More Big Island, Little People Part 2October 5, 2010 1 Comment
We explored the Big Island Volcanoes National Park in my last blog, and now it’s time to hit the beach. Unlike Oahu, Maui, or Kauai, not every hotel has a soft sand beach, but there are great beaches to be found within a short drive.
Not too far from Volcanoes, you’ll find Punalu’u's black sand beach on the Southern part of the Big Island, a well known example of a black lava beach worn into fine sand by waves and time. Your kids will love the black sand, and a view of sea turtles who often bask here. Swimming depends on the tide – it’s sometimes incredibly calm and at others the waves are a little rough for the smaller travelers. But it’s always worth a look for the sand, the tide pools, and the turtles.
Not too far inland from Punalu’u, you’ll find the Wood Valley Temple & Retreat Center, also called the “Island of Melodious Sound”. This Buddhist temple has beautiful gardens, a small gift shop, and a peaceful temple that was rededicated in the ‘80′s by the Dalai Lama. Serene and ringed by hills, the temple grounds are a lovely spot for kids to wander, filled with birds who seem not to mind an elderly resident cat.
Drive back to the main road on the Big Island, Highway 11, to access a turn toward the sea again via Southpoint road. We love the fairly wild area around Southpoint, also known as Ka Le, which you can easily access from the stellar Kalaekilohana Bed & Breakfast recommended in my last blog - which is perched on the north end of the road. No matter where you’re staying this less-traveled road is worth a look.
It’s paved but bumpy; and leads straight to the sea, past bucolic meadowed farmland that may remind you more of Kentucky than Hawaii, with horses, cattle, and wild flowers along the roadside. You’ll also find energy-efficient windmills, which the kids will enjoy, plenty of wind, blue sky, sunshine, and at the end, a sparkling turquoise sea. Here adventurous swimmers jump into the waves from old boat hoists in calm waters, and fishermen yield large catch just beneath the light station. We don’t think you’ll be doing either, but the windy, gentle trek across the grassy meadow to the light station feels like a different world, old fashioned, pleasantly isolated, and with plenty of open space for the kids. Four wheel drive enthusiasts can make a two mile each way journey to Green Sand Beach. It’s a beautiful sight, and the drive is not difficult if you have high clearance. The beach is green due to olivine in the sand, and it’s a stunning coast line. But be sure to bring plenty of food and water if you make the drive – there are no concessions here.
About thirty minutes west of Southpoint Road’s terminus at highway eleven, you’ll find Point of Refuge, a state park and preserve featuring the recreation of a temple and work buildings where Hawaiians could come, literally, to find refuge from crimes or transgressions. If they reached this place, no matter what they did, they were safe. You’ll feel the peacefulness too, in graceful coconut palms, hordes of yellow butterflies, and the appearance of honu, Hawaii’s gentle sea turtles, basking in the shallows. The snorkling is good too, offering a variety of fish large and small from a sand and black lava beach easily accessible to the right of the boat launch. It’s also a fascinating place to explore, and the kids will love some of the large carved tiki figures, and easy paths that gently lead you around buildings and view points.
In Kona proper, one of the nicest, if small, white sand beaches is Kahuluu on the West side of the Big Island. Here you don’t have to snorkel to see the fish, just wade off the low reef near the adjoining Outrigger hotel. And this is sea turtle heaven, the beautiful creatures can be seen drowsing right along the reef. The water is shallow and the waves gentle – perfect for small kids and many, many fish to spot.
Drive up to the Kohala coast for a perfect, wide, white sand beach with beautiful views and balmy waters. Hapuna Beach is a state recreation area, but one end of it stretches over to the Hapuna Prince Hotel which offers pleasant lunches in an outdoor setting, and snacks and beverages from its pool bar. Whether you chose the state recreational area or the hotel, this is a delightful, broad sandy beach, almost two hundred feet wide in the summer. In fact, we’re not the only ones to find it a great family beach – it’s been voted best beach in the US, and the water is sparkling clear.
Another great beach is Anaehoomalu, also on the Kohala coast. Fringed with palms and sporting access to the former royal fish ponds which are still stocked with fish, this beach is rarely crowded and it’s easy to park at and access. Near the Waikoloa Beach Marriott, you can rent snorkel or kayak gear or grab some lunch at this hotel. There’s excellent turtle watching here too, and plenty of shade which makes it a good spot to spend the day. Full facillities, too.
While you’ll want to spend at least one day just enjoying the sea, there’s still a lot of sights on land to pull you out of those lovely waves on the Big Island.
Continuing North from Kohala coast will take you to an awesome look out, literally at the end of the road. The Pololu Valley Lookout affords picture perfect views of the deep green cliffs of the Hamakua Coast, and two off shore islands.
Just before you reach the look out, you’ll pass through the artist’s colony of Hawaii. Here you’ll find restaurants, small galleries, and an enjoyable general store that serves the ubiquitous but always welcome Hawaiian treat, shaved ice – in a rainbow of tasty colors. You’ll also find Sushi Rock – great, inexpensive sushi and amazing macadamia nut cheesecake in a small, plain-wrap spot. Our kids loved the avocado rolls, and none of the entrees will break a family budget.
We’ll take a look at the Hilo side of the Big Island in another blog! Until then, Aloha.