The Ali’i saltwater pool is a lesser known “secret” attraction on the Big Island of Hawaii. It gets mixed reviews online, so you may wonder whether it’s worth visiting. Here’s what you need to know, including how to get to the Ali’i saltwater pool and what to expect.
- It’s on the Kona side of the island, south of Kailua.
- It’s free! Also, there is free parking nearby that almost always has space.
- There are no lifeguards, showers, bathrooms, or any other amenities besides a couple of chairs.
- It’s not exactly wheelchair accessible. There are steps to get down to the pool and the terrain is uneven.
- The conditions of the pool depend on the surf. When the surf is high, expect waves crashing over the pool edge and keeping the water clean. Basically, it’s an infinity pool. But, when the surf is low, the pool can get stagnant and very green.
- Fish can get into the pool, so it’s a safe snorkeling experience for kids.
- There is no sandy beach, but there is a paved area around the pool and lots of interesting tide pools.
What Is the Ali’i Saltwater Pool?
The Ali’i saltwater pool is a large pool built right next to the edge of the Pacific Ocean on the Kona side of the Big Island. Sometimes it’s called Rivi’s Saltwater Pool. There are steps leading down into the pool. The tide feeds the pool with water and a few fish through openings on its side. When the surf is high, it further refreshes the pool when it washes over its edge. Although rain sometimes dilutes the water, it’s largely salty.
Is It a Natural Infinity Pool?
The pool itself is man-made, but the water comes from the ocean. If the tide is high enough, it’s an infinity pool.
How to Get to Ali’i Saltwater Pool
If you’ve got a cell signal or wifi, Google Maps can direct you to the pool. If not, start in Kailua on the Kona side of the island and head south on Ali’i Drive (or head north on Ali’i Drive coming from Captain Cook). The Ali’i saltwater pool is on the beach. To get there, walk between the Aston Kona by the Sea Hotel and the Kona Isle Condominiums on Ali’i Drive. There is no sign for for the pool. Instead, look for the “Public Beach Access” sign between these the hotel and the condos. There will be a lava stone wall on your right and a hedge separating you from the Aston. It is a short walk from from Ali’i drive to the pool.
You can’t park at the Aston or the Kona Isle Condominiums unless you are staying there, but there is limited free parking across the street on Ali’i Drive. A better option it to park in the little shopping area in front of Casa de Emdeko Condominiums beside the Kona Isle Condominiums. Then, just cross the parking lot and head toward the beach when you see the “beach access” sign. Note that the beach access sign is not particularly visible from this side!
What to Expect
Don’t have high expectations. The pool ranges from glorious to gross, depending on tide conditions. The water temperature is about the same as the ocean temperature (so, maybe a bit cool). There are usually a few fish, so you can snorkel here. Also, you can bring pool floats and toys. This is not a clean, maintained pool (if you want that, stay at Casa de Emdeko, which has a wonderful saltwater pool overlooking the surf). It’s more like a natural infinity pool, with whatever the tide washes in. There is a nice stone-paved area surrounding the pool, but not much in the way of shade. The steps leading into the pool and the floor of the pool itself have a coating of algae. Water shoes are a good idea. There are no amenities (bathrooms, lifeguards, showers, etc.).
Whether you choose to get into the water or not, the Ali’i saltwater pool is a fantastic location for watching the sunset! The pool looks out directly onto sunset, where you can catch the green flash.
Also, even if the pool water isn’t inviting on the day you visit, there are tidepools surrounding it. Some of them are smooth and round. While shallower than the pool, they are clear and pristine.
Is It Worth It to Visit the Ali’i Saltwater Pool?
In a word, yes! It’s a cool place to visit as long as you know what to expect and come prepared with sunscreen (reef-safe please) and drinking water. Another option is a visit to the Pohoiki hot springs on the Hilo side of the island, near Pahoa.
- It’s free and the parking is free.
- It’s a short trip from Kailua, Holualoa, or Captain Cook.
- There are fish and possibly other creatures.
- It’s almost never crowded. You may even have it all to yourself.
- The weather is almost always sunny and warm.
- It overlooks the surf and has a great view, especially at sunset.
- It’s green and probably not very clean. If it’s maintained, it’s infrequently.
- There aren’t any amenities.
- It’s not accessible for a wheelchair. A stroller should be fine.