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|February 2019 — The Big Island Hawa'i'i|
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Copyright © 2015 - 2018 Larrie Easterly
Our 40th wedding anniversary was in November. To celebrate we decided to take a trip. The next question was where. We discussed taking a river cruise in Europe or heading to Florida, to visit a friends and the Mouse, or go to Finland to visit Ann’s relatives and experience the summer solstice and the midnight sun. Lots of choices. After much discussion we finally settled on a week on the big island of Hawaii.
Ann’s brother and his wife have been to the island many times in the past and recommended that we stay on the Kona side. It is dryer and has better weather than the Hilo side. With that decision made we started looking for hotels which turned into a very frustrating process. There are lots of hotels to choose from with prices and reviews all over the map. Very few of them had kitchens which we wanted for relaxing breakfasts and to make lunches for ourselves.
Flowers — Photo Galley
The solution turned out to be Vacation Rental By Owner (VRBO). We found an apartment in a private home in Kailua-Kona. The owners live on the second floor and we had a lovely two bedroom space on the first floor.
Once we had the dates set and we had a place to stay it was time to find flights. Originally we looked at Hawaiian Air with a stop in Oahu. Then we discovered that Alaska Air had a direct flight from Portland to Kona that arrived early in the afternoon rather than late afternoon. One thing that I learned is that if you book through a booking service like Expedia you may get a cheap flight but you cannot choose your seat at the time of booking without paying more. Booking directly through Alaska Air web site turned out to be less expensive that sites like Orbitz and Expedia and we could choose our own seats.
Next up was the a rental car. Again prices were all over the map and I found the best prices on the rental car sites not the booking service sites.
We got up early on a Friday morning and headed for the Portland airport. It was a smooth and enjoyable flight. Due to the position of the jet stream we arrived in Kona about an hour early.
The Kona airport is made up of a series of a one story buildings with large overhangs. The waiting areas and baggage claim are open air. Our bags arrived shortly after we got to bag claim. We then took the shuttle to pick up our car rental. Since we were so early they gave us a choice of waiting until the pickup time, about two hours, or getting a different car and paying more. I was not happy about this seemingly bait and switch gambit but there was not much we could do about it at the time as there was no waiting room and we were both tired and hungry, we agreed to the more expensive car. After we got home I called the car rental company and explained what happened. They apologized and refunded the extra amount we paid.
Plumaria — Photo Galley
We called the home owner and let them know the plane landed early. They were not ready for us yet so we headed for a restaurant. Just as we finished eating the home owner called telling us we could get in the apartment early. They greeted us and gave us a bunch of just ripe finger length bananas. They were delicious. After getting settled in it was time for a nap and then food shopping at Walmart. We cannot recommend food shopping there. It is mostly processed foods and very few fresh vegetables. Safeway is a much better choice as it has a much wider selection of fruits and vegetables and other items. Groceries in Hawaii are expensive.
The next day we headed north into the area designated as Kohala in the guide book we are using, Hawaii Revealed. On the way we took Kaloko Drive up to the cloud forest at an elevation of 5,000 feet. The view down to Kona was partially hidden by clouds but was still spectacular. The vegetation on the drive up changed from the dryer coastal plants to the lush green of tropical plants making for a beautiful excursion. On the way north to Kapa’au we passed through some beautiful country side, saw wild goats, donkeys, and other wildlife. Occasionally we would see broad vistas of the island’s coast below and ocean beyond.
King Kamehameha the Great — Photo Galley
In Kapa’au there is an almost life size statue of King Kamehameha the Great who united all of the islands under his rule. The statue of King has an interesting history. There are actually two identical statues on the island. The statue in Kapa’au is the original and the one on in Hilo outside the government offices is the duplicate. The statue was made in France and shipped to the islands. The ship that was carrying the original was lost in a storm as it neared coast of the big island. The government ordered a second statue to be made. It was shipped successfully and stands at the government complex in Hilo. The original statue was later salvaged and now stands in Kapa’au near where the king was born.
