Hapuna Beach – just the name evokes sunny skies, warm breezes, squealing children, posturing teens, hot sand, and bobbing in the waves. I love Hapuna Beach. It is rated one of the best beaches in the world. After decades of swimming in Lake Michigan, I’m thrilled to be here enjoying it. But no matter how often I go, I see something new. This trip with our visitors was no different.
For example, I had never noticed the sign that warned about unexploded ordnance. I wonder how often they find any. Apparently at some time, maybe during WWII, this beach was used as a military training area. It’s possible that my Dad even trained here. He had a post on Kauai during the war, as well as elsewhere in the Pacific. Tom and the boys thought it was cool – not me.
Then there was the size of the waves – huge! In summer they are more moderate. I took one look and decided that I would only go in so far, and focus on taking pictures and enjoying the beach itself. The boys appeared to relish body surfing and using our bogey-board. I will have to make a plan to use it this summer when the waves are tamer. Tom figured that some of the waves that came in were 12 – 15 feet. He finally got out when one of them took him down hard.
Along with the large waves was the warning from the lifeguards about the dangers of swimming here: Hapuna – #1 beach for spinal injury. I don’t know how many people saw their sign, but it gave me pause. It reminded me of the class Kathryn took here last summer on junior life-guarding. Most of their work centered on safety. Now I see why.
The worst injury I’ve suffered at Hapuna is sunburn and a thorn in the foot from the kiawe trees. These thorns are wicked – about an inch long. When they are buried in the sand you don’t see them until you jam your foot into them. Luckily, they are only in the area at the park edge of the beach. But that is also the spot where I can find shade on the beach at any time of the day. It’s a trade-off, and I choose to be careful walking over being fried in the sun.
I took Marlene to the lava cave too. This was the first time I’ve been there when the tide was way out. We didn’t have to skirt the waves to get there at all. In fact, families were actually camped out in that area. Being later in afternoon, the sun was also shining at the mouth of the cave. It seemed friendlier for the sunshine. I didn’t have my usual response of the hair on the back of my neck standing on end. But I did get a better sense of how deep the cave is – much deeper than I had remembered. I didn’t tread in very far.
I’m guessing that most people have the same response that I usually do when I’m in there – a sense of something powerful engulfing you. I say that because I noticed that trash does not litter the floor of the cave: no beer bottles or caps, no cigarette stubs, no signs of partying. Either everyone has a healthy respect for the mana of the cave, or someone cleans it up regularly.
Actually, every time I’m there I notice the cleanliness of the beach. When I’ve been on Florida beaches, I’ve been disgusted by the amount of broken glass, cigarettes, and litter of all kinds. Every morning as I watched the early sun and meditated on the beach, I’d be disturbed by a bulldozer coming through, upending the top layer of litter and bring up “fresh” sand. But even that was not clean. Here and on other Hawai’i beaches, there is no man-made litter.
So are we more respectful of our beaches here? Or do the waves take the litter out to sea? I’m not sure which, but I’m grateful. While I do have to watch out for kiawe thorns, bits of bark, and a few sticks, I don’t have to worry about stepping on bottle tops or broken glass.
We stayed until my visitors had enough for this day. They went several other times, sometimes with my daughters, sometimes alone. I highly recommend time at the beach, whether you swim or not. It’s a wonderful place to relax, read, walk along the beach, chat with a friend, bury toes, watch toddlers laughing as they fall down in shallow water with parents proudly taking pictures, observe the teen preening dance, get out into the salt air, and enjoy the surroundings. Or as my mother-in-law used to say, “get out and blow the stink off.” I can slow down and pull myself into a meditative state just thinking about it. Wanna go?
Other essays on Big Island Beaches include:
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