Hawaii: The Traveler’s Way
Part One: The Beaches from Waianae to Makaha
When someone finally has the money to achieve their fantasy of seeing, feeling, and smelling the tropical climate that Hawaii is known for, they often go about it the tourist’s way and not the traveler’s way. They either call their local travel agent or surf the internet for cheap hotel deals and packages. The problem with this is often times travel packages will send you to places that are crowded with tourists and not locals.
Remember, the point in traveling to an exotic location is to experience the geography of the land. That doesn’t mean experiencing the land in a commercial way, with the usual suntan session on the beach outside of the hotel or the overly done night at a luau that never changes their show or dinner menu. It means traveling to the parts where the people live. When a traveler goes there, the traveler discovers food that is indigenous to the land and people. They also discover beaches and landmarks that only the locals know about.
A big part of Oahu, Hawaii that is not often travelled by would-be travelers is Waianae. Waianae is on the Westside of Oahu and it carries a lot of history and secrets hidden from tourists. Located forty to fifty miles west from Waikiki and the Honolulu Airport, The coastline from Waianae to Makaha is decorated with some of the islands bluest and sandiest beaches.
When entering Waianae, a traveler is greeted by two landmarks. On the right hand there is the welcome sign to Waianae which is standing in front of the Nanakuli Power Plant and on the left hand side there is the first beach that is hidden from the rest of the island, called “Tracks.” “Tracks” is known for its clear blue waters, rich coral reef, and heavy waves. During the winter and summer “Tracks” is hit with waves that are in the six to eight foot range (remember that Hawaii measures their waves from the back and not the front).
Locals are not territorial but they do expect good ocean etiquette. They don’t like tourists or locals, littering on the beach and they don’t like people cutting each other off in the water while surfing (“cutting off” is when a fellow surfer drops in on a wave when someone is already on it). “Tracks” has showers and bathrooms so travelers can wash off and change their clothes if they have to. Snorkeling is another plus that the Westside shores provide for travelers, because the coral reef on this side of the island is alive and healthy. The aquatic life is rich with tropical fishes, stingrays, octopuses, moray eels and sharks.
A mile down from “Tracks” is the Nanakuli Beach Park. Here the beach is sandy and the swimming is fairly safe for any swimmer, even during the winter and summer months when the surf is up. Like “Tracks” the Nanakuli Beach Park provides changing areas with showers and bathrooms. The beach also provides pay phones in case of emergency. A cool amenity about the beach is that a lot of local and professional canoe paddlers practice there on a consistent basis. It is a special treat to watch the sunset while the outlines of a canoe is mingling with the burning horizon.
Going deeper into the west coast a traveler will hit Coral Sands Beach Park, known as “Mine Fields” for its dangerous sharp reef that points out like daggers during low tides. Coral Sands Beach Park is located six miles down from the Nanakuli Beach Park and is across the street from the 76 gas station. For this beach, it is recommended that travelers stay on the shore and let the professional and local surfers tackle the waves. When the waves are good it measures at about five to ten feet. But the only way to surf it is to wait for the high tide. And even if the tide is high, the waves break over dangerous reef that is three feet from the surface. For the traveling surfer this place is an adrenaline rush.
Five hundred yards west from “Mine Fields” is a surf spot called Ma’ili Point. At Ma’ili Point the waves break over an eel infested reef. The barrels are hollow and the waves are heavy. One wipeout will shake the confidence of any seasoned surfer. It is a surf spot that deserves full respect. To paddle out to the surf break, a surfer can either paddle his/her way through “Shallows” which is like a miniature version of the desired spot or the surfer can paddle through “Bays” which is a deep water way where Tiger Sharks nurse their young. There have been no reports of any shark attack there, but it is always smart to be aware of the surroundings and movements one’s body make while paddling.
One third of a mile down from Ma’ili Point is another sandy beach called “Tumble Lands.” This beach is popular for body-boarding and bodysurfing. The shore break is heavy and powerful, but the waves break over soft sands. Safety here is enforced by the city and county lifeguards, so if there were to be an accident, trained professionals would be close by. Other than bodysurfing, “Tumble Lands” is a great place to have barbeques and picnics. There are many picnic tables on the grassy part of the park and the beach also has showers, bathrooms, and pay phones.
Travelling deeper into the heart of Waianae, the traveler will arrive to a beach called, Pokai Bay Beach Park. This beach park is more for chilling out and tanning under the sun. The beach is rich with fine soft sand and the bay is well protected by heavy surf, even during the winter and summer months. With all beaches on the Westside, Pokai Bay has a reef that slopes downward, making it an ideal place for swimming and playing. Amenities of the beach include picnic tables, barbeque grills, lifeguards, showers, bathrooms, and pay phones. All in all, this is a place to bring the family when the traveler needs a little down time away from the crowded beaches of Waikiki.
Now it’s time for the most popular beach on the Westside, Makaha Beach Park. This place was visited a million times over by travelers and tourists. Every year the biggest surf contests are held there: Buffalo’s Big Board Contest and The Rell Sunn Menehune Surf Contest. The Buffalo Big Board Contest is an event to honor Richard “Buffalo” Keaulana, a local surfer and lifeguard. The Rell Sunn Menehune Surf Contest is a three day event to honor Rell Sunn, a surfer who was crowned as the Queen of Makaha. Her reputation as a surfer was built upon helping the youth around the Westside to stay positive through surfing. Because Makaha is one of the most popular destinations on Oahu, opening a hotel was essential. That’s why the Makaha Resort Golf Club is close by for locals and visitors alike, who are searching for a place to stay while experiencing the country side of Oahu.
During the winter surf season the waves of Makaha can reach up to twenty-five feet. So if the North Shore is stacked with people, travelers should hit the west shores where the waves are just as big. Makaha provides crystal clear blue water, perfect for scuba diving. And it also has showers, bathrooms, and lifeguards.
The last beach on the Westside is called, Yokohamas, a beach that is located at the very end of the west coast, where the roads end. Yokohamas, known as “Yokes” by the locals is a sandy beach in the middle of nowhere. At “Yokes” cellular phones do not work, but the view and the bright blue water makes the traveler forget that. There are three beaches at “Yokes.” The first is called “first dip”, where the road takes its first dip. At “1st dip” the beach is the most sandiest. This is where most families set up camp and start their barbeques. At “2nd dip” the beach becomes less sandy and the reef slightly protrudes from the shore. Here, surfers and body-boarders ride waves that break over a slightly smooth and rocky reef. This is definitely not the place where children would swim, even the casual swimmer. At “3rd dip” the sand disappears and all that is left is a rock ledge. This is where the professional and local surfers go to catch one of the heaviest waves on the island. These waves are definitely not for beginners or surfers who are unknowledgeable with the ocean’s condition. It would be better to watch and marvel at the waves that break at “3rd dip.” But if the traveler feels like he can handle the beast that is “3rd dip”, say your prayers and dive in. Despite the location of the beach, there are lifeguards constantly protecting the safety of locals, travelers, and tourists.
So here are the beaches which tourists should travel to, because if they don’t, the only thing they’ll be swimming in is an overcrowded beach that is infested with the after-scent of sun block lotion.
In part two of this series, the local restaurants on the Westside of Oahu will be discussed.