Thursday, November 15, 2018

Dah Big Island of Hawaii

June 24th thru July 1st, 2018

My kids (Kyle, 21 and Erin 18) and I visited the Big Island of Hawaii this summer.  The trip was a combined high school graduation present to them both.  It was my second time to the island, but it was their first.  I love the rural, somewhat undeveloped nature of the Big Island, compared to the other islands.

And we're off...


Day #1

Our flights and everything went off without a hitch and we arrived in 
Kona on time.  I took this to be a good omen. 


Here's the view from our room's lanai.  Simply gorgeous!








The room was really big and
beautiful.








                  Another view...







The big king-sized bed I
had all to myself.








The kids shared a room, but it too
was very nice.





We had a full kitchen that was stocked with everything you'd need to live there.

There was even a rice cooker and pineapple cutter.

We also had a washer/dryer, three TVs, two bathrooms, a Play Station, free Red Box rentals and the room even came stocked with ice chests.

I later saw where some of these exact rooms are for sale as condos and they're listed at $679,000.00!









As soon as we finished checking out the room and the hotel, we made a bee-line to "Da Poke' Shack," which was right down the street from the hotel.  We got three incredible poke' bowls and took them back to the room for our late lunch.












We then walked across the street to the Ali'i
Marketplace for some really good Hawaiian shave ice.







Nothing like a big shave ice on a hot humid day, which is basically every day in Hawaii.









After the Ali'i Market, we made a run to the local Wal-Mart to pick up some of the basics: sunscreen, beach mats, snacks, etc.


We then went back to the hotel, where we swam in their incredible ocean-side pool and soaked in their hot tub.  What a great way to end Day #1.



I even had a girlfriend scented shirt to snuggle up to each night.



Day #2


We got a pretty early start as we were anxious to start exploring the island.  We decided we'd check out the northwestern corner of the island first, so we headed north on the Hawaii Belt Road.


About 30 miles north of Kona, we came to this hill named Holoholoku.  The guidebook said that this hill was used in WWII for the Marines to practice the Mt. Suribachi attack because it was so similar in size and shape to the real thing.


We then made our way north for another ten miles to the beautiful little town of Waimea, where we enjoyed a wonderful Hawaiian plate lunch at the "Hawaiian Style Cafe."



Waimea, HI.  
I think we all agreed that this was our favorite town on the entire island.












We left Waimea and headed uphill towards the little town of Hawi.









Beautiful, sweeping views of the coastline from the highway above Waimea.

This area is perpetually windy.











Little Porky even got in on the action.













We then drove from Waimea up through the beautiful little towns of Hawi 
and Kapa'au on our way to hike down to a black sand beach.


We parked near the Polulu Beach trail head and hiked down 400' to the beach itself.



On our way down the trail, we passed some of these slugs that
left their slimy trail behind them.




There were a lot of these cairns stacked all over the beach.



Everywhere you looked, there was a photo op.





We all splashed around in the surf and the water was perfect.



 Kyle decided that he was going to write K ❤ A with some of the nearby
rocks.  He had it all done and then dad said that his "K" was a little smaller
than the rest of the letters, so right after he fixed it and was just about to take
a picture of it to send his girlfriend Amy, a large wave washed up on shore
and destroyed his little love message.

Rather than spend a lot more time redoing it, I snapped this photo of the aftermath
of the wave.  Amy, his sentiment was still there.



After spending a couple of hours at the beach, we made the trek back to the car.  It might have only been 400' of elevation, but with the heat and humidity, it was still a bit of an ass kicker.


On our way back to town, we stopped at a small fruit ranch and bought a real "Big Island
Grown" pineapple, from a character who advertised his stand by suspending a pineapple 
from a fishing rod and waving it over the highway.  It was worth the stop.



We then made our way back to Hawi for some Tropical Dreams ice cream at
the Kohala Coffee Mill.

This is a "must stop" when on the northern part of the Big Island. 



We got our ice cream fix and it was a great way to unwind after hiking up from Polulu Beach.



We shopped all over the little town of Hawi and managed to get gifts for all of our our
loved ones back on Dah Mainland...



