Hawaii – Days 43-64: Hawai’i (aka the Big Island) – A Private Beach, Stand Up Paddle Boarding, and Making Friends in the Ocean

One day I restarted my computer because it was being slow but when it turned back on it wouldn’t let me log in. It got frozen on the login page. It wouldn’t let me type or click anywhere. Ahh! After trying fruitlessly for a few days to get it to work I finally accepted that I’d have to take it in. Lame.

I rode in to town with the bee family on a Wednesday when they were heading in to the Farmers’ Market and, of course, when the computer store guy had me show him the problem my computer let me log in right away. Figures. There was, however, a glitch that he was able to help me fix. You see, my computer thought it was set to automatically log in, which it had been, basically forever, but it was, in fact, making me log in every time I turned it on. So, a few changed passwords and some finagling later and the guy managed to fix my computer. As an added bonus, he didn’t charge me anything. Woohoo!

After all the cool snorkeling I’d been doing at Ho’okena Beach and all the cool fish and turtles I’d seen I decided to get an underwater camera. Some of the Couchsurfers I hung out with in Maui had a GoPro and it seemed pretty convenient. I looked them up and found a waterproof GoPro that was pretty small and not too expensive so I decided to get it. A store called Pacific Vibrations in Kona sold the GoPro I wanted so I went there to get it. I chatted with the guy working and learned his family owned the business. He said anytime I was back in town he’d let me go stand up paddle boarding for free. Ever since I got to Hawaii I’d been meaning to try stand up paddle boarding and now here was my chance! Sa-weet. I asked him if he always worked Wednesdays and he said only every other Wednesday, which was perfect since I still had a few more Wednesdays left.

That weekend I decided, finally, to hike down to the beach below my host family’s property. They’d told me it was about a forty minute hike, so I hadn’t done it yet because I knew it’d take up most of the morning. Well, it ended up being a whole day ordeal, so it’s a good thing I hadn’t tried to squeeze it into a morning one day…

The hike down to the beach took an hour. I’m pretty sure I missed a turn I was supposed to take somewhere and that’s why it took so long, but whatever. The beach is private, as in, not accessible to the public, not as in no one else can go there. Shortly after I got there an older couple also arrived and a few hours later a group of a few people also showed up, but no one really stayed so I basically had the whole beach to myself for most of the day which was pretty neat. Back on the mainland I’d bought a hammock thinking it’d be great in Hawaii, but I hadn’t used it yet. Whoops.

This was the first, and only, time I’d ever used it. (There weren’t any trees up by where we lived on the bee farm…) It was great though. I also brought my new GoPro and went snorkeling. Unfortunately, the water was really murky, so the pictures and videos were complete crap. Oh well, it was a good test run. I also brought my Kindle and it was the day Harry Potter and the Cursed Child came out (though I’d already read it once the day before since Amazon thought I was on East Coast time…huzzah!) so I laid in my hammock and started reading it again. What a wonderful day.

The view from my hammock at the private beach below my host family's house, Captain Cook, Hawai'i (Big Island), HI.

The view from my hammock at the private beach below my host family’s house, Captain Cook, Hawai’i (Big Island), HI.

I needed to do laundry before dark because the house is solar powered. While I wasn’t looking forward to the hike back up, I knew a nice shower would be make it worth it so I took down the hammock and started back up the hill. I usually wear knee braces when I hike because I’ve inherited my family’s bad knees, and I’d thought about grabbing them before I left that morning, but then I forgot. What a mistake. My right knee started hurting almost as soon as I started hiking, but I had to make it back up the hill, so I just kept going. It was afternoon so the sun was blazing and I had to stop to reapply sunscreen, having learned from the other day the consequences when I don’t.

It was SO. HOT. And at least on the way down I got to look forward to a dip in the ocean as my reward for finishing my hike, but on the way up my motivation was only a shower? Not nearly as motivating. I have no idea how long it took me to get up the hill because 3/4 of the way up I became delirious. I hadn’t been drinking enough water and I’d been in the sun all day and I probably hadn’t eaten enough either, but regardless I was losing it.

I thought about how ridiculous it would be if I died on that trail, if I just gave up and laid down and waited for death. Presumably, the bee family would’ve come looking for me at some point, but still. When I finally made it back I got in to the WWOOFer shack…

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention earlier the grandpa of the bee family had built a little room for WWOOFers with a sink with running water and a mini fridge and a bed that converts to a sitting area and a desk – it’s pretty awesome.

