By Keane Carlin, Sports Editor
Hot Ponds (Ahalanui Park) and the drive down to Kapoho, Southeast of Hilo
The drive down Hwy. 132 is worth your time alone. Multiple miles of the road stretch under a tree tunnel of sorts, with a seemingly never ending expanse of green landscape and ocean views. Worried about it being rainy? Well, let’s just say that the odds are much better for it to be sunny in Kapoho then it is in Hilo. After about a 45 or so minute drive from Hilo, you will come upon Ahalanui Park, better known as Hot Ponds. The pond’s temperature is due to geothermal heating–the warmth from deep underground magma. The pond is shaped like a swimming pool with an inlet from the ocean. The water is an approximate 90 degrees and is one of the most relaxing places you can float. Many believe the water to have healing powers and at the very least it makes for a stress-relieving experience.
‘Akaka Falls State Park, Hamakua Coast
Up in the lush hills along the Hamakua Coast lies the fifth tallest waterfall in the state of Hawaii at 442 feet. There is a short walk through the rainforest to the sound of the birds and the crash of falling water which leads to the impressive of waterfall. The size is jaw-dropping. You can watch one section of water topple over the edge and follow it for a solid five seconds before it crashes to the pools below. With the right kind of eyes you can find a path that leads to the pools below the great waterfall, but such paths aren’t recommended by the park service. For ye who be adventurous, go take a dip at the base of the 500 foot waterfall for a pure rush of amazement.
Pololū Valley, North Kohala
Although Waipi’o and Waimanu Valley get the esteem of being two of the most beautiful places on the island, Pololū Valley is staggering in its size and sometimes more importantly, for its accessibility. Though the road from Waimea or Kawaihae is a twisty one, you don’t have to deal with the ridiculous steepness of the entrance to Waipi’o and most tourist-mobiles make the trip with ease. The black sand beach is wide and deep, with one side of the beach covered in pebbles. The rigged hikers who visit or reside on the island have hiked from Waipi’o all the way to Pololū, but it is not advised for most. Pololu has the feel of how it used to be, with a river, deep green valleys, kalo patches and minimal signs of the outside world. Well, besides for that tourist who is trying to break open an extremely rancid coconut to drink.
Waialea Beach (69’s), Kawaihae–Kona side
Get your mind out of the gutter. This beach, technically called Waialea is known as 69’s by the locals because it is located at the utility pole numbered 69. It is less than a mile from the over-populated Hapuna beach and offers a more relaxed feel, with soft white sands and shade. After getting your skin fried one too many times and being punished with a future of probable skin cancer, relax under the keawe trees and save yourself some pain. If you’re sick of being mauled by enthusiastic tourists on rental styrofoam boards or tired of that mob of gleeful children who always kick sand in your face while your chilling, then come to 69’s. If you’re afraid of the giant waves that pound Hapuna during the winter (if in doubt, don’t go out), 69’s offers some reprieve and much better snorkeling.
Boto’s pond–Wainaku, on the Wailuku River
This is my favorite spot in Hilo. It is top secret though, so I can’t really divulge its exact coordinates. I can tell you that the path lies in a residential neighborhood between Rainbow Falls and Boiling Pots, in a cut out between two houses. The 15 minute walk is best made during a dry day as the rocks can be slippery and crossing the river can be problematic. On a dry day, the walk is made with ease and leads to a 50-foot-wide pond at the base of a 20 foot waterfall. It is rare to see other people down at this secretive spot, so if you find it, prepare to enjoy the clean, crisp water with privacy!