Hawaii – November 2018 – Day 10 Zodiac Boat Tour and Historic Kona

Day 10 started out with a Zodiac Boat tour down the coast to another snorkel location. A Zodiac boat is a rigid hull, inflatable boat that can go very fast across the water, as Captain Bill demonstrated.

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Assisted by Chris, the first mate.

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As we made our way down the coast we stopped by some sea caves.

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Despite being formed by lava, they were very colorful.

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We arrived at the bay where the snorkeling occurred. It is the bay where Captain Cook met his demise.

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The snorkeling was great.

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On our return trip we passed more sea cliffs

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Along the way we encountered a group of ‘Spinning’ Dolphins, as this series of photos illustrate.

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After returning to the boat, we made our way back to Kona one more time for a historic tour.

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We toured the Queens summer palace.

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Finally it was time to return to our home for the week.

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Hawaii – November 2018 – Day 9 Off the Kona Coast

Day 9 was somewhat uneventful, with a cruise up and down the Kona coast.

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The trip took us past a number of interesting looking hotels and other buildings

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A local parasail company had a steady business.

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There has been significant growth along the Kona coast over the last 20 years.

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All of the coast is built up with hotels, condos, and multi million dollar houses.

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On our return we came across a group of small whales.

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We were close enough to hear their exhales.

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They tracked south along the coast for a few miles before we lost sight of them.

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As we returned a group of dolphins came along side the boat, but all I had was the zoom lens, so close ups it is.

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Hawaii – November 2018 – Day 8 Kona Coffee Festival

As noted previously the Kona region is famous for their coffee. Each November they have a festival to celebrate this, as well as the local culture.

Our emcee was a hoot, sort of a Hawaiian Cheech Marin.

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In addition to the coffee there were other activities occurring, including a lei making contest. The judges were very thorough, checking for stitching and display.

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All were beautiful and very different from the stereotype that you see in the media of the ring of flowers.

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There were numerous coffee growers offering samples, as well as educational displays.

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The highlight was the entertainment though. We saw a number of dance performances.

The region has a number of immigrants from Japan and the Philippines, which is where these ladies came from.

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This group had a very lively audience participation dance.

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Many of the dances were similar, yet unique in their own way.

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All ages participated.

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The final dance was a traditional hula.

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Afterwards they posed for a group photo. Hang loose dude (the hand gesture)!

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Once the dances were complete a Hawaiian guitar band took the stage. They were very talented.

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We even met the queens.

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But it was time to catch our home for the next 7 days, a small boat that will take us to new adventures. But first another great sunset.

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Hawaii – November 2018 – Day 7 North Big Island back to Kona

Day 7 started out with breakfast at Ken’s House of Pancakes – enough breakfast we didn’t have lunch. When in Hilo, stop at Kens 🙂

About an hour north of Hilo we arrived at Waipii’o Valley Overlook. The valley is 2000′ deep, with great sea cliffs just beyond.

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A waterfall comes out of nowhere along the cliffs.

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Hawaii has a number of micro climates, with the landscape looking very different. Once we passed Waimea (Cowboy Capital of Hawaii), it all of a sudden switched from rain forest to ‘Central California hills’.

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Our next stop was one of the highlights of the island  – Polulu Valley Overlook. With a bit of a hike down and toward the ocean, the view south was stunning. I realize after 7 days there are a lot of ‘cliffs and ocean’ photos, but this is one of the best spots.

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The town of Kapaau is famous as the birthplace of Kamekameha. It is celebrated with a statue of him. Legend has it that this statue was made for placement in Honolulu but it was lost in a shipwreck, so they made a replacement.

Locals in Kapaau believed it was karma as they felt Honolulu should not have the statue since he is from their town. The original was recovered from the sea and sent to Kapauu.

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Kapaau is a nice little Hawaiian town.

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On the way back to Kona we stopped at the Hamakua Macadamia Nut Factory.

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Some of their processing is located here where you can check out people preparing the nuts.

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We left with plenty to last us the rest of the trip.

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As we neared Kona, we headed 3000′ up a mountain (and from 86 degrees to 67 degrees) to the Mountain Thunder Coffee Plantation.

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Kona is famous for their coffee, and this nice small family business gave us a tasting and a tour.

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The beans after the first step of processing.

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The coffee trees are grown on top of lava shoots, which provides the unique chemical balance that makes Kona coffee what it is.

