Saturday, January 19, 2002

2002 Hawaii---The BIG Island, 2002

January 2002:

This was our first (and only so far) trip to the Big Island. We had been to Oahu and Kauai, so wanted to check out the volcanoe and whatever else the Big Island had to offer.

For most of the trip, we stayed at the Kona Coast Resort II at the far end of Alii drive in Kona. I picked it up as a rental property for $700/week for a 1 bedroom condo and were very pleased with the resort.

We felt right at home here---especially with our red Ranger truck rental (same vehicle my husband drives at home). Odd thing about red cars on the Big Island, though, they look grey at night with the strange lighting from the street lights! Took us awhile to find it the first night we were looking for it. Our condo unit was in one of these 3 story high buildings. The resort is quite large and has many buildings.

They even have single story villas with garages in this resort.

The pool area looked really nice, too, but we never even made it there. With Kahaluu beach being just a few minutes from the resort, we usually went there when we wanted to jump in the water.

The resort is on a golf course and is beautifully landscaped.

The rooms were nicely decorated and comfortable.
We did a lot of exploring around the island. I had read a lot about how clear the water is at Kealakekua Bay and how great the snorkeling is, so that was high on my priorities to get to. Along the way there, we came upon this really cute church---"the Painted Church". This small Catholic church became "the painted church" after Fr. John Velge decorated its interior between 1899-1904 to communicate Bible stories to non-English-speaking Hawaiians.
The pictures don't do it justice.
On to Kealakekua Bay---a Marine Life Conservation District perfect for snorkeling, scuba diving, and kayaking. It is only accessible by water, so we elected to rent a kayak for the day instead of taking one of the tour boats there. To get to the bay, we headed south out of Kona for about 15 miles. At the signs for Kealakekua Bay we turned right and headed down the road to the wharf and Napoopoo beach.
Some local kids were hanging around the wharf helping tourists get their kayaks in the water. We greatfully accepted their help and tipped them, then were on our way across the bay. The trip wasn't too far, maybe a mile. Ken still thinks I was trying to kill him---he kept telling me to slow down. But i was anxious to there and start snorkeling.
There were tons of fish there, as well as lots of coral. The water was warm (maybe 76) and smooth. It was also crystal clear. The Big Island does have my vote for the clearest waters of Hawaii.
Even saw an eel swimming around.

And another one.
There's even a monument erected here in memory of Captain Cook who was killed there in 1779.
We spent most of the day there snorkeling or sitting around on the rocks near the monument.
Another day we headed north up the Kohala coastline. Being winter, we had to pick a day when the surf was down. We ended up with beautiful weather the day we went. My favorite beach was by the Mauna Kea resort.

The beach is enormous and shallow for quite a ways out.

I had read that to the far left of the beach was a rocky area with good snorkeling. They were right! We even saw turtles here.

Heading back towards Kona was Hapuna Beach. This is another wonderful sandy beach, 1/2 mile long and almost 200 feet wide. It's frequently been voted as the best beach in the US.

Not too far from there is Anaeho'omalu Beach (or commonly called A-bay). It is located on the ocean side of the Outrigger Waikoloa Resort. There is also a large ancient Hawaiian fishpond here. The pond was used for raising mullet for the royalty and ali'i of the times. There are also educational plaques along the trail surrounding the pond area. We didn't have much success snorkeling here. There were several boats that came in and out of the beach keeping the sand pretty churned up.

But it is a beautiful beach to be at when the sun goes down.

A sunset picture at A-Bay.

Another of our favorite places to go to snorkel was Honaunau Bay. Honaunau Bay is overlooked by Puuhonua O Honaunau National Historic Park. This 182 acre Federal park preserves the historic site where ancient defeated warriors, non-combatants, and sacred law breakers found sanctuary. I'm sure it would have been well worth the admittance price to tour Puuhonua, but we couldn't seem to stay out of the water long enough to do that.

Honaunau Bay doesn't really have a beach. It's fronted by flat rocks. The water near the shelf is about 10 ft. deep, but there are plenty of good spots for climbing in our out of the water.
Even though it is rather deep there, there is a lot of coral growing on the rocks and bottom so there were lots of fish. So far this is the only place I've seen these needle nose butterfly fish while snorkeling the Hawaiian islands.

We also got a glimps of the refuge from the water. It was said that if you had just broken a law and the punishment was death your only chance of survival was to reach this place of refuge.
Just another sunset as we were heading back to our condo one evening.

We decided to also head around the island and spend the night in Hilo one night. Our first stop along that journey was Punaluu Beach. It is the most famous black sand beach on the island. The black sand is made of basalt and created by lava flowing into the ocean and exploding as it reaches the ocean and cools. Snorkeling is suppose to be pretty good here, too, but we were pinched for time so just walked the beach a bit.

It is often is frequented by endangered Hawksbill Turtles and Green Sea Turtles. Turtles apparently like cooler water and the Big Island has lots of underground fresh water that flows into the ocean. The cold fresh water mixing with the salty sea water looks really odd while you're snorkeling. I was constantly trying to wipe my googles off when I ran into those areas while snorkeling because it would create a wavy like disturbance. After I realized what was going on, I would just move out of the cold fresh water.

Continuing on south, we headed to South Point. It is the southernmost point of the 50 United States. The fields of waving grass are a stark change from the black lava fields of much of the island.

The water here was deep and very blue. But still so clear that we could see the fish in it from up on top of the cliff we were on.

A confluence of ocean currents just offshore makes this spot one of Hawaii's most popular fishing spots. The currents here also make it a bad place to swim. They say if you go in here the currents will carry you to the south pole. Didn't get to see the boat lifts in action, but still enjoyed the views.

