Landing in Aloha

Arrival on the Big, Baby Island.


There are some advantages in traveling to places that have been affected by hurricanes, political instability, and volcanic eruptions: more leg room on your flight. Our Los Angeles to Hawaii hop was less than 20% full. I took a full row, stretched out, and woke up 6 hours later when the wheels hit the lava, errrrr, I mean runway.


I’m already grateful for the bravery of our eight guests this week: many had been offered full refunds by the airlines due to the recent eruptions on Hawaii, but none were takers. These intrepid SwimVacationers understand that the eruptions are occurring on a remote corner of this massive island, that there are 2 massive dormant volcanoes between our Hale (house) and the active flows, and that they aren’t in any danger from the eruptions. They want to swim in paradise, and that’s what we’ll give them.



Six years ago, I sent guide Heather to Hawaii to scout it as a potential SwimVacation spot. Her first impression was naaah, but within two days she was Kukua nuts about the place. We have run 3 trips here since then in 2 different locations in Kona. This year we have moved up to the Kohala coast, mostly for this amazing Hale, The Treadwell House, and its white sand beach that Heather first spotted during that scouting trip. This Hale is actually three separate pod structures, Polynesian style, but with a modern, Scandinavian feel that’s simple and almost industrial. So it’s a Polynesian Scandinavian Modern Industrial Hawaiian Hale. Got it? It’s surrounded by mature trees filled with singing birds. Waialea Beach (also known as Beach 69, they’re numbered) is steps away, through a thick wood door in a shrub row. We’ll swim here almost every morning.  


Beach 69 is our home beach this week.

We began our day with an only slightly voggy morning in Kona.

We began our day with an only slightly voggy morning in Kona.

Most of our day was spent preparing for our guests' arrival tomorrow, but Heather and I also got in for a couple of swims. This morning we jumped in at the pier to swim a portion of the Ironman course. There are a series of buoys to follow, and it’s a popular spot for swimmers of all kinds. It’s the equivalent of a walking path at your local park, though this one sometimes comes with dolphins. After the swim, we loitered around the pier for a bit, and I was reminded that Hawaii has a deep rooted water culture as I watched hundreds of people swim, snorkel, SUP, splash, fish, and take to outrigger canoes for the weekly races. The elements are so much in force here: water, earth, sky. There’s more of those three things than buildings, roads, and people. It makes you feel small, but also very human.

Because this is a land-based trip, and we need to bring our guests to different parts of the island to go swimming, we always rent a van here. The local van rental company always has what we need, but they are very fussy, taking videos and photos of the van and checking IDs and making copies of credit cards and I think they took a DNA sample this year when I wasn’t looking. I don’t do fussy well, so Heather does all of that business while I shop for a few supplies. Once in the 15-passenger van, I was relieved to find that it drives more like a minivan than a truck, in past years I’ve felt more like a long haul trucker than a swimming guide.


Our venerable caterer Clare came to deliver supplies in the evening and to catch up with us, bringing with her 2 handmade Ti leaf lei, for protection, who couldn't use a little extra protection?  Since moving to Hawaii years ago, Clare has become immersed in the culture, so much so that she teaches hula dancing and lei making. She also seemingly knows every plant and animal on the island, especially the edible ones. She took us out to her favorite asian restaurant, and we dined on grilled butterfish, sushi, noodles, and salad. I had forgotten what real greens taste like after eating the boxed stuff all winter in Maine. Her chef/husband Dan would have joined us, but he was too busy preparing food for the week.     

The 6 hour time change is causing a bit of jet lag, but with plenty of water and a few other tricks, like facing the sun for a few moments every hour and noting the time. We’ll be in good shape for our guests. We can’t wait to get this thing going! Aloha!

- Hopper

The dormant Mauna Kea looms beyond a beautiful ancient lava scape. Soft tufts of green grass edge our way to dinner with Clare.

The dormant Mauna Kea looms beyond a beautiful ancient lava scape. Soft tufts of green grass edge our way to dinner with Clare.