Diamond in the Lava

19˚ 47’ 50” N  156˚ 01’ 88” W

The Hawaiian Islands are a sailor’s paradise, with warm trade winds and clear blue water. But finding a good anchorage can be a challenge for cruisers due to marginal bottom holding and swell protection. Rocky lava, coral bottoms and central Pacific swells can have you dragging or fouling your anchor, taking the fun out of a good night’s sleep. But there is a diamond in the lava that you might want to put in your chart table drawer if you are passing through or staying for the season on the Kona coast of the Big Island.

Makalawena Beach in Puu Alii Bay is located on the island of Hawaii, between Kawikohale Point north and Kaiwi Point south. If you are provisioning in Honokohau Harbor, it lays about eight miles to the north. This unique spot possesses a sugar sand bottom for anchoring, emerald green water and an uncrowded sandy beach for your pleasure.

The compass approach into the bay from approximately three miles offshore is 127m. Watch the depth; at around 45 feet you will see a reef awash to your starboard, very visible even at high tide. Anchor anywhere from the end of the reef to the beach, allowing enough swing room in case the wind comes up from the NW. Prevailing winds are light and variable 5 to 10 knots shifting SW to NW. If high surf warnings are posted from the SW-W or NW, you do not want to be there. It’s better to pick up a temporary mooring in Honokohau Harbor if the harbor entrance is not breaking white water from the swell.

My favorite spot in the anchorage is off a group of trees in 45 feet of water between the two sandy beaches. The snorkeling is some of Kona’s best and the empty beach is five-star old Hawaii. The view of Hualalai Volcano in the landscape behind the beach is truly a “stop and stare” moment. Spinner dolphins often make their way into the bay, and if they are in the mood, they just might take a swim with you. And oh yeah—the evening sunset usually shows a spectacular green flash.

I work the Kona Coast as a captain for hire on sailing catamarans, SCUBA and sport fishing boats. I am constantly on the hunt for new coves in which my visitors can experience the hidden treasures of the Hawaiian Island coast. Makalawena Beach is accessible from land by 4WD on a lava rock road off the Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway—a good three-hour drive. My point being, it’s all yours. If there’s a beach gathering, humbly introduce yourself—it may be the best local Hawaiian party you’ll ever experience.

Author: Capt. Pete McCormick