Hundreds celebrate reopening of Hawaii island beach nearly lost to lava

Local News

Hundreds gathered Thursday to celebrate the reopening of Pohoiki Beach.

Kilauea’s latest eruption covered the road, blocking the beach 30 miles southeast of Hilo.

There was a feeling of peace, unity, and joy as the ceremony welcomed the community back to the beach. The area had been closed for more than four months after Kilauea’s eruption had almost taken it.

An official Hawaiian blessing and hookupu were offered in a ceremony at Pohoiki Thursday afternoon.

“This eruption had affected everybody, not only Puna people, and to see everybody come and support for the Puna people is awesome,” said Puna resident Ikaika Marzo. “You can see the kids. You can see the surfers back here. You can see all the people on the beach relaxing. It’s a blessing.”

Leila Kealoha was born and raised in this area. She says the protocol was key in returning to this special place.

“It’s really important to do that process,” she said. “You don’t just go to someone’s house and walk in the front door. You stop. You knock. You call. You holler and say, ‘Hui, aloha.’ It’s kind of the same thing.”

Asking permission and offering hookupu are important in Hawaiian culture to ensure safety and a welcomed entry.

The Kilauea eruption in Leilani Estates covered countless beaches, tide pools, and fishing areas along the coast. Pele came very close to taking Pohoiki as well.

“When it was being covered, it was really sad to know that we wouldn’t be able to come back again, but she spared this place for us to be able to come back to, so I’m very thankful,” said Kealoha.

The lava stopped just outside the bay, but the waves quickly turned the lava into black sand.

“Once the lava encroached in this area, it started to create sand, and the current would bring the sand all into this area,” said Marzo.

It created a large pool, blocking the entire bay.

The county recently moved the more than 14,000 cubic yards of sand, reopening the bay.

“To have something back as beautiful as this is a treasure for us Puna people now,” Marzo said.

Prior to the the eruption, the bay was known for fishing and surfing.

“I grew up here with my family. My grandfather was one of the first fishermen out here, and my father. I’ve been a fisherman out of this harbor and I know one day my sons will be as well too, and they’ll feed themselves from this place,” said Kealoha.

The hope is that the area will be available for all to enjoy for generations to come.

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