Wai’opae Ponds: Learning When an Activity Might Not Be for the Whole Family



Mike and I encountered a few activities while touring the Big Island of Hawaii that we turned to each other and thought, if Dek was older this would be a whole lot more fun. Don’t get me wrong; there were a lot of places we brought Dek that most parents wouldn’t think of taking their 2 year old. We took turns snorkeling, exploring areas he was just too little to tackle or it was unsafe for us to carry him through (uneven lava jutting out into the ocean comes to mind). Wai’opae ponds looked like it would be one of those spots.

Wai’opae Ponds in Kapoho

These weren’t actually ponds; they were more like giant tide pools. They were deep and had huge rocks breaking up the pools. I’m not a big snorkeler; fish taking a nibble out of my flesh kind of creeps me out. Yes, even the tiny ones that couldn’t even nip my toes. I’m a woos. Go ahead, you can say it. I just like to be the one eating, not being eaten.

While Mike explored the pools, Dek and I hung out on a rock. It was late in the day and the sun was setting. My bum hurt sitting on that rock.

Dek and I walked around the connecting stones with our lovely water shoes on (read hideous and unattractive in every way but kept our feet planted on the rocks). I took some pictures of Dek trying to drink as much sea water as he could. After a while there wasn’t much else to do. The water was too deep for Dek to use his shovel and pail. It was a bit too cold to throw him into the water with his life vest on. He wasn’t really interested in swimming either; a first on the island for sure. Mike was having some trouble with his mask. This did not seem like a winning after nap excursion.

Dek making his own fun at the ponds.

Halfway through our adventure-filled afternoon of rock sitting I got it into my head that it would be fun to snorkel with Mike. There was no way I was going out on my own. I would need a body to sacrifice to the fish if necessary. But what could we do with Dek? It’s not like I could turn to him and say “mommy and daddy are going to go for a swim now. You sit tight till we get back.” Yeah, not an option.

This is when family travel can get tricky. I had a flashback of a previous trip down to Hawaii the year before Dek was born. Mike and I snorkeled at Tunnels Beach in Kauai almost every other day. Our rental was close by and we adored that beach. It was heaven, it was couple bonding time, and it was a good thing no one told me that was the beach Bethany Hamilton lost her arm to a shark on!

The deadly fish I was too afraid to swim with. It was about the size of my thumb.

I turned to my little guy and smiled. So what if I couldn’t run off and do exactly what I wanted to do at that very moment. Honestly I would have snorkeled with Mike for 2 minutes before chickening out and running back to the rocks. In some ways Dek does hold us back, but the benefits of having him with us has far outweighed any activities we have had to forgo by bringing him along.

Actually with a little more planning I think this could have worked with Dek. I’m finding that boogie boards are the answer to a lot of our problems. Costco sells one that has a snorkel mask built right in. Dek would have loved to peer down and see all of the fish his dad was seeing. Naturally we never thought about buying one when we were in Kona and a Costco was close by. We didn’t even grabbed a regular boogie board from our rental house, which had plenty of them. With a life vest and boogie board Dek could have come out with us. Mike could have been the fish bait and I could have checked out the wildlife with Dek for 2 minutes before I ran screaming for the rocks.

Would I like a grandparent or other family member around to watch Dek so Mike and I can go snorkeling more easily or grab a late night meal out when we travel? Sure, but I want that at home too. Of course I was in my 2nd trimester of my pregnancy so really late nights were already a thing of the past for me. After a long day of fun in the sun I needed to be in bed extra early. Thinking back on our time in Kauai it really wasn’t much different. We were in bed early then too. All the swimming and a nice sunburn sure took a lot out of me. At least with Dek along for the ride I remember to put sunscreen on more often. Someone has to protect our porcelain white skin.

Know before you go

  • Wai’opae Ponds, Kapoho-Kai Road (just before mile marker 9). Turn left when it dead ends to get to the parking lot.
  • This is a public access beach unlike many of the Champagne ponds. You can visit even if you are not staying in Kapoho Beach Community.
  • Head over just before high tide when the water is clear and deep. Low tide can harbor bacteria. Not something you want to deal with.
  • Weekdays are the best time to explore. The locals come out in droves on the weekends just like many other spots on the island.
  • There are no restrooms
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Showing 10 comments
  • Lisa

    They had those boogie boards with a little window built in when we went snorkeling at Molokini Crater but Emma still wouldn’t have anything to do with it. You are right that you can’t always do everything that you would have done as a couple when traveling with small kids but the benefit of having them with you far outweighs that little disadvantage. And they are only little for just a short time – before you know it they’ll be doing things that you’re afraid to try!

    • © Keryn Means/ walkingon travels

      Lisa- I’m already waiting for the day that we strap a snowboard to the kid and he shoots down a blue or black run with no fear. Meanwhile I’ll still be on the greens and blues trying not to kill myself. He’ll be showing us up in no time for sure.

  • Becca@R We There Yet Mom?

    That looks so great – I am quickly stopping by as I am on my way out the door to my kid’s Spring Carnival! So I will come back to read later – thanks for linking up!

  • Steve

    Our youngest used to love the boogie boards with the window in them too. Problem was that once she saw a fish she wanted to watch, it became our job to keep her over it. That was a lot of work.

  • Sonja

    Did Dek like drinking the sea water? That’s funny!

    • © Keryn Means/ walkingon travels

      He loved the sea water. Any water and that kid will drink it- pool, river, ocean, lake. He’s a little nutty that way 😉

  • Jess @UsedYorkCity

    Such a great idea about the boogie boards…will keep that in mind! And, judging by the pictures, it looks like Dek had a blast just hanging out on the rocks with mom!:-)

    • © Keryn Means/ walkingon travels

      It’s true. Dek could have fun no matter where he is. We are really luck that way!

  • Average Traveller

    The last time we were on Big Island we didn’t have guidance from your amazing blog and we ended up taking our then 4 and 7 year olds on the night hike out to the volcano viewing platform. It was pretty dicey with the crowds and the rough terrain! Thanks to you we’ll have a long list of better ideas for next time.

    • © Keryn Means/ walkingon travels

      It’s definitely all trial and error. We have certainly done stuff with Dek that we probably shouldn’t have. Then again there are times we skipped something that I later found out would have been perfect for him to do with us. Live and learn and then hop back on a plane is becoming my motto.

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