This last week (Wednesday thru Tuesday) I was spending time around the Big Island of Hawaii with my younger brother, Aaron, and his friend Randy.
What a trip it was. I saw so much during the short amount of time we were on the island and so glad I was able to get away. It wasn’t the cheapest vacation, however for everything it cost me right around a thousand bucks. Not too bad. The flight there and back was only around $400 and we ended up spending most nights in the Kona Islander Inn which only ran us around $80 a night (with tax) for a place right in downtown Kona. Our rental car ran us only $180 or so for the entire week we were there, and since they were out of the vehicle size we paid for, they gave us a free upgrade into a nice SUV. The rest of the money was spent on food (expensive), drinks, entertainment, and gifts. Overall, though not a cheap trip, it was still cheaper than most spend and it was completely worth it.
Dolphins Gone Wild
The first full day there we had a chance to get snorkel gear and found a great location to swim called “Pu’Uhonua O Honaunau” National Park. This place was a great starting location that gave us a chance to try out our snorkel gear and see the beauty of the Hawaiian waters. On our way out after a good amount of snorkeling, someone about to get in stopped us and asked if we wanted to see something cool. Well, of course we said yes and he ended up taking us into the ocean a few hundred feet. The water there was great though quite eerie since we couldn’t even see the bottom. Next thing we knew though he had dropped a flower around 50 feet down, swam away, and in just a few seconds we were surrounded by wild dolphins! What a surreal moment. Something I will never forget. The evening was spent reminiscing about what we saw and enjoying some good food and drinks.
Captain James Cook’s Monument
The following day we went early to pick up a kayak for heading out to Kealakekua Bay. This is the location of Captain James Cook’s Monument which has some of the best snorkeling in the world; such a pristine and beautiful spot to swim and see the thousands of tropical fish around. We kayaked from the Kealakekua Bay Park over to the monument and had such a thrill in this beautiful location. Definitely a touristy spot for as in the couple hours we were there I saw half a dozen boats with people wanting to swim in the coral. We followed this adventurous afternoon with another evening of meeting people and having a great time.
Turtles in the Sea
On our way around both spots we kept being told about seeing sea turtles, however never saw one at either location. We then spoke to some locals who told us to check out a park at the end of Alii Drive called Kahaluu Bay Park. This park was full of tourists and so we figured we’d find something. We went out and began enjoying the snorkeling. After some time just dabbling in the water we began to make our way out deeper and away from all the people. On our way out we spotted a sea turtle swimming around. What a site. So graceful! (I don’t have the pictures for this yet, but once I do, I’ll be sure to make an update.) That night we ended up making a fabulous BBQ dinner of shrimp shish kabobs. These were such a great finish to an already amazing day.
Saturday morning we headed up North around the island to Hilo. On the way there we stopped at Waipi’o Valley. We didn’t make the hike down, but instead we went to the stop at the top and took in the beautiful view.
Taking off from Waipi’o Valley off to Hilo was a beautiful drive. The east side of the island is very green and full of bright colors. There were a number of spots we saw along the way that just took our breath away.
We reached Hilo around eight o’clock and checked into Uncle Billy’s. This place sounds crappy, but it was actually quite a nice place to stay. The view outside the room was great. Hilo is very green and gets a ton of rain, but for being a college town, it was very lacking in its night life scene for being a Saturday night. We ended up finishing the night early after having some food and a couple drinks.
That morning we slept in a bit and took some great shots of the Liliuokalani Gardens which is a block or so away from Uncle Billy’s. This garden was fantastic. I felt more like I was in Japan than Hawaii when seeing this park.
On our way out of town we stopped at one of the best astronomy museums I’ve ever seen. This amazing location was the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center. This place had a mix of Hawaiian history and astronomy. We ended up finishing our tour of the center with a planetarium show. This show was called “We Are Astronomers” and had to of been the most informational and great looking planetarium show I’ve ever seen.
