Monday, September 5, 2016

Travel Journal: Nine Hours at Makalawena Beach

I was at a dinner party recently with the friends of my host and one couple kept raving about this particular beach. They had lived in Hawaii for years but now resided in California, so on their trip they were mainly visiting old friends but they made a point to visit this very special place. It's hard to access, they said, but it's the most beautiful secluded beach on the island. It's a long rocky hike or a turbulent ride by jeep or truck down to this pristine, white-sand oasis. I ask him to repeat the name twice.

That night I changed my tinder bio to read, "Looking for someone with a 4WD to take me down to Makalawena Beach."

Nothing wrong with expediting the manifestation of your desires, am I right? I talked to a few people but most wanted to hike it (no doubt because their vehicle was not fit for the job). I could have hiked it, sure. My birkenstocks and I can hike anything, this we know! Apparently you can even hike in from a nearby beach and it's not too strenuous or you can take the rocky road down from the highway and it's less than a mile. Fine but I started reading reviews about what it's like going down there in a jeep and I wanted that experience.

One night I was sitting alone at a local bar in town, sipping a Shirley Temple in recovery mode from the sun and excessive day drinking. A guy and a girl sat down next to me and noticed my beverage...

"What are you drinking, Tang? Can I buy you a beer?" said the guy in a Spanish accent.

"I'm Juan and this is Susie."

We shook hands and exchanged stories. They were both chefs at 5-star resorts on the island. Hard workers who played even harder. They drank like fish - the good stuff too.

Juan had been on the island for a little over 2 years. He lived in Florida before and was originally from Columbia. We talked about the lay of the land. He sketched Big Island out on a napkin and told me about the different regions. I'd heard it all before so when he skimmed over the Kona-Kohala coast, I grabbed the napkin...

"But right here, north of the airport, there's this beach..." I chimed.

"Makalawena. Yeah, wanna go?"


"Cool. I have a jeep, we can go tomorrow."


The next morning Juan raised the blinds at 7AM. I groaned and stretched over the sandy sheets. Apparently his enthusiasm for a Makalawena beach day exceeded mine, at least at this hour. We hopped in the jeep and after two breakfast burritos and a gallon of coffee, we were at the turn off for Makalawena.

Windows down, Rihanna blarring, we plummeted down the first couple of ridges sending every one of my limbs, including my head, smashing into the walls and ceiling of the jeep. Holy hell. This was going to be an insane ride.

I learned quick the key to not getting thrashed around is muscle control - you gotta engage your core and hang on for dear life. Once I got the hang of this, the journey was like a rollercoast ride, like on wooden one built in the 1970s.

If you showed me a picture of the terrain I would not have believed any vehicle could traverse it, except maybe a monster truck. The road was basically made of boulders, cliffs, and holes the size of a sedan. But we made it, very slowly and strategically, all the way down to the beach. Not gonna lie, it was the sexiest thing I've experienced in quite a while ...and my life has been pretty sexy lately.

Then I saw the beach! It was even better than I imagined. As close to a beach paradise as you can find on this earth and we had it almost all to ourseleves, minus a few people who had camped there that night. The water was so clear with a bright teal hue. The waves were massive and crashing one minute and then calm the next.

We set up beneath some trees and that's when I realized Juan was the perfect companion for this particular adventure. Out came the hammock, beach chairs, towels, mask and snorkel, tropical fruit, chips, salsa, water, and most importantly, a cooler full of beer. Winning!

We spent the next NINE hours at this perfect beach... swimming, tanning, playing in the waves, climbing trees, talking, drinking, etc.. I asked Juan if he needed any sunscreen, knowing full well he would laugh, cite being Columbian, and turn me down. The only sunscreen he got was on his palms from rubbing it all over me and I hope that was worth it because he is now a lobster!

Luckily we had a big breakfast, because at the beach our only nourishment was the juiciest of mangos and one dragonfruit. I made a mess of both all over my face.

In the late afternoon, we heard thunder in the distance and the sun started to disappear. While Juan was packing up, I sprawled out in the warm sand. That feeling was pure joy, my happiest in a while. I rolled around and buried myself. I put my ear to the sand. I laid tummy down and made sand angels. Even though today I'm finding sand in every crevice of my body, I don't regret playing like a five year old.

Makalawena beach proved to be everything I hoped it would be. If I'm lucky, I'll go back many times. It's worth the journey and if you like thrill rides, the journey is half the fun!

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