Issue 5.5: October/November 2002

Pooled Resources


Kiholo Bay

At first glance, the North Kona/South Kohala coast of the Big Island might appear to be a desert of dry lava rock meeting the sea. But the region’s coastal flows actually harbor numerous oases in the form of brackish pools, filled with unusual life and rich in historical significance. The pools are of two basic types: fishponds, or loko, constructed by prehistoric Hawaiians, and natural "anchialine" ponds (from the Greek word anchialos, meaning "near the sea"), which are formed by spring water flowing through cracks in the porous lava rock.

The two types of ponds provided ancient residents with both drinkable (if somewhat salty) water and a dependable source of food. King Kamehameha reportedly kept a small village and canoe landing near one group of fishponds, known as Kalahuipuaa, which now lie on the grounds of the Mauna Lani Resort. Two other fishponds can be found near Anaehoomalu Bay in the Waikoloa resort area. Meanwhile, the anchialine ponds, whose combination of fresh and salt water creates distinctively vibrant colors, are tucked away in more remote locations along the coast. While a variety of small fish and freshwater prawns somehow find their way into these pools, the main inhabitants are tiny red opae shrimp, which live in cracks in the lava bed.

South Kohala anchialine pond.

In Kiholo Bay lies yet another spectacular body of water, where a lagoon of brilliant turquoise is separated from the ocean by a black finger of lava rock. Green sea turtles and reef fish thrive inside this area, which locals refer to as the "Blue Lagoon." Places like these make for some spectacular snorkeling, but it’s important to remember that they are fragile environments which must be treated with care and respect.