Because it was getting close to sundown, we had over an hour to drive up Mauna Kea Mountain to the peak (13,800ft) where there are 13 telescopes (12 observatories). The drive up was quite intense, even in our SUV, driving up this mountain. We even had to get out towards the top to get use to the lack of oxygen and to change into some warmer clothing (it was 30 degrees at the top). Once we got to the top we found out that it was totally worth it. There was cloud cover so we couldn’t see the stars (which really sucked), but it gave us a chance to talk our way into one of the observatories! What an awesome opportunity that I knew I probably wouldn’t have again until my brother is working at one. Thanks astronomer who snuck us inside!
We left with my brother saying that he is planning to attend University of Hawaii – Hilo when he gets his stuff together. What an awesome opportunity that would be and I sure hope he can (so I have a place to stay). He knows his stuff when it comes to astronomy and I know he will be successful if he sticks with it. Good job, bro!
The mountain was tamed and we were off back to Kona instead of staying in Hilo another night. This was a great idea since we enjoyed Kona so much more.
We arrived back into Kona around 8:30 and were able to check back into the Kona Islander Inn for a cheap price. Thank goodness, we had no plans otherwise!
That night we went out and met up with a traveler we had met a few days ago and hung out with him. After enjoying some drinks and food we decided to have him go with us in the morning to see more of the island.
Green Sand and Cliff Diving
That morning we got things together, met up with Matt, and grabbed some breakfast. I then drove the almost two hours down to South Point. This area is so dry and remote, but as we got closer to the water, we knew it was going to be great.
After getting down south we drove to a parking area and began our 3+ mile hike in flip-flops over to the green sand beach called “Papakolea Beach”. The hike getting here wasn’t too terrible even though we were in flip-flops walking over lava rocks and dusty dirt trails. The problem was just going around every corner expecting to see this beach. After being wrong a dozen times, we finally made our way to this remote location. What a site. Tucked under wind torn rocks and a sandy ravine was a beautiful swimming cove at the bottom of the Big Island. The sand wasn’t as green as I was hoping, but was still worth it due to the swimming conditions. Be sure to check it out. We left the beach and were luckily greeted by a local who takes people back and forth from this spot to the parking in his 4×4 truck. How thankful were we to not have to hike back in wet flip-flops and wet clothes!
After getting back to parking we drove off to the South Point cliffs for some great cliff jumping. We ended up meeting some locals who jump here all the time and with their lead Randy and I took our leaps of faith off the 50ft cliffs into the deepest blue water I have ever seen. We followed this up by diving through the lava tube (a 20ft diameter rocky hole) which led into the ocean surrounded by rock which made us very cautious. The two of us still jumped however not wanting to be outdone by the young locals. Another place I truly recommend to go checkout.
We dried off, got cleaned up, and headed back to Kona where we had a great time meeting up with a friend of mine from Salem who now lives in Kona, HI. A great ending to our last full day in Hawaii.
Final Day in Hawaii
The week went by so quickly, and though we saw a ton, we realize there is so much more to see in Hawaii, and even just the Big Island. The last day there we were going to get tattoos, but we only ended up having time for one to get done. Randy was the receiver who got a great tattoo of ‘Imiloa’s logo on his left calf; great tattoo and very memorable. We then got everything together and drove to the airport. I dropped off my brother and his friend Randy who were taking off around 1pm. I luckily had another six hours to enjoy in Hawaii, which I did!
I ended up meeting back with Matt and enjoyed some food and drinks over at the Kona Brewery. Interesting to find out that all beer made in Hawaii never leaves the island. It is tapped and distributed on the island only. Everything that is in a bottle around the globe however is actually made in Oregon. The water from Oregon is modified to taste like the Kona water. Even bottled beer on the island comes from the bottling location in Oregon. Crazy stuff. The brewery itself was pretty cool along with having some very tasty beers. A great place to go for my final location in Hawaii.
I said my goodbyes, and left to the airport for my flight home. On the way I had a late flight, slept in the San Francisco airport for a few hours, and got back into Portland around 10am on Wednesday. I was very glad to get home, but I sure miss Hawaii!!! I can’t wait to go back…which will hopefully be sooner than later!