point of this blog is that a little or a lot of rain doesn’t have to ruin a trip to the Big Island.
If you experience a rainy day on the Big Island, have no fear, geothermal heated warm ponds are here! There’s isn’t much that is more exotic or fun that submerging oneself in a deep warm pond in Hawaii in the rain, or steam vents. There’s a few options. Head down Kalapana Highway, and about half a minute after Kamali’i Road, look for a pull off spot on the left. Here you will see a trail and if you follow it, it will lead to steamy caves bringing warmth from deep in the earth. Find a seat, you may want to bring a towel to sit on, steam, sweat, and feel the contrast of the warmth and rain on your skin.
Ahalanui warm pond along the coast, between Pohoiki Beach Park and Vacation Land Subdivision, is an old Hawaiian fish pond with brackish warm water. Lifeguards are on duty here, and there are bathrooms, a pavilion, picnic tables, and showers. The water is warmest at low time, but at any time of day it’s a perfect place to swim, float, and lounge about in the rain.
In front of Beach Lots Subdivision past Ahalanui, is the Champaign Pond. Huge, natural, bordering the open ocean, the pond is warmer than the open ocean but not as much as Ahalanui. It’s a giant natural pool in front of homes that were lucky enough to be built here. This is an awesome spot rain or shine, and the rain adds a unique feeling. You’ve got to options here: take the road down to Beach Lots where a locked gate keeps out anyone who’s not a resident, or drive down by the lighthouse and out across lava rock to the pond. If you park outside, find a spot along the road. I’m not guaranteeing that you absolutely won’t get a ticket here, but it’s almost unheard of here. If you park here, walk in past the gate (it’s legal) and stick to the right side of the loop. Once you can see the pond, you will see several signs stating beach access.
When driving down the lighthouse road past Beach Lots, you will need a four wheel drive to access the ponds this way, but otherwise it’s a mellow 4X4 drive. Turn right at the obvious access on the right at the end of this road, and stick to the beaten path. You’ll eventually end up at the pond. If you go on a weekend, it’s likely that it will be crowded with locals.
Always remember that a dip anywhere in the rain is a fun, free, feeling. There’s always the historic Palace Theater in Hilo that plays wonderful non-mainstream movies. Contact the theater for show times. And of course, check the weather for the south and west sides of the islands that has a good chance of clear skies when Hilo is rainy.