People are going to see the title and think why would one of your favorite places not be a beach in Hawaii. Well I am not a beach person. Beaches just don’t appeal to me. I am a mountain guy. Give me a green covered mountain with streams, lots of trees and rocky outcroppings any day of the week and twice on Sunday.
I became familiar with Bellows Beach when I was stationed at Schofield Barrack, Hawaii in 1992. When I filled out my wish list for overseas assignments I put down in this order, Alaska, Korea and Hawaii. The Army in their infinite wisdom gave me Hawaii and a guy that put down Hawaii was sent to Alaska.
Bellows is on the windward side of Oahu, this means the trade winds are always blowing cool moist air from that side over the rest of the island. It is also on the eastern side of the island so it is the first part of the island to see the sunrise. The beaches are pristine white sand and there are no hotels, no resorts, and not a great deal of commercialism like down in Honolulu. Trees run right down to the beach and it is probably a lot like the entire island was before the ‘progress’ of roads, electricity and other improvements came to paradise.
One of my favorite things about going to Bellows was the trip to it. I lived right outside of Pearl Harbor, I could see the Arizona Monument every night as I came home from work, so I lived in a very heavily populated portion of the island. To get to Bellows the drive would take us past Punchbowl on the left, then Diamond Head on the right and then around to the rocky shore near Koko Head Park which included Hanamuma Bay.
While passing thru Koko Head Park you started entering some of the most gorgeous shoreline on Oahu. Rough sharp volcanic rock cliffs that drop into the ocean, waves crash into the roughs cliffs throwing up magnificent spray. This is the shore line that was made famous in television and movies. The ‘From Here to Eternity’ beach where Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr get splashed with water while entangled in each other is on this stretch of ocean front, and scenes from the television show Magnum P.I. were also filmed here, if the chopper was racing along some rocky cliffs, well that is section of the shoreline.
So leaving Koko Head area you will pass Sandy Beach, sounds pleasant right. Wrong, locally it is called Broken Neck Beach, it is rough, tough and wicked. Only experienced body and boogie board surfers can handle this. Pull in and watch the people sailing kites in the treeless area near the parking lot. Unless your were raised on the shore, save your vacation and your vertebrae and keep going to Bellows Beach; it has a sandy bottom and consistent wave pattern that is not too extreme.
Two more things of interest along the way if you are a big fan of the TV show Magnum P.I., the first is T.C.’s chopper pad out on a pier. You will sit it clearly and it is obvious, the next not so much so, again you have to be a fan of the TV show for this to mean anything to you. Robin’s Nest, or the Robin Master’s estate. It is just past T.C.’s pier in fact you can see one from the other, but you have to look closely because it is surrounded by trees and fences and the fences have tarps on the interior. But driving by it as many times as I did and you will catch glimpse of the buildings used in the show and recognize the tidal pool.
So that is on the way to Bellows Beach, but what do you find when you get to the actual beach. You exit off the two lane road onto a smaller two lane blacktop road , passing thru small trees and bushes towards the recreation area. Once you get there what do you have, not much and that is reason I like it. The beach is probably only about fifty yards at its widest, and that is probably at low tide. There is a campground with bare bones accommodations and some cabins, but sorry these are only for military and retired veterans. There is a small convenience store to buy beer and such but again only for military ID card holders. There are picnic tables scattered about and elevated charcoal grills near the tables and a few pavilions for groups. In the reservations center you can see pictures from World War Two of the miniature Japanese submarine that washed ashore after the attack on Pearl Harbor and the first Japanese POW. who was captured on December 8, 1941. While walking the shore lines your can see crabs and green turtles swimming in the surf, but avoid the jellyfish.
This is the first place I ever sat in a kayak, and I loved it, I took it out to Moku Nui and Moku Iki Islands which take about an hour to paddle to from the shore. The most exciting part of kayaking was getting off the beach and through the crashing waves, and the second most exhilarating part was riding the waves into the beach at the end of your paddle. Another big point in my life happened here, this is the first place my daughter touched the Pacific. She would come back to the windward side of the island and learned to surf sixteen years later.
I spent two wonderful days here in a tent, when my mother-in-law came to town. I read, I walked, slept and relaxed. I could not tell you what time of year it was, because Hawaii does not have seasons, well maybe rainy and not so rainy, but the temperature is within a sixteen degree range all year round, and like I said on Bellows Beach there is always a wonderful sweet smelling ocean breeze giving the air a perfect taste.
This place has been ‘improved’ since I was there last from the websites and promotional videos they have built up the place a few more cabins, a miniature golf course and a driving range. That may be good for the kiddies and to accommodate more guests but I think it loses some of its charm. So get there before they put in a boardwalk and a series of fast food joints.
Next Week Cooks Forest, Clarion County, PA
Last week’s Travel and Diversions: Walt Disney World’s Wilderness Lodge Lobby