Set on the North Kona Coast, Kiholo Bay is a stunningly beautiful turquoise seashore rich in cultural significance and natural splendor. The Kiholo-Huehue Trail is a great way to get a taste of its enchantments.
This bayfront lies within the Kiholo State Park Reserve and represents a fine partnership between the non-profit group Hui Aloha Kiholo and the State of Hawaii. Conservation efforts have helped restore this magical place—which had suffered some form of overuse—to something of its original pristineness.
You can take this 2.8-mile loop hike via a rough access road breaking off Highway 19 between mile markers 81 and 82. A passenger car driven carefully can usually handle this road pretty well. If you’re uneasy about it, though, you can always walk it down. A parking area lies at the road’s end, with the center of the bayfront a short walk northward.
The loop proceeds on the eastern side of the Kiholo Bay shore. The characteristic slightly murky turquoise character of the bay stems from the input of freshwater springs and plentiful phytoplankton.
You’ll pass one of the shore’s defining landmarks on this trail: Kaenalele, aka the Queen’s Bath. This is an exposure of a lava tube with a collapsed roof filled with clear brackish water. It does indeed look like a natural bathtub, but respect this pool’s fragile ecosystem by not getting in for a soak.
Continuing east, you’ll skirt some residential housing—including the well-known “Bali House”—and then cross a canal. Your ultimate goal is the spellbinding Wainanalii Lagoon, aka the “Blue Lagoon.”
This rock-edged coastal water body was originally part of a fishpond constructed by the commission of Kamehameha the Great. In 1859, a lava flow issue from Mauna Loa destroyed this fishpond, but the lagoon is a stirring remnant.
Sea turtles are commonly seen along the whole Kiholo bayfront, but Wainanalii Lagoon is an especially fruitful place to spot them. They’re not only frequently cruising the water, but also often haul onto the rocks to bask. (Green sea turtles are the only species of sea turtle known to come ashore to bask, and not just to nest. And Hawaii is pretty much the only place where green turtles—called honu here—do this consistently.)
Proceeding on sand and rock, this hike is fairly level and not particularly arduous. But it can be quite hot and exposed. Bring plenty of water and wear sun protection.
Kiholo Bay is a remarkable place, and the Kiholo-Huehue loop trail provides an unforgettable introduction. The color of the water offshore and in the lagoon, the enchanted Queen’s Bath, the lolling honus: It’s quite seductive. And the views you’ll enjoy are a testament to the good, hard work Hui Aloha Kiholo and the state, among other organizations, have done here.
This loop hike is to the east of the Kiholo Bay access. If you want to extend your time along Kiholo Bay—and you do, don’t you?—consider acquiring a permit to camp here. West of that access path, the reserve’s campground enjoys a beautiful perch amid a kiawe grove along a black-sand beach. Camping is only allowed on the weekends.