A Saturday in Kailua, Hawaiʻi

with Eva Belén Ruiz, George Hill, Haley Foladare, Kylie Schatz, and me.

It was just 9 am but the sun was already baking us. It’s been just a few minutes since we started walking from Kylie’s parents’ house, when we encountered the first “no trespassing” sign. Right, Kylie had said that the best hikes in Hawaiʻi required some trespassing. So we pushed open the mesh wire gate and walked on. The gate delineated a living community that lay on our way to the pillbox. That community didn’t have gates anywhere else though, so not sure if we were really trespassing. We crossed many speed bumps in that community but hey, that doesn’t really matter if you’re walking forward. Next was a cute but short dirt path. And soon we were on our way up a steep little road that served the cell tower next to the pillbox. The sun was still baking. I think George got bored hiking up this steep asphalt road but more on that later. We slowly started getting sweet views of the two bays behind us. And not before long we got to the pillbox. I climbed inside to take this panorama:

Looking out at Kailua Bay and Kaneoha Bay from a bunker on a hill.

Looking out at Kailua Bay and Kaneoha Bay from a bunker on a hill.

You can find those pillboxes all around the coast of Oʻahu island. They are little concrete bunkers that have been set up during World War II to guard the coast from the Japanese.

The amazing thing is, we only had to hike to an elevation of 166 m ASL to earn that view. And what a sweet view it was! Kaneoha Bay to the left, Kailua Bay on the right, the reefs that we’d sail across the next day, the peninsula of Mokapu in the middle, and the steep, lush, green ridges that are all over Oʻahu behind us. And we could see Kylie’s parents’ and grandparents’ homes as well as the ruins of the house across the street that we saw go up in flames the afternoon before. Being engineers, George and I just had to calculate how far you could look out at sea from 166 m. I forgot what the answer was but it’s easy to calculate after all.

Clearly the hike up wasn’t challenging enough, so George decided to walk down backwards. George had a pretty easy time back-walking down the steep road we came from, with a little guiding from Eva. The short dirt path was a little harder because roots and logs crossed it. And then the speed bumps in the gated community. So many speed bumps. Eva did a great job guiding George though, and he never lost his balance or ran into anything. Then the mesh wire gate. We let George go first, guided him to find the handle and open the gate, all while walking backwards. We kept this up until we reached Kylie’s folks’ house.

We met Haley there who had taken it easy that morning (Or did she go to the gym? I don’t remember). Kylie was still out horse riding (she’s an avid equestrian). So the four of us went to Safeway in search of all the ingredients for dinner. When Kylie got back, we had a quick lunch and got ready for our next adventure: Moku Nui Island.

We started from Kylie’s aunt’s house on Lanikai Beach. Eva gets sea sick easily, so she elected to hang out on the beach and read a book while the rest of us went to the island. George and Kylie each took a sit-on-top kayak from Kylie’s aunt while Haley and I elected to swim to the island. We also tugged a surfboard behind one of the kayaks as a backup. Moku Nui is about a mile out from the beach. That’s a long swim but the sea was warm. And seeing the lively and colourful reef beneath us was a sweet reward for the effort of swimming. We even met a few sea turtles. To our luck George happens to be a swimming coach, so we even got a free swim lesson. About halfway out Haley had enough and got onto the surfboard.

Soon we landed on Moku Nui, a breath-taking place. First thing, we got into a little sand throwing fight on the beach. Anyways, the island is a pointy rock rising out from the sea. Virtually all of it is a protected bird sanctuary. You were only allowed to walk along the shore. The numbers and diversity of birds was already impressive but the highlight were the tide pools. The islands of Moku Nui and Moku Iki are located right next to each other at the end of the reef that we had come across. Right were the islands are, the sea floor drops off steeply. So while the sea was very calm over the shallow reef, meter-high waves pounded against the islands from the other side. The seaward side of Moku Nui is a steep face of hollow rock with lots of little pools and rock walls at the lower end. As the waves slammed against these rugged rocks, the water sprayed and splashed many meters high. Hanging out there was refreshing. And there was so much life! Huge crabs scaled the rock walls while gangs of tiny crabs with spiral shells were hanging out in the pools. Beautiful sea anemones made stepping in the tide pools a game of Minesweeper. Lots of little fish were trapped in the tide pools. Huge birds were nesting higher up in the cliffs. And many other creatures. This is just what I saw. George climbed way further across the tide pools than the rest of us. I wonder what secrets he found. As we had come over water, we didn’t have a camera to capture photos.

Way earlier than I liked, we had to make our way back. I started swimming while the others paddled. About halfway through I switched with George. Being a true Hawaiʻian, Kylie hand-paddled on her surfboard almost as fast as Haley and I could paddle on the kayaks.

As a sweet finish of the day, we all worked together to produce a delicious baked pasta dinner. It was quite the production indeed. We made three different sauces for stuffing the pasta shells, which we then baked in the oven.

This is the story of my favourite day out of a fun holiday in Hawaiʻi. It’s always so much fun travelling with a local! Kylie knew such awesome places to show us! And her family and her local friend were so sweet to us! It didn’t hurt either that we had free accommodation and that Kylie has a few relatives with beach houses who lent us surfboards and kayaks. I found it amazing how much breath-taking nature we experienced in Hawaiʻi without having to make much of an effort to get to places. And although we saw loads of tourists and locals at Moku Nui and other places, it looked like nature didn’t care much and just operated like it always has. Clearly, where we went to, the Hawaiʻian authorities have done a great job reconciling access with environmental protection. I’m very used to travelling alone, thus it was refreshing to have a holiday with my VOC friends. I think Hawaiʻi is a super sweet place to be at. And I hear flights are cheap around this Christmas. Winter brings the best waves for surfing too. So what are you waiting for?

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