Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Big Island, Hawaii - The Volcanos

On day 7, the 9th of August, we left Maui for the Big Island of Hawaii. We flew into the Hilo airport and our hotel, the Royal Kona Resort was located in Kailua-Kona the complete opposite end of Hilo. So after we picked up our rental convertible, we decided to drive north along the Hamakua coast to the Waipio valley lookout. We started with the 4 mile Onomea drive, an incredibly lush drive that goes through moss covered trees, glimpses of sea cliffs that remind you of Jurrasic
park and narrow wooden bridges. Further north, we stopped at Akaka and Rainbow falls. The country side was all fields, I think it was sugarcane plantations and a lot of orchards.

From Waipio valley we turned west to drive towards the Kohala coast then south west on to the Kailua-Kona coast. The landscape on the drive west was very different from the lushness of the Hamakua coast. Initially, a lot of rolling hills covered by pasture with Mauna Loa in the
background. The further west we went, the more the volcanic rock. There were places where it was all black rock... nothing grew. It was so barren and seemingly charred. This drive south west was long and tiring. It was just about dark by the time we got to our hotel. The town of Kailua-
Kona was very pleasant. There were a lot of restaurants and cheap eats and night life just within walking distance from our hotel. Our hotel itself was very comfortable, oceanfront with tennis courts and a small private cove with a small beach but there was nothing fancy about it like a Sheraton.

The following day we went out to breakfast at a local bakery nearby. I loved their fresh baked croissants and hubby loved their coffee. The kids ate fresh baked danishes. We then stopped at the local farm market next door and picked up some fresh fruit. I stocked up on lichees. Then we drove south along the Kona coast towards the Volcano National Park. We saw lots of Kona coffee plantations. Further south we stopped at Punaluu, the black sand beach.
The sand is really as black as it can get, looks as if made out of soot just much coarser. The beach was big with lots of tourists. The travel guides say the beach is good for swimming and surfing, but we found it to be quite rocky and the sand quite coarse not much for swimming. There were a few kayakers and they seemed to be having a good time. We also stopped at Hookena beach park, a small beach surrounded by sea cliffs. The beach itself and the shoreline was mostly rocky.
Finally after a late lunch, much later in the afternoon we entered the volcano national park.
The drive from Kona to Volcano national park with a few stops took almost 4 hours.

The park was amazing and an anti-climax at the same time. It was wondrous to walk on living breathing and an active volcano. It was simply amazing to stand on a wind swept cliff and see the place where the molten lava must have flowed into the deep waters, where the lava just swallowed up the road. But, seeing the same volcanic rock everywhere, the same scalded landscape almost felt like an anti-climax too. Originally, we had planned to hike across the Kilauea Ike crater, but due to the long drive and the fact that we had stopped on a couple of beaches along the way, no one in our family was in the mood for long hikes. We ended up hiking the Thurston lava tube and the devastation trail both easy and short trails. If you are going to do the lava tube hike, every family member should have their own flash light. After a certain point there are no lights in the tube and it is so pitch dark that you can't even see your own nose. After the hikes we drove down to the coastal area of the park via chain of craters road where the lava swallowed up the road back in in 2003. The view of the coastline
with the surf smashing against the clifs was gorgeous. It was windy. Once it started getting dark we drove back to the Crater Rim drive to the summit of Kilauea volcano. As it got darker you could see the red glow of the lava in the crater and massive amounts of white fume. During our trip a portion of the crater rim drive had been closed as a new vent had recently opened and the fumes were very blown close to the road causing sickness.

Day 3 on the big island, we decided to venture up north along the Kohala coast. On one side of the road the landscape was dominated by lava rock meeting the ocean and the other side of the road was dominated by the majestic presence of snowcapped Mauna Kea volcano. We did not have enough time to drive up the Mauna Kea summit (hosting the worlds largest observatory facility) but it's presence dominated our drive up the Kohala coast. This northern end of the island seems to be undergoing quite a bit of development as all the large and new luxury resorts are being built on this side of the island. We drove all the way north to Puuhonua historical state park. On the way back we stopped at Anaehoomalu bay beach and the Hapuna Beach. Hapuna beach is one of the most popular and most visited beach on big island. It is a huge white sand beach with gentle rolling surf. There are showers right off the beach and a small fast food vendor. While the beach was incredible, it became hard for us to spend much time there as there was absolutely no shelter on the beach, no trees, no facility to rent beach shades nor umbrellas. Since we did not have our own beach umbrellas, after a while it became very hot and hard to stay in the bright sun. Anaehoomalu beach on the other hand was a smaller beach compared to Hapuna but it had plenty of natural shade. The entire beach was covered with palm trees. The sand was coarser and pebbly so beach shoes are needed. This was our last day in Hawaii.

Overall, our trip was beautiful we loved every single minute of it. Maui is a paradise. The beaches, the warm water, the gently flowing cool breeze, the sunny days, the hula dancing, it really is as beautiful as on the postcards. The people are very nice and friendly. The Big Island is entirely dominated by the presence of volcanoes and volcanic activity everywhere. There is the molten lava everywhere, the snowcapped peaks of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea and the Volcano National Park. Both very different but incredibly beautiful islands. It's a pity Hawaii is so far away from the east coast. I do look forward to another opportunity where we may get to visit Oahu and Kauai this time.


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TravelPlanner said...

Alexandra, sorry am responding so late. Would love to answer any questions you may have.


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