The Big Island has a few exquisite beaches. This is Makalawena Beach, just north of Kona airport.
Visiting Big Island beaches isn't like pulling your car off the side of the road like it is in, say, Maui. To get to Makalawena you have to drive for a mile down a lava field on what signs cutely refer to as "unimproved road" (i.e., the sort of impassable terrain the army has humvees for). Rental car companies typically forbid you from taking their cars down these roads, but everyone does it. Caveat emptor if you ever consider buying a rental car that's done time on Hawai'i.
And you're not done once you park the car. Now you have to hike a mile or so across the lava field following a rocky, unstable path of shoe sole-shredding lava rock.
Lava grinds under your footfalls like stepping on rough, broken glass, but otherwise the very porous rock absorbs sound waves like a sponge with water. Stop moving and stand still for a second and the world is eerily silent except for the sound of the wind blowing past your ears.
Pennisetum setaceum, escaped from resort landscaping, has naturalized extensively on the Big Island's relatively dry, western side, from the coast to one-third of the way up Mauna Kea's western slope. On the lava fields, P. setaceum may be the only thing growing for miles, where I assume its cycle of growth and decay radically accelerates soil formation. I suppose it may also serve as forage for the wild donkeys and goats that live on these fields, but I don't know that.
The native Hawaiians buried their dead in lava tubes like this one. Something else to contemplate in the eerie silence.
The transition zone between lava and sand is abrupt.
The beach morning glory is Ipomoea pes-caprae, a native plant the Hawaiians call pohuehue. You find it on all the islands.
The beach is never far from the sand.
I snorkeled and swam for a bit, but it's also nice to just sit and do nothing.