Across from the statue is a very good art gallery with local crafts. The gallery has a large outside area devoted to the story of King Kamehameha. Ann got a dish of wonderful tasting purple sweet potato ice cream at the little restaurant next door. After the ice cream was eaten we headed to the northwest tip of the island. On the way we passed the largest wind farm on the island. We could not get out to the very tip of the island due to the small airport that is there. Even so this was a beautiful place to visit. We came back south along the coast road which gave beautiful views of the ocean and the coast south of us.
Ann found out that there was a Sound of Soul event in Hilo on Sunday. The drive from Kona to Hilo takes about an 1-1/2 hours. It is a pretty drive up the mountain saddle between Mauna Loa volcano and and Mauna Kea volcanos. The views of the two volcanos is fantastic. The vegetation changes as you travel eastward from the dry volcanic desert area around Kona to the lush green forests of the Hilo side.
After the Sound of Soul event we had lunch with friends at the Island Naturals grocery and deli. Great food. From there we headed south and drove around the southern tip of the island. On the way we passed through the town of Volcano and the Volcano’s National Park.
On the way back to Kailua-Kona we drove along the south edge of the island. On the way we decided to stop at Punalu’u Black Sand Beach. Even though it was raining we walked around on the beach for a bit and enjoyed the rain, ocean and sand. Black sand beaches formed where flowing lava pours into the sea. The lava fractures into small particles then gets pulverized into even smaller particles by the ocean surf pounding the shore.
Punalu’u Black Sand Beach — Photo Galley
Volcano day. Even though the government was shutdown we were able to visit Volcano’s National Park and drive around to some of the different areas. There was no-one at the entrance booth although the visitors center was open and staffed. Our favorite spot was the south edge of the island where lava use to pour into the sea. The volcano was quiet the day we were there. It is an interesting area. The lava ends in a 50 to 100 foot cliff at the oceans edge. From the viewpoint, at the edge of the cliff, you can see a sea arch that was formed by the wave action bashing against the lava.
Sea Arch — Photo Galley
After spending most of the afternoon at the park we got back in the car. Rounded the southern tip of the island and headed back north. By now were were getting hungry. We drove past a small Hawiian BBQ place. A quick u-turn brought us back to the BBQ stand. The place had a huge menu selection and excellent food.
Our hosts recommended that we go to Makalawena White Sand Beach. Road to the parking area crosses a lava field and was very rough. A four wheel drive vehicle is recommended although we did ok in our rented sedan by driving slow and with careful wheel placement.
It was about a 20 minute walk into the wind across the lava field to the beach. The wind was strong enough to blow sand particles around. We found a sheltered spot behind a lava outcropping to enjoy lunch and the sound of the surf. It was hard to enjoy the beach due to the wind and the blowing sand.
Makalawena White Sand Beach — Photo Galley
On the way to our picnic spot we stopped to watch a monk sea playing in the surf of the cove. On the way back the 650 pound seal was sunning itself on the beach. It was amazing to see such a large animal on the beach. Nearby was 2 foot diameter turtle that was also resting on the beach. They were both a teat to see.
Returning to our apartment we took a nap and relaxed. On the recommendation from Ann’s brother we had dinner that night was at the impressively large and beautiful Hilton at Waikoloa Village. The hotel has a tram and boats that ferry guests around the grounds. They run a dolphin program for children that gets them up close and personal with the dolphins. The restaurant that we ate at was right next to the dolphin pools so we could watch the dolphins playing with each other. The restaurant that we chose was next to the dolphin pond so we could watch them while we ate.
Dolphins — Photo Galley
The following day we relaxed and hung out in the morning and then in the afternoon we went to one of the open air markets in Kailua-Kona in the afternoon. From there it was off to the beach to watch the surf and enjoy the sunset. Then it was time for dinner at Splashers an open air restaurant on the second floor of a building. They had great food and and friendly service. The biggest problem we had in downtown Kailua-Kona was parking.
If you go to the big island be prepared to do a lot of driving. It seemed like that it took 1 to 1-1/2 hours one way from Kona to get to any location on the island. Even so we enjoyed an amazing trip and came away with wonderful memories. It was a great way to spend out 40th anniversary.
Barrancas del Cobre
282 feet below sea level
Summer Lake Hot Springs