I couldn’t wait to get to these two locations! Adventurous, unique and off-the-beaten-path, it wasn’t a lazy hammock day for sure. Once Oahu’s best-kept secret, Mermaid Cave is now on the radar. While I will keep the tradition of not revealing the location, it’s easy enough to find. Our first visit was at high tide and we watched local children jump of the coastal cliff into the churning waters. It was clear they had done this shortly after learning to walk, and I was in no mood to throw myself onto the rocks they seemed to instinctively miss. But the area was fascinating with jagged lava rocks stretched out over an underwater cave. Multiple holes allowed glimpses of the waters below. But it was in no way secluded, nor secret. In fact it’s located directly behind a neighborhood and next to a major beach.
On another occasion we checked the tides and made plans to visit on an early morning at low tide. It couldn’t have been more perfect. Serene skies and a balmy breeze greeted us as we tiptoed across the rocks. And the best part: We had the area virtually to ourselves! The opening was tricky to find without knowing where to look, but we were lucky two others were there exploring and knew where to go. Climbing down into the hole was easy enough but even at low tide the waters were pretty high. We explored and snapped a few shots before hoisting ourselves out and heading to the expansive (and empty) adjacent beach.
1.) Be respectful of the nearby residents. This is where they live, not vacation. So give plenty of distance between you and their homes.
2.) Wear water socks! The lava rock is needle-sharp.
3.) Make sure your pictures include the rocky beach inside the cave. The cave is amazing, but it’s the “shoreline” inside the cave that makes it extra special.
1.) Go at high tide or during rough conditions. Unless you just want to view from above, high tide is very dangerous and the cave fills quickly.
2.) Expect to spend much time in the cave. It’s otherworldly, but small.
3.) Climb down into the cave if you’re not confident you can climb back out. It’s easier going in than getting out!
After our visit, there was still plenty of day left and the waters were calm enough to snorkel. Just up the road is Kahe Point or Electric Beach, so nicknamed for the electric plant whose underwater pipe warms the water. The best entrance is slightly south of Electric Beach Park. It’s a favourite of divers, body boarders, snorkelers and loads of fish! The beach is a tiny pocket of sand and there is not much shade. I wouldn’t classify this as a sunbathing location. More just to set up camp and get in the water. That being said, we had come several weeks earlier on a scouting trip and the waves were so rough a diving group were forced to abandon their mission after losing a fin and being knocked around on the rocks trying to enter the water.
Our visit several weeks later was much calmer, but still a challenge to enter. When a set of waves came all I could do is duck under and power through. Past the point break the waters calmed and we could see the pipe. (Be sure to keep swimming out until you reach the opening. That’s where the fish congregate and the turtles hang out.) The warm water was pouring out of the pipe and the marine life thrives around it. We saw at least 12 green sea turtles resting at the ocean floor or floating up for a breath of air. One daredevil seemed to enjoy swimming into the current coming out of the pipe opening, which would send him sailing.
1.) Check the ocean conditions. Strong waves might make it nearly impossible to swim out.
2.) Explore the entire area. There are other underwater structures besides the pipe. And there is abundant life down the entire pipe as well as the opening.
3.) Watch for dolphins. Often early to mid-morning.
1.) Go out if you are a beginning snorkeler. Even on calm days there can be powerful rip currents. And the best snorkeling is further out.
2.) Harass the sea turtles. Give them their space and enjoy them from a distance.
3.) Swim near the wall where there can be fishermen with lines in the water.
While we were at this lovely west-side location, we took a quick hike up to the Pu’u O Hulu (Pink) Pillbox. Not quite two miles round-trip with a 650 foot elevation, it actually felt a little more difficult because the short distance increases the incline. And there was little to no shade. The heat was brutal. Early morning or evening (catch an early sunset) are the best times. Half-way up was a tree with exposed roots. Looking like something from a different planet, it seeemed to be thriving and was a cool photo opp. We knew when we’d reached our destination because, well, it’s pink. Solid, Pepto Bismal pink. The views from the top were dazzling. There were other pillboxes and places to explore so we took our time and enjoyed it all.
* West-side Oahu draws fewer tourists, so in general you won’t find the crowds typical of more frequented beaches.
*The beach adjacent to Mermaid Cave is packed on the weekends, so weekdays are best. We enjoyed an empty beach at 8am on a Saturday but left before the party got started.
*If you’re hard-core, check out the cave, snorkel Electric Beach and then head further north to Makua Beach (one of my personal favourites) to chill. I’ve never seen it busy and the snorkeling is good here too!