Welcome to Puako, Hawaii

This is the first in a series of posts about shore diving at Puako, on the Big Island of Hawaii. Puako is situated on the western coast of the Big Island, in the South Kohala district, a few miles south of the port of Kawaihae.

Hawaiian Islands mapTo 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.

Puako sits along a fairly rugged stretch of coastline created by an old lava flow. The dark sections that jut into the ocean in the photo at left are fingers of that old lava flow. The coastline is very irregular, featuring stretches of black lava punctuated by small pocket beaches. Some of the little beaches are coral sand, but a few are composed of black sand. Because the surface of the lava along the shore is so uneven, there are plenty of tidepools.

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.


  1. What a beautiful place to have lived. I am quite envious. There are no beautiful beaches here, just oodles of dirty water that I would feel bad daring someone to swim in. *sigh*

  2. Hi AntiBarbie -

    Yes, Puako was indeed a beautiful place to live. Fortunately when we left there it was to move just a few miles up the coast. We can now see Puako's coastline from our back garden. It's a pretty scene to look at.


  3. Is Puako a little way outside Kona on Big Island? You pass a small white church first with a steeple and then you come upon a beachon the right -- can't think of the name. But there's always a guy selling peas for the tourists to feed to the fish. Right off the shoreline it is very shallow and then there is lava rock a foot maybe under the water. Does this sound familiar at all?

    We spent many a great vacation snorkeling there...and like it better than the Great Barrier Reef off Australia! Believe that!
    Thanks for stopping by my blog.

  4. Hi teach -

    Glad to hear that you liked snorkeling on our coast so much. We hope you come back.

    To answer your question, Puako is about 30 miles or so north of Kona. You do indeed pass a little white church with a steeple on your way into the community, and the beach you describe sounds like it might be the one near house #22, although I never saw a guy there selling peas to feed to the fish!


  5. Hi There,

    Nice site. Where is this little cove? I may try and dive it today - my wife and I are styaing in a rental just around the corner.


  6. Brandon - Look for the beach access between house #38 and house #40. ;-}


    Bobbie & Jerry


We welcome your comments and invite your questions. Dialogue is a good thing!

Bobbie & Jerry