To tell you the truth, when I first talked about going to Hawaii with my husband, we weren’t talking much about beaches. I have never been one to hang out in the sand and catch some rays. Ironically, I have spent a great deal of my life hanging out at sandy shores. Mostly, the beaches were background scenery for what I really came to the place for: the water. Oceans, lakes, sounds, bays: I would either swim in them or walk beside them, the water being the star, the beach being nothing more than an understudy.
Which could be one reason why when we decided on our Hawaii adventure, we bypassed the well-known tourist areas of Waikiki and Maui, and instead found ourselves on the Kona Coast of the Big Island. The Big Island of Hawaii is just as much Hawaii as any other island in the chain, but being the youngest volcanic island of the bunch, it still has a lot of the molten boulders which comprise its youth. In fact, if you ever have the opportunity to go to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, you can see how the island is still in its formative youth. The island is still being born. The middle age of soft sand is far from the mouth of Kilauea, the source that spews creation from itself with the venom of fire.
Not that there are any shortage of beaches on the island of Hawaii. There is the Black Sand Beach, and there is also the Disappearing Sands Beach. If you trek with your vehicle off road, you can get to South Point. Which, incidentally, is the southernmost point of the United States, territories such as Guam notwithstanding. From this rocky vantage point, where jetskiiers abounded, there is a reputed beach with green sand a couple of miles away. I never made it that far myself, but olivine grains dusted themselves amongst the sandy soil I stood on, portending of the famous beach and teasing me to go onwards.
I resisted the siren, and instead stood on rocky points looking at the ocean stretch beyond me. The next piece of land south of the one I was standing on, if not some small islet in French Polynesia, was the icy desert of Antarctica that sprawled from the South Pole. Its frigidity was far from me in this tropical land of eighty degrees, and yet never before felt so close to me, A jetski bashed itself amongst the waves, celebrating that strange moment with me. Boulders jutted up from the water, one minute concealed, the next revealed by the fickle water that they hid under. Green sand beaches, or any soft sand, seemed far from here in this rough labor of creation.
Many days I spent looking over the Pacific from my lanai, a Hawaiian word for patio. The slower feel of the islands and the tropical nature of the atmosphere made it feel like I was somewhere other than the United States. But the speed limit signs in English and American measurements, the abundance of fast food restaurants and big box stores away from the cove of waterside Kona, reminded me that I was still in the same country that I had come from, albeit 5000 miles from where I started. This relaxing nature was something that could get addicting, and it was like the alarm clock on a workday morning when I was summoned to go back by my return ticket.
If one doesn’t like beaches, Hawaii is still a good place to go to. There is history. Captain Cook met his ignoble end on the rocks of this place. You can immerse yourself in legends of Pele, the spurned lover who is the mythological source of the lava that covers the island. To the surprise of many, there is skiing available as well, at least in the wintertime on Mauna Kea, for those with considerable skill. If one is an experienced enthusiast, it might be something to brag about: while others are scaling Utah and the Alps, you have taken yourself to a tropical island and sailed down its slopes. While on Mauna Kea, in addition to or if you want to skip the skiing adventure, you can go stargazing. Mauna Kea is home to some of the most illustrious astronomical observatories in the world, as well as being the largest one.
There also there is the adventure of being in a place far from anywhere else. No matter how much Hawaii has been inducted into the First Wold of industrialization, the reality is that it is still further than anywhere else. Closer to Tokyo than to its own capital in Washington, it is a place that is both American and not American at the same time. One can gauge from its isolation, if one cares to wake up from the torpor of tropical sun and salty breezes, how much the world powers went out of their way to scale the globe to conquer the treasures of the earth, both nearby and far-flung. And then after this historical musing, head to the lanai and watch the sun drop in earnest in this Northern Pacific gem. Dinner will be served soon, and choosing between the fish tacos and the coconut shrimp will be tough. It’s too late in the day to try out anything with Spam, and Hawaii time is something that you have gotten used to. Who needs beaches when just falling asleep on the lanai is aloha enough?