Got a few extra hours on the island of Oahu? Bypass the beach and head off on a Hawaiian-style adventure.
OK, there are worse things in life than finding yourself stuck in Honolulu for a day with nothing on your to-do list. Paradise is a better place than most to end up at loose ends while your wife is stuck at the convention center. The obvious answer - head to the beach, right?
Not so fast. For some of us, a day on Waikiki is no day at the beach. We get restless. The prospect of another day of sunny stupor and wrinkled fingers leads to a yearning for something different. Talk to your hotel concierge, and he will rattle off a list of alternatives to sunning and swimming at Waikiki: There's sunning and swimming at Waimea Bay, sunning and swimming at Hanauma Bay, and, if you want variety, there's sunning and swimming and windsurfing at Kailua Bay. But is there life off the beach on Oahu?
Yes. Within an hour's drive of Honolulu (and if you drive any farther, your car had better come equipped with a rudder), you can exercise some of those body parts growing flaccid from too much time on your beach towel.
This is something Hawaii needs more of - ferocity. The trade wind that normally caresses the shores with warm whispers roars like a freight train on this towering rocky point. The velocity is so great you have to cup your hand over your mouth just to get a sip of air. And far below, the otherwise placid Pacific rams the island with explosive tenacity - one mighty wave after another detonates against the island in a wet, white cloud and a thundering boom. This is the 647-foot peak of Makapuu Point, where a coastal lighthouse marks the eastern most corner of Oahu. The hike up here is a pleasant challenge in itself - a scramble up a scrubby ridge, higher and higher into the view. At the peak, the wind is screaming; lean into it and it takes your weight. The force is a pleasure, but not one to linger over. Having made it up one side of the point, it's time to head down the other to the rocky shore below.
A lighthouse access road twists up the west side of the point. Follow it down a few yards to a set of mounted binoculars placed there for whale watching. Behind a sign that describes the activities of humpbacks, a faint thread of trail leads to the ridge and plunges, seemingly, over the edge. But the trail is sound - if taxing - all the way down. At times, you may have to hang on to the black jagged rocks with one hand as you lower yourself down a short drop or a tight switch back. The wind is mostly blocked here and the soundscape is dominated by the rhythmic booming of the big surf. The air is full of salt mist, and every few minutes a blowhole spouts in a 20-foot geyser from a fissure in the rock.
As you descend, a broad shelf of rock comes into view at the base of the cliff. The far edge is under assault from the waves, but closer in, a broad plain of sheltered rock is pocked with deep pools. The various organic shapes range from bird baths to Olympic swimming pools, some of them linked by channels in the rock. These are the intertidal pools that appear twice a day when the surf rolls out. At high tide, the entire shelf is flooded, and at the ebb you can walk around and peer - or jump - into the clear, cool ponds that sparkle in the tropical sun. At the center of these contained, fluctuating pools, you can swim comfortably, even as occasional outsize waves flush a few thousand gallons of water through the pool. Along the edges, you can walk among rocks crowded with sea urchins, multicolored shells, bizarre aquatic plants, and various fish waiting for the liberation of the next flood tide.
That's a tide you don't want to take yourself, so keep an eye on the surf that begins to creep over the far edge. After a couple of hours of solitude among the tide pools, you'll deem the Pacific close enough and make your way back to the trail and higher ground. From the top of the ridge, you can watch the ocean reclaim this bit of Hawaii.