The waters at Keaukaha Beach Park's tidal pools and swimming holes are almost always peaceful, but just 100 yards off this placid coast are the massive rolling waves that come into the bay in sets and proceed to explode against the Hilo Breakwater - the 2-mile-long arc of stacked boulders and concrete pylons that juts out into (and protects) Hilo Bay.
The park is located just east of the breakwater's start, and is arguably the best place in the city to watch the mesmerizing spectacle of giant waves turning to clouds of white sea spray. Even better, it offers its own collection of protected swimming spots thanks to the shape of Puhi Bay, so it's possible to wade around in shallow, calm pools while simultaneously hearing and seeing the big waves assault the breakwater wall on the horizon. The park's best vantage point to watch the waves semi-up-close is its western edge, where outcroppings of jet black lava rock dot the jagged coast and make swimming impossible.
The "Beach Park" in Keaukaha's name is a bit misleading since there's hardly much of a beach to speak of. But from the wave-watching area heading towards the middle of the park, visitors will find several massive Banyan trees and a spattering of coconut palms towering over a small, rocky beach. These trees - especially the Banyans with their intricately woven trunks and broad canopies - offer plenty of shaded spots for picnic-ers or snorkelers taking a break from exploring the reef's many rocky nooks and crannies. The swimming spots here are ideal for seeing Hawai'i Islands myriad tide pool sea life, including crabs, anemones, starfish - even turtles on occasion.
Not far from the Banyans, the breeze carries over the sweet smell of overripe fruit. A mature breadfruit tree - a traditional Hawaiian staple crop and integral part of Polynesian cuisine - can be spotted beside the parking lot with its broad, serrated leaves and yellow, sap-covered orbs beckoning to passersby. A neat pile of the fallen fruit is the source of the strangely pleasant aroma, while ripe specimens in the tree look ready to drop, too.
Going farther down the coast along Kalanianaole Street will bring you to a handful of large, wide-open fields that make up the eastern edge of the park. These are arguable some of the most well-manicured playing fields in the whole city, making the park a sort of one-stop-shop for outdoor activities from snorkeling to frisbee. Interspersed among the fields are lots of groupings of picnic tables and several restroom facilities close-by.
Keaukaha Beach Park is open daily from 6am to 9pm, and is easy to get to from downtown Hilo. From the intersection of Highway 11 and Kamehameha Boulevard, simply continue east onto Kalanianaole Street past the Port of Hilo and the Keaukaha Beach Park's parking lot will be roughly 1.5 miles down the road on the left.
Several of Hilo's other most popular swimming spots can be found farther down the coast along Kalanianaole Street, including Carlsmith Beach Park, Richardson Ocean Park, and Wai'olena Beach Park. This makes Keaukaha a great pit stop on a sunny afternoon of exploring the many picturesque aquatic parks found along the coast east of the Port of Hilo.
Article Written By Associate Stefan Verbano