Friday: Heavenly Manini

Photo May 24, 10 13 50 AMPhoto May 24, 7 45 00 AM8:50 a.m. SwimVacation Hawaii guests and guides stand on Manini Beach, looking out at Kealakekua Bay and Captain Cook monument, on the opposite side.  Our arrival here was less than perfect. I marched into this little seaside park after parking our van (inappropriately, I later find out), then plopped down my swim bag on a picnic table (with a sign that says Please Do Not Use This Table).  Manini Beach Park is private property, but open to the public and managed by a non-profit organization. They keep it tidy and have some rules.  A small local woman who helps take care of the place reminds me of the rules. I'm apologetic, and throw lots of Mahalos around. She looks a little angry. We jump in.

The entry spot had some surge, so we had to time our entry between waves.  Our guests performed it perfectly. I'm swimming with Anette, Deb, and Paul. Guide Heather is swimming with Janine and Debbie. We swim around the edge of the bay, a huge cliff above us with occasional lava tube holes in it, I imagine these are perfect for bats. The sky is light blue, the water is deep blue, the hills jungle green. This water is wicked deep, even a few feet from shore. The cliff keeps shooting down to the bottom of the ocean. I love swimming in endless blue water. We make it around to the Cook Monument, where there's a little cove with the healthiest coral I've ever seen.  As in many places we've swum this week, there's cold, fresh water pumping into the cove from the sea floor. It's seeping through the lava rock from way, way up the volcano. It makes the water blurry in places, like a heat ripple does on the highway. It acts as a rinse when you get out of the sea. It cools you off after a long swim or paddle or day of catching waves. This place was made for playing in the water, and the people here (that includes us) take advantage every chance they get.

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We swim back the same route, along the cliff's edge. We time our egress with the waves and the guests again are flawless. The woman who had scolded me earlier was clapping as we walked up from the little beach, then approached me with an armful of apple bananas. She said, please take these, they will put the sweet back in your mouth after the salt water. It was one of those moments. Guests and guides stood there, in our bathing suits, eating these sweet little bananas that had just been picked 5 minutes before. We decided to stay at the park for lunch, and hauled a cooler full of the most delicious sandwiches to a shady, grassy place with and amazing view of the bay. We lingered. It might be the most beautiful place I've ever been.

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We were getting sleepy. Hey, I know, we're in Kona. They grow famous coffee here. So we drove to a coffee plantation, took a tour, sampled the brews, bought some cool stuff in the gift shop for everyone back home. Now everyone is wide awake and ready for another swim. Sheesh my suit is barely dry.

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Touring and sampling at Greenwell Coffee Plantation. Debbie makes a new friend.



Place of Refuge is just down the coast. Back in the times of the Hawaiian Kings, they had some strict rules. If you broke one of these rules, it was often punishable by death. Unless you somehow evade the King's soldiers and run, crawl, or swim to a Place of Refuge. We just drove there, none of the Ali'i soldiers on our tail. There's a spot here called Two Step,  where the flowing lava had conveniently flash-cooled in the form of a staircase, making water entry quite easy. We swam north along the shore. The coral here is absolutely stunning, healthy, untouched. It's a testament to the respect the Hawaiian people show the sea that the reefs are in such good shape.  A turtle swims with us for awhile.


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Chef Dan and Claire make their own sausage, and they served it sliced and sautéed for pu pu's (appetizers) tonight topped with something yummy I couldn't identify. A party was forming. Guests and guides sipped lava flows (pina coladas poured over strawberry puree).  Local guide Ryan showed up with his wife Natasha. The owner of this beautiful home, Ali, an architect and swimmer, accepted our invitation and wandered in. Wine flowed. Dinner was just-caught snapper with israeli cous-cous and carrots with ginger. Guest Lisa introduced us to a Canadian ice wine she smuggled in. We sipped it with a mango crumble. No one suffered.

Heather put on an amazing slide show. She did all the footwork for this SwimVacation, and she took the lead in running it. On top of all that, she took amazing photos of our Kona and our guests.

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Paul & Lisa


Ryan McGuckin



Bittersweet goodbyes to early departing flight guests, and to our caterers.  I'll wrap up more of this tomorrow.