My home in Hawaii...aka the WWOOFer shack, Captain Cook, Hawai'i (Big Island), HI.

My home in Hawaii…aka the WWOOFer shack, Captain Cook, Hawai’i (Big Island), HI.

Anyway, I got back to the shack and just sat in front of the fan and forced myself to finish my whole bottle of water before I went to take a shower. The shower was blissful and, exhausted, I slept really well that night. My knee continued to bother me for the rest of the week, but finally, a week later it was back to normal. Woo! Then the only problem was the mysterious illness that was making me nauseous every time I ate. Hmpf.

After being sick and barely eating for a few days, I finally felt better and then there was another Wednesday – and a Wednesday where my new friend from Pacific Vibrations, with the free stand up paddle board, would be working. I planned to ride to town with the bee family for the Farmer’s Market and then bike to Magic Sands Beach to snorkel with my GoPro for a bit and then go to Pacific Vibrations and borrow the stand up paddle board. I also needed to run some errands – return some stuff at Walmart and Target (I didn’t use nearly as much sunscreen as I thought I would…) and mail some things at the Post Office.

However that Wednesday morning as I was getting ready I realized the bee family was not… I recalled talking to the lady of the house the day before and that she mentioned that they might skip the Farmers’ Market on Wednesday because there was another one on Saturday plus the regular one they went to on Sunday. So, I quickly looked up the bus schedule and decided it was time to try flagging it down. I rushed to gather everything I needed and then had to wake up the bee parents to double check and make sure I could still have that as my day off and get the keys for the gates. I practically ran up the big hill they live on to get to the main road so I could catch the bus. I need not have rushed so much, I waited for at least a half hour and when I finally saw the bus I think I was a bit too overzealous with my arm waving… I was especially embarrassed once I realized how packed the bus was that early in the morning. Whoops.

I ended up getting off the bus where I once got on the bus before I had a bike. I then rode past Magic Sands, having completely missed the sign, while convinced I hadn’t passed it because I’d seen it every single time I’d passed it before. When I finally checked to see how much further it was I was already a mile past it… Oy.

It was nine something in the morning and cloudy when I made it to Magic Sands (La’aloa). As such I quickly got rather cold swimming. The snorkeling was pretty good, but I didn’t see as many of the fish as I’d seen at Ho’Okena previously, so after thirty or so minutes I headed back to shore to continue riding my bike to Pacific Vibrations so I could try stand up paddle boarding.

The silver looking fish is actually rainbow colored...so much cooler in person, Magic Sands Beach, Kailua-Kona, Hawai'i (Big Island), HI.

The silver looking fish is actually rainbow colored…so much cooler in person, Magic Sands Beach, Kailua-Kona, Hawai’i (Big Island), HI.

Stand up paddle boarding was AWESOME! I fell off about three times before I finally was able to stay on for at least ten minutes. Then, as I was tooling around the bay I noticed this boat out in the water and I thought is that a tiny white submarine? It sure looked like it, so I started paddling toward it. Then the coolest thing happened: another boat came up to it and I was like, are people getting on the submarine?! People ARE getting on the submarine! Is it going to submerge? It IS going to submerge! I got to watch a submarine submerge! Seriously. I was so bummed I didn’t have my GoPro and snorkel so I couldn’t take a picture of it under the water because how cool would that have been?! Yeah, but still it was SO. COOL!

After a little over an hour I could feel myself starting to burn again, and really didn’t want that, so I headed back in and returned the paddle board and paddle and then went back out to snorkel, because on my way in I’d asked a guy snorkeling if the snorkeling was good and he said yes (and that I looked like a pro on the paddle board – why, thank you kind sir!). I only made it twenty minutes snorkeling. My arms were tired from paddle boarding and it was a bit choppy. After snorkeling I ran my errands and the bee family ended up coming to town later that day so they picked me up on their way home.

My last Saturday in Hawaii and four days before the end of my 50 States in 50 Weeks adventure I finally returned to Ho’okena Beach and got to use my GoPro for the reason I got it. This was my third time at Ho’okena and my bee family hosts had said that they regularly swim with dolphins at this beach. The last time I was at Ho’okena was the first time the dolphins were there, but I’d just put on sunscreen and really didn’t want to burn again so I waited for it to soak in, and by the time I did the dolphins were gone. Anyway, this was my last chance to get to swim with dolphins and I was convinced it would happen.

