Room With A Rainforest View

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As previously mentioned, our stay on the Big Island was split by spending a couple of nights in Kona and then packing up to head to the eastern side of the island to Hilo.  Actually we didn’t quite make it to Hilo, as we opted to spend the night closer to the volcano and stayed at the Volcano Inn, which is on Kilauea.

If you are expecting to see lava fields when staying at the Volcano Inn, then you’re going to be disappointed because it sits smack dab in the middle of a lush rainforest.  But we knew that going in and were excited by the completely dramatic shift from our Kona views.  All the colors were so vibrant–especially these red flowered plants–that they almost looked fake.  I totally kept touching them to make sure they were real!

Even more foreign was waking to the sounds of the rainforest.  We wandered down to breakfast, which included fresh banana bread and baked papaya with yogurt, bananas, and pineapple.  Since we were flying out to Kauai later that afternoon, we thought it was the perfect time to sample our fruit we purchased the day before from the South Kona Fruit Stand–and we didn’t want any of it confiscated at the airport!

After breakfast we went for a small hike into the rainforest, but were warned to stay on the path–which we did.  No one wanted to get lost because ain’t nobody got time for that: we had a helicopter tour and to find the Tsunami Clock of Doom before our flight to Kauai later that afternoon!

Soon it was time to pack up and depart from this perfect little hide-away spot, but adventure was calling!

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PS–I would like to take this time to clarify a certain picture (above) floating around Facebook that was taken at the Volcano Inn.  Despite what the picture shows–we did NOT make April ride in the trunk of the car!  I assure you she made it safely back to Minnesota!

Aloha!

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Flying High!

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If you ever find yourself in Hawaii and the opportunity presents itself, I would highly recommend taking a helicopter ride.  And I don’t say this lightly.  I’m not the type of person who takes helicopter rides whenever the fancy strikes (and theoretically I could, since I live in NYC and the helicopter tour people love to hound every man, woman, and child as they get off the subway and ferry at South Ferry).

But Hawaii is so stunning and picturesque with tons of geographic diversity, we found ourselves saying several times “we should have also taken a helicopter tour here.”  Where we did take a helicopter tour was on the Big Island, over the volcano.  Well, not directly over the caldera–but around it–and it was spectacular!

Now would be a great time to remind everyone that I’m technologically challenged (read: I couldn’t get the video I have to post).  So this post is only going to include still shots in order to get this to you in a timely fashion.  I will attempt to update it later when I can figure it out without the tick tock of a clock reminding me to post this NOW!

I’m not going to lie, I was a bit nervous.  I’m not overly fond of flying to begin with and in something smaller and more shaky than a plane was a bit daunting.  But our pilot seemed competent, had lots of credentials, and was not consuming mai tais, so after a safety video we donned our gear and boarded the helicopter.  Or well, helicopters–as we were actually split into two groups.

 

A couple of tests to make sure everyone’s headgear was working and we soon found ourselves wobbling towards the clouds.  As promised, once we reached our cruising altitude, the wobbling ceased.  Or perhaps it was the view that made you forget about the wobbling?  If so, it worked because my stomach stopped doing flips and the view was breathtaking!

 

We flew over Hilo and then headed towards Kilauea.  As we passed over the lava fields, our pilot dipped down several times so that we could view the lava flow at points were it had broken the surface.

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We circled around the caldera several times watching the lava breaking through in a circle.

 

We then headed back to Hilo and flew inland over the Wailuku river valley (and its waterfalls!) and then looped back out to the Hilo Bay.

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All too soon we found ourselves heading towards the airport and wobbling back to the ground.  And despite a few last panics of crashing and burning on our descent, we touched down light as a feather.

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Once both helicopters were on the ground and it was safe to approach, April and I met Christi and Tracy at their helicopter to end our fantastic tour with a final group shot before turning in our headsets and heading to explore Hilo.

 

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Aloha!

The Tsunami Clock of Doom

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The picturesque town of Hilo has been hit by three major tsunamis in the last century.  With no warning system and the largest wave, the first tsunami hit in 1946 and was the most deadly. The second hit in 1960 with a 35 foot wave, stopping the town clock at the time it was hit (1:04am).  The third was in 1975 and with the smallest wave of the three, caused the least amount of damage.

The clock is called the Hilo Clock–or more dramatically the “Tsunami Clock of Doom.”

Of course when I heard there was a such a thing called the “Tsunami Clock of Doom,” I felt compelled to see it (and may have been a tad bit insistent about it).

It sits along the Mamalahoa Highway in Hilo and I have to confess that we drove right past it several times before realizing it stands along the highway by the golf course, right before you cross the Waiākea Pond.

