You’d think after a bad experience at my (former) favorite beach two weeks ago, I’d be beached out for a while. (See the warning I added to Big Island’s One-Stop Beach – Anaeho‘omalu Bay.)
Far from it. I just needed to find a new beach. Last week Stacy reintroduced me to the Mauna Kea Beach, named after the hotel on site. (The Hawaiians called this place Kauna‘oa.) She used to take me here in the years before we moved to the Big Island.
There’s only one hitch – you have to get there early, because the Mauna Kea Hotel has only so many public beach parking spaces for the public access. If the parking lot is full, you have to come back after someone has left. But that hitch is also a blessing because this beach is never crowded. It’s quiet enough that my water bobbing can be a physical meditation.
If you can’t get your butt out of bed early enough, public parking spaces usually become available again later in the day, when the morning crowd leaves. This beach is also beautiful at sunset. But don’t swim after dark – that’s when sharks feed. Manta rays also show up at night, feeding in the lights that the hotel shines into the water off the lava point. It’s on my bucket list to stay there some night to observe the manta rays.
Mauna Kea Beach has one of those perfect bays with clear water, a sand bottom with a gradual slope and very gentle waves. Its placidness, clarity and easy walk out is a bit like Anaeho‘omalu Bay, but no reefs, no rocks, and no sea urchins, except at the extreme north and south ends along the lava arms that create the bay. (Apparently snorkeling is fantastic along the lava.)
The sand is coral, white and clean. I’ve seen the hotel’s machine that cleans it. This was very different from the graders I used to see along the beach at Fort Lauderdale. There, no matter how low the front-loader dug, the newly upturned sand contained as many cigarette butts, glass shards and bottle caps as before. My experience is that Big Island beaches are generally clean, so parents can let little kids dig without worrying.
Every Big Island beach is different. Some are great for combing, some for swimming or sunbathing, others for surfing or paddle-boarding. Some have black sand, made from eroding lava, others have coral beaches from reefs off-shore, and of course, mixtures. So you can pick a beach that fits your mood any given day.
Mauna Kea Beach is not a great place to beachcomb – there’s not much to find. But it definitely fits the swimming/sand digging/sun-bathing mood, not that I am ever in the mood to bake in the sun. Luckily it also has some shade under the trees that edge the beach.
Last week, all I wanted to do was ocean bob, and get the kinks out from a very active week that left me pooped. No such luck. Stacy pointed out how nicely hard-packed the sand was at the water’s edge, with very little slope – great for power-walking. So we walked the length of the beach (0.35 miles) for about 45 minutes, back and forth. Then we walked in the water, calf height for another 30 minutes.
Finally we got in. This bay is shallow, less than ten feet deep for a long way out with very mild waves. So it tends to be warm and easy to enter quickly. I was just beginning my gentle bobbing, when Stacy called out “now let’s walk in chest-high water, using our arms. We can get a good arm-flab workout.”
“You do it Stacy. I’m going to bob.” Ahhh, time to meditate.
That woman has more energy than two of me. Luckily, some tourists lost their float and couldn’t retrieve it. Ever the mermaid, Stacy swam out about 90 feet for the rescue. Thank God that slowed her down for the rest of our water fun that day. But I’m not complaining; I am grateful to have her as a friend. We always have fun together.
This week, we went again. Arriving at 8:15 am, we were turned away because the beach parking lot was full. What the…? Luckily, Stacy has lived here much of her life and knows the tiny beaches and the out-of-the way places to swim. So we had our salt-water soak/bobbing meditation anyway.
Still, I prefer the Mauna Kea. So next time, I’ll be leaving the house by 6:50 am. Ah, the sacrifices we make to swim at the perfect beach. Maybe I’m not a complete Beach Floozy after all – someone who’ll go to the beach with anyone, anywhere, anytime, for any reason. I now have my standards and the standard is Mauna Kea Beach.
Other essays on Big Island Beaches include:
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