This is What It’s Like to Spend 24 Hours at Kaimana Beach

A day in the life of one of Honolulu’s favorite stretches of sand.


Kaimana beach

Kaimana Beach has a daily rhythm that’s all its own. Photo: Courtesy Diana Kim / Thinkstock



12:01 a.m.—Four local men in their 20s fish near the Natatorium. They consume Doritos and Steinlagers. They say they have already cooked and eaten pulehu steak. Topics they have discussed tonight include: movies, issues related to their jobs as barbacks and food runners at Dave & Buster’s, their student years at Kaimuki High School, and the trouble a certain girlfriend’s cousin from Oregon has caused recently. They describe their activities this evening as “male bonding.” They say they arrived on beach around 8 p.m. and did not expect to still be here at this time. Bait they are using: squid. Number of fish they have caught: 0.


12:40 a.m.—Two police officers patrol the beach on ATVs. The fishermen exhibit discretion. No open-container citations issued.


4:21 a.m.—High tide (+1.8 feet). Nobody on the beach.


6:45 a.m.—Dawn. Strong offshore breeze. Four pigeons and several mynahs pick at something in the sand. Subsequent investigation reveals that it is a corn tortilla. Several joggers are observed on the dirt path along the wall that separates the grassy area from the sand.

  Beach gear


6:50 a.m.—An elderly Caucasian man with a rake cleans the ground in front of the Natatorium. His name is Arno Bann, and he is the retired cold-items manager for the Sheraton. He says he rakes for exercise, and because, “Somebody has to do it.”


6:57 a.m.—Sunrise, technically. Kaimana Beach faces west, so the sun rises behind the beach. But sunsets are awesome. More joggers.


6:58 a.m.—A local woman wearing a wetsuit and carrying a surf kayak enters the water and paddles away. An Asian man in a “Duke’s” T-shirt and running shoes stretches on the beach near the Natatorium wall.


7:00 a.m.— The man in the Duke’s shirt finds a pair of sunglasses in the sand, tries them on, then places them on the Natatorium wall and walks away.


7:05 a.m.— The female sea kayaker rides a long wave at the Sandbar, one of several surf spots accessible from Kaimana Beach. The man in the Duke’s shirt shakes sand out of his shoes at the Diamond Head end of beach.


7:26 a.m.—A Caucasian woman near the Natatorium wall tries on the sunglasses, twice, then returns them to the wall and begins practicing tai chi. A prior investigation revealed the sunglasses are Oakleys, and probably counterfeits.


7:41 a.m.—An older local man, with a fit build, carrying a paddle and a stand-up paddleboard, enters the water and paddles away. More joggers.


7:50 a.m.— An elderly Japanese woman with a cane walks in the sand.


8:00 a.m.— Interview with Ken Obayashi, 69, a retired nurse who has been picking up cigarette butts along the wall between the sand and the grassy area. He says the woman with the cane is his mother. She is 97 and he brings her here every morning. While she walks, he picks up butts. “I don’t want to sit on the beach doing nothing,” he says. Meanwhile, a black man with a metal detector searches the sand for lost treasures. A subsequent attempt to contact him is thwarted when the man is found in the water up to his waist. Apparently, he’s got one of those waterproof metal detectors.


Kaimana beach

Stand-up paddleboarders come and go. Photo: Courtesy Diana Kim / Thinkstock



8:06 a.m.—Sun appears over Diamond Head. First rays of sunlight fall on the beach near the Natatorium. More joggers.


8:07 a.m.—Light rain begins to fall. A double rainbow appears over the Natatorium shortly thereafter.


8:10 a.m.—The first swimmers are in the water. In the grassy area, a man and a woman stand at a picnic table heaped with scuba gear. The man is Bob Kent, a scuba instructor. The woman is Ursina Hess, a visitor from Switzerland. She says she is learning to dive because, “I heard it’s amazing.”


