So you’re on the Big Island, and you head to the east side, AKA the rainy side. You’ll want to explore deep in isolated Puna, known as the boonies. Begin your day down along the Puna coast enjoying nature in all of her glory.
If you haven’t had breakfast yet stop by the town’s health food store Island Naturals in Pahoa for pastries, breakfast burritos, coffee and tea. This is also a good place to stock up on snacks for the next few hours of exploring the area. If health food stores aren’t your type of place to shop, Malama Market at the end of town offers ready to eat deli foods as well as the usual groceries. From here head out of town down to Kalapana. Down here notice the expansive lava fields covering what used to be a popular and small town bordering world class surf breaks that were ruined by the lava. If you’re for walk, head out to the “new” beach out here. Turn right at the end of the road and follow the path from the parking area. Swimming out here is dangerous, but it’s a beautiful view of the coast. You’ll most likely see the smoke plume from the lava hitting the ocean nearby.
Go back and continue down Highway 137. The drive itself is a joy as you cruise along the ocean. Although it’s now paved in normal black asphalt, it’s still known as the “red road” from the days when it was paved with red cinder pavement. You’ll pass a black sand beach called Kehena (a nude beach) before continuing along right by the ocean. By Kalani Honua (you’ll see the sign) you drive through a natural tunnel of trees. About 10 minutes after this and right before the bottom of Kamaili Road you’ll see natural tide pools just off the road. There are several pull-off spots with grayish sand and black lava rock. Sometimes the small areas are enjoyed by local fisherman, but if there’s room spend a little while here and take a dip and enjoy the views of the coast.
After a refreshing dip continue on own the road. Enjoy the lush jungle, the hills on the road, and feeling of seclusion and serenity. When you reach you’re first right after 10 to 15 minutes of driving, take the right and drive past Pohoiki, the local surf spot. Take the first left, and look out at the waves as you drive by. Keep going and take the right at the stop sign. A couple minutes down the road park in the large lot on the right at Ahalanui Beach Park. Here is a large, brackish water, generally warm swimming pool. Pavilions, restrooms, showers, a lifeguard, and the wonderful pool offer a great couple of hours in the water. This is a great stop for a lunch or snack.
Now it’s off to an old volcano crater that is home to a bright green lake. Another five minutes down the road from the warm pond, on your left you’ll see a fence bordering a pasture that leads up tot the lake. Once a week a small farmers market happens here, but read the sign on the fence that explains the cost and walk up to the lake, I think it’s about $5 these days. The lake is quite large, bordered by forested walls of the crater. It’s really quite enchanting.
From here it’s back to Pahoa town where you can enjoy good Thai food at two different location, authentic Italian food at Paolo’s Bistro, or mediocre, but generally satisfying and fun Mexican food and drinks at Luquin’s.