My family and I traveled back to Silicon Valley this summer to see family and friends for a few weeks. While we were there, we realized how many more people were on the road, at the parks, at the restaurants, well, everywhere. We had to start planning our days around the traffic schedule of the Bay Area roads and many times, found ourselves forcing ourselves to get an early start or face the consequences of sitting in traffic, not getting a table and even worse, missing opportunities all together.
We are lucky on Hawaii Island that we don’t have to compete for resources as fiercely as they do in Silicon Valley. You can get a seat at a theater a few minutes before a top rated movie begins, you can get a parking spot at a mall during the holiday season and for the most part you can get onto any beach you choose to visit.
However, Kua Bay, one of the most popular beaches on the Big Island is becoming one of those resources that requires a new tactic to truly enjoy thanks to the ranking it got as one of the top beaches in America by TripAdvisor and the amount of word of mouth it has received by just about anyone who has traveled to Hawaii.
Having recently come home from the Bay Area and knowing that we are getting a bit tired of trying to find open space (both in the parking lot and at the beach) at Kua Bay and wanting to avoid getting hit by boogie boarders or accidentally rolling over small children as we body surf, we decided to try a Silicon Valley tactic: get there at the crack of dawn before the gates open.
Now this approach is not for everyone. It is not for the “Mon soon come” crowd who won’t set their alarms for 5:30 am just to get into the ocean and be the only ones at a white sand beach. It is also not for those of you who want a tan, like to see and be seen on a beach in Hawaii, or for those who like to enjoy a few beers with friends in the sun. No, this is for those of us who don’t like to get sunburned, who like to see natural spaces without a hundred multi hued umbrellas stuffed in the sand with blue coolers and beach chairs laying about and want to avoid cringing while watching tourists get knocked down in the surf.
My family and I got to the gates of Kua Bay on Friday (Statehood Day, a state holiday) at 6:30 am. The sun was rising and casting a beautiful light across the lava and Mt. Hualalai. We were there with all the construction workers waiting to be let into the work sites nearby. My husband and I started jogging to the beach, while my daughter took her time photographing the scenery. We found out later that it is exactly 1.4 miles to the beach from the gate. A nice run for some, and a decent easy hike for most. We were greeted by only two people in the water and a gorgeous sunrise against the incoming waves. Ladies, this is a great time to get your photo taken, as this is the kind of light Sports Illustrated uses for their models! It gives you a glorious looking tan and you are sparkling against the blue water and white sand.
We swam in the bath water temperature ocean (this is August mind you-it won’t be that way in December, but you can get on the beach later during that time of year). We had the beach to ourselves for an hour. Long enough to satiate ourselves in the ocean and with solitude. Then we ran back,..uphill. The good news, it was not too hot as the sun was still on its way up. (make sure you have water in your car)
We posted the photos on Facebook and everyone was shocked at how beautiful the beach was without throngs of humans on it. So, we invited folks to join us this morning (two days later) to join us. No one came. Who wants to get up at the crack of dawn on a weekend? Who wants to walk/run into a beach you can drive to if you only wait until 8:30 am? We do. Because we are crazy enough to want to be the only ones riding the waves, catching ourselves on our GoPro, and sucking in the joy of having the beach to ourselves.
A few of my friends who saw our photos on Facebook were reminded of the days when Kua could only be accessed by a four wheel drive road. You could camp on the beach and enjoy general merry making with no patrols or harassment by the local officials. You could build a bonfire, you could swim naked and you could have a drum circle. Many of the things you could do back in my heyday on the beaches in Santa Cruz. They won’t even let you bring a bottle onto the beaches in Santa Cruz, much less build a fire there anymore.
Maybe we are taking a bit of our “catch it before it’s gone” attitude from the Bay Area to Kua Bay. The good news is, that we don’t have millions of people living here and most people won’t walk a mile to get to a beach. It’s like in California, where you can walk into any nature area for more than a mile and leave 80 percent of the masses behind. The good news here, is that I can tell you how wonderful the feeling of being on the beach was as that golden sun came over the volcano and touched our happy little faces as we glided in the waves and I know most of you won’t do it…but a few might. Good luck!