Hawaii, The Big Island

April 7th-12th, 2004

Hawaii view

Hawaii is composed of eight islands, the most familiar probably being Oahu, Maui, and Big Island. Big Island is the one we chose to visit on this trip. According to the map, it's about 93 miles long and 76 miles wide (4038 square miles). However, it seems much larger when you start driving because the road winds up, down, back and forth along the coastline. Of course, this offers grand views of the coastline, paths of old lava flow, and rain forests.

black lava rocks - island scenery waterfall - island scenery coastline - island scenery

The island is even enchanting at night! I am so used to living in big cities, that the lack of lights at night almost took me by surprise. You could see all the stars twinkling in the sky and the moon beautiful as ever. For this reason, the Mauna Kea mountain on the island (13,796 ft above sea level) is host to an observatory for astronomical study.

A couple of other things I thought were intersting about the island...

  • The south tip of Big Island, called Ka Lae, is actually the southern most point of the United States.
  • Macadamia nuts are a big industry on the island. I can highly recommend the chocolate covered macadamia nuts and macadamia nut ice cream :)
  • For the coffee enthusiast, Hawaii is home of Kona coffee (also good in the ice cream)!
  • From the ocean floor to the surface, about 18,000 feet, plus the additional 13,796 feet above sea level makes Mauna Kea higher than any other mountain in the world.
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    Day One, Wednesday - - -

    For once, my flight preparations did not involve any kind of tribulations. I arrived on time for my flight, which left the gate on time, and made my connecting flight. However, my sister did not get off so lucky!

    My mom and I were flying together to Honolulu airport on Oahu. Then we were to meet up with my sister and her husband for the small flight from Honolulu to the Big Island. Arriving in Honolulu with time to spare, we headed straight for the ice cream counter! As my mom and I sampled each others' ice cream we kept a vigilant watch for my sister, but by the time last boarding was called they still hadn't arrived. I even tried her cell phone, only to receive the answering service.

    On the ground in Kona airport on the Big Island, we still hadn't heard from my sister. I decided to call my brother to see if he knew anything. Sure enough, my sister called to tell him that her flight was delayed 4 hours due to mechanical problems. Oh well, my mom and I would have to entertain ourselves for awhile...

    The drive from the Kona airport is almost like being on a foreign planet. There are black lava rocks for miles in all directions. Planted at the airport entrance, in stark contrast to the black rocks, are beautiful bright pink bouganvilla plants. Then you see the Hawaiian form of grafitti... pure white rocks used to spell names across the fields of black rocks.

    The hotel was absolutely beautiful. The front desk was open to the waterfront, along with the breakfast patio and bar lounge. Each evening, there was a hawaiian singer and hula dancer entertaining in the bar area as the sun set over the water.
    hotel bar area view from hotel bar

    Day Two, Thursday

    After breakfast on the patio, we loaded up the car and headed north on the west side of the island. Our first stop was at Lapakahi State Historical Park, which was the sight of a 600 year old Hawaiian fishing village. There were markers showing where the vegetables were grown, the houses stood, the stone alter to the fishing spirit, and the water well. The landscape was so picturesque, it was easy to see why the spot was chosen for settlement.
    view of state park view of state park water

    At the northern tip of the island, we turned off and hiked along the waterfront. The dirt road we followed had huge mud puddles. A few of the puddles we had trouble getting around. Then came the biggest puddle of all which was lightly crusted on top. We got through it without too much trouble, but the return trip was a different story. As my sister's husband found out, the mud was very wet the second time around. I collected a few rocks and strategically placed them along the way, but we came back with quite the muddy shoes!
    waterfront on hike

    Back in the car, we headed for the next little town.... and lunch! I picked the grilled mahi-mahi fish with fresh fruit salsa on top. It was an excellent meal, but the serving a little small for my appetite :) after the morning hike. I think I inhaled the whole plate in 15 seconds flat!
    Next stop was the Polulu Valley overlook at the northeastern tip of the island. There was a trail which led down to the waterfront, but we chose to stay at the top and view the beauty from above.
    Pololu Valley Overlook

    Day Three, Friday

    Friday we decided to spend the day in the town/area of Kailua-Kona. We found breakfast at a cheap little buffet and spent the morning wondering around in the shops. After lunch we headed for the chocolate factory and came back with plenty of chocolate macadamia nut sweets. In the afternoon we relaxed poolside at the hotel sipping fruity drinks (I think that's required when you're in Hawaii)!

    Day Four, Saturday

    Saturday morning we set out early to make our way around to the west side of the island. There's a lot to see on the west side of the island, including waterfalls, the volcano park, and orchid fields. As we went up in elevation on the northern side of the island, the drops of rain began to fall. First stop was the town of Waimea for a quick breakfast. Diligently, we continued on in the rain to the Akaka Falls State Park. There are actually two falls at this park, but this is a picture of the 442 foot drop of the Akaka falls. As we pulled into the park it was pouring down rain, but we (ok I) refused to leave without seeing the falls! We patiently waited for the rain to subside because there was a short walk to the falls. Perseverance pays off, I got a good rainbow picture as the sun came out. However, be careful about lingering too long since the rain is never too far off. It started raining pretty heavy as we made our way back to the car, which was pretty funny because my sister and I were huddled underneath one jacket as we dashed along.
    rainbow Akaka Falls

    On the far west side of the island lies Rainbow Falls on Wailuku River. As we walked around the falls, the drizzle began to get a little heavy, so we headed under the trees and came across this cool tree. Once the drizzle cleared out I did get a few good shots of the waterfall and surrounding vegetation.
    cool tree at Rainbow Falls
    Rainbow Falls downriver Rainbow Falls Rainbow Falls in the pool below

    In the afternoon, we headed south along the highway to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Upon entering the park, there is a visitor information center which tells about the history of the volcano, surrounding vegetation, and the Nene bird which likes to live in the barren land. It is possible to hike around the volcano park, but you can also drive to the various sites. The first stop on the circular drive are the steam vents. As the drive continues, the growth thins out and begins to resemble the moon.
    steam vents at Volcano Volcano landscape
    The Halemaumau crater is so expansive it's hard to capture in a picture (1600 meters wide by 85 meters deep). The site of the most eruptions at the summit of Kilauea volcano, it was once filled with molten lava. In 1924 as the lava drained away, groundwater seeped into the volcano causing steam explosions. At that point the crater was 410 meters deep, but due to numerous subsequent explosions it filled in to the present day size. Although the volcanos are active, there weren't any viewable lava flows.
    volcano crater Halemaumau

    On the ride back to the hotel, we stopped off at the Panalu`u black sand beach...
    It was quite windy and a little cool from the rain so we just took a few pictures. This area is also a protected habitat for green sea turtles, but we didn't see any.
    black sand beach black sand beach

    Worn out from our day of sightseeing, we decided to hang out at the hotel bar and have a quick dinner at the hotel grill restaurant.

    Day Five, Sunday

    Easter Sunday was spent by the pool and swimming in the ocean. It was a little overcast, but a great way to spend the last day on the island!
    sunset from room

    The basket End

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