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Hawaii – November 2018 – Day 6 Hilo

Day 6 started with some rain as we made our way down the mountain towards Hilo. As we drove along in the rain to our first destination I found the Apple Maps (the rental car has Apple Car Play) can let you down.

It had me turn on this ‘street’, which after about a mile I decided to give up, and back up until I could turn around. It is literally at the edge of town, so we weren’t way out in the middle of nowhere.

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Eventually we reached the town of Kalapana, about 20 miles south of Hilo, and Kaimu ‘Beach’. At one time it was a black sand beach, but in 1990 a lava flow overtook the beach and filled the entire bay.

As noted yesterday many believe that Hawaii is an independent Kingdom, not part of the U.S., especially for any new land that wasn’t part of the U.S. acquisition.

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This lava flow had some large cracks in it when it cooled.

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We are standing ‘in the bay’ looking back towards town.

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Further down the road is where the Spring 2018 lava flow wiped out 700 houses. While I feel bad for the people and their loss, who builds their house in the path of a volcano that has been flowing nearly continuously for 100 years or more.

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Yet here they are again, already popping up these little houses on the freshly cooled lava.

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Returning the other direction along the coast, we passed through some great forests.

 

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Eventually we reached MacKenzie State Park. Note the fisherman climbing the precariously placed ladder on the left and his fishing pole on the right. I am not sure what he is catching, but I hope it is worth it.

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On another recent lava flow people have placed Cairns made out of coconuts and leaves instead of the traditional rock piles.

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But it did lead to another great coastal view.

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Returning to Hilo, we went to Wailuku River Park, and found this impressive Banyan tree.

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The highlight of the park is Rainbow Falls. If you are there in the morning you will most likely see a rainbow, but it was afternoon so alas, we only saw the waterfall.

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About 20 miles north of Hilo is Akaka Falls. The hike down was through another ‘jungle’, although this one was nicely paved.

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At 442′ high it is one of the tallest waterfalls in America.

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There are even small waterfalls coming out of the rocks to the side of the main falls.

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The falls in located near the town of Honomu.

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Interestingly many small Hawaiian towns are built in the ‘old west’ style, albeit much more colorful.

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Once again we had a great view from our hotel, facing west across Hilo Bay towards the mountains (obscured by clouds in this photo).

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Next door was Lili’uokalani Park and Gardens. The site was donated by Queen Lili’uokalani, with the park being built in 1917 in the Edo style Japanese Gardens.

It is thought to be one of the best in the world outside of Japan.

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Well maintained with beautiful trees and landscaping.

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Along with some sculptures.

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I am not sure what these are known as so I called them Bonsai Palms.

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The park was very relaxing, and a great way to end the day.

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Many of the native trees have really cool, funky looks to them.

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Chillin’ on Coconut Island.

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Our hotel grounds were directly on the bay.

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As the sun was setting the last of the days flights were arriving. The airport was nearby, and the flight path brought the planes down the coast with a hard left turn just before the field. The clouds and setting sun added to the look.

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Another great Hawaiian sunset. Note that Manua Loa has come out of the clouds in the background.

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With that it was time for dinner, with entertainment.

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Hawaii – November 2018 – Day 5 Volcano National Park

Having arrived after dark the night before, once the sun came up in the morning we found ourselves facing Kilauea. Showing my ignorance at some things in nature I always thought that a volcano was the huge cylindrical cone where everything came shooting out the top.

On this day I learned that they can be very different. For Mauna Loa, there have been numerous cauldrons/craters that have erupted over time. Even the most recent this spring, didn’t erupt in the cauldron, rather the lava lake that was in Kilauea disappeared as the lava exited lava tubes miles away, leaving this cauldron empty, except for the steam vents.

To me it looked like an abandoned strip mine with steam.

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Our visit continued with a drive down Chain of Craters Road, so named as it passes numerous craters from previous eruptions over the last 100 years.

Each crater has a different look depending on age.

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We stopped along the way and took a great 3 mile round trip hike across lava fields to Pu’u Huluhulu.

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The amount of vegetation that grows in what seems like impossible conditions is amazing, and beautiful. We found these berries growing everywhere.

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Through every available crack.

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Also interesting were the different surfaces, some were smooth, some with swirls, and this one with thousands of little indentations.

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Having completed our hike, we continued our drive towards the sea.

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Once we reached the ocean you could again see how volcanic activity forms all of Hawaii.

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The Holei Sea Arch is a 90′ high natural arch formed from the erosion of the lava cliffs from the pounding of the surf.

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Returning to the main part of the park (and people), we went for a walk along the steam vents. Unlike Yellowstone where there is a strong sulfur smell, these just felt and smelled like you are standing outside of a house in the winter where the drying vent is running – only much more so.

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The steam vents were all over the place.

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Many had offerings to the volcano gods to ask them to behave themselves.

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As with most of our days in Hawaii, it ended with a great sunset.

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Hawaii – November 2018 – Day 4 First Look at the Big Island

The Hawaiian Road Trip continued with an early flight to Kona. As with many things in travel, even getting there can be amusing.

Our flight was scheduled to leave at 6:45 AM. About 6:15 they announced a gate change, so we moved down 1 gate only to look out and see the mechanics working on the front wheels of the plane. They changed the front wheels – 4 times!

Finally satisfied we were ok to leave the first passenger boarded – a shackled prisoner with a goofy smile being lead down the jetway by a policeman.

Thankfully the flight itself was short and uneventful, and after about 25 minutes we found ourselves on the Big Island.

About an hour south of the Kona Airport we arrived at Pu’uhonua O Honaunau, a National Historic Park.

This park preserves a site where Hawaiians who broke a law could avoid death sentences by fleeing here as a place of refuge. By serving their penance, they could be absolved by a priest and set free.

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The site is considered sacred to native Hawaiians. Out of respect to the native Hawaiians, no activities occur within the park. It is a place for reflection and inner thoughts and peace.

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After leaving the park, we continued south along the coast. This area has for centuries been impacted by volcanic activity. Amazingly many of the houses are built on the lava flows.

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Our next destination was the South Point of the island. As we made the turn onto South Point Road, we stopped at a farm called Paradise Valley, where we met Raccine.

Paradise Valley is a small working farm where they have an assortment of Hawaiian specialties including Macadamia nuts, coffee trees, and banana trees (among many others), Raccine was more than happy to share with us an assortment of flavored nuts, and their specialty coffees. Later she took us on a tour of the farm.

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I was particularly amused with the banana trees.

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Finally we left (chowing down on the local chocolate and macadamia nuts), we made our was to the South Point of the Big Island. For those who have been to Key West and seen the ‘Southernmost Point in the United States’ marker, they are way off.

This part of Hawaii is on the same latitude as Guatemala. The point, as with much of the coast here, is from lava flow.

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While nearby the sea cliffs make an impressive view.

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People jump off he cliffs into the ocean!

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Many native Hawaiians feel their land and culture was stolen from them by the U.S. (very similar to the natives across the entire continents). We saw a number of signs stating – This is not the U.S., this is the Kingdom of Hawaii.

It should be noted that almost all of the people we met were very pleasant, receptive and welcoming, they just feel their land and culture has been hijacked.

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Nearby is the famed ‘Green Sand Beach’. I had read about this place before we arrived, so we made our way over to the parking lot at the top of a bluff overlooking the ocean.

As we walked across the parking lot there were old 4 wheel drive pickups that said ‘shuttle’. One of them asked us if we wanted a ride – nah I can see the ocean just down the hill.

With a total lack of preparedness we set off – only to figure out much too late it was a 3 mile hike across lava fields and dusty trails to get to the beach. To top it off I forgot water as I thought I was just heading down the hill.

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It was a long dusty hike to reach the beach. As we arrived one of the pickup shuttles was parked there. I told the driver I had 2 questions – first, do you do 1 way trips. Absolutely (whew)

Two – do you have any water for sale. Nope, but I can help you out. With that he opened his cooler in the back and handed me a cold beer! My new best friend.

With that cold beer I could finally enjoy the view of the famed green sand beach.

The ride back was insanely bumpy (almost so much I spilled my second beer).

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Safely back at the car we continued our journey, with our next stop being the Honu’apo Black Sand Beach. Thankfully it was only about 100 yard walk to the beach, and the sand was indeed black.

It was beautiful, and had an interesting somewhat coarse texture that felt good on the feet.

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It is also a turtle habitat.

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Our first day on the Big Island complete, we headed to our hotel at Volcano National Park in preparation for tomorrow.