8:30 a.m.—Kent and Hess stand in chest-deep water. Kent is speaking. Hess has breathing apparatus in her mouth. The tai chi practitioner is no longer present. The sunglasses are still on the wall.


8:35 a.m.—A Caucasian woman carrying juggling clubs and what appears to be a Hula Hoop examines the sunglasses and puts them back on wall. She then begins some sort of exercise routine involving the hoop and clubs. A “hooping” group is known to frequent the area on Sundays around sunset. She is a possible affiliate.


Regular swimmers rack up miles. Photo: Courtesy Diana Kim / Thinkstock

9:00 a.m.—The local woman with the surf kayak carries her boat back to her car. She is Karen Tan, a naturopath from Kailua. She kayaks here two or three times a week, and prefers the early morning hours. She says, “Why sleep in when you can have fun on the water?” The lifeguard goes on duty. His name is Kent Brown. He has been a lifeguard here for 16 years. He says the writer Robert Louis Stevenson gave Kaimana Beach its other name, Sans Souci, which means “without worry” in French. At one time, he says, Kaimana was also known as Dig Me Beach, and was frequented by flight attendants, body builders and off-duty strippers. It’s more of a family beach now, he says.


9:13 a.m.—The older local stand-up paddleboarder returns to shore after catching waves at the Sandbar and walks to the shower. He is Freddy Luke, age 62. Luke reports that sea conditions are suboptimal. He states: “It was super windy and not great for stand-up. But it’s always fun, even if you’re just kooking out.”


9:30 a.m.—The sunglasses are no longer on the Natatorium wall. A group of Japanese nationals sits nearby, sunbathing. All wear sunglasses. This observer cannot determine if any wear fake Oakleys. More swimmers in the water.


9:45 a.m.—A woman drags an enormous rake back and forth across the sand in front of the condominium next door to the New Otani Hotel. The woman is of average height and possibly Filipino or Micronesian descent. The rake is taller than she is. It looks very heavy. More sunbathers on the beach.


9:49 a.m.—Two swimmers, Debbie Young and Rick Bernstein, enter the water. They are part of a small group of friends, all in their 60s, who meet regularly for a two-mile open-water swim. They swim roughly 300 days a year, or 600 miles annually. “That’s the distance from L.A. to San Francisco,” Bernstein says. “We swim from L.A. to San Francisco every year.”


10:01 a.m.—Five novice surfers and one surf instructor enter the water with surfboards. They paddle out to very small waves in front of the Natatorium.


Kaimana beach

Sunbathers dominate the mid-day hours. Photo: Courtesy Diana Kim / Thinkstock



10:52 a.m.—Low tide (-0.1 foot).


11:07 a.m.—Young and Bernstein shower after their swim. A man and a woman play backgammon. The man sits in the sun, the woman sits in the shade of the lifeguard tower.


11:10 a.m.—Young and Bernstein converse with lifeguard Brown. They are joined by another regular swimmer, Marion Nishi, 79. “She’s always bringing food!” Brown says of Nishi. “Musubi, pastries … today she brought long johns!” Nishi says she has been swimming at this beach since she was a little girl, when an old shack stood where the New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel now stands. “I don’t remember seeing anybody else on the beach then,” she says.


Noon—Lots of sunbathers. A sand castle is under construction on the Diamond Head end of beach. A sand castle on the Natatorium end of beach is already falling into disrepair. No joggers.


Sunsets draw wedding photographers.  Photo: Courtesy Diana Kim / Thinkstock

12:30 p.m.—An older Caucasian man sweeps sand from the steps that lead from his condominium to the beach. He confirms that the woman with the giant rake is employed to keep the grounds around this building clean. He confirms that the rake is very heavy. He complains about people leaving trash on the beach, and asks how they would like it if he left trash in their front yards? He complains about the county contractor who cleans the beach at night, asserting that the contractor stops at the county line, leaving half of the beach, which is under state control, uncleaned. He insists that neither his name nor the name of his condominium appear in this report.


