Kapoho Tide Pools - Pahoa, Big Island, Hawaii - Natural Hot Tubs and Tidal Ecosystems

Located on the Kapoho Coast of the Big Island of Hawaii, the Kapoho Tide Pools are an unusually large grouping of tide pools and spring fed pools that stretch out for roughly one mile along the shoreline and extend as much as 600 feet out into the Pacific Ocean. The pools formed naturally and, surprisingly, many of them are actually heated volcanically. Soaking in their warm, brackish water is said to be very soothing.

For this reason, some of the smaller tide pools have been incorporated by local residents into swimming pools and hot tubs on their private property. The rarely crowded pools located in public areas are also available for bathing and afford a very calm and relaxing experience to those willing to seek them out.

Tide pools only form in areas where the ocean meets the land in such a way that tidal erosion occurs. The rocky tide zone is continually shaped by the actions of the wind, sun and water. As the sun bears down, it heats the rock surfaces and exposed organisms. The wind dries them and also causes waves to build and pound against the shoreline. Gradually, the battering surf shapes the rocks, depositing loose stones and sand that grinds away at the surface, forming pockets where calm water can collect.

Because portions of the shore are constantly being covered and uncovered by water, tide pools can be a harsh and brutal environment for plant and animal life to survive in. Tide pool life forms have to avoid being washed away by the waves. They must also not dry out or be eaten by predators turning low tide.

Nevertheless, the Kapoho Tide Pools which dot the coastline are brimming with sea creatures, making them a wonderful area to explore. A wide variety of fish species live within their multi-colored coral beds. The water is usually quite clear, allowing for easy viewing of sea life within these mini-ecosystems, even for those who do not bring along a diving mask and snorkel. It is not uncommon to see a Moray Eel or two swimming lazily in the warm waters.

Many of the larger Kapoho Tide Pools are interconnected. Although a few reach depths of up to ten feet, most are relatively shallow, just a few feet deep, and their surface conditions are calm enough for wading children and weak swimmers.

Other tide pools are so close together that it is easy to climb out of one and drop right down into the next. The bottoms and sides of the pools are often smooth, but it is a good idea to wear sandals or water shoes for walking across the lava rock between them. Also bring a towel, drinking water and sunscreen. There are no facilities here, even though the Kapoho Coast does have lava shelves that make for excellent sunbathing sites.

To get to the Kapoho Tide Pools, take State Highway 11 south from Hilo. At Keau, turn left onto Pahoa Road (Route 130) and follow the signs for Kalapana. Past the town of Pahoa, look for signs pointing the way to Kapoho. After passing Lava Tree State Park, take a left on Route 132 and continue until it ends at a four-way intersection. Turn right onto Route 137. Just before mile marker #9, turn left on Kapoho Kai Road. Take the next left on Kaheka, and then turn right on Waiopae. You will see the ocean and tidal pools from here, stretching out along the coast. Parking is limited.

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