Winter Escape 2015: Hawaii, Kekaha Kai State Park 2.19.15

It seems we picked the right year to make a winter escape to Hawaii.  When we left our house in NH a few days ago, it was -2F and we’d just cleared another round of snow.  My husband and I enjoyed Hawaii so much last time, that we planned a family vacation for this year.  This time we’ve come to the Big Island to explore all it has to offer, including Volcanoes National Park.

Today’s adventure was inspired by and for my son.  He really wanted to go to a white sand beach.  Not all beaches in Hawaii are white sand, but according to my research there were a few.  I chose Kekaha Kai State Park because there are several beaches there, and one in particular that is accessed by a short hike across a lava field.

We took the short drive north from Kona and found the first access road.  The nice pavement quickly ended and soon I started to wonder whether we should be on this road or not.  It went through a lava field and was very rough – in some places it looked like it had been paved at one time, but in other places looked like an old dirt road that had been last graded decades ago, complete with large potholes. The landscape was all old lava flows, no trees, no life to be seen at all.

Access road to the state park, a rather barren place and a very beat up road.  But, hey, I'm driving a rental car!

Access road to the state park, a rather barren place and a very beat up road. But, hey, I’m driving a rental car!

I continued at a snail’s pace of no more than 10mph and finally came to a parking lot, which had three 4WD vehicles in it.  Hmm.  The book did say we could drive 2WD vehicle here.  We parked and headed out to the beach, then walked along the shoreline on the lava rocks until we got to Mahai’ula Beach.  This is a beautiful beach, with nice sand and Cameron really enjoyed the water.

Mahai'ula Beach.  We walked from the point in the middle of the photo to this beach.

Mahai’ula Beach. We walked from the point in the middle of the photo to this beach.

The other end of Mahai'ula Beach.  To get to the next beach, we headed toward the stand of palm trees near the point.

The other end of Mahai’ula Beach. To get to the next beach, we headed toward the stand of palm trees near the point.

I knew there was one more beach and supposedly even nicer further up the coast.  We packed up and headed north, following the sand beach and then a trail which lead right through a lava field.  It was an interesting experience.  There was no vegetation and was sort of like hiking through Mordor, minus the sulfur smells and Gollum creeping around.  The footing wasn’t too bad; medium gravel and larger rocks, sort of like hiking in the Presis, but with gravel.  We came out of the lava fields and saw some sand dunes covered with a variety of morning glory.  We were also lucky enough to see some of the island’s feral goats.

Heading through the palm trees on the trail to Makalawena Beach.

Heading through the palm trees on the trail to Malakawena Beach.

Hiking through the lava field to the next beach.  Some people were walking on this in flip-flops!

Hiking through the lava field to the next beach. Some people were walking on this in flip-flops!

Feral goats on the sand dunes near Makalawena Beach.

Feral goats on the sand dunes near Makalawena Beach.

After the dunes, we were in the sand and the beach was nice, but not quite what had been described in the book, as this one was littered with black lava pebbles.  I told Cameron, let’s get to that lava outcropping and see what is beyond.  I got there first and yes, paradise was just beyond the lava rocks.  We found Makalawena Beach complete with beautiful sand and warm water.

Makalawena Beach.  Sorry for the fuzzy photo, something was on the lens of my phone case.  You get the idea, though, I'm sure.

Makalawena Beach. Sorry for the fuzzy photo, something was on the lens of my phone case. You get the idea, though, I’m sure.

Another protected cove along Makalawena Beach.

Another protected cove along Makalawena Beach.

We spent quite a bit of time swimming and playing in the waves, before packing it up around lunch time and heading back across the lava field.  The Hawaiian sun is strong and since we’re white New Englanders, we didn’t want to get burned to a crisp too early into our vacation.  It was hard to leave these beaches, but there will be plenty more adventures before our vacation is over.

The map below shows the park, access roads, parking areas, etc.  We parked at Trailhead #3 and walked north along the shoreline to get to the beaches.

Screen Shot 2015-02-21 at 1.08.47 PM

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