**This park is permanently closed**
Ahalanui Park is a Puna Coast destination no more. It was flooded by lava flows issued from Kilauea Volcano in 2018, part of the most destructive volcanic eruption in the U.S. since the 1980 blast of Mount St. Helens. Many locals and Big Island vacationers alike have fond memories of its geothermal pool and pleasant ambiance.
Situated on the coast northeast of Pahoa, the site was also known as Pualaa County Park. Its centerpiece was the Ahalanui geothermal pool itself, an oceanfront swimming hole naturally heated to some 90 degrees Fahrenheit. This was part of a lineup of such volcanically warmed pools along this stretch of Puna Coast, including the so-called Champagne Pool to the north at Cape Kumakahi.
The pool had been artificially modified to form a squared-off geothermal swimming pool with easy-access steps and ladders. A small inlet linked the pool to the ocean, which allowed for regular flushing and a brackish character. It also meant small fish could enter the pool, floored with sand and mud. It gave off a slight aroma of sulfur revealing its geothermal plumbing.
The calm, exceptionally clear, and toasty waters in such close proximity to breaking coastal waves were delightful. The fact that they were surrounded by ranks of murmuring coconut palms and close to picnic lawns added to the pleasure.
In the summer of 2018, fissures began opening up along the Lower East Rift Zone of Kilauea Volcano, initially on the grounds of the Leilani Estates. The lava flows resulting forced evacuations and—by the end of what became known as the Lower East Rift Zone (LERZ) or Lower Puna Eruption—more than 700 homes had been destroyed. The eighth of the 24-odd cracks that opened up and gushed during the event, Fissure 8, became the most notable of all. Notable enough, in fact, that in 2021 it received a more distinctive label by the Hawaii Board of Geographic Names: Ahuailaau. That name refers to the altar of the “forest-eater” fire god Ailaau. (The fissure is now marked by a cinder cone.)
In early June 2018, Ahuailaau’s lava reached the ocean and swamped Ahalanui Park in the process. Thus, the destruction of a much-loved, long-used thermal pool was added to the list of transformations the Lower East Rift Zone Eruption wrought.
While a tragic loss for many, it was also a demonstration of the yin-yang geologic processes that define the Island of Hawaii. The 2018 lava flows destroyed neighborhoods and roads and sparked forest fires. They also built new land as basalt solidifying along the coast expanded the oceanfront.
Not far south of the closed-off site of Ahalanui Park, you’ll find similar thermal pools—plus a new black-sand beach resulting from the 2018 eruptions—at Isaac Hale Beach Park. This site was only partly covered by the Lower Puna lavas and remains open to the public.