Beach Week: Mauna Kea Beach (Kohala Coast)


When I was a weird little kid growing up in Volcano–its own little universe of forests and smoke–nothing annoyed me more than people who assume that Hawai’i is just one huge stretch of beaches and tiki kitsch. The idea that many tourists and faraway dreamers reduced my homeland to a saccharine and strange tropical cocktail of grass skirts, surfboards, and aloha shirts fascinated and repulsed me.

At the same time, I’m not ashamed to admit that I adore Hawai’i’s coasts, though they are far from my hometown. During my winter visit, my family and I took a weekend trip to Waikoloa on the Kohala Coast (you might also call it super-northern Kona!), and I thought my travel experiences were worth sharing in a weeklong series: after all, isn’t it the season to live vicariously through pictures of ocean locales?

We’ll kick things off with a Waikoloa-ish classic: Mauna Kea Beach!


The beach that I adore the most is Sunset Beach on O’ahu’s North Shore (yes, I lived briefly in Honolulu: seems so long ago!)–the waters there are impossibly clear, and layered in a variety of teals, blues, and pale crystalline greens. Yet Mauna Kea Beach comes pretty close to achieving Sunset’s levels of the sublime!

You have to get to Mauna Kea early in the morning in order to obtain one of the coveted free beach access parking spaces, but you’ll be rewarded for your prompt wake-up with a mostly-abandoned shore and sea.


As an avid shell collector, I couldn’t wait to see what the winter Pacific tides had left for me on the Kohala Coast–Mauna Kea Beach is often a treasure trove of cowries and cone shells!

Sadly, this visit’s haul was minimal (a few nice cones and an interesting sea urchin piece or two). That’s okay, though! I’m happy to let the sea save some of its gifts for other beachcombers.


Rockier, wilder parts of the shore are covered in great pieces of coral that have washed ashore: they look like mysterious, miniature cityscapes built of bone. (I mean, in a way, they sort of are like bones–calcium carbonate skeletons of a reef!)


As I prepare to return to the Mainland in the near future, I am so excited to spend some time reliving my sunny Christmas vacation: and I hope you enjoy it too! Keep following along this week for more clear blue skies & seas.

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