Our final stop for the day was to be the Mo'okini Heiau (temple), where the guidebook said the
number of human sacrifices was in the tens of thousands.  I had been to Mo'okini back in 2001
and it was creepy back then.


We drove along a very poorly maintained road that got worse with each passing mile (this is not 
a place a lot of people go).  On the last stretch of road to the heiau, I knew that I was probably
voiding my car rental contract, as we could feel the rocks and rough road scraping the undercarriage
of the car.  A couple of times, I actually got out to make sure that I hadn't punctured the oil pan.  Finally, we came to a huge, sloppy mud hole in the center of the road.  I told the kids to hang on tight
as I gunned the car and blasted through the mud to the other side.  Our rental car was now covered in mud, but we kept going until the second large mud hole that was just not going to be passable.


I found a small cut out in the road, parked the car and we hiked about 3/4 mile to the heiau.


The heiau was a quarter mile to the left and the alleged birthplace of King Kamekameha 
was about a half a mile to the right.  There was not another soul around the entire time
we visited this area, which added to the creepy feeling.



The grounds were impeccably maintained despite the fact that very few people could even make
it in to the site.  I think that because this place is so sacred, it's very well taken care of. 




This is the rock on which tens of thousands of ancient Hawaiians were sacrificed to the Gods
by the Tahitian priest known as Pa'ao in the 11th or 12th century.  It sits all by itself outside
the walls of the actual temple. 




 Inside the heiau, there was, what appeared to be, an alter of sorts.  The freshness of the flowers
and offerings placed upon it, let us know that this place does have regular visitors.




This is the inside of the heiau and there was definitely a somber vibe about the place.  We couldn't help but imagine the ceremonies (and sacrifices) that had taken place at this spot.



We were tired, hungry and now, a little creeped out, but we had one more stop to make today: King
Kamekameha's birthplace nearby.



This is one of a few places where legends say King Kamekameha was born.  The fact that no one really knew how old the king was suggests that they probably didn't know exactly where he was born.  We were satisfied enough to call this his birthplace, take a few pictures and hike back to the car.



This sign is obviously meant for those who speak the Hawaiian language, as there was no
English translation anywhere.  I do know, however, that the crossed drumsticks (as seen in the
top part of the sign) means "Kapu," which means danger, keep out, taboo, etc. in English.



We made the 30-40 minute hike back to the car and the whole time I had an uneasy feeling that
I was going to get the car stuck or snarled up on our way back to civilization.  Luckily, the car was intact when we got to it and we made it out safely.  I did, however, make one more oil pan check once we hit the pavement again.


We drove back to Kona via the coast road known as the Akoni Pule Highway.  We decided to stop at Safeway to grab some stuff for sandwiches because we were too tired to out to eat that night.  


I know things are pricey in the islands, but I was not prepared for the thorough RAPING that Safeway was about to give me.  We bought one loaf of their cheapest store brand white bread and other stuff to make sandwiches, plus three bags of chips and it was $74.00!  

After getting my wallet severely lightened at Safeway, we went back to the room, ate dinner, swam in the pool and cut this bad boy open.  This was the best pineapple any of us ever had.


Day #3


Got up fairly early and had a big breakfast at 808 Grindz, which was probably the best food deal on the island.

Our goal today was to get as close to the erupting volcano as we could.  We knew the park was closed, but just maybe we would be able to catch a glimpse of some activity.


Our first stop of the day was "The Painted Church" on the Mamaloha Hwy.
The church was reminiscent of some of the smaller churches in rural New Mexico,
except with a Hawaiian twist.


The kids decided to exchange vows while at the church...


Beautiful gardens surrounded the church.





Just like on the mainland, this church also had a small cemetery.



Our next stop was at the National Historic Park of Pu'uhonau o Honaunau.  This was known,
historically, as a place of refuge.  In the King Kamehameha days, if you were wanted for a
crime or sought out for any kind of punishment, you would be forgiven if you could make it safely
to this place.  Arriving here safely was not easy, but when you have nothing to lose, it would
be worth a try.



There were quite a few interactive exhibits in the park.



A wooden outrigger boat.



