Did you see “Finding Nemo”? Remember the “drop off”? I actually saw it today and found myself in equal parts wonder and worry as I was snorkeling in the bay in front of Kukio, to the north of Kikaua Beach.
I knew I wanted to go for a longer swim, so when I found myself at least 1/4 mile out, I was still enjoying the bevy of tropical fish and abundant coral when I looked up and saw the looming maw of the deep blue in front of me. I have snorkeled around West Hawaii for years and am used to the water getting pretty deep, very quickly from shore. However, this time was different. This is a bay where the depth of the water is about 8 feet deep and then….it drops off to 45 feet..then 100. Quickly. This is odd enough that there is a sign at the entrance to the beach saying, “Beware: Steep Drop Off”.
As you can see from the aerial photo above, the water changes from a turquoise to a cobalt blue where the drop off starts. The reason I bring this up, is I was alone, I was pulled to the drop off like a toddling tourist above the Grand Canyon and it frightened me to see all those little dancing tropical fish over a coral mound that was 10 feet deep in the forefront and a blue screen of nothingness behind it.
This is the moment that I decided to swim to the edge and look down..fully expecting a great white shark or something as huge and onerous waiting down there..and a duo of 2 foot tuna came racing up and over the reef instead. After I pulled my heart out of my mouth, I looked around and made the firm decision to go no further! What I DID do, though, was look around at the perfectly clear water, the dozens of mutli-hued fish and the artwork of brain and finger corals in abundance in the area and realized how blessed I was to be experiencing it…alone. THEN, I took off like a bat out of hell back to the beach!
If you want a rush, along with a great opportunity to swim with the sea turtles, (I almost swam into one on my Olympic trial run to the beach) and want to experience a pretty memorable bay, I would suggest this adventure to Kukio.
If you are not familiar with Kukio, it is a luxury, gated community near the Four Seasons Hualalai and you can go into the beach by asking at the guard shack for one of only 28 passes. (So go early!)
Back Story: After being turned away twice before at the guard shack because the passes were all gone, I finally got up early this morning and cajoled the kiddos into coming with me to this beach at 9 am. I was first attracted to it after viewing it from a small airplane a few months ago. I saw the lagoon and felt called to check it out. It was WELL worth the work of getting there early, getting the pass, driving down to the parking lot, walking 50 yards to the beach and finding the access area to the bay to go for a fantastic snorkel. The area was beautiful..with a lagoon that was shallow enough for small children and a beautiful ocean front lawn for soaking in the view, without the direct sun to come with it.
Here are some photos of the area: