kmusser: (Default)
Part 2 of our adventures, lots of stuff under the cut, also slipped a couple extra pictures in the pictures link from the last post.

Days 4-7 in which we fly about the island and play tourists )
kmusser: (Zammis)
Ok, only a week later than intended, I better write it down before I forget what we did. Pictures are up at http://pics.livejournal.com/kmusser/gallery/0004ac9y.

Days 1-3 under the cut )
kmusser: (Lego)
This is it, our last day in Hawaii. Still we have almost a full day as the flight isn't until 10:30 at night. So we decide to take a drive to the other side of the island and see all the stuff we didn't think we'd have time for. Our route takes us over to Hilo (still sunny for the record, I think it's a myth that it rains there all the time) and then up the Hamakua Coast.

The coast is quite lovely, lots of little valleys, lush vegetation, incredible smoothies. We do a short detour to go see Akaka Falls which are pretty impressive. The road along the coast ends at the dramatic Waipi'o Valley - what used to be one of the most densely populated places in the islands. The walls of the valley are roughly 2,000 feet high. There is a somewhat notorious road that makes the descent, but not having all that much time we decide not to chance it and content ourselves with the view from the overlook. We also stop in the nearby town of Honoka'a for lunch, which is good, and for desert - more malasadas! - these ones are even better than yesterdays. Yum.

From there it's pretty much a straight drive across the north end of the island back to Kona - this stretch goes mostly through ranchland, especially past Waimea it would be hard to tell you're not in the middle of Montana or Wyoming. We zip through here and actually get back to Kona a little earlier than expected - we take the opportunity to visit the Kaloko fish pond where the traditional wall creating the fish pond has been mostly restored. There are a bunch of Hawaiian stilts here, though sadly our pictures of them don't come out well. We take a brief hike to find some pools supposedly once used as baths - we find some pools, but they don't look like much - there were some man-made structures in the distance but we cut the hike short as the park was closing soon.

On into downtown Kona for dinner at a sushi/tapas place which is quite good - plus they have $2 mai tais, so who's going to complain? We enjoy our drinks and watch the sunset. Finally it's time to head home. The KON-OAK-LAX-MDW-BWI flight home is very long, but thankfully uneventful. Was a good trip :-)
kmusser: (Lego)
We don't have all that much left on our to do list, but one of them is to visit the green sand beach that is fairly close. Since we have time we decide to take the long way (or as our host who gives us directions calls it, the safari) - this involves taking a 4WD road south from Na'alehu to the coast and then following the coastline to the beach, roughly 10 miles (our route is on the annotated map). First we stop at a bakery in town and fortify ourselves with malasadas, yum, then we're on our way. We soon find the term "road" is used generously, still the track is clear enough to follow and the Jeep proves up to the task and I get to show off my L33T 4WD driving skills. It really does feel like going on safari as we're surrounding by either vegetation or lava. As we finally get close to the shore the way becomes less clear with lots of side tracks and the vegetation is thicker, but we manage not to get lost. Following the coast is easier despite many tracks to choose from as the terrain opens up and the coastline is visible most of the way - plus we're driving over dirt rather than lava. We also see more traffic as we get closer to the beach - more than I expected for an area so far from any real roads. We approach Mahana Bay on the side away from the beach, it's quite a stunning view. There is apparently a small cove on this side where you can see chunks of olivine, but the trail on this side looks sketchy, and Zammis' foot still hurts from yesterday - we go around to the other side where the beach is. Papakolea beach is indeed green, or at least an olive drab. The climb down to the beach itself isn't nearly as scary as it looks, there are steps cut into the rock. We go down and have lunch on the beach. Not especially good beach for swimming, the water is cold and the drop off is very quick, but the view is outstanding. After lunch we have a few more miles of 4WD to go to reach South point again and sweet, sweet pavement. Along this portion we have a great views and Zammis even catches a whale breaching! We spend a little more time at South Point, just because we liked it so much. We decide to call the day done early and head back to the house, have the luxury of afternoon naps and have dinner in.
kmusser: (Lego)
Today we devoted to snorkelling. Our hosts tell us of a hidden beach that requires a bit of a hike in, but we're likely to have to ourselves. This is Honomalino Bay, the public access trail is a bit of an adventure, going over lots of lava, and past a Hawaiian sacred site with an alter set up. The beach is there though and suitably lovely. Not ideal for snorkeling though, the surfs a little rough, making it tricky to get in the water with gear - and one of our masks loses it's strap so we only have one. I'm intimidated, but Zammis perseveres and makes it out into the bay and looks at fishies. We have our picnic lunch, and then decide to hike out and try another site that might be friendlier to us snorkeling newbies. Somewhere in there Zammis hurts her foot too, so maybe less with the hiking.