The inside of a wicker fish trap.



That totem was certainly hung well...



In spite of the many totems, huts and exhibits at this park, we found it to be
lackluster at best.  It was $45.00 for admission and we spent less than an hour
here.  It was also super hot on the day we visited and the park has very little
shade available.


Next, we made a beeline for Punalu'u and their world famous bake shop, which is also
known as the southernmost bakery in the U.S.


I remembered this place having wonderful pastries and delicious malasadas, which
I really wanted the kids to try.

This visit, however, proved to be a disappointment.  Their baked goods tasted old
and stale, everything was pricey and the place was super crowded.

We did manage to get a shady little table and listen to some really great live, local
music while taking a little break.


Next, it was on to the volcano!



Unfortunately, this was a close as we could get to the erupting volcano.  On the horizon, was a
mixture of smoke and steam as the lava was flowing into the ocean.



The air had a very distinct and strong smell of sulphur and the area was strangely quiet and empty.



These shots were all taken from the roadside, as hiking in the area was illegal and their
were signs threatening arrest if you ventured out on your own.

This section of highway had numerous sections that were cracked by recent
earthquakes that rocked all around the volcano.




The kids posed in front of the Mauna Loa volcano.


We then made a quick stop at the Punalu'u Black Sand Beach, where we saw a large sea
turtle that we originally thought was dead.  It finally made a little movement and we were relieved
to see that it was actually alive.

I forgot to grab my camera, so I don't have any photos, but the place, like so many other places
on the island, was beautiful.



Next, we drove down to South Point, which is the southernmost point in the U.S.
(not the Florida Keys as many people think).



A lot of the locals fish here and they make these little dried fish
totems, which they stick in the ground all around the area.




The remains of yet another heiau.



I'm not sure what this is, but it was facing out to sea, so I'm guessing
that it's some sort of navigating device like a lighthouse of sorts.



On my previous visit to South Point, I saw fishermen using these little holes in the rock
to tie ropes into and anchor themselves to shore in case they were swept off of the beach by
a rogue wave.

I was told that if you get swept out to sea here, that the current is uninterrupted all the
way to Australia.





It's always very windy here, but the weather was very nice and the kids had a good time
enjoying the vastness of South Point.






A panorama of South Point.



The waves seemed much more violent here than other parts of the island.














By the time we were done at South Point, we were getting pretty hungry and
we were all very tired.

We had an hour and a half drive ahead of us back to Kona and we didn't feel much
like going out to eat, so we decided that we would make a quick stop at Costco,
where we would grab a bunch of fresh poke' and take it back to the room.



Mission accomplished!

It was very nice getting back to our comfortable room, kicking back and enjoying the evening.




We all decided that we liked the "Dynamite" poke' better than the traditional
Ahi poke', but they were both pretty incredible.


Kyle went down to the DVD rental box at the hotel and picked up "12 Strong," which
was a very good movie and after that, we collapsed into bed for the night.



Day #4


After three days of being constantly on the go, we decided to make Day #4 kind of a "zero day."

We drove into Kona Town and found (after a lot of hunting) a parking place about a mile
away.  Thinking that we should eat something first, we decided to walk to Ultimate Burger,
that the guide book said was "ONO," which is Hawaiian for great!  We didn't find it to be
that ONO, especially after spending over $50 for three burgers, fries and drinks.


We then walked through Kona Town and saw the sights.

Like most tourist town, Kona had its fair share of tacky gift shops and T-shirt stores, but
we had fun nonetheless.







Toured a couple of historic buildings in downtown Kona.






Ghandi was meditating today...



Had to get some shave ice right on the beach.

While downtown, we stopped at a farmer's market and bought some papaya, dragon fruit,
lychees and mountain apples to have at the room later that night.


To wrap up Day #4, we stopped at Longboard Pizza and picked up a very good, large pie
and took it back to the room for dinner.



Day #5


We got up and had a little breakfast on the lanai of our room and watched the waves come in.


We saw a sea turtle sunning himself on the lava just below our room.



We then decided the drive up to the northwest portion of the island.

WAIMEA



We stopped at the Big Island Brewhaus in Waimea.