If you’re interested in reading more, I found an article in Hawaii Magazine with details about all three tsunamis:

April 1, 1946

  • Time struck: 6:54 a.m. (Hawaii Standard Time)
  • Source of tsunami: 7.1 magnitude earthquake in the Aleutian Islands, Alaska
  • Maximum wave height: 50 feet
  • Damages: $26 million ($300 million today)
  • Deaths: 159

May 23, 1960

  • Time struck: 1:05 a.m. (Hawaii Standard Time)
  • Source of tsunami: 8.3 magnitude earthquake in Chile.
  • Maximum wave height: 35 feet
  • Damages: $24 million ($171 million today)
  • Deaths: 61 people

November 29, 1975

  • Time struck: 3:35 a.m. (Hawaii Standard Time)
  • Source of tsunami: 7.2 magnitude earthquake off the southeastern coast of Big Island of Hawaii.
  • Maximum wave height: 26 feet
  • Damages: $1.4 million ($5.6 million today)
  • Deaths: 2 people

To read the full article, click here.  And if you wanted to read more about the clock, go to Roadside America’s website.

Instead of being restored, the clock was left with its hands frozen at 1:04 and now stands as a memorial for those who perished in the tsunamis.

Aloha.

 

A Little Geography Lesson

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I don’t know about you, but when I think of the location of the Hawaiian Islands I tend to think of it as smack dab in the middle of the Pacific Ocean due west of California.

However, it is actually a little bit further south than “due west of California.”  Okay, quite a bit south of “due west of California.”

The Hawaiian Islands lie just below of the Tropic of Cancer–so if you want a “due west of” think Southern Mexico. To put it in USA geography terms, Key West (the Southernmost point in the continental United States) lies north of the Tropic of Cancer.  In fact, Hawaii is so remote that it is not even considered part of the North American continent (see the map from World Atlas below)!

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The reason I’m mentioning this is because we decided to split our trip to the Big Island by spending a couple of nights in Kona and then a night in Hilo.  April & I were in charge of selecting the route and finding fun things to do along the way to Hilo.  We opted for the Southern Route, which afforded us options to drive through the mountainous terrain of Kona, the overlook of Kealakekua Bay (where the fate of Captain Cook was decided), the volcano lava fields, the Mauna Loa macadamia nut company, a green sand beach, and the actual southernmost point in the United States.

After we left Greenwell Farms, we headed south down the main “highway.”  Actually, highway was a bit of a stretch–much like our “yacht” in Greece.  Winding, narrow two lane road is a bit more accurate, but it was scenic, so we didn’t care!  Or perhaps Tracy did, since he was the one driving….but we girls didn’t mind one bit!  😉

Our first stop came only a few minutes down the road when we drove by the South Kona Fruit Stand.  We decided that smoothies were the perfect thing for our trip south, along with some very interesting fruit we had never heard of…or heard of but never tried, like lilikoi, star fruit, and dragon fruit!

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With smoothies in hand and fruit in the trunk, we continued south along the Mamalahoa Highway taking in the picturesque coastline views on one side and the lush mountain on the other side.  Our next destination was Nā‘ālehu, home to both a green sand beach (more about that later) and Ka Lae, the southernmost point on the Big Island, which is the southernmost island, thus is the southernmost point in the United States.

Why, yes, I do like saying southernmost–thankyouverymuch!

So we turned off the “highway” onto an even smaller road and wound our way here and there whilst following signs to the green sand beach and Ka Lae.  We actually went to the beach first but it is deserving of its own post.  After our trek to the beach, we stopped at Ka Lae for a glimpse of what seemed to be the edge of the world.

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For those of you who would love the chance to jump off the edge of the world, there was even a platform–and a group of people willing.

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And just in case you didn’t feel like scaling the steep wall back up or drifting out to sea (although I don’t see why not, after all the Kiribati Atolls are only 1200 miles away!), there was even a ladder to help you.

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I peeked over and decided I was perfectly happy not jumping and drifting off to sea and/or climbing the ladder of death back up.

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A few more quick shots and then we were on our way–having crossed off another item on our Hawaiian to-do list!

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The Pilgrimage to (Coffee) Mecca

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Let me start out this post with a bit of house keeping:

  1. Yes, I’m technically late with this posting….although I will argue that it’s still Saturday in Hawaii and since this post is about Hawaii, I’m using that as my justification for the lateness.
  2. When writing don’t forget to click save/update frequently, lest you walk away and the iPad goes into sleep mode and magically erases the last hour of work.  I know this is basic computer 101, but I’m so used to writing on the computer–which automatically saves it–that I forgot on the App, saving is manual.
  3. I realize as I’m typing this for the second time that I suppose I should have started with our time in Oahu, since that is where we started our trip. However, given the fact that I’m retyping this all again, I’m more committed than ever to start with the Big Island. Besides, I don’t know that I’ve ever written about any of my trips in order, so why start now?
  4. Just in case it wasn’t clear in Planning To Get Lei’d, the person who insisted we go to the Big Island so that we could tour coffee plantations was little ol’ me.

