After bumping down the gnarly road to Makalewena at least twenty times now, I think I have become somewhat of an expert on this “crazy to get there” beach. My husband actually bought a tricked out 4WD truck from a guy who took it on the Rubicon Trail in California. Once the Toyota got to Hawaii, it still needed to have some extra work done to it to make it down to Maks without giving its occupants whiplash-(think $1200 tires.)
For the uninitiated, Makalewena Beach is located about 20 minutes north of Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii. I took a shot of it when I flew over the beach last week:
You may not see Makalewena on the “Top 10 Beautiful Beaches” list in travel magazines, because they can only pick the ones that all the tourists can get to. This one takes some work, my friends. So here are the top 10 things you need to know about this soft, white powdery sand beach:
1. If you decide to drive, you WILL need a 4WD vehicle. Not just the Jeeps they rent here in Kona, although we have seen some tourists taking a risk at ripping off the undercarriage of their rental cars.
2. If you hike it, bring plenty of water, wear sturdy walking shoes and get ready for at least a 4o minute walk.
3. Stay clear of the Kaiwi trees. These trees line the road on the way to the beach and they have three inch needles. They WILL terrorize you if you are hanging out the window of a vehicle or are unlucky enough to step on one, as they WILL go through inexpensive thongs like a spear.
4. That last step is a killer. IF you actually make it down the road to the beach, there is one final 2 1/2 foot drop onto the lava. We know this, because on the way back up this crazy lava stair case, we broke the idler arm on our LAST 4WD truck. The idler arm makes the wheels go parallel..my husband pulled a McGyver and used a ratcheting strap and gingerly and slowly made his way to the highway where a tow truck took it from there.
5. You can camp down there! For FREE! But there are NO facilities, including fresh water. You can camp within the trees and on the lava/coral rocks up until you get to “The Gate”.
6. “The Gate” is where you have to stop your car and walk to the beach from there. DO NOT park in front of this gate or you will get it from the caretaker.
7. The caretaker. You know the kind of guy that little kids sneak up to ring the doorbell to his house so he can shake his fist at them? The caretaker, who is probably in his late 60’s, lives in a shack near the beach and makes sure there are no shenanigans going on there after dark. He keeps the homeless and undesirables out so we all can enjoy the beach in safety, so I applaud his crotchety behavior.
8. Wearing sturdy/thick soled shoes or river shoes to walk to the beach is a really good idea. You have to walk over some crunchy lava/coral rocks, pine needles and these little bugger thorn covered “berries”. Our kids and their friends have had some unpleasant experiences when they try to do it barefoot because they don’t want to put their shoes back on after being in the water.
9. Keep going. There is a beautiful little lagoon that you will see first. We stopped there the first time we went and spent a few hours and then kicked ourselves for not discovering the amazing beach that lies beyond.
10. The THIRD beach/bay is where you want to go. Stay to the right when you get in if you want to know for sure that there are no rocks that can hurt you. There is some fun snorkeling around the rocks and across the bay. Our family loves to frolic in the waves here. They NEVER get that big, so this beach is perfect when storm waves close the rest of the beaches in West Hawaii. You will find yourself among only a handful of people down here. Enjoy!
(Please be kind to the aina (the land). Pick up and pack out your trash as DLNR is not down here being people’s mother. Also, Native Hawaiians are able to drive to the beach and camp since the land is owned by Bishop Estate. Show respect and aloha.)
Here is a video I created to show you pretty it is once you get there!