The fastest growing district in Hawaii, enigmatic Puna is often said to be where the Volcano goddess Pele, of Hawaiian legend, is active in her workshop. Kilauea’s ongoing eruption continues to expand Puna's coastline, spilling layer upon layer of lava into the ocean.
Sometimes called "the last Hawaiian frontier," Puna real estate is considered to be the most affordable in the state. Several large subdivisions in the district were originally developed with minimal infrastructure, so those who thrive in rural East Hawaii quickly learn the importance of living in harmony with the land and weather patterns. Many residents even opt for off-grid living. A stop at the Sunday Maku'u Farmers Market is a great way to see first-hand the community commitment to promoting local food and the local economy.
Crossing into Puna from South Hilo, Keaau is the first commercial center you encounter. Both Keaau and agriculturally fertile Kurtistown are accessed from Highway 11. Orchidland Estates and Hawaiian Paradise Park are the first large rural subdivisions along Highway 130, which branches off to the southeast from Highway 11. Most properties in these subdivisions are in rainwater catchment water areas and many are on unpaved roads.
Puna Makai (makai means “toward the sea”) includes the easternmost point on the Big Island where you will find the Kapoho Kumakahi Lighthouse, the subdivisions of Hawaiian Beaches and Leilani Estates, the town of Pahoa and the rugged coastal areas beyond. Pahoa, the eclectic commercial hub of Puna Makai, is a gathering place for rural East Hawaii residents and home to several restaurants, shops, Malama Market and the Pahoa Skatepark.
Higher in elevation is the town of Mountain View and the subdivisions of Hawaiian Acres, Fern Acres, Fern Forest and Eden Roc. These communities comprise Puna Mauka (mauka means “toward the mountain”). While parts of Kurtistown and Mountain View are agriculturally rich areas where deep soil can be found, the subdivisions to the left of Highway 11 sit atop old lava flows. Residents will tell you that the abundant rainfall of this area is a blessing and a challenge. Maintaining a property here takes dedication--and a good arsenal of lawn-care tools.
Surrounded by lush rainforest filled with native trees and green hapu’u ferns, Volcano, at approximately 4,000 ft above sea level, has a very different ecology and climate than coastal Puna. Temperatures can drop dramatically at night so many homes at this elevation are built with fireplaces or cozy wood-stoves. Often, Volcano homes are vacation escapes for owners who live on the mainland or on urban Oahu. There is a thriving Bed and Breakfast economy here, attracting tourists visiting the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Ohia Estates and Mauna Loa Estates are subdivisions located just across the highway from nearby Volcano Village, where Big Island residents and visitors alike gather at Village restaurants or the Sunday morning Cooper Center Farmers Market.