Four Mile Beach on the Big Island is the mother of all Hawaiian tide pools. Pockets of fresh lava rock form natural pools big enough to do a couple of laps. It’s a unique Hawaiian “beach” that goes against the popular image of an ideal white sandy one, which is often what tempts visitors to our islands. The “beach” is actually a bed of lava rock and saltwater pools but just as gorgeous on any tropical Hawaiian day.
An Olympic swimming pool made of lava rocks.
Originally named James Kealoha Beach Park, after Hawaii’s first elected lieutenant governor, Four Mile got its name from being exactly four miles from the Hilo Post Office. You may be thinking that sending a letter then going for a snorkel must be a popular activity here. But really, the post office is significant to the historic Hilo town, as one of the oldest structures still around today.
Families with children enjoy this beach because its natural barriers protect it from outside ocean waves; therefore, creating a calm swimming environment. The pools don’t get deeper than four feet and have sand-covered floors that’s nice on the feet. Beach-goers also enjoy snorkeling, fishing and spearfishing, but what I got a kick out of when first visiting Four Mile was the sunbathers. They laid out as if they were on a soft, sandy beach and seemed unfazed by the hard rock surface beneath them.
After dunking into one of the pools (which had a ladder added to it for easier access), I understood why the sunbathers were unaffected by the heated lava rocks. A mix of saltwater and waters from natural springs below make the tide pool waters feel like it’s below freezing in temperature. I quickly jumped out and threw myself onto the closest flat rock I could find, defrosting in seconds.
Like Four Mile, most Big Island beaches include lava rock and sand because of the active volcanoes found there. But Four Mile is my favorite because it never seems like it’s crowded. The vast open space gives everyone enough privacy to enjoy one of Hawaii’s natural gems.
FOUR MILE BEACH (JAMES KEALOHA BEACH PARK) • Kalanianaole Ave., Hilo, HI 96720 • Free parking, picnic areas, restrooms