Hello, my dear readers!
Now that we are done with the two-week poetry series, I am excited to share some other content with you guys. As you know, this blog is devoted to various topics, including writing, philosophy, and travel. Since it has been a while since we’ve done a travel post, I thought it would be perfect timing to share with you guys a recent trip of mine… To the Big Island of Hawai’i!
This was my first time to Hawai’i, and I have to say it was one for the books. I encourage you all to check out Hawai’i at some point, because it is a nature lover’s dream. (Really it is anyone’s dream. There is so much to do!)
Therefore I’d like to share some things I got the chance to do, and maybe this will sell you on your next vacation. 🙂
Stops: North Kohala Coast, Waimea
Activities: Intro to local area, shops, etc.
After arriving in the small town of Kona on the Big Island, my family quickly hopped in our rental Jeep and headed north to the Kohala Coast. We stayed at a quaint cabin called the Kohala Lodge. Gorgeous view, idyllic, pastoral scene–it was a perfect way to start out a vacation (and throw in goats and ponies down the hill!).
After check in, we took a trek to Waimea, a small town nestled between green mountains and a Nevada-looking desert scene. I wish I had a good picture of the drive between Hāwī and Waimea, but unfortunately I do not. Just trust me, and imagine rolling hills with mountain and ocean backdrops!
Stops: Mauna Loa, Hilo
Activities: Encounter Mauna Kea protestors; travel Mauna Loa to its tip; visit Hilo, largest “city” on island
Day 2 was an opportunity to explore more of the island! We got up early, headed to the center of the island, and wondered if we were going to drive straight through an environmental protest… And we did.
Mauna Kea, the world’s tallest mountain (taller than even Mt. Everest, when you look at its oceanic base), is a sacred mountaintop to many Hawaiians. In the meantime, the company TMT wishes to replace a collection of telescopes on the tip top of Mauna Kea with a new, state-of-the-art telescope that could potentially pollute natural waters for the residents.
Hawaiians are very divided on this issue. On one hand, environmentalists wish to preserve the beauty and integrity of Mauna Kea; on the other, the telescope would bring endless opportunity for astronomers. The telescope’s construction would also provide economic opportunity for the island.
Whatever your position on this issue may be, my family and I just wanted to avoid a roadblock in the middle of this desert landscape. And we ended up driving straight through the protest, passing hundreds of people on a mission to block the telescope’s construction.
Instead we decided to traverse Mauna Loa, the world’s biggest mountain (not tallest!). After going up 11,000 feet we were tired, hungry for oxygen, and descended into the lusher area of Hilo, about an hour to the east.
We did not stay in Hilo very long, though the weather was pretty nice, despite Hilo’s status as the fourth-rainiest American town. We visited Rainbow Falls and headed north after lunch at none other than Taco Bell (blech!) to see Akaka Falls (pictured below).
After a quick stop at Akaka Falls, I found an abandoned airstrip on Google Maps. For those of you who don’t know, I’m a baby pilot who loves aviation quite a bit, and I made us head up an old road once used for the production of sugar cane.
We were probably pretty dumb doing this, but it was a lot of fun, especially when we got to the end of the road and realized we were already driving on the overgrown runway. Who knows the history of Waipunalei Airstrip, because I couldn’t find anything online, and I highly doubt many people today know of its existence. That’s why it was shocking to find it on Google Maps.
Whatever the case, it was a highlight of my trip: An abandoned airstrip with a lot of buried history.
Stops: Kona, Captain Cook
Activities: Snorkeling Adventure, Captain Cook Monument, The Painted Church
Kona is located on the leeward side of the island, and it’s a town of about 12,000 people. Though we did not spend much time in Kona itself (a quick lunch at Denny’s and a stop at Walmart for supplies), we were much more invested in a snorkeling excursion in a little town to the south called Captain Cook.
Unfortunately I do not have any pictures of this activity, despite it being my favorite part of the entire trip, due to the fact that I didn’t want to lose my phone in the kayaking portion of the journey. However, you’ll just have to imagine brilliant blue water and a whole lot of tourists swimming about as kayakers push against the shore to see the Captain Cook monument. (Captain James Cook was a famous explorer who was killed by Hawaiians in this namesake town.)
