Found along Lower Puna District's jagged coast of black lava rock, this group of tidal pools locally known as "Mermaid Ponds" is a rugged, secluded swimming spot to take a refreshing dip on those hot, humid East Hawai'i Island afternoons.
The path across the rough beach of lava boulders can be treacherous at points, but the reward at the end of the trail - a large, semi-protected swimming hole that's surprisingly deep in places - makes the trek well worth it. Big rolling waves come crashing across the perimeter of black lava boulders, and their force makes the ponds periodically churn and bubble away. On days of medium to high surf, swimming in the ponds can be dangerous, so it's always best to watch the ocean for a bit upon arrival before getting in. The same rule applies to Mermaid Ponds as to every other ocean swimming spot in the state: "If in doubt, don't go out." It's also a good idea to stay away from the ponds' outer rock walls, since large rogue waves can crash over the breakwater and the ensuing backwash, if strong enough, could potentially carry swimmers back out to sea.
On calm days, the ponds are like giant bathtubs full of sun-heated water, constantly being refreshed by cool seawater from the open ocean. Small fish dart around the pools, and an intriguing amount of different sea life can be seen if looked for hard enough, like the myriad tiny black crabs scuttling across the rocks surrounding the pools. The murmur of churning water, the twitter of birds in the jungle canopy, and the intermittent slap of crashing waves against the outer rocks all make for a richly serene and tranquil soundscape.
Keep in mind that the floor of the pools are not sand, but rather the same large cumbersome lava rocks that make up trail down to the water. Walking around inside the pools - as well as getting in and out - can be a bit tricky, making the ideal footwear for this destination full-toe waterproof sandals like Keens to provide foot protection. At high tide, moving around is much easier, and the depth of the main pond can get close to shoulder height.
There's an imposing rocky outcrop that fronts the main pond, and it's a steep, rough path over it that forms the the easiest access between the different tidal pool areas. Beyond the rocky coast is the typical curtain of green jungle that typifies the Puna coastline. Forests of mangrove trees known as lau hala in Hawaiian spread out the ponds, dropping their long, ribbon-like leaves into tan piles that make up the understory.
Rarely, on clear days in the late-afternoon, the towering figure of Mauna Kea, Hawai'i Island's most culturally and scientifically important mountain, can be seen as a grey outline against the changing sky. The mountain is surrounded by a ring of low-hanging clouds that at times rise and obscure the summit, only to give way and reveal it once again.
Getting to Mermaid Ponds can be a bit tricky since there are no signs to speak of from the road. Luckily the ponds' trailhead is marked with a pin on Google Maps, found here. Just keep in mind there are many homes near the trailhead, and trespassing ocean-goers are a recurring problem in the area.
Mahalo nui loa to Stefan Verbano, Content Blog Writer for Kona Wedding Officiant® - Hawaii 101 - Things to Do On Hawaii Big Island - www.konaweddingofficiant.com/blog
Aloha - Deanna - Kona Wedding Officiant, Licensed Minister and Marriage Officiant.
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