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Coconut Landing and the Big Island, Hawaii, United States.

Summer 2000

In the summer of 2000, My wife and I stayed at an idyllic cottage in Kehena, which is on the east coast of the Big Island, south south-east of Hilo and pretty close to the easternmost point on the island. It's called Coconut Landing, and you can check out its Web site at http://www.coconutlanding.com.

The cottage is built on stilts and can sleep four (one king bed, one Murphy bed) and costs only about $80 per night (including taxes) for stays of a week or more. It's a good size, very bright, with lots of big screened windows, so it's almost like living outdoors. There's a huge fan shaped palm at eye level off the deck. You can pick a variety of tropical fruits off trees in the yard.

Kehena is a hamlet which has a total population of about 100 -- residences only, no stores. There are no street lights in Kehena, and people minimize their use of lights at night, so it's really, really dark here. Consequently, the sky is ablaze with stars.

There is a lovely black sand beach called Kehena Beach that is only a five minute walk from the cottage. The sand is pulverized lava and looks and feels like coffee grounds. Access to the beach is by a steep but manageable path down from the coastal road. The beach is backed by trees, which provide decent shade, and by a steep cliff with a slight overhang where people can huddle when it rains.

Water temperature is warm (75F+). Dolphins (sometimes a few, occasionally 40 or more) visit the beach on some days and may play with swimmers. The beach is good for swimming and body surfing, but be mindful of the shore break.

The beach is clothing-optional and is used mostly by locals. There's an interesting mix of people of all ages, including lots of families, always a few dogs and sometimes a couple of parrots. Everyone is very friendly. You will likely detect a whiff of marijuana in the air. On Sunday afternoons, there is a drum circle at the beach, led by a really good local djembe drummer.

The north and east sides of each of the islands are windward and are, therefore, rainier than the other (leeward) sides. The Puna area, where the cottage is located, is best described as semi-rain forest. The north-east tradewinds provide a soft, cooling breeze during the summer, but also bring rain (more so in winter). Heavier rains are usually at night. Daytime rains generally last only a few minutes. You just duck under some shelter, or put up a beach umbrella, then go back to what you were doing after it stops.

The temperature in summer ranges from about 70F at night to about 85F during the day, and can be a bit humid, but the humidity is offset by the constant breeze.

I pretty much gave up wearing clothes while in Kehena. The temperature is so pleasant that, even during rain showers, there's no need for clothes as protection from the elements. The heavily-treed cottage property is very private and the hosts across the street are naturists: they have an outdoor shower in their FRONT yard! For the quick walk from the cottage to the c/o beach, a pareau (sarong) is all that's needed.

Close by are hot ponds, sauna caves, tide pools, waterfalls, scenic drives and lots of excellent hiking. Also check out Kalani Oceanside Eco-Resort - (http://www.kalani.com), two miles to the east. This cultural and wellness centre accepts walkins for their excellent vegetarian meals and sometimes for their currently running program.

The closest town to Kehena is Pahoa, population about 250, whose main street looks like it came out of a cowboy movie, with its false store fronts and narrow sidewalks. Their general store has to be seen to be believed. A number of interesting shops and several decent restaurants, including Mexican, Thai and Italian. The town has lots of local character, and characters, but everyone is very friendly. Pahoa is very funky town.

A major attraction in the area is Volcanoes National Park -- a not-to-be-missed experience. You can drive around the rim of Kilauea Volcano, hike across its floor, and with some advance preparation, hike up to an active lava flow (Kalani offers guided trips). Also worth visiting is the historic town of Hilo to the north.

Tip: For vacations on the Big Island, buy the guidebook "Hawaii, The Big Island Revealed" by Andrew Doughty & Harriet Friedman. You can preview the book at their Website, http://www.wizardpub.com. It's the only guidebook you'll need. Really!

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