We head back to the Place of Refuge, the adjacent Honaunau Bay is supposedly good for snorkeling and this proves to be a better site for us. The Ocean is much calmer here, so getting in and out isn't too hard. Still we have only one mask, plus a boogie board with a window in it. The mask leaks like a sieve for me which is not so good - Zammis is able to make better use of it and I content myself with paddling out on the boogie board. I do get to see some brightly colored fishies, and lots of coral, but it's hard to see much without a proper mask. Zammis took some shots with a disposable underwater camera which we're still waiting to get developed, will see if any of those came out and I'll add them to the pictures when I get them.

We have dinner out for a change, checking out the southernmost restaurant in the U.S., Hana Hou in nearby Na'alehu, and have some very yummy chicken.
kmusser: (Lego)
Today it's time to fly. The weather kindly clears for us (the past few days had been a little "voggy"). We drive over to Hilo, which contrary to its reputation proves to be sunny. We booked a helicopter tour with Blue Hawaiian. Neither of us has even been on a helicopter before so there was a little trepidation, not to worry though - I was amazed at how smooth the ride was - and even the pilot is squeeing about how clear the weather is which we take to be a good sign. The views were pretty amazing, we took a lot of pictures here, but the pictures don't really compare as you can't see the lava making its move. The pilot was good, doing several circles so that everyone could get good views as well as narrating about the crazy hold outs living in the subdivision that the lava is flowing through. There area has long been cut off by lava flows, but there are apparently still 3 residents willing to do the hike in - with the current flow they can't even do that, so I'm not sure what they're going to do. Anyway we also get a great view of the Pu'u 'O'o crater which was just billowing out smoke. To round out the tour the pilot also shows off some waterfalls NW of Hilo before we head back to the airport.

We have a very yummy lunch in Hilo. Zammis gets to get her fill of schlock shopping in at Hilo Hatties. Then it's off to explore Puna, the southeastern end of the island, calling us are the Ahalanui hot springs, heated by a underground lava flow. We take a dip which is quite relaxing. Afterwards we just drive around for a bit, the area is very pretty with alternating rain forest areas and lava flows - drive to the end of the paved road just because. We also explore some caves that serve as natural steam rooms - some even set up with benches inside, though the entrances look a little narrow for us to fit through. From there it's back home to our Hobbit House.

As a P.S. - It's interesting looking at what the eruption has done since we left, apparently the lava flow we saw made a rush for the sea March 4-6 maps, images, pictures of the road from where we stopped to the new flow, news report of the residents staying put.
kmusser: (Lego)
We finally get to enjoy our hosts breakfast, which is quite yummy, and we get to meet the resident cat. Today we head to Volcano N.P. The way there passes through a scorched and broken landscape called the Ka'u Desert. In the park we stop by the visitor center and get the current eruption update, confirms the only way to get good views of the current lava flow is from the air - which we'll do tomorrow. Also portions of the park are closed off due to high sulfur emissions, fun. Fortunately the hike we'd picked out is upwind of the main crater, so no problem there. So, on to some hiking - we're going to explore Kilauea Iki, which is a small crater that erupted in 1959. The hike goes through a section of forest so we get a "before" picture and then descends to the crater floor for the "after". We got some good pictures here so enjoy. I was a little worried the crater would be blazing hot with the complete lack of shade, but a steady breeze kept it cool. On the floor there were quite a few spots venting steam, a comforting thought as we walked across. The steep portion to get back out of the crater wore us out, but we managed. Near the end of the hike was the Thurston lava tube - I'd seen lava tubes in Oregon, but this thing was giant in comparison, a good 15' or so in diameter, sadly our picture of it didn't come out, but here's a good one.

After our hike we drive to an overlook of the Kilauea Caldera for a picnic, we can smell the sulfer here, but it's not too bad. Met another couple picnicking there from the Czech Republic - and I thought we had a long flight. Lunch done we had back, with several stops along the way. First is to the Volcano Winery - if we did a vacation without visiting a winery it just wouldn't seem right. The wines are a little unusual, but for the most part good, and include a Macadamia Nut mead and some Guava wine. From there we make another brief stop at Punalu'u black sand beach, a well known sea turtle hang out, and there is indeed one sunning itself on the beach. I forgot to mention, we actually saw one at the Place of Refuge too, but we get a better picture of this one.

