Essential Honolulu: Halona Beach Cove

Even authors tire of talking about books all the time. That explains why I'm beginning a new series of blog posts this week focusing on Hawaii travel tips. In this debut edition of Essential Honolulu, our first stop is Halona Beach Cove, also known as "Eternity Beach."

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Dream Vacation Destination

With the warm trade winds, breathtaking views, and spectacular sunsets, Honolulu, Hawaii is a dream vacation destination. While the focus of these posts is on Honolulu and Oahu, that's not meant to suggest there aren't a countless number of great things to see and do on the other islands. I just think that Oahu and Honolulu have such a mind-boggling array of fabulous things to see and do, it's one of my favorite Hawaii vacation destinations.

I've been fortunate enough to have visited a great many amazing travel destinations throughout the world, but of all the places I've visited, Hawaii in general and Honolulu, in particular, has always been near the top of my list of favorites. The spirit of Aloha is found here in abundance with the breathtaking beaches, twinkling Tiki torches, hip-swinging hula dancers, and so much more.

The fact is, there is so much to see and do in and around Honolulu, the difficulty is often trying to decide what you want to do when you get there. Thus, the aim of this series is to spotlight some of the essential activities, the attractions, and the cultural experiences that are must-dos on your next vacation to Hawaii. Hopefully, if you have only a week or so to spend in Hawaii, these posts will help you get right to the good stuff.

Halona Beach Cove

One of the sights I'd wanted to see for many years, but had never crossed off my bucket list after dozens of visits to Hawaii was Halona Beach Cove. Finally, during our last vacation to Hawaii, Suze and I finally made it out to the iconic small beach just to the right of Hālona Blowhole.

Halona Beach Cove was the site of one of the most unforgettable beach scenes in film history, the location where the famous kissing scene in the 1953 movie, From Here to Eternity, starring Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr was filmed. Because of that movie scene, many people still refer to Halona Beach Cove as "Eternity Beach." Having seen From Here to Eternity several times explained why I was so keen to visit the beach.

Misconceptions

When Suze and I decided to visit Halona Beach Cove, I did a little research on the Internet to find out how to get there. While I found plenty of information on the web, as Internet information often turns out to be, much of it was inaccurate. Some of it was completely wrong. That's one reason I wrote this post, to provide the straight dope.

For example, many websites exaggerated the difficulty of accessing the beach, warning that it required a physically taxing and treacherous descent down a cliff. A couple of other sites warned that the beach was closed to visitors, that it was unlawful to go down to the beach because the authorities considered the descent too dangerous, and that going down to the beach could result in a citation or arrest if the police caught you on the beach. I found that none of that was in fact true.

It isn't unlawful to make the trek down to the beach, and the descent from the parking area to the beach is not nearly as steep or perilous as some websites claim. In fact, any reasonably fit adult will have no difficulty at all walking down (and later back up) the well-defined trail found just to the right (when looking toward the ocean) of the Halona Blowhole Lookout parking lot.

Getting to Halona Beach Cove

Halona Beach Cove is on the south-eastern shore of Oahu at the foot of Koko Crater, about 11 miles southeast of downtown Honolulu off Kalanianaole Highway (HI-72). Parking is available at Halona Blowhole Lookout, just south of and above the beach cove.

You can drive yourself there if you have a rental car. Suze and I rode scooters there from downtown which is permitted on HI-72. You can also get there via the public transportation by taking the 22 Beach Bus (Hanauma Bay-Sea Life Park) from Waikiki.

One of the great things about Halona Beach Cove, as well as Halona Blowhole, is that visiting is absolutely free. There are no access or parking fees.

Things to Do

Once you arrive, beyond seeing some pretty amazing views of miles of pristine coastline waters and on clear days, the islands of Moloka‘i and Lāna‘i in the distance, the beach offers an ideal location for swimming. Swimming there, however, does require caution.

The surf can be very unpredictable when it's windy, and the ocean is rough as the waves really crash violently against rocks surrounding the cove. Outside of the protected cove, the current can often be quite strong and the water turbulent.

In fact, the waters below Hālona are home to one of the most dangerous ocean currents in the world, Ka Iwi, or more commonly the "Molokai Express." The currents name refers to its legendary power to carry the unwary out to open sea toward Molokai. There also are no lifeguards on duty there.

Beyond the swimming at the cove, there is more fun at the lookout beyond just viewing the eruptions of the Halona Blowhole if you happen to visit at the right time of year. Halona, in Hawaiian, means “lookout,” and during whale migration season (late December through early April), the lookout is also a great vantage point from which to see whales breaching or spouting at the surface.

Add-on Experiences

Given the location off HI-72, Halona Beach Cove and Halona Blowhole is a great place to build an entire day trip around.

On the way, you can stop off at Hanauma Bay State Park for some of the best snorkeling on Oahu. Later, after your visit to Halona, follow IH-72 about 2.5 miles as it turns north to hike the Makapu'u Point Trail up to the lighthouse, another great vantage point for whale watching in season.

After the Makapu'u Point Trail, a bit further north, there is more great swimming and beach fun available at Makapu'u Beach Park. Almost directly across the highway from the beach park is the entrance to another popular Oahu attraction, Sea Life Park, Hawaii's best marine life park, offering fun and educational marine life experiences for the entire family. That's the itinerary that Suze and I followed for a very enjoyable day on Oahu.

When vacationing on Oahu, Halona Beach Cove and Halona Blowhole, one of Hawaii’s natural wonders, formed thousands of years ago when molten lava tubes were formed from volcanic eruptions, is essential Honolulu, and definitely should be on your must-see list.


If you enjoyed the first installment of the Essential Honolulu series, you won't want to miss the post next Monday which will spotlight another iconic Honolulu attraction, Diamond Head State Monument.

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