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Kīholo State Park Reserve

Big Island, Hawai'i

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Kīholo State Park Reserve

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  • The gravel road leading to Kīholo Bay State Park Reserve.- Kīholo State Park Reserve
  • The road to the campground leaves from the left as you enter.- Kīholo State Park Reserve
  • The day use parking area near the campsites.- Kīholo State Park Reserve
  • The day use parking area near the campsites.- Kīholo State Park Reserve
  • Access to the beach.- Kīholo State Park Reserve
  • Access to the beach.- Kīholo State Park Reserve
  • The black sand and pebble beach southwest of the main parking area and near the campsites.- Kīholo State Park Reserve
  • The black sand and pebble beach southwest of the main parking area and near the campsites.- Kīholo State Park Reserve
  • The black sand and pebble beach southwest of the main parking area and near the campsites.- Kīholo State Park Reserve
  • The day use parking area near the campsites.- Kīholo State Park Reserve
  • The black sand and pebble beach southwest of the main parking area and near the campsites.- Kīholo State Park Reserve
  • The day use parking area near the campsites.- Kīholo State Park Reserve
  • The main day use parking area for Kīholo Bay State Park Reserve.- Kīholo State Park Reserve
  • Portable toilets at Kīholo Bay State Park Reserve.- Kīholo State Park Reserve
  • Walking from the parking area toward the bay.- Kīholo State Park Reserve
  • The remains of a structure sit near the bay.- Kīholo State Park Reserve
  • A footpath extends northeast along the bay.- Kīholo State Park Reserve
  • The rocky shore of Kīholo Bay State Park Reserve.- Kīholo State Park Reserve
  • Tide pools along the shore at Kīholo Bay State Park Reserve.- Kīholo State Park Reserve
  • Aggregate The rocky shore of Kīholo Bay State Park Reserve.- Kīholo State Park Reserve
  • The Queen's Bath at Kīholo Bay State Park Reserve.- Kīholo State Park Reserve
  • The Queen's Bath at Kīholo Bay State Park Reserve.- Kīholo State Park Reserve
  • The Queen's Bath at Kīholo Bay State Park Reserve.- Kīholo State Park Reserve
  • The Queen's Bath at Kīholo Bay State Park Reserve.- Kīholo State Park Reserve
  • The Queen's Bath at Kīholo Bay State Park Reserve.- Kīholo State Park Reserve
  • The Queen's Bath at Kīholo Bay State Park Reserve.- Kīholo State Park Reserve
  • The area is obviously fragile, so great care should be taken as you appreciate the pools.- Kīholo State Park Reserve
  • Look for this sunken rubble as you search for the petroglyphs.- Kīholo State Park Reserve
  • Petroglyphs can be seen along the wall outside of this cave.- Kīholo State Park Reserve
  • Petroglyphs at Kīholo Bay State Park Reserve.- Kīholo State Park Reserve
  • Petroglyphs at Kīholo Bay State Park Reserve.- Kīholo State Park Reserve
  • Petroglyphs at Kīholo Bay State Park Reserve.- Kīholo State Park Reserve
  • Petroglyphs at Kīholo Bay State Park Reserve.- Kīholo State Park Reserve
  • The cave that is home to the petroglyphs.- Kīholo State Park Reserve
  • Petroglyphs at Kīholo Bay State Park Reserve.- Kīholo State Park Reserve
  • The foundations for structures remain in place in the lava flows that surround the petroglyphs at the Kīholo Bay State Park Reserve.- Kīholo State Park Reserve
  • Kīholo Bay State Park Reserve.- Kīholo State Park Reserve
  • A praying mantis on a flowering pua kala plant, which is an endemic species of poppy. Kīholo Bay State Park Reserve.- Kīholo State Park Reserve
  • The trees near the campground offer ample shade. - Kīholo State Park Reserve
  • Camping at Kīholo offers excellent sunsets. - Kīholo State Park Reserve
  • Campers enjoying the typically dry and breezy evenings in the campground.- Kīholo State Park Reserve
  • The coastal entrance to Wainanalii Lagoon. - Kīholo State Park Reserve
  • Turtles enjoying the pebble island of Wainanalii Lagoon. - Kīholo State Park Reserve
  • Five private homes are along the coast, but the abundance turtles are much more prominent. - Kīholo State Park Reserve
  • Turtle sightings are almost guaranteed in Kīholo Bay. - Kīholo State Park Reserve
  • Volunteers working with The Nature Conservancy in the restoration of the private and historically important fishponds of Kīholo. - Kīholo State Park Reserve
  • Kīholo Bay is rarely crowded.- Kīholo State Park Reserve
  • Looking out from Keanalele Cave. - Kīholo State Park Reserve
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Anchialine ponds. Abundant turtles. Petroglyphs. Secluded coastline.
Cons: 
Kiawe thorns.
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Region:
Big Island, HI
Congestion: 
Low
Pets allowed: 
No
Year round: 
Yes
Parking Pass: 
None
Preferable Season(s):
Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
Current Local Weather:
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Adventure Description