Unfortunately, there weren't open yet and we didn't want to hang around for 45 minutes for
a couple of beers at 10:00 AM.  It was a very charming little brewery and I wish we had more time.



Today's selection...



Some of their offerings.



The brewhouse was small, but it does the job and it smelled so good inside.  They had just started
a boil and the malt aroma was wafting all over the place.



WAIPIO VALLEY

Next, we visited the Waipio Valley, which is as far as you can drive northwest on the island.




This is the valley, as seen from the overlook.

Ancient Hawaiians lived in the valley for centuries until a tsunami wiped it all out in 1946.  Some die-hards, hippies and eccentrics have since reestablished some little homesteads in the valley,
where some even cultivate taro root.  There's no power, water or sewer services in the valley,
so the residents have be virtually self-sufficient.



What a peaceful place.



During our trip to the island, I dragged the kids to every part of it and no matter where
we were, these "Debbie Wiley" signs were posted everywhere.  One thing is for sure,
she sure had a lot of people who cared about her and I hope she was found safe eventually.





After Waipio, we drove along the north coast of the island towards Hilo.

On my previous visit here, I remembered a little drive-in with incredible food and I wanted
to eat there again.  So, we stopped at the "Tex Drive-In" and I think we all agreed that it was the
best plate of food we had on the entire island.

I had an incredible pork roast plate lunch and Kyle had the teriyaki beef plate lunch.  Erin
was satisfied with a bowl of their fantastic chili (they put rice in the bottom of the bowl).  Tex is
most famous for having the best malasadas on the island, but we didn't know that you had to order then 45 minutes in advance, so we missed out on them.  Tex did torture us a bit though because
they have a viewing window where we watched an old man making malasadas fresh.


Onward...

LAUPAHOEHOE POINT



The tsunami of 1946 swept up through Laupahoehoe, devastated the town and
killed a lot of it villagers.  This is a memorial to those who lost their lives that day.






Kyle was scampering along the tsunami breaks, which he was very intrigued by.













AKAKA FALLS STATE PARK



We stopped at Akaka Falls State Park, which is on the Windward (wet) side of the island, so
the rain did not surprise us.  Luckily, we packed our rain gear, threw it on and hiked through
the beautiful valley





HILO

We had planned to stop in Hilo and walk along the charming waterfront, check out the sites and
the little shops, but by the time we arrived, the rain was coming down in a torrent, so instead, we
did a little driving tour of the area.



THE SADDLE ROAD
&
MAUNA KEA


Traditional Hawaiians are superstitious about driving the Saddle Road as they believe the
road that cuts between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa effectively "divorces" the two volcanoes.
We decided to chance it though as it cuts the driving distance back to Kona in half.

No too far out of Hilo, the rain stopped and the sun came back out.  We were entering the center part of the island.

I wanted more than anything to take the kids to the top of Mauna Kea, so they could see the
observatories and take a tour of them, but they would not allow anything other than high clearance
4WD vehicles up the road.

I've driven that road before and I had no doubt that my rental car could make it to the top, but my
rental contract warned that the insurance would be voided if driven up Mauna Kea, so we had
to settle for the visitor's center only.

We watched some very good presentations about the observatories and toured their little museum,
but that was all we could see of the place.


This is the only shot I got from Mauna Kea.  As you can see, even the visitor's center
is above the clouds.

After a very long and fun day, we were totally spent again.  We drove back to Kona and
the comfort of our hotel room, where we arrived at 10:00 PM.  Too tired to do much of
anything, we ate a late dinner in our room, watched a movie and hit the sack!


Day #6

KAHALU'U
&
KEALAKEKUA


Got up and had a little breakfast and coffee on our lanai and then decided in order to do Hawaii
right, you have to snorkel, so that's what we decided to do.

The ocean is out of all of our comfort zones, but hey, we're just going to a little protected
cove at Kahalu'u Beach Park, where there's supposed to be some incredible snorkeling.

We stopped at Miller's Surf Shop and rented everything we needed and went to the beach.

We awkwardly put all of our gear on and made our way into the water.  Once we got things figured out (anit-fogging and clearing our masks, adjusting straps, etc.) we got a lot more
comfortable with things.