We continue on and make the drive out to the southern tip of the island, creatively named South Point. The drive is over wind-swept prairie and has that driving to the end of the world feel. We walk about a bit, there is the ruins of an old Heiau here and a little ways to the east is a burial site/altar. Out at the point we sit and have a 2nd lunch and do more whale watching. It's a beautiful spot, a lovely end to the day.
kmusser: (Lego)
Day 2 is devoted to swimming with dolphins. We booked a trip with a group of new age/Pagan freaks called Sunlight on Water (warning website has audio) which required a pre-dawn launch to drive back to Kona to meet our boat (we probably could’ve planned that better). Weather is beautiful though and we have no trouble finding our peeps and soon it’s off we go. Our guides are great and we even get a brief ceremony to start us off. It isn’t very long before we get our first whale sighting off in the distance – we continue on and before long we do indeed find dolphins. It’s amazing how many of them there are and how close we are to the shore, they have no problem swimming right by the boat. And they really do spin, it's pretty impressive. We’re outfitted with snorkeling gear and since we’re not particularly good swimmers grab pool noodles as well and into the water we go. First try I don’t do so well as I have trouble breathing – with some gel to help me get a better seal on the mask and much hand holding on the part of one of our guides I do better on the second try and do indeed see a bunch of dolphins. Probably even cooler (really I think I got just as good a view of them from on the boat) was that you could hear them squeaking away at each other. Zammis also heard the whales singing. Eventually it’s time to head back – on the way we get a great view of a whale and her baby. All in all a great outing.

Back on shore we stop in Kona at a Thai place for lunch. Take a brief driving detour to go up the mountain a little bit and take a look at a nearby cloud forest, a very surreal landscape. Also apparently home to cows. After that it's back to the Hobbit House, dinner, and deep sleep.
kmusser: (Lego)
Yay, it’s our first real day in Hawaii. We stumble down to the hotel breakfast buffet which is decent. While we still have hotel parking we take a brief walk around downtown Kona. The Hulihe’e Palace is just down the street, but is sadly closed due to reconstruction. We do poke our heads in the Mokuaikaua Church – oldest Christian church in Hawaii – they have a nifty replica of the tall ship that brought the first missionaries here. Anyway, back to retrieve the car and one to our top priority for visiting Hawaii, that’s right, Costco – well we do stock up there, but what I meant to say was coffee, after the Costco stop we head south out of town and into Kona coffee country. We end up stopping at two farms, Greenwell and Bayview and I hang out while Zammis tastes and stocks up. We also stop at what’s called the Painted Church, a small church so named because the interior is painted up in the style of an early medieval European church – very neat, sadly we didn’t get any interior photos.

From there it’s on to Pu’uhonua o Honaunau, or the Place of Refuge which was a fascinating site – part of it was old royal grounds that would’ve been forbidden to commoners before King Kamehameha II outlawed the kapu system in 1820. Punishment for breaking a kapu was death, and one way of escaping punishment was by reaching the Place of Refuge where one could become cleansed. The Pu’uhonua was sanctified by the burial of chiefs. That burial site as well as the massive stone wall separating the royal grounds from the Pu’uhonua is still maintained. Also there are traditional game boards carved into some of the stones :-) Rules to the one I’m sitting at in the pictures can be found here.

Finally we figure we better get going if we’re going to find our Hobbit House before dark. We’ll be staying near the town of Na’alehu for the rest of the trip. The house is up a somewhat scary road – we’re glad we got the recommended 4WD for the trip – we meet one of our hosts on the way down and the other is waiting for us when we make it the house. The house is absolutely gorgeous – really the pictures don’t do it justice, it does indeed look like something right out of the Shire (I think we got nicer exterior shots than their website in our pictures though). Anyway, we unload, make some dinner, and then test out that bathtub for two before turning in for the night.
kmusser: (Lego)
So the advantage to being sick is that I had time to upload pictures and even annotate a map for you.

Pictures for the whole trip are up.

Annotated Google Map of our trip.

What I'm calling Day 0 was spent on the airplane. A very long BWI-LAS-OAK-KON flight, no big problems, got a nice view of the Grand Canyon flying into Las Vegas. LAS-OAK leg was delayed, but we had a long layover anyway so still arrived in plenty of time for the flight to Kona. In Kona, hey it's warm, find rental car place - rental car places computers are down, so they take a long time in getting me a car, but they do get me one (a Jeep Wrangler, which treated us very well). Drive into downtown Kona, find the hotel, crash.
kmusser: (Lego)
I'll be in Hawaii from Feb. 25 through March 4 and will probably not have any Internet access during that time. I will have my cell phone with me but don't know if it'll get reception.

On the agenda:
lounging
snorkeling
swimming with dolphins
seeing volcanoes
living in a hobbit house
looking at stars
getting to spend a whole week with Zammis


Reports and photos when we get back.

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