The bee family was heading to the Saturday Farmers’ Market so I hitched a ride to the beach and they said the dolphins were usually there in the morning so I was super hopeful. I decided not to get in the water until I saw dolphins so I wouldn’t tire myself out before I got to swim with them. I set up my towel under the shade and stayed there from nine to one, occasionally moving my towel further into the shade. At around 1:00 p.m. I started to worry the dolphins weren’t coming that day. I decided to go out an snorkel at 2:30 p.m. if the dolphins still hadn’t come, but then went out a little after 1:30 p.m. instead. As I swam I begged the dolphins to come play with me. I swam way out past where I normally went snorkeling, but I didn’t see any turtles or my favorite fish and started to get nauseous because I don’t think I waited long enough to swim after I ate lunch so I headed back to shore.

View of Ho'okena Beach from the water, Captain Cook, Hawai'i (Big Island), HI.

View of Ho’okena Beach from the water, Captain Cook, Hawai’i (Big Island), HI.

I took a little nap on the beach and when I looked up and out over the ocean I thought I saw fins. I looked harder. Did I really see fins or am I just hoping so bad that I get to swim with dolphins today that I’m imagining things?  I saw fins again, and was still not entirely convinced I wasn’t seeing things, however I grabbed my snorkel and GoPro anyway and swam like my life depended on it because if there was a chance I could swim with dolphins I wasn’t going to miss it. It was at this point, as I swam toward the fins, that I remembered there had been a sign on the beach that hadn’t been there any of the other times I’d been to this beach saying “Warning: Sharks sighted – Be Aware.” I panicked slightly and really hoped I wasn’t swimming toward sharks. Then I thought, please be dolphins, please be dolphins, please be dolphins. Then I saw fins again and now that I was in the water they were much closer. I was paralyzed by fear. PLEASE BE DOLPHINS. 

Fins again. More panic. And then the bodies of two dolphins surfaced with their fins. DOLPHINS! Whoa. Wow. Awesome. I kept swimming toward them, still mildly terrified. Dolphins are fairly large and native to the water after all…

I had an urge to turn on my GoPro, and I like listening to my heart, so I turned it on above the water. After a few seconds I had the urge to go underwater with the GoPro and as I was waiting for something to happen all of a sudden two dolphins came out of nowhere and headed right toward me. I was so in awe all I could do was turn the GoPro to follow them. I looked down to where they were heading and saw another twenty or so dolphins about twenty feet below us. The rest of the pod! Wow. The video was a little shaky since I was swimming, but here’s a still:

They sort of looped around me...so freaking cool! Dolphins at Ho'okena Beach, Captain Cook, Hawai'i (Big Island), HI.

They sort of looped around me…so freaking cool! Dolphins at Ho’okena Beach, Captain Cook, Hawai’i (Big Island), HI.

SO. FREAKING. COOL! The dolphins swam away and I wasn’t fast enough to follow them, so I just headed back to shore. I was anxious to watch the GoPro video and confirm that that actually just happened. I actually just swam with wild dolphins in the ocean! Even though it had just happened I couldn’t believe it. The video, obviously, was great and I was high on life.

About a half hour later the little girl next to me said, “Mommy! Mommy! Look! Dolphins!” and sure enough back where I’d just been: more dolphins. I hesitated and wondered if I should go back out. I decided I had to, of course. This time SEVEN dolphins swam up near me and I stayed out there for a lot longer and they kept coming back.

A group of seven dolphins at Ho'okena Beach, Captain Cook, Hawai'i (Big Island), HI.

A group of seven dolphins at Ho’okena Beach, Captain Cook, Hawai’i (Big Island), HI.

Eventually I got tired and didn’t see them surfacing anywhere so I started heading back to shore and as I did two dolphins swam right in front of me again, but this time I didn’t have the GoPro on. I’m convinced it was the same two from the beginning and at the beginning they were like, hey girl, it’s ok, see, we’re not scary, and at the end they were like, bye girl, thanks for playing with us today. SO. FREAKING. COOL!

I swam back to shore and there were a bunch of people gathered behind the tree my stuff was under. It looked like a wedding party. I didn’t really feel like photo bombing all their wedding photos so I just stayed and snorkeled in the surf for another twenty minutes.

So, four days until the end of my adventure and I can officially answer the question: What is the coolest thing that happened on your road trip (aside from meeting and falling in love with Alex)? Swimming with wild dolphins in the ocean in Hawaii. Definitely and hands down, the coolest thing that happened on my road trip was when I went swimming with wild dolphins in the ocean in Hawaii.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me on this wonderful journey. It’s been an amazing ride and I couldn’t have done it without each and every one of you. Truly and deeply, from the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU!

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