This experience was made even better by our friendly tour guide, Lalu, a local who showed us the best places to snorkel while giving us a little history of the area and its ties to Captain Cook’s ultimate demise.
After the three mile roundtrip kayak experience, we headed back to our car, changed clothes, and stopped at The Painted Church, a Catholic church about ten minutes from our kayak point. The Painted Church is well-known due to its painted interior, as the first priests who journeyed to Hawai’i explained biblical stories to locals through paintings on the church’s walls.
Stops: North Kohala Coast, Waikoloa Village
Activities: Sunrise Hike, Zipline Adventures, Luau at Marriott
My dad and I are fans of hiking, while my mom and sister are not. So when we suggested getting up at five to catch this ideal spot, my mom and sister laughed at us, and we went anyway.
The forty-five minute roundtrip hike spans incredible views of the Polulu Valley and coastline. Polulu is located at the very end of a main road on the Kohala Coast, so not many people were around–especially at the ungodly hour of sunrise. (Although we did run into a weird woman who was possibly worshipping a plant.)
The hike was stunningly beautiful, and a perfect reminder that sometimes you’ve just gotta bite the bullet, set your alarm, and run down a mountain in the darkness to wait for the perfect sunrise.
After our hike, we headed home, showered, and got prepped for a zipline activity in the nearby town of Kapaau. It was an incredible experience to zip through hundred-foot trees, but after so many activities I was quite ready for a nap by the end of our adventures (see the image below).
Post zipline, we showered once more and then headed to the resort town of Waikoloa Village in order to catch a sunset luau. This was my mom’s favorite experience of the entire trip, as it was a chance to listen to traditional Hawaiian music and see the hula and other Polynesian dances.
Stops: Volcanoes National Park, Black Sands, South Kona
Activities: Quick hikes, Pu’uhonua O Hõnaunau National Park
Our last day on the island was a packed one. While we were staying on the Big Island’s North Coast, Volcanoes National Park is located on the opposite side of the island, roughly a two-hour drive away. Plus it was a foggy and rainy morning, which you can see in the pictures below.
That didn’t stop us from making the journey down to Volcanoes. There are no current lava flows (thank goodness, and hopefully everyone has recovered from the volcano issues from a few years ago), but there are various pockets of steam located throughout the park. We also journeyed to the crater of a volcano (although we stayed at the rim). If you look close enough at the picture below, you can see that there are trails in the middle of this crater, and people are walking in it! I was not that brave, to say the least.
After an hour at the park, which is not enough time, we had to hurry down to Black Sands, about a twenty minute drive away. This is a black sand beach that is pretty peaceful. Since we were in a time crunch, we could not stay long, but I’m thankful for the time I got there.
After Black Sands, we headed to Pu’uhonua O Hõnaunau National Park in order to learn more about Hawaiian culture. Pu’uhonua O Hõnaunau is located on sacred grounds, and it was very important to take a few moments to educate ourselves on traditions of the area.
While the other parts of the island were quite chilly in the fog and rain, Pu’uhonua O Hõnaunau National Park was humid and hot–too much like home for my liking.
After our stop there, we hurried back to the north, grabbed some dinner, and started packing for our ten-hour return trip, which was a beast of its own, as you can imagine. 🙂
PLEASE GO SEE THE ISLAND YOURSELF.
Hawai’i is an incredible place. It’s laid-back island living, and it would be so easy to get lost there for ages. That being said, I’m a pretty fast-paced person, and I found myself wanting to hop on a plane and go see the other islands that comprise this great state.
While the aforementioned stops were what my family did on our trip, I’m sure there are countless more places we missed. The island is an island, but its diversity is incredible. Where else can one drive through a desert to a tropical rainforest in an hour or less?
Go check out Hawai’i. Maybe I’ll see you there someday. 🙂
As for now, I’m back at home in the throes of studies. But do you want my honest opinion? Really there is no place like home, especially after a long vacation away.
You guys are amazing.