To get to the Puna Coast Trail you have to drive the Chain of Craters Road. You will probably be suckered in, like us and most park visitors, to visit the Holei Sea Arch. You should go, of course, but don’t be surprised when you realize that it is neither magnificent, exciting, nor especially notable.
You will have to drive back a little bit to get to the Puna Coast Trail, and you will find that it is not marked. It is across the road from Pu’u Loa Petroglyph Trail so simply look for the petroglyphs hike and you will find it.
Puna Coast Trail is 6.6 miles to Apua Point, another 3.1 to Keahou and an additional 1.7 to Halape. You can continue on the trail to connect to Ka’aha (where we camped before hiking Mauna Loa). We had heard amazing things about Halape, but didn’t have the time to make it out there. We opted for Apua Point. The entire hike was flat as a pancake. After 12,000 feet of elevation gain and loss in the previous three days we were very excited for this new development. While flat, this hike can be oppressively hot. You are hiking across lava fields and there is nothing in the way of tree cover.
After a little over two hours I had made it to Apua Point. I dropped my bag, loaded up a daypack with some water and started jogging to Keahou/Halape. My goal was to make it there and back before the setting sun. I came to Keahou and realized that I could stop, enjoy myself and swim for 15-20 minutes, or I could continue to Halape and turn around 1-2 minutes after arriving.
I opted to go with the swimming option. It’s very hard for me to not go and see another new place, the only justification I could make in my head is that I have another reason to come back to Hawai’i Volcanoes and go camping for a couple of days.
That being said, the swim at Keahou was epic. I lounged in the warm Hawai’i waters on a pristine beach, by myself. There was no one else around and palm trees surrounded me as fish swam around me. I forgot that I hadn’t showered in 4-days and emerged from the water refreshed. I opted to drip dry and enjoyed the beach for a couple of minutes before having to run the 3.1 miles back to camp.
By some miracle there was good cell phone service and I was able to FaceTime with my family. It must have been hilarious to see from the other side. My wet and wild hair was flying everywhere and I was quasi out of breath as I jogged back to my campsite. They didn’t seem to care and it was good to both see them and hear their voices. My little sister goes to college this coming fall and all of her applications were recently due, so she is now playing the waiting game. I remember those days and it’s hard to think that it is been more than a decade since I left high school to start college, look at me now! I’m jobless, living out of my parent’s car and absolutely loving life.