So, where were we? Oh yes… the Big Island of Hawaii. By now, our lava photos and videos have had some time to cool, so we’ll fill you in on the rest of our time on the island. Although, compared to live, flowing lava, well…what can compare?
Along with Ann, we took a Kayak through Kealakekua Bay to the Captain Cook Monument. We had done this before but it was Ann’s first time, and it is always a lovely kayak trip. This is a protected area, so unless we wanted to pay way too much for a permit, we were not allowed to actually land anywhere. No problem. The bay is protected, so all we had to do was let our kayaks float around by themselves while we snorkeled.
Considering how many people snorkel here, the reef is in really great condition with more fish than you ever knew you could see in one place. And while we’re talking about Hawaiian reef fish, let’s just settle a little debate right now. The Hawaiian Black Triggerfish – also called Huma Huma ‘ele ‘ele – is a (mostly) black fish with w-h-i-t-e stripes. These stripes are not blue, despite the clear, Hawaiian waters making them look as though they are. I’m just sayin… (They are *so* blue – Stephanie.)
Next up was the Painted Church in Honaunau. This church has hand painted frescoes on the inside depicting various scenes from the bible. Personally, my favorites were the columns painted to look like palm trees. Stephanie’s favorite was the big, beautiful golden-colored dog sleeping under the pews. That was a first!
And of course, no visit to Kona would be complete without touring a coffee plantation – Greenwell Coffee Farms to be exact. Kona coffee is only grown in a narrow section of the eastern coast of the Big Island where the rain and sun are (almost) always predictable and reliable. We had an exuberant and informative guide show us around the plantation, as he explained the history and practices of the farm. Since Greenwell doesn’t roast the beans themselves, they don’t put their name on it, but many places that offer Kona coffee use Greenwell’s beans. This might’ve been Barry’s favorite stop on the island. After the tour, we spotted a cool iguana trying to hide in a tree right in front of where the car was parked.
In the evening we went out to dinner where the road on which we were staying ended at the sea. Now, dinner out is not such a remarkable thing. What is remarkable though is the Hawaiian sunset we enjoyed while we ate.
The next day, we drove north of Kona to visit Kaloko National Historic Park which features some fish ponds. These manmade enclosures were created by the ancient Hawaiians to let the fish in, but only let the seawater out. As we hiked along the sandy beach trail to the second fish pond, I spotted at least seven sea turtles swimming near the water’s edge, in each direction! Too bad the clear water didn’t last all the way back to the swimming area. At Honokohau harbor, we went snorkeling around the third fish pond in the murky water. We couldn’t see much, but we did spot a couple of the obligatory sea turtles. Stephanie swam way out into the deeper water and finally found some clarity and a bunch more fish.
The next morning we got up early and drove north again, this time all the way to Kohala. The big draw in Kohala was riding inflatable kayaks through the old irrigation ditches. These ditches were originally designed to bring water from the rainy mountaintops throughout the sugar cane plantations. Now that the cane fields aren’t really in use anymore, the trenches make for a fun, leisurely ride through mountain forests and hand-carved tunnels. The ditches were surrounded by leafy vegetation and picturesque waterfalls. The tunnels, some of which were quite long with low ceilings, were our favorite parts. The water on the wet shiny stone made it look as if they were coated in tiny jewels inside.
The company we went with is called Flumin’ Kohala, and our guides were great. They were knowledgeable and very funny, filling us in on plenty of local Hawaiian jokes. They admitted the ride through the ditches and tunnels was free before someone got the smart idea of selling it to us tourists. And at one point our guide even grabbed us some guava right off the tree. Mmm, mmm fresh!
After a quick lunch across the street from the King Kamehameha III statue, we visited Lakapahi State Park. We took a self-guided tour of the ancient Hawaiian ruins there. The site was on a hillside leading down to crystal blue water, and the hike was sweltering. We grabbed our bathing suits before leaving and cooled off in the ocean.
That evening the four of us drove up Mauna Kea – the tallest mountain on the island – for an evening star program. Wouldn’t you know it, that particular night featured low cloud cover which blocked the stars for hours? We did get to see a great movie about Mauna Kea, which went into the animal and plant life on the volcano, as well as the conflicts that have arisen among scientists and local Hawaiians as they try to share the mountain for their differing interests. By the time we could see the stars, it was very late and very cold, despite it being a relatively “warm” time of year. We did get to look at a couple of planets through telescopes. Personally, I never get tired of Saturn and its rings.
On our last full day we were pretty tired of heavy-duty activities, so we did something a little more low key. We went to tour the Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm, which we had heard about from our niece, who learned about it from a friend in school back home! These guys are dedicated to raising seahorses in captivity for sale to the pet trade. This prevents them from being threatened in the wild, and apparently we were pretty clueless about exactly how threatening the sea horse trade has been to these innocent creatures of the sea. As a bonus, we were able to “hold” a seahorse. They curl their little tails around your fingers and just hang out there for a bit. It’s really pretty cute, no matter how grown up you are.
In the afternoon we did some snorkeling with Ann at a very local black-sand beach. At first we swam way out deep along the side of the beach, and it turned out there wasn’t much reef there. We did see a couple of unique new things, though. When we swam back to the center of the beach and not so far out, we actually found a higher concentration of fish, and, guess what? Sea turtles!! It was a nice relaxing wrap-up to a nonstop month of Hawaiian activities.
On our very last day we watched the sun set from the Kona Airport before flying back to the Mainland. Even the airport can be beautiful on Hawaii!