Forget the sun umbrellas and coolers--the best time of the day to enjoy the beach, this Kailua-based writer suggests, is before dawn.
Maybe it's all about starting over, a sort of quotidian redemption. Or maybe it's just a walk on the beach.
In any event, Kea the Wonder Dog and I stroll Kailua or Lanikai Beach most mornings in the pre-dawn hours, awaiting the sunrise. In summer that means getting up early and in winter being able to sleep in and still catch the tableau around seven. For me, however, the earlier the better.
The author will have to get up earlier this month to enjoy the sunrise. According to the U.S. Naval Observatory, sunrise will be at 6:18 a.m. in Kailua on April 1st; by the 30th, dawn cracks at 5:56 a.m.
PHOTO: JAMES DANNENBERG
As the akamai know, these are Hawai'i's prime beaches, comparable to any in the world. Sure, some may be bigger, but most are either lined with hotels or so far off the beaten path as to be inaccessible. My singular good fortune is to live within a few blocks of these wonders, and I take full advantage.
Let's get one thing straight: I'm not really a beach person. Once the sun's up you'll rarely find me there, in or out of the water. Too hot. Too many people. Too many charismatic megafauna offshore.
But before dawn the beach is all mine.
Sure, I pretend to share it with a few pre-dawn regulars--nice folks all. Noblesse oblige. This near-deserted paradise is where I can clear my head for the coming day while awaiting whatever light show nature has in store.
And what a show it is.
Forty-five minutes before dawn the sky over the Mokulua Islands starts to glow, with hints of deep blue emerging from the blackness on clear mornings. A morning star, or an airliner arriving from the Far East, might appear as a heavenly beacon, and if I'm lucky I might even cast a moon shadow on the surf.
Best are mornings at low tide, when the sand is smooth and wide, a cool, soft carpet between water and palms. Even when it's near dark, crafty Kea sets about uprooting the dug-in sand crabs, reinacting some primeval evolutionary battle between mammal and invertebrate. It's all in play, though; the crab invariably escapes to the water's edge.
It's usually quiet around this time, except for the lapping of wavelets and the whisper of the trades. As the sun gets within 20 minutes or so of the horizon, the sky lights up, giving a hint of what's on the day's palette. When it's windy there isn't much color, but Kona weather produces some masterpieces, perhaps ironically, thanks to atmospheric vog: crimsons, golds, lavenders and others hard to describe. Sadly, these are transient shows, enhanced by passing clouds and soon extinguished by the approaching brilliance.
When the sun finally slices into view and hangs on the horizon I'm reminded that it's still visible across the globe: At the winter solstice, it sank into the darkness before my cousin's eyes in Paris just as it rose before mine.
Transfixed, I realize there's more truth in a sunrise than in a lifetime of introspection. But it's fleeting. The day intrudes. I've got to go.
Yet no matter how trying my day might be, I know there will be another unique sunrise the next morning.