12:56 p.m.—A man in a beach chair is observed pouring beer and water into a plastic container and offering it to the very large dog sitting next to him. The dog laps up the beverage. In a subsequent interview, the man says his name is Michael Monteiro, the dog’s name is Fu Man Chu, and that Fu, who is a cane corso, the smallest of the mastiff breed, likes Coors Light, the same beer he likes. He says he comes to Kaimana Beach regularly. “Some of my best friends I met here at Kaimana,” he says.


2:00 p.m.—The following are observed from a third-floor lanai of the New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel: surfers and swimmers showering, a stand-up paddleboarder entering the water, a few one-man outrigger canoes landing on the beach, many sunbathers, no joggers.


3:00 p.m.—The following are observed from the bar at the New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel: a Japanese wedding party at a table in the hotel’s Hau Tree Lanai Restaurant; a crew from a French reality television series videotaping three women eating salads and caring for a baby at another table in the restaurant; many sunbathers on the beach.


3:16 p.m.—An older Caucasian man, shirtless, wearing thick glasses and a Speedo, reaches over the railing between the beach and the Hau Tree Lanai Restauant to hand a hau tree flower to the Japanese bride. The bride takes the flower, but she does not smile.


3:30 p.m.—A French television producer refuses to divulge the name of the reality TV show being taped in the restaurant. Hotel staff say it’s called “Queens of Reality,” only in French.


3:45 p.m.—The older man in the Speedo identifies himself as Mike Powers, a two-time candidate for Honolulu mayor who is now “doing some writing for Newt Gingrich.” He says he picks hau tree flowers and gives them to Japanese brides all the time. “They love it,” he says. “This is the most magical beach!”



Lifeguard Kent Brown keeps a close watch on swimmers. Photo: Courtesy Diana Kim / Thinkstock



4:47 p.m.—High tide (+1.3 feet). Lots of swimmers.


5:30 p.m.—Lifeguard Kent Brown goes off duty, but lingers to talk story with friends. Sunbathers thinning out. Joggers sighted.


6:00 p.m.—Clouds gathering.


6:20 p.m.—A woman in a bikini does yoga in the sand. A bride, a groom, a photographer and her assistant have taken over the lifeguard tower to shoot wedding photos. A Japanese television crew sets up a camera on the beach to record the sunset. The TV people say they were on Maui this morning, taping the sunrise from Haleakala. Helpfully, they write down the name of their TV show. It is: “Chikyu Zekkei Kikou,” which translates as “Most Amazing Scenes of the World.”


6:28 p.m.—A brief rain squall appears just offshore. The setting sun is an anemic yellow. No awesome sunset tonight.


Nightfall at the Natatorium. Photo: Courtesy Diana Kim / Thinkstock

6:33 p.m.—Sunset.

6:45 p.m.—Three fisherman set up fishing poles in the sand. They look more serious about catching fish than the fishermen observed earlier.


6:52 p.m.—A surfer showers.


6:55 p.m.—The wedding party by the lifeguard tower struggles in the wind to light a candle inside a flying paper lantern.


7:00 p.m.—The bride and groom carry the flying paper lantern to the water’s edge. It is lit, but before enough hot air collects inside to carry it aloft, the groom fumbles and drops it in the water.


7:01 p.m.—The wedding party leaves the beach.


10:29 p.m.—A tractor drives onto the beach, towing a sand-cleaning machine.


10:32 p.m.—Low tide (0 feet).


10:37 p.m.—The tractor leaves the beach. It has cleaned about 250 feet of Kaimana’s 500-foot-long stretch of sand, leaving the state’s half untouched. Contact is made with the driver, who declines a request to check the sand cleaner’s contents for sunglasses. Even if they were there, he says, they would be so scratched you wouldn’t want to wear them anymore anyway.


Midnight—Nobody on the beach. All’s quiet.