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Hawaii's Best Beaches : Longtime Island Residents Reveal Their Sentimental Favorites

June 11, 1995|SUSAN ESSOYAN | Essoyan, a Honolulu-based writer, is a second-generation Hawaii resident. and

HONOLULU — For some Hawaii residents, the question is a personal one. A little too personal.

"Why would I want to tell the rest of the world the answer to that?" responded one Honolulu woman when asked to name her favorite beach in Hawaii. "One of the things that's special about the places we most like to go is their privacy and quiet."

Her reluctance highlights the love-hate relationship Hawaii's 1 million residents have with the 6.5 million tourists who flock here each year--particularly when it comes to sharing the inside scoop on the state's most famous natural resource. Fortunately, many locals show a lot of Hawaiian aloha and are willing to let you in on their secrets.

Here, then, is a tour of Hawaii's favorite beaches, as seen through the sentimental eyes of a dozen prominent Hawaii residents. With the exception of champion surfer Clyde Aikau, none is an expert, per se, on surf and sand. But life in Hawaii is synonymous with beaches; none had trouble conjuring up his or her favorite.

Clyde Aikau--Waimea Bay Beach Park, Oahu

In the winter, the world's largest ridable waves pound Waimea, on Oahu's North Shore. When a swell hits, crowds and photographers gather to watch surfers such as Clyde Aikau tackle the seemingly impossible.

But while Waimea is best known for its occasional 30-foot breaks, Aikau also enjoys the summer months when the waters of the picturesque bay resemble glass.

"Waimea is a beautiful beach all year round," Aikau says. "It has thick sand that your feet sink into, and the beach is really wide. It's unlike Waikiki, where you are toe-to-toe with everybody. You kind of have your own private sand.

"In the summer, it's so calm, like a pool. I like to swim laps in the bay," he adds. "You can see the bottom of the ocean and the reefs, crystal clear."

Keiko Bonk-Abramson--Green Sand Beach, Big Island

Near what Hawaii residents like to note is the southernmost point of the United States, a volcanic cinder cone known as Puu o Mahana rises steeply from the ocean. At its base--a hot, three-mile hike from the nearest paved road--is green-tinged Mahana, better known as Green Sand Beach.

For Hawaii County Councilwoman Keiko Bonk-Abramson, the state's only elected member of the Green Party, Green Sand Beach is, aptly enough, the best. She says she was conceived in the neighborhood (her father was doing archeological work near South Point), so it was a natural choice. The beach offers no fresh drinking water or shade, and swimming can be treacherous because of a severe undertow. But dolphins and whales frequent the waters near shore.

"There's an indescribable inspiration you get there that I've never felt in even the most abandoned beaches around the world," Bonk-Abramson says. "I like it because I can be alone. If you come from an urban, crowded area, it's the other extreme."

Mike Carr--Lumahai Beach, Kauai

Mike Carr, president of Honolulu-based Polynesian Adventure Tours, devotes his days to making sure tourists have a good time in Hawaii. Occasionally, he gets to be a tourist himself.

He and his wife, Connie, treasure a beach on Kauai's North Shore that over the years has enticed countless movie buffs: Lumahai, where Mitzi Gaynor tried to "wash that man right out of my hair" in "South Pacific."

Lumahai is not for the faint of heart. With no protective reef, waves constantly lash the beach, shifting its sand up and down the coast. A steep drop-off close to shore creates dramatic but dangerous surf, particularly during the winter and spring, that has claimed several lives.

But that doesn't stop Carr. "It's the end of the world right there," he says. "We spent a lot of time there on our honeymoon. We think it's the most romantic place on Earth."

Richard Chamberlain--Ke Iki, Oahu

He helped make Kauai's Kee Beach famous as the setting for a torrid reunion in the television miniseries "The Thorn Birds." But when actor and Honolulu resident Richard Chamberlain wants to escape, he heads to little-known Ke Iki beach.

A seductive belt of soft, deep sand dunes, Ke Iki beach lies largely hidden from public view, just a mile from world-famous Waimea on Oahu's North Shore. Chamberlain recommends staying at Ke Iki Hale, whose beachfront bungalows catch one-of-a-kind sunsets.

"The beach is long and broad and extremely substantial," Chamberlain says. "It still has a kind of wild feeling to it. It is great fun to sit and watch these huge waves. . . . There are very few people there. You feel you have this marvelous place all to yourself."

Frank De Lima--Sans Souci Beach, Oahu

Frank De Lima, a comedian at Honolulu's Outrigger Reef Towers hotel, chose a section of Waikiki--arguably the world's most famous beach--as his favorite. And he wasn't joking.

"I like Sans Souci, for sentimental value," he says. "My dad and mom used to take all five of us kids, and we picnicked there. Every so often nowadays, when my friends say, 'Let's have a picnic,' I suggest Sans Souci. It's a neat little beach."

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