We saw a ton of tropical fish of all shapes, sizes and colors.  We saw a lot of sea urchins and their menacing spikes and we even saw a huge sea turtle on the ocean floor.  In all, we spent about 45 minutes in the water, but that was enough for us to get a feel for things.  We all had a blast snorkeling and I'm glad we tried it in such a diverse place.




I had to get a shot of the kids on this old truck.  I can just imagine it hauling a load full of
freshly cut sugar cane fifty years ago.


We stopped at Sandy's Drive-In for lunch as the place looked so much like a traditional little
eatery from the 1960's.  It was here that we had the absolute worst meal on the island and the food was probably in the top 5 of our worst meals ever!  I ate one chicken wing and threw the entire plate in the trash.  Erin had a hamburger, which is usually a safe bet at an unknown place, but her burger was crappier than even the cheapest microwavable burger at any gas station.  Kyle managed to get about half of his plate down, which speaks only to his hunger and not of his enjoyment.




We walked through Kealakekua and visited the little shops and antique stores and picked up some gifts for our loved ones on Da Mainland...

I bought, what I think, is a very cool painting of a face that Erin thinks looks sinister and spooky.  I promised not to hang it up until after she goes off to college.

We then made one last Costco run and bought a pasta and sausage dish, took it back to the room, heated it up and enjoyed our last night on the island.

Every night, I crack the sliding door in my room open a bit so that I can hear the waves crashing on the shore.  I don't think there's any more of a soothing sound by which one can fall asleep...I'll definitely miss that!



Day #7

Oh, how bittersweet the last day of a vacation can be.  On one hand, we were sad to be leaving, but on the other hand, we missed our loved ones, including Dexter.

Our flight didn't leave until after 8:00 PM, so we had one last full day to explore.

We hung around on our lanai and casually had coffee and took one last look at the beautiful view from our room.  We were in no big hurry, but we managed to get packed up and out by noon.

We drove into Kona and stopped at Umeke's Fish House, which was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.  We had a spectacular lunch there and kind of kicked ourselves for not going there earlier in our trip.  Had we eaten there early on, we would have been back two or three more times.


We drove back to Kealakekua to see the Kona coffee growing region of the island.

We stopped at Greenwell Farms and took their tour.  It was extremely informative and it really makes you appreciate how much work goes in to your morning cuppa Joe.  So much of the process is done by hand and is very labor intensive.  We enjoyed tasting all of their different coffee varieties and even had an incredible juice that's made from the pulp that was usually just thrown away or used for mulch.


Kyle is smelling the unripened coffee beans.



My beautiful daughter in front of a coffee tree that's over 100 years old.



Our tour guide.



Greenwell doesn't only grow coffee.  They also produce guava, papaya and mangoes.





KILLING THE LAST FEW HOURS


After the coffee tour, we visited what is not only the best used bookstore on the island, but the best used bookstore I've ever been to.  We killed two hours there just browsing the shelves of the huge warehouse.  Kyle bought a book on the Hawaiian language and I picked up a quirky Civil War book.

We spent the last two hours of the trip at the Kona marina, where we just sat on the beach and watched the waves come ashore and the sun set over the Pacific.

Now realizing that the trip had come to its inevitable end, we drove to the airport, turned in the rental car and took the shuttle to the terminal.

Shortly after we took off, the pilot got on the P.A. and told everyone to look out of the right side of the plane if they wanted to see the lava flowing into the ocean.  I could have sworn I felt the whole aircraft shift as everyone moved to the right side to get a glimpse.

Outside of the windows, you could see a river of red hot molten lava flowing through the countryside and into the ocean.  It was dark, but the lave lit up the scene and you could even see the steam and smoke below.  We were just glad that we finally got to see some lava, even if it was only for the last ten minutes of our vacation.

The rest of the flight home was uneventful, although none of us got anything resembling sleep, so we were dead tired by the time we landed in Reno.

Erin and I went straight to the kennel to pick up Dexter.  Boy, did we all miss him!  He was so glad to see us that I consider his happiness to come back home as the final chapter in our vacation.