There's even a road here that was covered by lava and know goes to nowhere.

The area is also known for its strong winds and is the home of a wind farm. Some trees are almost horizontal with their branches all growing in the same direction near the ground.

The Kamaoa Wind Farm had lots of cows roaming around in it. It was interesting seeing cows amongst the windmills. I understand the wind mills fell into disrepair in 2006 and this farm was closed. But a new project, the Pakini Nui windmill farm, was built about a mile from there in 2007.

From South Point we headed up to Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. It has been designated an International Biosphere Reserve in 1980 and Hawai'i's only World Heritage Site in 1987. There is a fee to enter the park, but it's only about $10/car. The Kilauea Visitor Center is located just beyond the park's entrance station and is where you can get the latest news on conditions in the park and can even see a 25 minute film.

One of the stops along the road inside the park is at some sulfer banks and steaming bluffs, complete with their wonderful smells.
The Kilauea Overlook is located on the left side of the road, approximately .7 miles from Steaming Bluffs. The overlook is of the Kilauea Caldera and Halema'uma'u Crater. The caldera is about 2 miles wide and more than 3 miles long.

The 40 mile round-trip down Chain of Craters Road descends 3,700' to the coast and dead-ends where a 1995 lava flow crossed the road. It took us about 3 hours for this drive. Along the way were signs with notations of past lava flows.

The scenery along Chain of Craters road is awesome.

And we got more rainbows.
There are 2 types of lava-- A`a and Pahoehoe. A'a lava is rough, while the Pahoehoe lava is smooth and ropey. Here's a spot where both are visible.

The Chain of Craters road had to be moved when lava decided to cover it.

More views of Pahoehoe lava.

By the time we got to the bottom of the road, it was getting dark. We tried to hike to the viewing area out on the rocks, but it was too hard to see. We even bought a flash light from the Rangers at that end of the road, but didn't venture too far out onto the lava rocks. We could have spent a lot more time exploring the park. There are many trails and even some caves in the park. We probably spent about 7 hours in the park. During that time there were lots of intermitant rain and changes in temperatures. It was pretty cold up by the visitors center, especially when it was raining. They do get snow on Hawaii, in fact the other volcano there (Mauna Kea) did have snow on it when we were on the island, but it was closed off to rental cars.

That night we spent the night in Hilo at the Hilo Hawaiian. It was very nice. We were even given an upgrade to a suite.

The Hilo side of the island was a lot more lush then the Kona side, but also rainier. The water was also rougher, but we were only there for the night. Then we were on our way again. Here is the ocean behind the hotel.

Behind the Hilo Hawaiian was a neat little park in Hilo named after Queen Lydia Lili'uokalani - the greatly beloved and final Monarch of the Hawaiian islands. The 30 acre park grounds were donated by Queen Lili'uokalani for a Japanese park which was built to honor the many Japanese immigrants who came to the Big Island to work the Waiakea Sugar Plantation.
If we had more time, we would have spent a lot more time here.

We did spend some time here in the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden just outside of Hilo. There was an admissions fee, but it was only about $12 in 2002. They even had umbrellas to borrow which came in handy during some of the downpours we encountered while touring the gardens.

The Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden is a 40-acre valley with over 2000 species of plants in it.

Even plants that look like house plants get enormous here.

It's suppose to be the only tropical garden in the US on an ocean.

It certainly wasn't a structured garden, but it is really pretty.

We continued north from the gardens and headed up to the Waimea ranchlands.

After cutting through the Waimea country, we headed up the north Kohala coast to the Pololu Valley Lookout at the end of the road. And were treated to another rainbow. Actually it was a double rainbow, but the other one didn't show up in this picture.

The rainbow followed us down the Kohala coast.

Eventually we were on the stretch of highway heading back towards Kona.

I found it interesting that people left messages on the landscape by piling white rocks on the black A'a lava fields that were all over by Kona.

Back in Kona, we frequently visited Kahaluu Beach to snorkel.
This is even where I saw a yellow trumpet fish. I understand they're normally brownish, but change their color to yellow when they're ready to eat. Then they mingle within the schools of yellow fish and sneak up on their prey.
The fish are use to having people swimming with them, so they are very friendly.

Another yellow tang.

Even had a turtle swim under us. There seemed to always be turtles here. There were a lot of turtles all over The Big Island.

Also next to Kahaluu beach is this tiny church called "the Little Blue Church". I'm not sure if it's used for mass anymore, but I understand weddings are popular here.

The main street through Kona is Alii Drive. This is a view of the street while we were driving down it.

The downtown area of Kona has a lot of quaint little stores and restaurants. We had a meal at Forrest Gumps. I got a kick out of the sign and paddle on the table. If you turn the sign over to "Stop, Forrest", the waiter stops. The paddle has the menu in it. The food wasn't bad, either.

We also had a really nice dinner in the King Kamehemehe hotel restaurant. It was very good. We also enjoyed wandering around the hotel lobby. It had a lot of Hawaiian heritage memorabilia in it.
On our final evening there, we sat at the Old Airport Park in Kona and watched a cruise ship turn and leave. Hopefully we'll be on that ship someday.
We had a great time on the Big Island. It certainly was a lot different from the other islands, but they all seem to have their own charm to them. This one being the newest of the islands had fewer sandy beaches, but the water was clearer. It also has a pretty active volcano on it. It certainly gives you a different feel for the islands.

1 comment:

  1. Big Island, here we come! Feb/March can't come soon enough! :)