Shocking, right?!?!?

I’m just going to pause here for a moment and let all the people who actually know me stop laughing.

For those of you who do not know me and/or haven’t had the pleasure of dealing with me sans coffee, the easiest way to describe my love of coffee is to say that I’m 99.9738% certain that my blood type is C for coffee–or perhaps more accurately, K for Kenya and Kona, my two favorite types of coffee.

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So there was no way in hell that I was going to fly allllllll the way to Hawaii and not go to Kona.  Period.  End of discussion.  Perhaps that is why everyone acquiesced to my suggestion of visiting the Big Island.  Of course, I could have easily made the entire trip about coffee, but I didn’t.  Since my darling friends were kind enough to agree to travel with me to the Big Island, I was kind enough to agree on visiting only one coffee plantation (the parameters set to me went something like “fine, we’ll go to A coffee plantation.  You pick.  You pick ONE.”)

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Yes, that’s right.  I’m a big, fat tease and am NOT going to tell you about our trip to the coffee plantation–just yet.  First I want to introduce you to Hawaii, the Big Island.

The best part of the Big Island (aside from THE best pina colada I’ve ever had in my life) is that every where you go, Kona coffee is on the menu.  I was like a kid in a candy shop anytime we went somewhere and I saw it on the menu.  I mean, sure you expect it but when you get there and see that it is an actuality, it’s quite delightful.  Well, delightful to me–I’m not sure everyone else in the group felt the same!

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Here are some more delightful…or rather informative tidbits about the Big Island.  Most of my information comes from hawaii.com, which should be your first stop when planning to visit Hawaii.  And they’re not even paying me to say that, although I would be perfectly a-okay if they wanted to pay me to say that–and visit more often.  Just saying…

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  • Hawaii, aka The Big Island, is so named because it is the biggest of the Hawaiian islands.  Just in case you were confused, thought they were being ironic, or wanted to be argumentative.
  • It is just over 4,000 square miles and is the youngest of the islands.
  • It has 12 distinct climate zones ranging from rainforest to snowcap peaks.
  • It was formed with 5 volcanoes, although only two of them are still active.  One of which is Kilauea, the longest continuously erupting volcano in the world (this eruption phase started in 1983!).
  • One of the most fascinating aspects is how different the weather is on each side of the island.  Hilo boasts an average rainfall of 128 inches, whereas directly across the island a mere 75 miles away is Kawaihae, who only receives about 10 inches of rain a year!
  • It is home to four coffee regions: Kona, Ka’u, Puna, and Hamakua. There are approximately 790 coffee plantations (do you know how hard it was to only pick one?!?!?!) on the Big Island, however, the largest coffee planation is actually in Kauai!
  • The Big Island is home to both a green sand and a black sand beach (more about those later!).
  • The southern most tip of the Big Island is actually the most southern point in the United States.
  • And just in case you thought it was all fun and games and coffee, Captain Cook was captured, killed, and eaten at Kealakekua Bay (just south of Kailua-Kona).

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Aloha!

 

 

Fresh Open Air…Port?

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I have been to a lot of airports in my life, but thus far, have never experienced any quite so open as the ones in Hawaii. 

Literally.


I haven’t really traveled much in the tropics, so perhaps all airports in the tropical places of the world are like this?  Certainly no airports that I’ve been in, not even the bane of my existence LAX, where you have an outdoor trek to get from terminal to terminal.  


I do confess that I didn’t notice it in Honolulu, other than to think that the walk from the gate to the outside was like 30 seconds, especially when compared to places like JFK, DFW, or even smaller airports like Tampa that tease you with views of the outside, but it takes a train ride and a walk to actually breathe fresh air.

Not true on the Big Island or Kauai, where there was plenty of fresh open air inside the airport terminals. It seemed that pretty much just the walkways, seating areas, and restaurants were covered and not much else. It was a little surreal (in a very good way) when we deplaned on the Big Island and could see palm trees and stars.


A very nice reminder that we were, in fact, no where near home.


PS–in case it wasn’t clear because I did write about other airports, ALLLLLLL of these pictures were of Hawaiian airports, like Kona, Hilo, and Lihue…but maybe not in that order. OBVIOUSLY if you saw yesterday’s post, you know that copious amounts of adult beverages were consumed and things start to go fuzzy. 

PPS–I know there are (and I have been to) multiple airports where you have to walk outside to transfer terminals, however, I never miss an opportunity to remind the world LAX is the bane of my existence.

Aloha!