Adventure Description

Contributor

Kīholo State Park Reserve is a 1-mile coastal reserve approximately 20 minutes north of Kona. The reserve offers much to see and do– Wainanalii Lagoon, Keanalele (the Queen’s bath), and the black sand beaches being perhaps the most popular destinations within the reserve. Kīholo Bay in its entirety can be viewed from Highway 19 at the scenic overlook just past mile marker 89. As you look down from the overlook, you’ll notice the exceptionally cyan-blue water, particularly in the north end of the bay, which is called Wainanalii Lagoon. Freshwater springs feed into this bay, and when the fresh water meets the salt, it creates an unbelievably blue cyan hue. The abundance of freshwater springs also marks the bay as a historically significant spot. Located on the dry side of the island, this location offered much needed water to the historic inhabitants of the area, and the naturally occurring anchialine ponds provided prolific fishponds to support a thriving community in Hawaii’s pre-contact history. In fact, Wainanalii Lagoon is the remnants of a massive construction project by King Kamehameha I, though it is understood to have been first created at least 100 years prior. The king is credited with building a sea wall 2 miles in circumference to protect the teeming fishponds, but the lava flows of 1801 eventually left Wainanalii Lagoon in its current state. Wainanalii Lagoon is accessible to the public and is packed with honu (turtles), though the neighboring fishponds are on private property and should not be explored. While you might think the lagoon’s amazing blue water would make for superb snorkeling, stick to the open ocean for the excellent snorkeling. Because the water within the lagoon is brackish (fresh and salt mixing), the different waters mixing within the lagoon create a halocline effect that makes the water have a blurry appearance. Just before Wainanalii Lagoon, you can also find some papamu petroglyphs (the Hawaiian version of the game checkers) off a few yards from the initial cove.

There are two different ways to access the Wainanalii Lagoon northern portion of the reserve; you can park along Highway 19 and hike in through the lava field on a wide trail, or you can park at the end of the reserve's gravel access road at mile 89 (immediately before the scenic overlook) and hike along the shoreline. Both hikes are a little shorter than a mile. If you have a boat, kayaking in from the black sand beach at the end of the access road is another great option. If you choose to hike along the coast, you will pass a few mansions along the way (Paul Mitchell’s–yes, the hair product entrepreneur–being one of them) that are private property, but the coast itself is public access and typically littered with turtles. Keep in mind you should give turtles at least a 10-foot distance.  Just past the mansions and before Wainanalii Lagoon you’ll notice some large fishponds. These are located on private property and should not be entered; they are currently being restored by The Nature Conservancy and Hui Aloha Kiholo thanks to a generous donation from the Mitchell family. If you would like to check out these fishponds more closely, assist in their restoration, and learn about their historical significance, check out The Nature Conservancy’s website for volunteer days, which are family friendly and held once a month. 

One of the perks of hiking to Wainanalii Lagoon along the coast from the public access parking lot is that about 100 yards into your beach hike you will hit Keanalele (the Queen’s bath), which is another spot worth visiting in the reserve. The brackish lava tube is filled from a freshwater spring mixing with salt water from rising tides. There is some debate about whether it is appropriate to swim in the cave, but it is, in fact, legal to do so. Land caves in the area, however, are not legal to enter, and you will receive a hefty fine and court appearance if you are caught entering any of Kīholo’s land caves. If you do decide to go for a swim in Keanalele, be  mindful that sunscreen is harmful to the delicate ecosystem and the water is a frigid 70 degrees. You might want to bring a headlamp if you plan to explore deeper into the back of the cave. While the cave does not go back much further than 25 yards, that is enough to leave you in complete darkness. With a headlamp, you’ll also be able to see the glowing eyes of the prawns that live within the cave, which can be a cool (and a little creepy) sight. 

To the left of the gravel entrance road is a Kīholo State Park Reserve Campground and a black sand beach; permits for camping are available Friday through Monday and can be obtained one month in advance. They are a hot commodity on the island, so plan to book your permits immediately upon availability. Along the black sand beach on the southern portion of the park you will find excellent snorkeling, and often pods of dolphins can be seen “resting” in this area in the early morning. From November through February you can expect to see whales breaching throughout the day. The entry into the water at the beach is more like black pebbles than sand (and can hurt sensitive feet), but you don’t have to worry about a hidden reef amidst the pebbles. This portion of the bay is usually calm for swimming and rarely crowded, and this black sand beach is a popular spot for kitesurfing, too. 

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Nearby Camping + Lodging

(2 within a 30 mile radius)

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(30 within a 30 mile radius)

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