To better visualize where Puako is, have a look at the map of Hawaii, at right. The Big Island is the southernmost and easternmost of the Hawaiian islands. If you hadn't guessed from the name, it is the largest of the islands as well. The red dot on the map indicates where Puako is located.
Puako is a tiny oceanfront town. How tiny? The 2000 U.S. Census counted fewer than 500 residents. Actually, calling Puako a town is a bit of an exaggeration. Even the word 'village' doesn't quite describe it.
Physically, Puako consists of one narrow paved road that runs parallel to the ocean for about three miles. One end of the road intersects with a highway that connects Kawaihae to the north, and Kailua-Kona about 30 miles to the south. The other end of the road is, well, the end of the road. No outlet. Puako's little road is lined with houses on either side -- new houses, old houses, splendid houses, simple houses. There are a couple of churches, a general store, and one three-story apartment building. That's it! That's our Puako.
The little cove in the photo above is the entry point to our favorite dive site at Puako. We have made hundreds of dives there, entering the water from this very spot. In fact, we have made so many dives at this one area of Puako that we have come to know the underwater terrain there as well as we know the garden around our house.
We used to live right across the street from this little cove. When we lived there, we would dive at this spot three or four days a week, every week, year round. Even after we moved to a new house in another community a few miles away, we still came back to this little cove in Puako to dive on a very regular basis. When we speak of our 'home waters,' this is the place we usually have in mind.
In the next several posts we'll tell you why diving at Puako is so special.