You won’t find gold in the Golden Pools of Keawaiki, but it is rich in natural wonders.
The Golden Pools of Keawaiki on the Kohala coast are landlocked freshwater ponds (anchialine pools) connected to the ocean. Lava fields surround them, and the only greenery is saplings growing at these oases. The Golden Pools of Keawaiki got their name from the gold-colored algae growing on the underwater rocks. Please protect these tiny, fragile ecosystems and do not swim or wade in the water.
Here are the fast facts before we go into more detail about this hike.
- Distance: 2-mile loop
- Elevation gain: 39′
- Difficulty: moderate
- Hike duration: 50-60 minutes
Since you’ll be hiking through a lava field, you’ll need boots. Sandals or running shoes won’t survive against the sharp lava rocks. And since the lava field is in the open, the heat and sun will impact your hike. Wear sun-protecting clothing, sunscreen, and pack plenty of water.
Locating the trailhead to the Golden Pools of Keawaiki can be challenging since there are no signs on the highway or the trail. Let’s start by getting you to the unmarked dirt parking area.
Start by getting on Highway 19. The parking lot is between mile markers 78-79. Some visitors reported that it’s closer to marker 79. Once you pull in, don’t park in front of the gate and block property owners from entering or exiting.
The trailhead is the 4-wheel drive road on the other side of the gate that you’ll need to cross. You’re allowed on the road which is public access, but it does skirt private property, so keep to the trail system.
The King’s Highway is about a tenth of a mile from the trailhead. Continue past the King’s Highway, and when the path narrows, walk beside the private property fence on the right. Close to the beach, a trail on the right leads to the Golden Pools of Keawaiki. Ancient Hawaiians built this historic trail by hand to travel the island.
Since this is the start of the loop, you have another option. Continue toward the ocean until you discover an access path to the black sand beach of Keawaiki Bay. Once at the beach, head north (turn right) and follow the shoreline to the lone palm tree. Recent hikers reported that it looked like it was dying, but hopefully, it has survived. Continue past the palm tree until you reach Pueo Bay. Here, the waters are calm and ideal for swimming and snorkeling. Dolphins, sea turtles, and other marine life frequent the bay. The trailhead to the Golden Pools of Keawaiki is at the center of the beach beside a large boulder. You should be able to see the green saplings of the oasis from this location.
Near one of the pools are the ruins of a temple (heiau) and other structures destroyed when Mauna Lua erupted in 1859. Please respect Hawaiian culture and do not climb or touch these relics.
While some visitors commented that the pools weren’t impressive (they are small), others enjoyed the hike and that they were the only ones on the trail and beach. We think trekking through a lava field from 1859 to walk black beaches, spot golden ponds and ancient structures will be a worthwhile experience.
Hiking at low tide gives you access to Pueo Bay. Starting early in the day is best when the sun isn’t as intense.