Why You Should Visit Puna During your Big Island Vacation

The following is a guest post by Megan Chingari over at Wanderfullylost.com. To see the original post, click here

When people visit the Big Island, they typically spend most of their time in Kona, where all the swanky resorts and powdery-white sand beaches are. There’s certainly nothing wrong with getting fancy and kicking back in luxury if that’s your style, but, if you’re the type of person who wants to experience some of the “real”  Hawaii on your Big Island vacation, you must check out Puna! I can understand why Puna (which is a large district located in the south-eastern side of the island) is hastily overlooked by many tourists who don’t know any better: There are no white sand beaches or hotels, no major touristy attractions. So, what is there to do or see? Why should you go there? Well, let me tell you my 7 favorite activities in Puna!

1. The drive down Red Road. This 15 mile road is one of the most scenic roads on the island. The road follows along the shoreline, at times snaking through thick jungle where you can find giant mango, coconut, native hala, and noni trees. You will have many opportunities to enjoy scenic overlooks and places to explore (like Mackenzie beach park, which has lava tubes and steam vents), and it is also the route to lots of other key attractions. It was when I was driving on this road for my very first time, watching the sun reflecting off of the rolling waves, when I spontaneously decided I would be moving to the Big Island. This drive does that to people!

The Red Road begins where highway 132 meets highway 137 (AKA the four corners). Coming from Pahoa, take highway 132 until you reach the Four Corners intersection, then take a right. You are now on the official “Red Road” drive.

Red Road (photo credit punacoast.hubpages.com)
Red Road (photo credit punacoast.hubpages.com)
Native Hala Trees (AKA Tourist Pineapple, because tourists frequently mistake the weird fruits that grow on them as pineapples)
Native Hala Trees (AKA Tourist Pineapple, because tourists frequently mistake the weird fruits that grow on them as pineapples)
  • 2. Kehena Black Sand Beach!  Striking black sand, steep jungle cliffs draped with ancient-looking vines,  possibilities of swimming with friendly dolphins, and oh yeah– all the naked hippies, combine to make Kehena a beach like none other. Every Sunday, Kehena beach transforms into a party and drum circle. If you’re into it, I suggest getting butt naked and dancing in the center of the drum circle. It’s really fun. Not really into the “hippie scene?” That’s okay, you can just observe the action, or, come on a weekday when there are less people. Swimming at Kehena can be a bit sketchy, so please be a strong swimmer if you decide to go in. There have been deaths almost every year of people who swim out too far and then get pulled away by the current and drown. Friendly dolphins are known to come close to the shore, so it is possible to swim with them.


  • 3. Ahalanui Hot Pond. Ahh, the hot pond. My favoritePuna has the only natural hot springs in all of Hawaii, and while there are several smaller hot springs to soak in nearby, this one is the best. It’s right on the shore, so you can enjoy the ocean vibes while swimming in the warm water of the hot pond. Often, curious little fish will come nibble at you (it doesn’t hurt, just tickles). Want to know a secret? The best time to come to the hot pond is at night, preferably when it’s a full moon. It’s technically closed at night…but, well, that doesn’t deter locals from enjoying it then.  At night its less crowded and it’s just awesome in general to be swimming in a warm, relaxing pool with the moonlight bouncing off the waves and palm trees.  Don’t tell anyone  I told you ;).



