New. Fresh. Young.
These are the words that first come to mind when describing the Big Island, Hawaii.
I never thought that one could refer to an island as young, especially one that is about 700,000 years old (that’s over twenty thousand years times my own lifetime!). The Hawaiian Islands were formed over millions of years and the chain is still growing at a rate of 3.5 inches per year towards the northwest. So, as you follow the islands from Big Island (youngest) to Kauai (oldest), there is about 1 million years separating them in age. See here for a more detailed explanation.
There’s nothing like stepping onto rocks of an island that is still in creation. It is raw, unrefined, and feels like you are on another planet—somehow, it reminded us of a hotter Iceland (#ConfirmationBias). Tourism, development and human intervention haven’t degraded the natural beauty of the landscape mostly because the active volcanoes have been notorious for adding newer land, even at the cost of destroying old structures. In other words, it is near impossible to drive a few feet without seeing lava rocks.
A perfect example of this is Makalawena Beach, located on the Big Island’s western shores, about a 12 mile drive from Kona.
Although, there were a handful of beaches that we could’ve visited closer to our Airbnb in Kona, the intrigue of Makalawena beach was that it could only be reached by trekking about a mile through a lava field. As a general rule, the harder it is to get somewhere, the less people you’ll find, and the more rewarding it will be.
This was our first experience walking on such rough lava rocks. While it made for some awesome shots, our toes and ankles would argue otherwise. There are two main varieties of lava, smooth (“pahoehoe”) and rough (“a’a”). Their characteristics are mostly determined by how fast they both move and cool. Sharp and uneven terrain is the result of fast cooling, and fast moving lava cracking and crumbling along the way. The easiest way we learned to distinguish between them is that “Ah! Ah!” is what you might say when walking barefoot on it. Regardless, my craving for Carvel birthday cake chocolate crunchies reached new levels.
The one mile walk took much longer than we expected. As with all physical challenges, the effort paid off and we came out of it with only a few minor scratches. (Tip: save your tootsies and wear closed toe shoes. Walking through lava rocks in “slippahs” is not ideal)
We had the entire cove to ourselves with the exception of a few passersby. The ocean floor was a bit rocky so we didn’t go for a full on swim, but this didn’t matter. All we wanted to do was lie on the sand, dip our toes in the water, and gulp down that ocean air.
We made it to our first Hawaiian beach. We found it on the youngest Hawaiian Island. It was several hundred thousand years in the making, but the 10 days it took for us to make it there felt like an eternity. Makalawena was worth the wait.