Our second day on the Big Island of Hawaii last summer didn’t go exactly as planned. While it ended with a fun Luau and we did end up finding an amazing beach, there were plenty of fails throughout the day. Read on to hear about both our adventures and mis-adventures!
Fail #1: Magic Sands Beach
We wanted to spend some time on a swimming beach our first full day on Big Island. We were staying about 5 miles south of Kona, and explicitly expected to find abundant beaches there, like we’d seen on Maui or Kauai when our kids were little. That said, we quickly realized that great swimming beaches were more rare on Big Island.
At only 1.5 miles from our apartment, Magic Sands Beach looked good on paper. Unfortunately, once we arrived we realized that this was no California beach with long stretches of sand. Instead, it was a beach that could be walked in just a few minutes. Even worse, the rough tides make it so that sometimes there is beautiful sand, while others the sand is very rocky or even non-existent!
While we arrived quite early, the beach was already filling up – it was easy to envision the crowds on not-great sand. So, we didn’t even bother to stop and kept driving!
Fail #2: Old Airport Beach
One of our kids really liked the idea of the Old Airport Beach, so we continued on north! He had read that the parking lot was on the old runway and that the terminal had been turned into a picnic pavilion.
On arrival, we almost didn’t get out of the car, but everyone was getting frustrated with our day and we decided to go see if it was as bad as it looked.
The surf was rough, more suited to surfing than swimming. Combine that with a VERY rocky beach and the conditions were quite dangerous. There was no way that I was going to let the boys get into the water much past their knees.
We walked along the beach for a while, then decided to call it a fail. Sigh.
Win #1 plus Fails #3 and #4: Manini’owali Beach
For a much better swimming beach, Manini’owali Beach is a great choice! After a couple fails, we internalized that we needed to be much more selective with beaches on Big Island. We did a bit of research on our phones, saw some great pictures, and ended up driving there (it was a little farther than we hoped, but oh well). But finally, a winner!
Our condo owners had stocked our apartment with plenty of beach gear. We collected our beach chairs, beach umbrellas, snorkel gear, boogie boards, and more, and set off to get set up on this delightful beach.
We found a nice section of the beach that looked perfect for both swimming and snorkeling. The wind was a little strong, so it took some effort to get the beach umbrellas to stay put, but we managed to create some shade for at least part of our stay.
It was now time for swimming. I really enjoy open water swimming, so I had brought a few swim buoys to use for floatation and for safety. Both of my teenagers are strong enough swimmers that they can go out into deep water, but with rip currents and other dangers, I was not sure how comfortable I was with the situation. In the end, I decided that as long as one of us either had a swim buoy or a boogie board, I would permit them to go deep, particularly if they were wearing fins. On the plus side, my mom also felt more comfortable going into deeper water when she had a buoy.
We quickly realized that the rocks on the edge of the beach were perfect for snorkeling. The outer rocks would break up the surf, so we avoided those, but the inner rocks seemed reasonably safe. The boys spent a while looking at the sea turtles and other fish. They were getting a bit close to the sea turtles, hoping to pet them, though alas we had to tell them that there’s a law against petting the turtles.
Later in the day, we also saw a moray eel! With my fear of snakes, I was surprised that I didn’t completely panic! It was actually quite cool to observe.
At this point we encountered Fail #3. One of my kids was done snorkeling and decided that he would toss me his snorkeling equipment from the top of a rock. As I was trying to rescue his goggles from the surf, I didn’t see that he was also throwing down his flippers. They caught me on my head. I started screaming at him, then took everything back to the beach where Jeremy noticed that I had blood running down my face. Sigh. The lifeguard gave me some iodine wipes and a gauze pad, but being nervous about infection, I decided that my swim-time was over for the day.
This brought us to Fail #4. Since we thought we were going to be at a beach close to the apartment, we did not pack a lunch. Jeremy decided to drive to pick up a pizza in Kona, but it ended up taking close to an hour! By the time they got back, I had developed a terrible sunburn and was feeling a little woozy from being hit in the head.
We enjoyed our lunch, the kids swam a little longer, and we decided to head back to the condo to rest before our luau.
Win #2: The Luau
The Island Breeze Luau located at the Courtyard Marriott ended up being a lot of fun! Not as much fun as a Luau we went to on Kauai, but still fun. On arrival, there was a long line to get in, but it moved quickly and we were directed to the outdoor seating.
Upon seeing the seating, we realized that perhaps we should gotten the “premium seating.” This was partly an artifact of trying to book too many different things (plane, condo, luau, car) all at once a few months earlier. We were able to see the performance, but the view from the other seats would have been better.
The food was served buffet style. Jeremy and I thoroughly enjoyed the poke (Hawaiian style sushi) and focused on only getting the most local and exotic foods. While our kids loved the macaroni and cheese and the white rice, a savvy visitor will focus on the fish, kalua pork, and local fruits! There was also a bar with wine, beer, mai tais, and soda.
After dinner, they taught us how to do the traditional Hawaiian hula dance, then the performance started! They chose to have several performances that highlighted dances from around the Polynesian islands. The finale was the Samoan Fire Dance!
Tired and severely jet-lagged, but happy, we headed back to our condo for a good night’s sleep!