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Getting Away from It All in Malaekahana

Stepping foot onto the campgrounds at Friends of Malaekahana feels like walking onto a movie set. Grass shacks dot the shoreline and a secluded beach awaits the rustic traveler.

This windward stretch of forest and beach called Malaekahana has been known since ancient Hawaiian times as "Puuhonua O' Malaekahana," or Place of Refuge. The turquoise waters of Malaekahana Bay remain mellow all year, inviting every type of water sport enthusiast. Surfers can surf small waves, kayakers can test their paddling strength, and windsurfers and kitesurfers can harness the bountiful winds.

I highly recommend walking southward along the golden stretch of beach to the entrance of Goat Island. During low tide you walk wade knee-deep to this uninhabited island home to numerous nesting seabirds. Wearing shoes is a must over the jagged reef! Unlike its name suggests, there are no goats. There are, however, three beaches to visit. The most popular one for swimming is to the left of where you enter. Be sure not to disturb the seabirds in the middle of the island, and to pack out everything you packed in.

Friends of Malaekahana is a small, privately owned park that sits minutes away from the more famous Malaekahana State Recreation Area. Essentially, the difference between the two places lies in accommodations and wind. The state area offers tent sites and basic lodging, and feels more secluded without creature comforts like wifi and outlets for cell phone charging. Also, the state area is a bit more protected by trees, so strong gusts are less noticeable there.

Friends of Malaekahana, however, offers a unique spectrum of lodging. Those that want to rough it (or stick to a budget) can opt for a tent site at $8.34 per person per night. For $40/night, campers can upgrade to a grass shack with lauhala thatched roofing and a carpeted sleeping platform that sleeps two comfortably. These also come with fire pits and picnic tables. Fully-furnished yurts are available, as well, for $130/night. These also have lauhala thatched ceilings and bamboo walls. Eco-duplexes are also an option, but donít have the old-Hawaiian feel that the grass shacks and yurts offer. Instead, they seem to represent the latest trend in alternative energy, sporting walls made of recycled cargo containers, solar panels, and its own sewage irrigation system. The one bedroom costs $80/night, the two bedroom costs $150/night.

Malaekahana is a place to get away from it all and relax, but not to be pampered. Even though it's a bit upscale from camping, Friends of Malaekahana is not a resort and doesn't operate like one. It's for the traveler who wants to experience nature's bounty sans high rises, beach bars, and restaurants. It is has remained true to its name as a "Place of Refuge."

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