Hawaii, The Big Island

Friday, September 09, 2016
Kona Hawai, Hawaii, United States
We flew from Kapalua to Kona on Mokulele Airlines which gave us a great view of Maui as well as our destination as we landed. The first thing you notice about the Big Island is the black lava, it is everywhere. Even Kona airport is set on a lava field.

From the airport we set off south down the coast with our first stop, Kealakekua Bay which is where Captain James Cook was killed . It appears he was killed after a misunderstanding with the local Hawaiians because the crew had already spend some weeks there. There is a monument on the north shore of the bay marking the spot where Cook was killed. It was erected in 1874 and is only accessible by water. The rest of the drive to get to Hilo on the east coast was through either rolling fields or relatively recent (<200 years) lava flows. One of the fascinating sites is seeing the houses built on lava with nothing else around them – it takes all types I guess.

Hilo was a lot bigger than we expected and is situated on Hilo Bay which due to the lava going right down to the water, is not really a swimming area. The town has a number of wooden and/or stone buildings on the US National Heritage list. However, for us it gets into the news mostly because it is often in the path of the hurricanes that hit the islands during the summer months. Already two this year have caused quite a bit of damage due mainly to flooding . As can be imagined, a lot of the surrounding area is very green and lush. One of the main attractions in Hilo are the Rainbow Falls, which are 80 ft (24 m) tall and drop into a 100ft (30 m) pool. The name comes from the fact that on sunny mornings around 10am, rainbows can be seen in the mist thrown up by the waterfall.

After spending the night in Hilo, we drove to Volcano National Park about 25 miles away. On the way we stopped at Kilauea Lodge which was built in the 1930s – great brunch. The surrounding village is actually called Volcano and has some nice galleries. We then checked into Volcano House, a restored hotel, dating back to 1846, which overlooks Halema'uma‘u Crater at the summit of Kilauea. The crater, which is in the centre of a huge treeless caldera, has been erupting continually since 1983, making it the world's most active volcano. The caldera is inaccessible because it is apparently quite hot only a few feet below the surface which is also why nothing grows there . During the day you can see volcanic gas coming out of the crater from Volcano House but a better view is from the Jagger Museum, a few miles away. The other phenomena in the area are the steam vents which are formed when water seeps down to the hot volcanic rocks in this area and returns to the surface as steam.

However, it is at night that you get the most spectacular views. We went back to the museum after dinner and it was truly amazing even though the volcano was only bubbling rather than spewing. The colours vary between red (800-1000oC), orange (1000-1150oC) and white/yellow (1200-1400oC). This was certainly the highlight of our trip.

Next morning we drove through the centre of the island to the west coast. The road goes on the side of Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano from where you can also see Mauna Loa rising on the southern side. It’s cattle country mainly with not a lot of trees. Sue got a great walkup deal at the Waikoloa Hilton Resort which is rather large and not the usual type of place we stay but we had a large room with nice views and was excellent to use as a base . The really flash resort on the coast is the Four Seasons but we limited ourselves to only having a light lunch there.

On our final full day we drove to the north Kohala coast. A lot of this is lush rain forests and shows some real island life. The villages of Hawi and Kapaau are take you back into time with eclectic shops and buildings, and a couple of nice galleries – always included on our travels to make Sue happy. The area is also famous as the birth place of King Kamehameha I (1736 – 1819), who unified the islands of Hawaii and became its first ruler. There is a large origin statute of him in Kapaau. Forged in Florence, Italy in 1880, the ship that was ferrying the statue to Honolulu sank off the Falkland Islands. Believed to have been lost at sea, a replacement statue was commissioned and erected in Downtown Honolulu as seen in front of police headquarter in the TV series, Hawaii Five-0. However, the original statue was miraculously found and recovered in 1912 and the restored statue is now installed near Kamehameha’s birthplace at Kapaau .

Before we flew back to Maui, we spent a few hours in Kona walking along the waterfront. There are some historic buildings including the Mokuaikaua Church, the oldest church in the Hawaiian Islands completed in 1837 and the Huliheʻe Palace, a former royal holiday residence opened in 1838. Many of the buildings are the typical wooden structures seen in similar towns in the islands with some of them built over the water.

We found out as we flew back home, Maui had experienced heavy rain and flooding while we were away. You could see how wet it had been from the air but the most significant feature was the amount of mud that had been washed into the sea. The weather meant we flew through some spectacular cloud formations. Also as an aside, when we went to pick up Chandler the next day, we saw a number of car stranded in water up to their windows. The water also meant that the normal one hours drive was closer to three hours but it’s worth it for our boy.