When Kilauea erupted in 1960, the entire town of Kapoho burned to the ground with the sole exception of a lighthouse. Nearly 100 homes were swallowed by the lava, and the entire community opted to move elsewhere as opposed to rebuild the town. Ironically, however, while nature may have destroyed this town, it’s also the reason that visitors to Hilo still flock here with masks, fins, and snorkels.
Along the coastline where Kapoho once stood, a series of tidepools offer the best snorkeling on the eastern shore of the Big Island. Unlike Hilo which can be rainy and wet, this eastern outpost is often sunny when Hilo is drenched in drizzle, and the protected tidepools offer clear waters that teem with colorful fish. Nearby, at the Champagne Pond, thermal vents help heat the water of this naturally spring fed pool, and it’s the perfect spot for unwinding in nature when the mists of a storm roll in. More easily accessible than Champagne Pond is Ahalanui Park, a public park where a volcanically heated pool sits right on the edge of the ocean. The temperatures can rise to 90degrees and the pool has a soft sand bottom, and small fish can enter the pond through a narrow connection with the sea.
The Kapoho Tidepools are an hour from Hilo and just over two hours from Kona. From the town of Pahoa, south of Hilo, turn onto Kapoho Road and follow until it dead ends. Turn right on Highway 137, and take a left on Kapoho Kai Road just past mile marker 9. Follow to the end, park in the dirt lot, and then walk a mile on foot. Access to Champagne Pond skirts close to private property, so always respect the signs and stay away from private homes. Access to the ponds is free of charge, and unless you've rented a 4WD vehicle you’ll need to hike across the rocks.