K2inCanada's Blog

April 2, 2011

Big Island of Hawai’i – Mar 14-22

Filed under: Hawaii, Travel — K2 in Canada @ 8:51 AM

Sorry for the long wait – came back to a lot of work, a lot of club stuff and a lot of… But here are the highlights from our Hawai’i, the Big Island trip. I am still waiting for some of the snorkeling pictures so there may be another post about those.

All in all the trip was great – you just can’t beat the temperatures in Hawai’i in March compared to home. Mind you we had a bit more rain than I would have expected but that didn’t bother me. Finding campsites wasn’t as easy as on Oahu and Maui either but for the most part we managed okay and only stayed in hotels for two nights. First night in Kona with Jeff’s brother Brent and his girlfriend Sheila – those guys like to be prepared and had booked a place ahead – and one night in the northeast corner  in Honoka’a. I have to admit I was never this badly prepared for a trip as this time – the flight and rental car was all we arranged for. I didn’t even opened up a travel guide. Good thing we had Sheila with us who had been on the island before and knew a few things (as well as was able to read the Lonely Planet Guide while driving).

We spent the first 3 days around Kona – mostly the South Kona district – snorkeling, diving and getting sun burned. Besides it’s bad reputation and the crowds camping at Ho’okena Beach south of Captain Cook was well worth it. The snorkeling on the Big Island was really good – lots of fish, eel, turtles and wild dolphins to play with. The one dive we did (Sheila and I were diving while Jeff and Brent were snorkeling) was a night dive to see the manta rays – what a show, even though only one animal showed up for the ballet. Too bad I still seem to get seasick when sitting still under water or I would have been able to enjoy it even more. The guys, snorkeling at the surface, saw almost as much of the animal as us diving. Very cool.  The video below isn’t mine but it sure looks very similar to what we experienced: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o1vB43_fHOA

Kahulu

Sunset at Ho’okena Beach Park

Honaunau Bay – snorkeling with Dolphins

Kealakekua Bay – Need a kayak to get to the snorkeling grounds

Punalu’u Black Sand Beach – the turtle is alive

Day 4 and half of 5 were spent in and around Volcano National Park. For only $10 the four of us could have stayed for 7 days AND camp for free – an incredible deal. There are actually two drive-in campsites – one right on the highway with all the amenities like fresh water and electricity etc which is usually busy and a second site in the middle of the park in the Ka’u dessert which has nothing but a pad for the tent and a pit toilet – no fresh water. To Brent’s disappointment Jeff and I picked the second one – there wasn’t anybody else around and you really felt like being out there on the volcano with the sulphur clouds from the Halema’uma’u crater visible in the distance. Half the park was still closed due to the recent outbreak at Pu’u’O’o in early March and the wild fires that were still raging in the area. After the earthquake in Japan the volcano had quieted down and the lava stopped flowing completely (go figure) but the fires were still going due to very strong winds. We certainly could feel the winds in our campsite and it actually got quite cold at night. I was wearing a lot of the clothes I brought. We hiked down into the Kilauea Caldera and Kilauea Iki crater the first day. Great views and quite hot. In the afternoon we drove up Mona Loa all the way to the observatory – most of the drive was through barren lands. But man, it was freezing cold near the top at an elevation of 3379m (at least that’s what the GPS said when we parked the car) – the hike to the summit was another 6 miles and we didn’t have enough daylight left to do it.  The second day it rained a lot and we skipped our second hike and only had breakfast at the start of it. The Hilina Pali lookout really is worth the drive. Most of the day was spent driving as it rained a lot with a few nice sunny breaks here and there. After exchanging our rental car in Hilo (something wrong with the rear tire and we had a hard time keeping the car on the road) we explored the beaches along the southeast cost in the Puna district with its hot springs, tropical beaches, steep cliffs and the most famous lava flow that destroyed the town of Kalapana in 199o.

Camp at Kulanaokuaiki – Hawaii Volcano NP

Overlooking Kilauea Caldera

Kilauea Iki

Jungle surrounding the crater

Jeff being swallowd by Kilauea Iki

On the way to Mona Loa – acclimatising at 2000m

Ahalanui Thermal Pool

Forces of nature in Forgot-The-Name Beach Park

After spending the one really rainy night in this small basic hotel in Honoka’a for too much money day 6 was spent hiking in the valleys of the Eastern Kohala Mountains up north. The weather was still iffy with rain clouds hanging threatening low in the hills along the way. It took us a while to find a suitable and open hike. The most famous Waipi’o Valley actually had a sign saying visitors are not really welcome – except those that pay for a tour – go figure. There was another hike the Lonely Planet Guide advertised as the best on the island but that was closed to “earthquake” activities – hmm. We finally ended up driving all the way around the mountains to the Pololu Valley. Nice little hike up and down the cliffs – wild mangoes on the way up to the second valley made the uphill part much more bearable. We found other fruit as well but not quite as tasty. A rope was required to get down into the second valley – as it was straight down the cliff. Luckily someone already had one installed. And we did not get rained on while hiking although the sun didn’t make an appearance either – great for hiking, not so good for taking pictures.

Tropical rain forest near Hilo – Onomea Bay

Pololu Valley Lookout

Apparently a most dangerous hike down

Mango hunters

The last 2 days were spent west of the Kohala Mountains, camping at Kapa’a Beach Park for a couple of nights – no real beach and a bit tricky access to get into the water to snorkel but we had it all to ourselves at night – except for the “wild” cats (watch your food!). This side gets MUCH less rain than the east. We did take some history lessons at Lapakahi National Historic Park, an old Hawaiian village site. And checked out one of the “best” beaches on the Big Island – Hapuna Beach. Well it was a nice big sandy beach but you hardly could see the beach for all the people on it. Jeff, Brent and Sheila though enjoyed the bodysurfing in the small surf. I actually don’t like to get wet – well kayaking and snorkeling are different, there is a purpose behind getting wet – and walked the beach instead.

Kapaa Beach Park

Resident cat – there were at least 20

Local Flora & Fauna – Praying mantis

Lapakahi National Historic Site – old village remains

The “real” Hawaii – Hapuna Beach

My Hawaii – Waiulua Bay

Good Bye Hawaii – sigh

The flight back home came by far too early – so many things still to explore. Sheila and Brent had another couple of days and I am sure they were glad to be able to do a bit more off what they liked most 🙂 We’ll be back another time for sure!

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