The Big Island of Hawaii is home to many wonders of science and nature, including the Pohoiki hot springs and the island’s newest black sand beach. At the present time, the Pohoiki hot springs are the only hot springs on the island open to the public, as the 2018 Kilauea eruption that formed the hot springs destroyed the existing ones. Here’s what you need to know about the Pohoiki hot springs, including how to find them and what to expect once you’re there.
- The Pohoiki hot springs and black sand beach are near Pahoa in the Puna district.
- The park is free and has lots of parking.
- The springs range in temperature from warm to around 106 °F. They vary in depth. The deepest is the boat ramp pool.
- The water is brackish, rich in minerals, and not potable.
- There is no drinking water, so bring your own.
- The restrooms are portable toilets. There are no showers.
- There are two lifeguards, but swimming in the ocean is not recommended.
- There is no camping, fishing, or other amenities. Park hours may vary, so check before going to the beach. (8 am – 4 pm at the time of writing)
- The black “sand” is pretty sharp – you’ll want shoes.
- Signs warn that the water is not disinfected. Swimming is at your own risk.
What Are the Pohoiki Hot Springs?
The 2018 Kilauea eruption covered the original hot springs at Isaac Hale and also the Kapoho Tide Pools. The lava flowed toward the sea, ending at the Pohoiki boat ramp and creating a new black sand beach. The new beach cuts the boat ramp off from the ocean, but offers a convenient entrance into the warm water. Other hot pools near the boat ramp are collapsed lava tubes. Surface water gets heated by ongoing volcanic activity, while rain and seawater keep the pools from getting too hot.
The number and location of the hot springs depends a lot on the weather. On a rainy day, expect numerous pools (6 on the day of my first visit). If the weather is dry, there may be fewer pools (4 on the day of my second visit). As you enter the park, facing the beach, walk to your left and find two or more shallow hot springs surrounded by cooled lava. The temperature of these small pools varies daily. Or, walk to the right. The largest pool is the old boat ramp, with easy access into and out of the pool. The depth of this pool seems to be around 5 feet and it is about 100 °F. Continuing past the boat ramp and on the right, find one or more hotter pools (up to 106 °F) along the jungle.
How to Get to Pohoiki Hot Springs
Getting to the Pohoiki hot springs is easy, especially if you come in from the Hilo side of the island. However, expect getting there to take 2 to 3 hours if you come in from the Kona side of the island. Google Maps recognizes the location of “Isaac Hale Beach Park”, “Pohoiki Hot Springs”, or simply “Pohoiki”. The only thing is, you might not maintain a cell signal the entire time during your journey there and back, so if you use navigation, be sure to download the instructions in case you go offline.
Basically, you head to the town of Pahoa, which is in the Puna district of the island. Once you get through Pahoa, the signage is pretty good directing you to Isaac Hale and Pohoiki. Isaac Hale Park, Pohoiki Bay, the black sand beach, and the hot spring are off Highway 137. You’ll know you’re almost there when the road changes and you start driving on the new road across the fresh lava field.
Parking is free. There are two main parking areas. The first area is near the park entrance and portable toilets. The second area faces the beach and is near the boat ramp.
How Long Will the Hot Springs Last?
Scientific research is ongoing, but geologists expect the hot springs will remain hot for several years, if not decades. The hot springs were originally cooler than they are today, but the temperature has stabilized. Of course, another volcanic eruption might destroy the springs or create new ones.
Other Hot Springs on the Big Island
At present, the Pohoiki hot springs are the only hot springs on the Big Island. However, the volcanic rock readily accepts heat from the Sun, so you may find warm tide pools anywhere along the beach. For example, the tide pools surrounding the Ali’i Saltwater Pool are sometimes warm and may be more convenient to visitors on the Kona side of the island.
- duPont, Dane (December 2, 2020). “The Pohoiki Warm Ponds Got Hotter, Our Explanation Why.” Hawaiitracker.com
- Janik, Cathy J.; Nathenson, Manuel; Scholl, M. A. (1994). “Chemistry of spring and well waters on Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii, and vicinity.” USGS. doi:10.3133/ofr94586