We stayed in a vacation rental on Puako Road, aka Puako Beach Drive. There are at least 6 or 7 beach access points on this one neighborhood street, which seems to be the only real residential street in Pu'ako. The coral strewn, lava beaches are incredible but aren't for the delicate or flip flop crowd. Come prepared to be cautious and careful, and you will be amazed at what you see on the shore or in the reefs of the neighborhood beaches.They are full of turtles and tropical fish, as well as underwater coral communities. For a leisurely sandy experience, take the road across from the transfer station until you see a paid beach parking lot. Beautiful shade trees, plenty of sand, and more mellow snorkeling there than on the neighborhood beaches. This beach is known as Beach 69 and has more shade than the more celebrated Hapuna Beach, found further north off the same road.
What we also liked about Puako was how close it was to a primitive lava tube, petroglyphs at Mauna Lani and how we didn't have to deal with the cruise ship crowds that converge at Kona.
I think we're sold on renting vacation homes now and just enjoying the sights and sounds of an authentic Hawaiian neighborhood.