  • 4. Uncle Robert’s Night Market. Located at the end of the Red Road on Hawaiian Homeland property, Uncle Robert’s night market is the happenin’ place to be on a Wednesday night. Arrive before it gets dark and take a stroll on the lava field trail to the black sand beach. At the market, you’ll find a tempting array of local foods, live music, a kava bar, and, naturally, a welcome center for space aliens (really). Get euphoric on some kava and talk story with the new friends you will be sure to meet. This market is a favorite activity for locals, and those lucky tourists who stumble upon it will certainly regard it as one of the highlights of their Big Island trip. Every Wednesday night starting around 5pm.
Uncle Robert's Night Market (Hawaii Tribune Herald photo credit)
Uncle Robert’s Night Market (Hawaii Tribune Herald photo credit)
  • 5. Maku’u Farmer’s Market. While the Hilo Farmer’s Market was recently ranked the #1 best farmer’s market in the U.S., locals know that Maku’u Farmer’s Market is even better.  It’s less touristy than Hilo Farmer’s Market and has a wider variety of vendors. It’s a big social event for the community. You can find all sorts of interesting local-made crafts, affordable tropical produce, and delicious food options. I highly recommend trying the green papaya salad from the small stand near the stage. As a green papaya salad connoisseur, I can attest that they sell the best green papaya salad in existence. If you’re feeling adventurous, stop by the smoothie stand and treat yourself to a Durian smoothie (smelliest fruit in the world). When: Sundays from 7am-2pm. Where: Right off Highway 130, several miles north of Pahoa. You can’t miss it.
    Maku'u Market (photo credit noelmarala.com)
    Maku’u Market (photo credit noelmarala.com)
  • 6. Snorkeling at Kapoho Tidepools  Kapoho tidepools is one of the best snorkeling spots in all of Hawaii. You will see hundreds of tropical reef fish and impressive coral formations. Often, snorkelers can spot giant sea turtles or eels. Bring a beach chair or towel to sit on, because the shore is lava and kind of uncomfortable to sit on.
Kapoho Tide pools from above (Photo credit Pahoaonline.com)
  • 7. Pahoa!  Pahoa is an eclectic little town full of colorful characters (such as the “chicken man”, who is always riding his bike around with his pet chickens on the handlebars) and great restaurants. In 2014, it  almost  won the title of “Coolest Small Town in the U.S.A.” from Budget Travels. Just recently, Pahoa made international news as a lava flow crept dangerously close, threatening to destroy the town and block access to the rest of the island. After months of stressful uncertainty, the lava decided to stop just several hundreds of feet from the town’s main shopping center (whewWell, it did take out one house and a road). Driving down Pahoa Village Road, you will notice some of the power line poles wrapped in gravel and cement. This was an experiment done in anticipation of the impending lava in an attempt protect the town’s power grid. I recommend having dinner at either Kaleo’s or Ning’s Thai (both in downtown). Kaleo’s serves excellent island fusion-type cuisine (the Kalbi ribs and coconut shrimp are my favorite!). Ning’s is a great option if you are in the mood for some Thai food (try the pineapple curry). For breakfast/coffee, check out the Tin Shack Bakery, or Black Rock Cafe.
The Chicken Man of Pahoa

Downtown Pahoa

Anticipating the lava
Anticipating the lava
Smoke rising from fire caused by the Lava flow, behind Malama Market in Pahoa
Smoke rising from fire caused by the Lava flow, behind Malama Market in Pahoa

These are my favorite things about Puna. Did I leave anything out (I totally did! These are just my top seven! There’s a lot more to do, such as Lava Tree Park, Pohoiki, Mermaid Ponds, Shipman Beach hike, Green Lake, and the giant arch)


  •   Where to stay?  There are no hotels in Puna, but there are many vacation rentals and some hostels. Check out airbnb.com. or flipkey.com.
  • If you only have one day to spend in Puna, I would suggest going on either a Wednesday or  a Sunday, so you can hit up either the Maku’u or Uncle Robert’s markets.
  • Be aware that there are not gas stations in lower Puna besides the three in Pahoa. Before heading to the Red Road, make sure you have enough gas.
  • Don’t lather yourself in sunscreen and then go swimming in the hot pond or tide pools. Sunscreen kills coral and is dangerous to ocean life. Plus, no one wants to swim around in smelly, oily sunscreen floating on the surface.
  • If you buy salad greens from the market, make sure to wash them well and check them thoroughly for slugs. Rat-lungworm parasite is found on the slime of slugs and can be deadly.
  • It rains a lot on this side of the island. Just go with it, and bring an umbrella or rain gear if you don’t want to get wet.
  • Bring sturdy shoes for walking over old lava flows or rocky shorelines.
  • Enjoy yourself! Go with the flow!


Celebration for Madie Greene-July 30th-6 pm-Akebono Theater-Luquins Taco Buffet + Entertainment

Aloha Friends and Community Members,

We cordially invite you to attend a Mahalo Event for Madie Greene this coming Saturday at the Akebono Theater, next to Luquins, 6 pm with awesome entertainment and taco buffet.

All are welcome, so please share with your friends and neighbors.

We hope to see you all there….

Friends of Madie Greene, Candidate for County Council District 4.

Mainstreet Pahoa’s Annual Membership Meeting-Wednesday, March 30th, 6 p.m. at Aloha Lehua Cafe in Pahoa

Aloha Kakou,

This year’s Annual Meeting of Mainstreet Pahoa Association will be held on Wednesday, March 30th, 6 p.m. at Aloha Lehua Café, next to Long’s Drugs in Pahoa. We are excited that Lori is hosting the event and will be closing the restaurant to the general public. Currently we have over 30 attendees and are hoping for another 30 or so. It is a no host dinner, Mainstreet will provide Aloha Lehua’s award winning Hawaiian Nachos for pupus and it is a byob event. Here is the link to their restaurant and menu. They also have nightly specials. http://alohalehuacafe.com/ Come hungry!!

