Monday, June 17, 2013

Camping at Ho'okena

We've got this camping thing down now. The to-bring-list is on the table, the van is full of gas, and the gear is piled high in the living room, ready to haul out to the back of the car. Snorkeling gear? check. Gas stove and cooking pot? check. Tent and sleeping bags? check. Enough groceries for 3 days? check. Camera? check. 
Once everything is checked off our list, we rally the kids together for one last check-off. Whooops, the toothbrushes! Someone run and grab the toothbrushes! And floss! Then last of all we kneel and offer a family prayer, asking God for protection, safety, and fun, on our next family adventure. We thank Him for this beautiful world he has given us, and pray that we can enjoy this special time we have together as a family in nature.
And away we go! This time we're headed to Ho'okena Beach Park for 3 days and 2 nights of camping on the beach. We've got 2 1/2 hours of driving ahead of us. We'll be heading up over Kilauea Volcano, down through Pahala and Na'alehu, then around the south bend to Ho'okena Beach Road. The camping area is a 2 mile winding drive downwards, until you hit sand.
The view at the bottom is worth every butt-numbing, shi-shi-pulling-over, kid-whining minute, spent in the car to get there! 
Ho'okena Beach is one of our favorite places to camp. When we first moved to this island 2 years ago we found this beach by accident while out exploring one day. We had been at Punalu'u Beach for the day but decided it was too cold to swim what with all the freshwater springs bubbling up everywhere. So we got in the car and drove and drove until we saw this road leading downward towards the ocean.  Arriving here was like a little piece of heaven in our day. The bay was sparkling blue and gorgeous, the water was warm, the snorkeling fantastic! We've been coming back ever since.

As far as camping goes, this place is super mellow and family friendly. There are bathrooms, showers, fire pits, and sinks for washing dishes. My personal favorite asset of camping here is that you can set your tent up right on the sand, just 150 feet away from the breaking surf. I love falling asleep each night listening to the crashing waves on the shore. Although I have to mention that it's not just the ocean you're close to; you have to be comfortable with the close proximity of your next-door neighbors, as well. You may also be falling asleep to funky music, loud snoring, or other human-noises of the night (ahem).

Here's a photo of the beach store below: You can  rent kayaks, canoes, or stand-up-paddle boards if you don't have your own. Or buy sunscreen and swim shorts if you forgot yours.
When we first got here on Wednesday (around 1pm) the only place to set up our tent was in the hot sun, no shade whatsoever. Since camping spots aren't marked or reserved, you basically set up your tent anywhere you can find an empty spot of sand. There's an ongoing game of musical tents as campers come and go, and people move their tents to more desirable camping spots. The second day we scored a nice spot under a large, shady tree! Good for napping and playing endless games of Trouble!
Sitting in the hot sun, waiting for a shady spot.
If you walk down towards the right side of the bay, you'll find Odin's treasure trove of tide-pools. His favorite thing to do is walk down the lava rocks searching the tide pools for sea-urchin spines, cowry shells, or opihi. 
There was plenty to find!

There are usually other families camping here, too, meaning lots of other kids to play with. 
Here's us, stopping for a watermelon snack at lunchtime.
Since I have an OCD tendency that forces me to clean non-stop whatever is in front of me, I promised myself I would try to relax for 3 days without cleaning anything. I didn't make it. I saw a broom and a sand-covered-sidewalk and that was the end of that. Hey, at least I'm smiling. :) Plus we found 82 cents hiding under that sand. Score!
From trash to treasure: my silly Odin wearing the lens-less goggles he found.
Mama cooking a pasta dinner under the shady tree!
Zadok's morning face. Waiting for a bagels n' cream cheese breakfast.
Friday morning we woke up to a glorious pod of dolphins swimming in the bay! The Nai'a- or Spinner Dolphins- come here to rest after a long night of hunting fish out in the open ocean. We were awe-struck by their magnificent presence, as they swam peacefully from one side of the bay to the other.
Micah and Zadok paddled out to watch them a little closer.  Although the Hawaii-dolphin-protection law says that you have to stay at least 150 feet away from them, there's nothing saying that the dolphins can't swim up close to you. Here's Micah and Zadok sitting a safe distance away on the paddle board, with a pod of dolphins coming in for a closer look at the funny-looking humans.
Zadok was stoked, to say the least! What a beautiful experience!
We had a wonderful time! I think it was good for me to go do something I truly enjoy especially right after getting back from Oahu. I was worried that I would be homesick coming back to the Big island, wishing I was back snorkeling at Three Tables again. But I wasn't. In fact I only became more aware of what a blessing it is to raise my family in such a beautiful, peaceful, and natural place. The Big Island is truly a unique island, and coming back here felt like coming home. It may never hold the same blissful feelings of nostalgia I have of growing up on Oahu's North Shore, but now is the time to create blissful memories with my husband and children right here on this island. Thank you Ho'okena for providing us with a beautiful place to create lasting family memories. A hui ho. Til next time. We'll definitely be back soon! (It's time for this exhausted Mama to take a little break.)

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