Two miles north of downtown Hilo, along a rocky coastline studded with black lava rocks, lies Honoli'i Beach Park, a favorite surfing, paddle-boarding, sunbathing and boogie boarding spot in East Hawai'i Island.
Honoli'i is the name of the stream which meets the ocean below Hilo's Wainaku neighborhood hills, creating a sandy beach and immense sandbar perfect for sunbathing. On an average surf day, small to medium sized waves roll onto the beach, while larger barrels crash at a second surf break roughly a hundred yards out to sea where there's usually a huddle of surfers waiting their turn to ride. Though casual swimmers and snorkelers can sometimes be spotted milling around the surfers and paddlers, they're not a very common sight simply because there are many better, safer places to swim in Hilo, like Richardson Ocean Park and Carlsmith Beach Park on the other side of town. Perpendicular to the sandbar is a large tidal pond of brackish water popular with fishermen and small children learning to swim, while a line of broad-leafed trees set behind the sandbar offers shade to sunbathers on the days of full Hilo sun, however rare.
With sandbar and easy ocean access at one end, the beach park's other main area boasts a well-manicured grove of finely mowed lawn and stands of tropical flowers and shrubs. A handful of picnic tables line the shore at this far end, where the rocky beach makes it much more hazardous to get in and out of the ocean. It's easy to imagine day trippers throwing frisbees and sprawling out on the picnic benches, refreshed by the invigorating, salty breeze coming off the ocean, feasting on a mound of exotic tropical fruit purchased from the fruit stand ladies at the Hilo Farmer's Market, open daily.
Access to the park is via a steep concrete staircase with several landings, made easier to traverse by a sturdy handrail. There is no handicap access, unfortunately. Restrooms and an outdoor public shower are located at the red-roofed building at the center of the property, on the other side of which lies the lifeguard station that is constantly manned. After descending the staircase, keep left to find the path down to the sandbar, or go right across the lawn to find the picnic tables and the more secluded part of the park.
It's common at Honoli'i to see crowds of spectators lining the road that runs along the cliff about the park - locals and visitors alike who've come to watch the surfers and their long, graceful, zig-zagging rides from the crashing break in towards shore. In fact, many Hilo residents consider the park to be the best place to watch surfers on this side of the island. Like other surf spots in Hawai'i, waves are biggest in the winter at Honoli'i, and these can grow to the point of being extremely dangerous and only suitable for experienced surfers.
To keep safe, always operate on the principle of "if in doubt, don't go out", and never turn your back on the ocean, even on calm days. Rogue waves are real and drown ocean goers every year in this state.
Bring your board of choice and a picnic from Hilo, comfy lawn chairs, a cooler and a parasol, and as long as you're aware of ocean conditions and where it's safe to get in and out, Honoli'i might just become your new favorite ocean spot in East Hawaii.
Get to Honoli'i Beach Park by turning off Hawai'i Island's Belt Road (HWY 19) roughly two miles north of Hilo at Nahala Street, across from Alae Cemetery and park on the shoulder of the road running along the cliff.
Mahalo nui loa to Stefan Verbano, Content Blog Writer for Kona Wedding Officiant® - Hawaii 101 - Things to Do On Hawaii Big Island - www.konaweddingofficiant.com/blog
Aloha - Deanna - Kona Wedding Officiant, Licensed Minister and Marriage Officiant.
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