Those that have rsvp’d me are:

Cindy Orlando-Superintendent of Hawai’i Volcano’s National Park

Ross Birch-Head of Hawai’i Island Visitors Bureau

Senator Russell Ruderman’s office

Representative Joy SanBuenaventura’s office

Councilmember Greggor Ilagan

Councilmember Danny Paleka

Community Police Officer Davy Kamali’i

Mike Kaleikini-Manager of Puna Geothermal Ventures

Rene Siracusa-President of Puna Community Medical Center

Madie Greene-President of Kokua Pahoa

Matt Purvis-Owner of Tin Shack Bakery and President of Mainstreet Pahoa Association

Alan Lakritz-Incoming President of Pahoa Rotary Club and Board Member of Mainstreet

Gilbert Aguinaldo-President of Big Island Electric

Bill Parecki-Broker at Savio Realty and Board Member of Mainstreet

Dennis Kitsman-Island Naturals and Board Member of Mainstreet

Mark Hinshaw-Chair of Pahoa Regional Town Center Steering Committee

Jon Olson-Pahoa Regional Town Center Steering Committee

Tiki DeGenero-Executive Director of Kalani Retreat

Nancy DeMello-Owner of Habitat Tattoo and Board Member of Mainstreet

Jeff Gray-Owner of Netcom Enterprises

Tanya Aynessazian-Project Manager of GoPahoa.com

Agenda items will include

GoPahoa.com website

Homeless and Loitering Committee

Pahoa Holiday Parade and Second Saturdays Art and Music Walk

Pahoa Booster Club

By-Law Changes

Legislative Updates for Pahoa

Pahoa Design District

Election of Officers

We hope to see more of you rsvp me for this evening of good fun and all things Pahoa!!!

No be shy, come on out and enjoy …a good time will be had by all….

Ps. Bring your checkbook J This is the beginning of our 2016 Membership Drive

A hui hou…


Mark Hinshaw



Pahoa Regional Town Center Planning Committee-Chair

County of Hawai’i Planning Department


Mainstreet Pahoa Association



Kalapana Seaview Neighborhood Watch

Community-Police Liaison


Community Emergency Response Team

County of Hawai’i Civil Defense

Final 2015 Pahoa Holiday Parade Posters for Press Release

Aloha All,

Attached please find the FINAL VERSION of the 2015 Pahoa Holiday Parade Poster. Your help and assistance is vital to the success of our annual Parade. Please print up a few of these and post them in key locations that you feel people will read them, whether that be on your website, blog, school, business, church, community, etc.

Mahalo nui for your participation in this awesome annual event for our Pahoa town. This year we will have three drones overhead equipped with GoPro cameras and a film crew on the ground to share with the World what an awesome place we live.

I mua Pahoa and Puna!!!

A hui hou….


HPD Puna community newsletter for the month of September 2015

Aloha Everyone,

Attached to this email are the HPD Puna community newsletter for the dates of September 1st till September 15th and September 16th till September 31st. It contains the crime statistics reported in Puna during that period as well as Police media release and information for the public. I will be away on vacation for the fist half of November. Community Officer Duwayne WAIPA will be taking over the newsletter for the stats for the month of October followed by CPO James PACHECO doing the newsletter for the month of November. Any questions please contact them at 965-2716.


Officer Davy Kamalii
Hawaii Police Department
Community Policing Division
District of Puna
15-2615 Keaau-Pahoa Rd
Pahoa, Hi 96778
1(808) 965-2716
Email: dkamalii

punanewsletter Sep180.pdf

punanewsletter Sep181.pdf

HPD Puna community newsletter for the week dates of August 12th to August 18th 2015

Good morning everyone,

Attached to this email are the Hawaii Police Departments Puna district community newsletter for the weeks of August 12th to August 18th 2015. Also within it contains Police media release and information for the public. Please take note of the traffic section as there has been changes to the speed limit on Highway 130 on the new bypass road from Shower drive to the Keaau transfer station.


Officer Davy Kamalii
Hawaii Police Department
Community Policing Division
District of Puna
15-2615 Keaau-Pahoa Rd
Pahoa, Hi 96778
1(808) 965-2716
Email: dkamalii

punanewsletter Aug178.pdf

HPD Puna community newsletters for dates July 29th till August 4th and August 5th till August 11th 2015

Good morning everyone,

Attached to this email are the Hawaii Police Departments Puna district community newsletters for the weeks of July 29th till August 4th and also August 5th till August 11th 2015. Also within it contains Police media release and information for the public. Please take note of the Hurricane preparedness section as well due to a group of major hurricanes being generated in the Pacific ocean near Hawaii as we all need to better prepare ourselves thru out this hurricane season. Any questions or concerns please feel free to contact me.


Officer Davy Kamalii
Hawaii Police Department
Community Policing Division
District of Puna
15-2615 Keaau-Pahoa Rd
Pahoa, Hi 96778
1(808) 965-2716
Email: dkamalii

punanewsletter Aug177.pdf

punanewsletter Aug176.pdf