Big Island: Kalapana and Kaimu Beaches; Destroyed by Lava

When you arrive on the Big Island as a fresh-faced mainlander reveling in Hawaii for the first time, you will notice the amazing stretches of beach just outside your resort room windows.  What you may not realize is the depth of natural history that created that expanse of sand and sea.  Both creating and destroying beaches, the force of lava is breathing just under the surface of the island.

From the mid-1980s to the early 1990s a flow from the south-east rift zone of Kilauea Volcano hedged east toward the village of Kalapana.  Flowing since 1984, many had watched as Pele’s fire took forest and brush in her path.  But this time, she would take two beautiful stretches of popular beach.  Located on the South-east shore of the Big Island both Kalapana and Kaimu beaches were only well known to locals.  Far off the beaten tourist paths, these beaches were devoid of restroom and food facilities but ripe with coconut palms, rich black sand, and many a sea creature.  A sole surf shop in Pahoa was the last stop for Sex Wax and rash guards.  Surfers and onlookers, beach bums and sunbathers all enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of the enchanted black sand beaches of lower Puna. 

Kaimu Beach Black Sands before lava in the early 1990s

Kaimu Beach Black Sands before lava in the early 1990s

And then Pele took back what was hers. Pele is the Goddess of Volcanoes in Hawaiian tradition. Slowly, surely, in rolling ropes of viscous flow, Pele’s lava overtook acre after acre of palms and sand and finally beach.  Surfers and onlookers, beach bums and sunbathers all watched in humble awe as the unstoppable lava went forth, leaving a seething hot field of molten rock. 

Hardened pahoehoe lava at Kaimu today

Hardened pahoehoe lava at Kaimu today

On weekends I, like my fellow Kama’aina am drawn to the ocean.  I like to book a vacation rental in Kaimu and walk out onto the hardened surface of pahoehoe lava from the early 1990s flow.  The solid ground resembles black ropes, some straight and some coiled.  Other areas look like plops of pudding, black and shiny in the afternoon sun.  Colors bounce out of the depth of black if you look closely enough; the brown of island skin, red, umber and most brilliant gold.  Many residents and visitors have taken to the new custom of placing sprouted coconuts into the brand new black earth.  These trees will sprout and thrive in this charred earth.  In ten years or so these palms will shade the newly forming sand beach of Kaimu.  What fun it is to live here and watch as Earth creates herself anew.

Kaimu 2014; below the lava cliffs, new black sand is created by the crashing waves

Kaimu 2014; below the lava cliffs, new black sand is created by the crashing waves

Won’t you join us on our naturally wonderful island for HawaiiCon 2014?  We promise a world of discovery! Come be inspired by the Big Island!