A story of exploration, daring, and exceptional courage

I love exploring the islands and Hawaii has many remote areas that harbor hidden gems. Indeed, there is little difference between modern day exploration and the type that took place during Captain Cook’s time. While he had to contend with scurvy, mutiny, and discovering the world in a little wooden raft, the modern day explorer faces similar problems: bad cell phone coverage, broken AC, and failing photographic equipment. But all those pale in comparison to the scourge of Hawaiian exploration – authoritative looking signs and people.

Captain Cook Thwarted Again
Captain Cook Thwarted Again

On a recent expedition to the Big Island, we were looking to explore the coast off Mahaiula Bay.  Studying Captain Cook’s diaries and charts I had found no indication that the journey would present any problems. As a matter of fact, a road would lead us straight to the point of interest. My first mate, who also happens to be my wife, briefly alerted me to the fact that the road would take us through a hotel, the Kona Village Resort. So be it. From past experience I knew hotels were places that harbored great amounts of food. We would plunder their pantries. The pale looking hotel dwellers would offer no resistance.

This Hotel, however,  must have been plundered before as they had deployed a guard outpost at the entrance.

“Can I help you?”, a man inquired as he rushed from the protection of his outpost into the full ferocity of the sun.

“Surrender your pantries and food stuffs!” I was about to demand before being interrupted by my first mate.  “We’re just exploring,” she cleverly explained.

“I’m sorry but this is private property, you can’t proceed.”

“We’ve been traveling for many miles. Our food supplies have run empty and we only have one canister of rum remaining. Please good sir, can we come in to rest and replenish?” (Journal entry was destroyed by sweat, that sentence is an approximation).

“Do you have a reservation?”


“Then you can’t. You probably don’t want to eat here in any way. It’s like $50 for a lunch buffet.”

$50 a plate?! They must be pirates. It was nice of the guard to alert us to the trap so we bid him farewell. It seemed Mahaiula Bay with all its hidden petroglyphs, artifacts, and buried gold  would remain outside our reach.

That evening, exhausted from malnutrition and sun exposure, I studied my charts and maps. “Where had we gone wrong?” As I consulted the evening stars for navigational clues, I couldn’t help but think about other explorers like me. Captain James T. Kirk, Captain Cook, Captain Picard.  Indeed they endured hardship and failure too, but they also found solutions. Would this be my Waterloo?

Just then it dawned on me! So much of my navigation was based on Captain Cook’s diaries. But they were several hundreds years old. That explained the appearance of a hotel, certainly no more than 20 years old! Perhaps I had to turn to a more contemporary text? I dug through my first mate’s purse and found “The Big Island Revealed” by Andrew Doughty. Frantically, I started paging through the book, searching for clues, until I finally stumbled upon the following:

“Kona Village guards at the guard shack imply that you can’t go through. Just say these magic words – public access. They have to admit you but expect dirty looks.”

As a student of classic exploration I reject notions of magic and witch craft. Still, I had trouble sleeping that night, Explorer Doughty’s words echoing in my mind.

The following morning, over a delicious breakfast of rum and clubbed baby arctic seal*, I shared my new found knowledge with my first mate. “But magic is nonsense. I have come up with a better solution. Today, we tackle the guard outpost at Kikaua Point to test my theory!”

[Note to the reader: It turns out Mahaiula Bay harbors nothing of interest. Kikaua Point is an entirely different matter!]

The outpost at Kikaua Point will test the resolve of even the best explorer. A guard outpost replete with golf carts and perhaps a dozen guards monitor the entrance to an area of extreme wealth, and the object of my desire, a lovely sand beach with possibilities of Parker’s buried gold**.

My plan was to storm the guard post with a full frontal assault, overwhelm the guards and claim the outpost as our own. From there we would storm Kikaua beach and photograph it from multiple angles. Get some close ups. Take pictures of the fish and turtles. The whole works! Then dig for treasure.

The plan took a terrible turn for the worst when we saw a savvy woman driving a porche completely bypass and ignore the guard post! “Follow that porche!” I shrieked in excitement. My hunch was correct! The porche took us directly to the beach’s parking lot where the woman, parking in a handicap spot, quickly exited the car and vanished from view.

A few minutes later, still in the parking lot, as I was brandishing my photographic gear and securing my snorkel mask, a frantic looking guard came speeding around the corner in a golf cart. “Lets run away like the porche lady” I pleaded to my first mate. I had just realized I left my sabre at home. “We better not.”

“You’re not allowed to park here! This is a private community” came the exacerbated yell.

“No it’s fine we’re with her.” I pointed to the Porche.

“She can’t park here either, and she’s blocking a fire lane.”

“Very well, Sir, then I have no choice but to challenge you to a dual. It is 10 am now. We will meet on the beach at 12 after I have a chance to download Star Trek’s captain kirk vs bad guy death struggle music for our backdrop. I’m Kirk by the way. You can be a Ferengi or whatever best suites your personality” – were the words that I would have spoken if my wife had not blurted out “We’re looking for the public access to the beach.”

“Ok, but you have to come back with me so we can issue you a parking pass. And you’re not allowed to take photos of the houses here. They are private.” He had noted the camera around my neck.

At that moment I felt a little sorry for the lad. He had been disarmed so easily and effortlessly by utilizing Mr. Doughty’s “Public Access” voodoo. He escorted us back to the guard shack where we were given a confoundedly silly little parking pass. The rules on the pass tried desperately to exude authority but it didn’t work. It was too late, the secret was out: All the beaches in Hawaii are public. Hotels must provide access through their property where there is no other public access.

Oh really? A sign diverts tourists from Pali Ke Kua to Hideways beach where they face certain death. You see, accessing Pali Ke Kua beach from Hideaways requires a leap off a 20 ft 'cliff'.

* I would never club baby seals to death. The seal was already dead, harpooned by my whaling vessel. The clubbing was merely to tenderize the meat.

** Parker’s treasure is real!?! Stay tuned.