HONOLULU — Cruising alongside the west facet of Hawaii’s Big Island, the panorama is dominated by historical volcanic flows and jagged shorelines. Then you get to Hapuna Beach.
There, the distinction of black lava rock, white sand and blue water means you could have arrived in paradise — at the least that’s what “Dr. Beach” believes.
“It’s like an oasis,” stated Stephen Leatherman, who has been rating U.S. seashores on his annual listing underneath the alias “Dr. Beach” for 3 a long time.
The sand “looks super white there because of the black lava beside it,” he stated. “I think the contrast makes you think, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve never seen sand so white in my life.’ ”
Hapuna Beach State Park was ranked the best seaside within the U.S. in Leatherman’s evaluate of sandy shorelines for 2021.
Leatherman, a coastal scientist and professor at Florida International University, hopes his thirtieth annual listing will encourage individuals to get out and go away the previous yr of pandemic struggles within the rearview mirror.
He acknowledged that individuals should pay additional to get examined for COVID-19 earlier than coming to the islands. “Hawaii is a really special place, and so I think it’s worth it,” he stated.
Kandi Miranda, who owns Manuela Malasada Company and runs a meals truck close to Hapuna Beach State Park, was born and raised on the Big Island. She was in a position to keep open for locals all through the pandemic and is optimistic in regards to the return of holiday makers.
“There was a lot of darkness at that time, I mean everyone was closing,” she stated of the early days of the pandemic. “I wanted people to know that through good times and bad, we would still be there.”
Miranda stated Hapuna Beach is a powerful place — each spiritually and actually. “It’s unapologetically magical,” she stated.
When the water is calm, it’s an awesome place to be, Miranda stated. But when the ocean rises and massive waves start to crash, it may be “really dangerous.”
“It’s beautiful, but there’s a very strong undertow there,” she stated.
Growing up on Hawaii Island, a spot of lively volcanoes, towering waterfalls and large sea cliffs, she realized to respect nature.
“The ocean in general in our culture is a really powerful place,” she stated. “It’s very healing, but you know the way that we grew up, it gives but it takes away, right?”
Leatherman agreed and stated that whereas Hapuna has a properly skilled group of lifeguards and is nice for swimming and snorkeling on calm days, the winter swells could be deceiving.
Rip currents trigger “the greatest loss of life that we have at beaches,” he stated. ”I’m attempting to present individuals a greater understanding of rip currents as a result of lots of people don’t perceive them. They say ‘We can’t see them, then they’re in all probability not there.’ ”
Leatherman makes use of 50 standards to judge seashores, with an important classes being security and cleanliness.
Leatherman makes use of knowledge from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to grade the seashores on water high quality and has been to all the seashores on his listing.
Beaches in Hawaii are persistently ranked excessive, and lately he has given them additional factors for prohibiting smoking.
“First of all, it’s a health issue,” he stated of wafting cigarette smoke. “But the biggest thing is disposal of the cigarette butts. People look at beaches like a giant ashtray.”
Cigarettes “are the number one form of litter in terms of numbers,” Leatherman stated.
For the primary 25 years of rankings, any seaside that gained the highest spot on Leatherman’s listing was ineligible for inclusion in subsequent years. But in 2015, Dr. Beach cleared the slate to permit any seaside within the nation to as soon as once more be eligible, although new winners are actually being retired.
Last yr, Leatherman selected a seaside outdoors of Hawaii as a result of, he stated, island lockdowns and quarantine guidelines made it practically unattainable for individuals to go to.
“I know a lot of people have been vaccinated,” he stated. “And so I think this year it’s fine for Hawaii to be on the list. And I encourage people to go there.”
“You can really social distance on the Big Island,” Dr. Beach added.