While most travelers to the Big Island will be flocking towards those sunny beaches and boardwalks, there’s a way more natural way to beat the heat without having to run into massively overrated crowds. Instead of heading to the seashore, why not beeline towards a local swimming hole instead? These stunning and adventure-filled spots can be found all around Hawaii and more often than not, feature everything from gorgeous waterfalls and epic cliff jumping spots, to cool mountain streams, freshwater springs, and plenty of shaded grottos to chill in.
No matter what region or locale, nature’s very own swimming pools carry an intimate vibe that not only allow for more tranquil vacation experiences, but fewer distractions, more chances to explore, and tons of refreshing oasis-like paradise spots that can cool, calm, and leave you feeling better than ever. So grab a suit, a couple of towels, and a pair of aqua shoes, and go jump head first into some of the most awesome Hawaiian swimming holes. Here are seven of our absolute favorites. Check them out fast--- because last one in is always a rotten egg!
Amazing Hawaii Swimming Holes
It’s one of the most popular attractions in East Maui, where beautiful waterfalls and lush rainforests run along the curvy Hana Highway, which in itself, is already a massive tourist destination. These series of tiered, waterfall-fed swimming holes were named by a local hotel owner as the "Seven Sacred Pools,” and have, since their opening many decades ago, developed into over a dozen more holes to jump into, as well as some stellar cliffs to leap off from (although there are plenty of signs advising against it!).
Nowadays, the pools are part of Haleakala National Park, a collection of bamboo forests and hiking trails on the gentle slopes of Maui's tallest peak. And with definitely a lot more than seven picturesque hotspots to choose from, it isn’t surprising that this dream-like destination along the rugged Kipahulu coastline gets super crowded as the day progresses. So arrive before noon to avoid the utter madhouse.
About eight-tenths past mile marker sixteen on the Hana Highway, there’s a bridge crossing Palauhulu stream, the very same stream that empties into the ocean at Ke'anae Peninsula below. Beneath it, you’ll discover a series of pristine sapphire pools that are not viewable from the open road above.
What makes Ching’s Pond so utterly special is not only its sheer beauty, but also, how incredibly easy it is to access via the two available trails. Plus, the serene blue waters are always gently laced with pretty pebbles-- and it just so happens to be a superb cliff jumping spot as well. No wonder it’s a lesser-known but equally lovely local favorite.
If you take the Judd Memorial Trail that follows Nuuanu Stream, you’ll find yourself at a nice little ten feet tall waterfall about a half-mile up that also happens to be a swimming hole averaging a depth of eight whopping feet. This one’s been a local favorite since the time of Hawaiian royalty, and even offers swimmers with a cleverly placed rope that’s perfect for swinging out and splashing down into the crystal blue water. Short and easy hikes are also available for those looking to trek out onto some trails where groves of eucalyptus, pines, guava trees, mahogany, and bamboo thatches line miles and miles of lush green space. The bugs love it here though, so make sure to carry ample amounts of bug spray—you will so need it.
Named after the mother of Prince Albert, which is where the Kauai city of Princeville gets its name, this saltwater swimming hole is fed by ocean waves and is perfect for those seeking a little more thrill by doing some cliff jumping. Though it’s wildly steep and may take a treacherous trip to actually get to (the path drops about a hundred feet as you descend down to the coast so hiking down an overgrown red dirt trail will be necessary)-- it really is worth visiting. Plus, there’s a stunning waterfall on the way down, as well as an interesting array of rocks, streams, bluffs, coves, and reefs, which all can make for a perfect resting spot to cool off at before returning back to that difficult climb.
Unsurprisingly, it’s become extremely popular amongst tourists lately, so expect to run across all kinds of adventurers along the beaten path. Just make sure you are wearing proper footwear though-- bare feet or aqua socks won't provide you enough support as you walk across those hot molten lava rocks!
Legend says that these protected tide pools on Oahu’s North Shore got their name because the outline of a reef beyond the mouth of the cove looks similar to the silhouette of a shark when viewed from above-- and because plenty of white tipped reef sharks live in the surrounding area! Yet scary as that may seem, this one’s really the perfect locale for some good diving, snorkeling, or simply relaxing.
In the summertime, the waters are crystal clear and only one to five meters deep throughout much of the cove, making them ideal to take a dip in. Plus, the area is always full of sea life and is incredibly well-sheltered from currents and other open water hazards. What’s more is that it’s one of the best snorkeling and scuba diving destinations Oahu has to offer, especially with the wide network of extreme underwater tunnels running through the rock wall on the right side of the cove. Get ready to do some marine exploring.
By taking a quick and moderate three mile round-trip hike, you’ll find yourself at a small but gorgeous pond that just happens to feature a pretty cool jump off point as well. It’s located close to the Pali Hwy on the Kailua side of the Ko’olau Mountains and boasts not only unforgettable mountain views, but a mountainside swimming hole surrounded by lush green jungle forests and some of the best rocks to leap off of.
Be careful though because the trails often get pretty muddy, especially after a rainy day, so gear up with the right kind of footwear. Plus, it just so happens to be a fave local hang out that gets incredibly busy on the weekends, so be sure to visit on a weekday to get a little more space and time to yourself.
Located below the Makupu’u Lighthouse Trail, these lovely little tide pools are perfect for families with curious kiddies looking to do some deep exploring. It also happens to be just as rad for adults, offering one of the most amazingly cool dips to enjoy on any hot summer day. Spend a few hours hanging out on the rocks or wading in crystal clear waters. It really is a local Hawaiian treasure that too few seem to know about—which might just work to your advantage as you’ll for sure have a blast quietly taking in some stunning views and embarking on some light hiking that’ll lead to some of Hawaii’s best and most powerful blowholes to watch and listen to.
This article was written by Pamela Chan.