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Hawaii...The Big Island

09. December 2010

Hawaii… The Big Island

When I signed up for the San Diego Master’s swim program more than 25 years ago, I had no idea just what an adventure I was in for.

I am NOT a risk-taker by nature, but when a group of gals invited me to join their relay team for a race around Coronado I had to give it a try. I got my first open water “rush” stroking alongside the mammoth supports underneath the Coronado Bay Bridge. From that moment, I was hooked!

Over the years, my swim pals and I have competed in rough water races from Coronado and La Jolla to Oceanside, Newport, Lake Tahoe and Alcatraz. We’ve even braved the wind chop and chilly temps in the Catalina, English and Maui channels. (OK. The water off Maui is warm. But the swells were seven to ten feet!)

I love to open-water swim. And the Master’s program (a polite way of saying ‘old people’ swimming!) is the way to go. I’ve made lifelong friends who share my passion for the open water.

Our most recent adventure, however, didn’t involve a race or major channel crossing. This trip took us to the island of Hawaii. And THIS trip was just for fun! The “Big Island” may be best known for its lava rock landscape and active Kilauea Volcano. But this magical place is also home to some of the most spectacular swim spots in the world.

Lucky for us, our friend, Janet knows the island inside and out. She planned five fun-filled days that began at sunrise with coffee on the lanai, and ended with a glass of Merlot and sunset on the lanai. In between we hit the major swimming hot spots along the Kona Coast.

One of the highlights of the trip was also one of my “bucket list” goals. Day one. With Jo and Rene I realized one of my dreams. Together we swam the 2.4-mile Ironman Triathlon swim course in Kailua bay! We cheered at the turnaround buoy. And when the wind picked up on the return trip, we got to experience at least part of the challenge of the grueling event usually reserved for elite athletes.

The second day? Honaunau and a beautiful bay known by the locals as “2-Step.” Yes, there are actually two “steps” made of volcanic rock that allow swimmers and snorkelers to safely slip into the bay. Fabulous snorkeling.

Keala Kekua Bay was my favorite swim stop. Day three was an amazing two-mile swim to the Cook Monument… named for the English Captain who discovered the Hawaiian Islands. The water was so calm and clear that morning, it was like swimming in a giant aquarium.

The next morning we got an early start and drove to Kona Coast State Park… home of a lovely stretch of beach called Kekaha. The gentle surf and water, a breathtaking shade of aquamarine made for a delightful day of easy swimming and serious snorkeling!

Before our flight the last day we took an early dip into the still waters at Kahaluu beach Park for our last glimpse of the brilliant parrot and butterfly fish that never cease to amaze me.

There are countless reasons to visit the “Big Island” of Hawaii… the erupting Kilauea volcano, historic downtown Hilo, Manua Kea – the world tallest mountain and drop-dead gorgeous flowers and plants everywhere.

But for you swimmers and snorkelers out there? The “Big Island” of Hawaii’s spectacular Kona Coast is a must-see! Make plans now! I look forward to seeing your photos.


PS: After your morning adventures, enjoy a great meal at the best and most-fun lunch spots we found. I recommend “Quinn’s,” “The Coffee Shack,” Drysdale’s,” and the “Kona Inn.”

Carol LeBeau | Health Journal | 09 December 2010

Contact Carol by emailing her at Carol@palomarhealth.org.