From Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and stretching southeast to the coast, Hawaii Island’s Puna District is perhaps the most overlooked of the nine districts found on Hawaii’s largest island. Measuring in at just under 320,000 acres, the Puna district is slightly smaller than the island of Kauai, and is home to countless incredible landscapes and attractions. From hippie towns and lava formations to stunning beaches and incredible parks, these 12 hidden gems found in the Puna district are an absolute delight to explore.
1. Pahoa Town
This charming Hawaiian census-designated place is home to less than 1,00 residents, and a laid-back vibe. It is often described as the hippie capital of Hawaii, and is full of little boutiques, mouthwatering eateries, galleries, and the state’s oldest movie theater.
2. Ahalanui Hot Pond
There is little better after a long hike than jumping into the ocean for a quick swim – except maybe slipping into a steaming hot spring fed by the expansive Pacific Ocean and warmed geothermally by flowing lava deep beneath the surface. Surrounded by green grass and palm trees, Ahalanui Hot Pond is the ultimate retreat.
3. Kehena Black Sand Beach
The Hawaiian Islands are home to several gorgeous black sand beaches, including this picturesque stretch of sand. Sometimes known as Dolphin Beach, Kehena is also a known spinner dolphin hangout. The beach was formed during a 1955 lava flow, and is one of the few places in Hawaii that allows nudity.
4. Hedonisia Hawaii
Nestled deep in the lush rainforests of the Puna district of Hawaii Island is Hedonisia Hawaii, a sustainable eco-feminist community that is the stuff hippie dreams are made of. Combining rugged adventure, a sustainable lifestyle and a heart dose of tranquility and spiritual enlightenment, Hedonisia Hawaii has been marvelously restored from its former history as a junkyard for abandoned vehicles.
5. Kalapana Lava Flows
One of the only places to view lava entering the ocean in the world, Kalapana is an absolute must-visit while exploring Hawaii Island’s Puna District. While you can see the flows from land, it is even more incredible to witness the molten lava meeting the sea from a boat tour.
6. Isaac Hale Beach Park
Also known as Pohoiki, this oceanside park is a popular surf spot and boat launch; the park is one of only a few places on the Big Island’s southern shore with such facilities. The park is named in honor of Private Isaac K. Hale, who served in the United States Army's 19th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division during the Korean War and was killed in action north of the 38th parallel on July 12, 1951.
7. Volcano Village
Tucked away near Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Volcano Village is home to 2,500 residents, and little else. This artistic little community is home to countless galleries and is the perfect place for a creative retreat.
8. Kilauea Caldera
Though technically the entrance to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is in the Ka’u district, Kilauea Caldera is located in Puna. The fiery home of one of Hawaii’s most revered gods, Pele, Kilauea is both Hawaii’s youngest shield volcano on land, as well as the most active. The volcano is also experiencing one of the most long-lived eruptions known to man – the eruption began in 1983 on the eastern rift zone, and continues to this day.
9. Lava Tree State Monument
A 17-acre park that features a forest of lava trees, the result of a lava flow in 1790 that swept through the forest, leaving behind lava molds of the tree trunks. The park is free to visit, and features a 0.7-mile loop path and picnic tables.
10. Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Corporation
The Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Factory tour is an excellent stop for a rainy day on the Big Island. While visiting, you can buy their products and learn about the harvesting of Hawaii’s most famous nut.
11. Kapoho Tide Pools
Perhaps the most popular tide pools in the state, a series of interconnecting tide pools extend some 200 yards off shore, with many of the pools large enough for snorkeling. Also fun: some of the pools are heated volcanically, and can reach temperatures of up to 90 degrees.
12. MacKenzie State Park
This secluded park covering 13 acres on Hawaii Island’s rural southern coast featuring tall ironwood trees, volcanic sea cliffs, and quite a few paranormal encounters. Portions of the King's Trail wind through the park, and according to the National Park Service, improvements to this ancient coastal trail were made in the mid 1800s by prisoners and those unable to pay their taxes. Legend has it that the souls of prisoners who died while working on the trail still wander around the park.