From the town of Pahoa head straight to the ocean, down Kahakai Boulevard and its looping S-curve, through the neighborhood of Hawaiian Beaches until the wide band of deep blue appears on the horizon, and then take a side-street that hugs the coast for a block or two, and you'll find the towering trees, expansive green lawn and colorful art installation of Papio Ocean Park. This pet-friendly seaside recreation spot is owned and managed by the local neighborhood, and is open daily from dawn until dusk.
There's nothing like spreading out on the finely mowed grass for a picnic on a sunny Puna District afternoon and hearing the roar of waves crashing onto the jagged coastline more than a hundred feet below. White mist from the exploding waves filters up the cliff face, and the park occasionally gets a distinct taste of salt in the air. The almost constant onshore breeze keeps the park grounds cool, and makes the strikingly tall lau hala trees with their sharp ribbon-like leaves flutter and dance.
Papio also seems like the perfect place to throw a frisbee or play fetch with a dog, since its bordered by thick jungle on one side and a seldom-used road on the other. People drive slow in the neighborhood, with plenty of joggers, bikers and dog-walkers who are more than likely to wave should they see you.
There's even a short trail at one end of the park that leads through a patch of jungle, heading toward the sound of the waves, which takes the more intrepid sightseer to the edge of the cliff itself for a dramatic and sometimes terrifying look out onto the rugged, wind-swept East Hawaii Island coastline. As the posted sign states upon entering the park, those who venture out to the cliffs must exercise EXTREME CAUTION while standing near the narrow and uneven ledges.
At the park's other end is a picnic bench for those who didn't bring a blanket. There's also a small memorial bench near the road, and in one corner an elegant wood and painted metal bench faces a grove of mature coconut palms, complete with forming coconuts and all. This bench is in a small amphitheater-like area, and is fringed by brilliant, bright-red croton plants.
An art installation called Moonwalker stands on its pedestal in the center of the park, with a dedication sign giving the author's name and a short history of the piece. At night, Moonwalker and her vibrant, colorful tie-dye shawl emit an eerie greenish-blue glow.
Papio Park is a great sightseeing spot along the road that connects Pahoa and other featured destinations like Mermaid Ponds and Lava Highway 132. It's only a few miles outside of town, right at the place where you meet the ocean coming down the hill, and is a great introduction to the natural landscape of the rocky Puna coastline. It's also an ideal place to play lawn games given the size of its mowed portion. From the park, just a few hundred feet farther down the road are several other ocean spots with vehicle pull-offs - a favorite place among locals to watch the sunset.
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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