Kalapana (Former Village)
For generations, Kalapana was a tiny, close-knit fishing village near Kaimu Beach, the island's most famous black-sand beach. When Kilauea began erupting in 1983, the main lava flow moved downslope west of Kalapana. Locals gave offerings to Pele, asking her to spare the village. But in 1990 the flow changed direction and inched toward Kalapana and its 100 buildings.
Kapoho Tide Pools
The best snorkeling on the Big Island's windward side is this sprawling network of tide pools, officially named the Wai Opae Tide Pools Marine Life Conservation District. Here, Kapoho's lava-rock coast is a mosaic of protected, shallow, interconnected pools containing a rich variety of marine life.
Ahalanui Beach Park
Among the island's many volcanically heated hot ponds, Ahalanui is the most accessible and popular. Surrounded by palm trees, it's an idyllic spot, but you'll rarely find solitude here. Water temperatures in the spring-fed thermal pool average 90°F, and the pool is deep enough for swimming.
Isaac Hale Beach Park
Renovations in 2008 have completely changed Isaac Hale (house; pronounced ha-lay). The rocky beach along Pohoiki Bay is of course the same – too rough for swimming but addictive for experienced bodyboarders and surfers who regard Pohoiki as the island's top surfing spot, despite the omnipresence of sea urchins.
MacKenzie State Recreation Area
On the one hand, this park is a spectacular picnic spot, amid groves of ironwood trees overlooking dramatic 40ft cliffs and pounding surf below. On the other, the place is often eerily quiet and deserted. Locals agree that MacKenzie gives them the creeps. During the day, this secluded park is worth a stop to explore the lava tube.
About half a mile south of MacKenzie State Recreation Area is Aʻakepa, a hidden, other-worldly expanse of lava flats and tide pools run through with rivers of incoming surf and chartreuse ground cover. Here, palm trunk bridges cross little lagoons, lichen and pine needles drip from boulders like glaze on a cake and patches of white sand invite lounging.
Kapoho Beach Lots
Top-notch snorkeling awaits beyond the locked gates of this oceanside community. The most celebrated spot is Champagne Pond, a tranquil protected area with sandy shores frequented by green turtles. To get here, follow Kapoho Beach Rd as it curves around the shore; look for the shore access sign just after 14-5027 Kapoho Beach Rd.