At the very north end of the Mauna Lani resort complex, just beyond the gates into The Fairmont Orchid is a very nice public access to the coastline. With well maintained facilities, this park attracts local and tourists alike to the water. There are full bathrooms, a fresh water shower, picnic tables and barbecue grills to use amongst a rich lawn and pleasant shade trees. The coast here is a picturesque combination of blue water and black volcanic rock jutting into the sea. The parking is limited to a couple dozen spots just behind the park. The site can be used equally well by divers or experienced snorkelers with a rich coral reef just offshore the beach here.
The entry here is rough cobble and rock, care must be taken to scout a course through the many offshore rocks that complicate swimming to and from the beach. When the seas are calm, there should be little if any trouble getting to and from shore, do not attempt this area if there is any substantial surf to deal with.
Whitetip Reef Shark (Triaenodon obesus) in a cave at Holoholokai, photo by Deborah Cooper
Reaching the site is fairly easy, following signs to the beach and to the petroglyphs through the Mauna Lani resort. Turn into the Mauna Lani resort from the Queen Ka’ahumanu highway at the obvious grove of tall palms surrounding the entrance. A little over a mile across the lava flows will bring you to a large roundabout (traffic circle in American). Turn on the first exit from the circle, heading north through the condominiums and town homes. A couple miles more will bring you to the entrance to the Fairmont Orchid. Just before the entrance a right turn leads down a paved road to the park.
A Whitetip Reef Shark (Triaenodon obesus) under a ledge at Holoholokai
Once into deep water the snorkeling or diving is as good as anywhere along the Kohala Coast, the same reef divers can enjoy at the Puako sites just north. The depth remains quite shallow until about 50 yards offshore where a series of steps can be found, the first dropping to 15-25ft and another just past this dropping yet further. The vertical walls of these steps are rich in coral and life. The shallow step provides the best place for snorkeling, while divers will quickly head for deeper water. Eels, octopus and other rich marine life are all to be seen here.
There are several very nice caves for divers here. Trending south from the entry area, one will encounter a surge channel in the coral. Two nice caves are found along this small canyon. The better of the two is on the north side where a low entrance at the base of the wall leads to a 40 foot diameter chamber with a large skylight. Sleeping white tip sharks are common in the caves and overhangs here, particularly first thing in the morning.
The parking lot also serves as a trail head for a three-quarter mile walk to the Puako Petroglyphs, a large collection of ancient Hawaiian rock art that is found in photos and guidebooks all across the islands.
Holoholokai makes for a nice beach experience with a pleasant park and good access to the water. Worth considering if looking for a place to get to the water amongst the resorts of the Kohala Coast.