Hawaii Part 2: Exploring Hawaii Big Island


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Published: May 31st 2014
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My Big Island Round Trip

From Honululu to Hilo on the east coast, to Volcanoes National Park, to South Point, to Kailua-Kona, to Hawi, and via Waimea back to Kailua-Kona and from there via Honolulu back to Singapore.

Akaka FallsAkaka FallsAkaka Falls

... on the east side of the island, not far from Hilo. The water falls down about 400 feet.
The day after the conference in Honolulu (Honolulu is located on the island of Oahu) I left for the island after which the entire chain of islands is named: Hawaii. For clarification Hawaii is often also called Big Island and there is some truth in the name because it is in fact the biggest of all the islands and all of the other islands would easily fit into this one. Hawaii is the southern most of the islands and also the youngest one. The islands exist due to a hot spot in the crust of the earth across which one of the tectonic plates our earth consists of move from southeast to northwest. So Hawaii, the youngest island, is in the southeast, whereas the oldest islands, Kauai and Lanakai, lie in the northwest and will gradually erode back into the ocean.

Never before have I seen so many different climate zones and sceneries within such limited space. There are beaches surrounded by tropical rain forest, a few miles down the road the landscape becomes arid with only brown grass and a few bushes. Continue for a few miles and you will see a green landscape with a few trees. The
KilaueaKilaueaKilauea

... steaming. At night the steam is illuminated in red by the magma underneath.
landscape might then drop down into the ocean with some steep cliffs and waterfalls in the background. Drive a few miles up into the highlands and you will feel like in the Alps. And of course there is lava everywhere and people there literally live on an active volcano. There are steaming holes and the smell of sulphur in the southeast of the island, and there are some very young lava fields. There are three volcanoes on the island, Mauna Kea in the north and Mauna Loa and Kilauea in the south. Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa are both almost 14,000 feet tall, and Mauna Loa is, if measured from the bottom of the ocean, the most massive and tallest mountain on earth, taller even than Mount Everest. Mauna Loa and Kilauea are still active and erupt at regular intervals. Kilauea constantly emits steam in one of its craters and at night the steam is illuminated in red because of the magma underneath.

As Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa are so tall the centre of the island is usually covered in clouds so that the peaks of the mountains are not visible. However, around the coast the weather is
In the Kilauea CraterIn the Kilauea CraterIn the Kilauea Crater

Lots of these bushes there, the red flowers look great against the backdrop of the black lava. And remember, we are in the crater of an active volcano!
usually nice and sunny, and the climate is quite pleasant anyway.

I flew into Hilo in the east coast and rented a car there. However, my stay on the island did not start off very well. When I got to my pre-booked Bed and Breakfast I almost fainted because the place looked like one of these houses where antisocial people live, with everything old and rotting. Moreover, nobody was home and nobody answered the phone. I drove off as quickly as possible and found myself a not-too-nice hotel in town. The next unpleasant surprise was awaiting me already: a minor catastrophe had happened and one of our clients was extremely unhappy and the issue needed quick fixing. My colleagues in Singapore and Germany and I had to act quickly and we did and in the end after a few hours’ work it seems that the issue was settled. And I even managed to do some sightseeing. I drove north to the Akaka Falls, a very scenic waterfall that falls down 400 feet and that is surrounded by beautiful rain forest. Afterwards I drove further north along cliffs and some rocky beaches until I arrived at Laupahoehoe Harbor, then decided
Kilauea IkiKilauea IkiKilauea Iki

Another crater not far from Kilauea Crater.
to drive back into Hilo. Hilo itself I did not like that much. I could not find a real city centre and the whole place just looked as if it had already seen better days. I could not find a place for a late dinner either and ended up getting something from “Subway”.

On Monday morning I needed to do some more work in order to make sure that the client would stay happy and then headed off for the Volcanoes National Park. It is only a 45 minute drive from Hilo and I had booked a very nice B&B in Volcano Village right at the park entrance for two nights. After checking in there I had lunch and then went straight into the park. I love the US national parks because they usually have great visitor centres with knowledgeable park rangers, well-prepared hiking trails, and good roads and road signs pointing you the way through the park. After a visit in the visitor centre I drove around the crater of Kilauea. The visitor centre, a museum, and a hotel literally sit on the rim of the crater. There are steaming holes and the smell of sulphur everywhere. From
Chain of Craters Road IChain of Craters Road IChain of Craters Road I

The end of the road at the coast, 4,000 feet below the Kilauea Crater. The water makes the lava erode and turn into arcs like this that eventually will collapse into the sea.
the crater rim at an altitude of about 4,000 feet there is a road going all the way down to the coast, the Chain of Craters Road. There are various lookouts and stops from where one can see craters, lava fields, and steaming holes. First one drives through tropical rain forest, then the vegetation becomes more scarce, and eventually, at the coast, there is only dry grass and a few palm trees. At the coast there is also a part of a road that was covered by lava some years ago. Sometimes apparently one can even see the hot lava flow into the sea. However, not that much action when I was there.

I gradually made my way back up and left the park for a nice dinner in the “Kilauea Lodge”. After dinner I returned to the park in order to see the steam coming out of Kilauea glow in red. It is amazing. The legend is that the volcano goddess Pele lives in there and when seeing the red steam I could totally relate to that.

The next morning I went for two three hour hiking tours. The first one took me past some steaming vents,
Chain of Craters Road IIChain of Craters Road IIChain of Craters Road II

The coast line at the bottom of Kilauea.
along the rim of and into Kilauea crater, then into the adjacent Kilauea Iki crater, into Thurston Lava Tube, back along the Kilauea Iki crater rim, and then back to the visitor centre. I had lunch in Volcano House, the hotel and restaurant located on the rim of Kilauea crater, with the view of the steaming crater. In the afternoon I walked across a huge lava field and past many steaming holes and felt like in one of these science fiction movies. For dinner I went back to Volcano House and enjoyed the view of the red steam coming out of Kilauea crater once more while having dinner.

The next morning I left Volcano Village and drove south. My first stop was at Punaluu Beach, a beach with completely black sand. From there I drove to South Point, the southernmost point of the United States. However, there was not much to see. It is just cliffs (of which one can actually jump off), sand, and grass. So to me it was really only something you would do in order to be able to say that you have been there.

Another beach is not far from South Point: a
Chain of Craters Road IIIChain of Craters Road IIIChain of Craters Road III

After a pretty recent outbreak the road was covered with lava.
beach with green sand. I definitely wanted to see this one. However, it is not accessible by a normal car. It is either a rather unpleasant three mile walk (rather boring and there is no shade on the way) or a rather unpleasant ride on a four wheel truck. I decided in favour of the latter option, and I realised that you would really only want to do this ride with a driver who is really experienced in four wheel driving (ours was apparently). The beach itself is pretty spectacular, surrounded by steep cliffs, with truly green sand. The sand is green because of a certain mineral and I heard that it is one of only two green beaches in the world, with the other one being in Guam. After returning from the tour, I was not green but rather red. Literally. I was all covered in red dust and this is how I went for lunch and how I later checked into my hotel in Kailua-Kona on the west side of the island. I needed a shower first!

My hotel was located right on the coast with a pool and Jacuzzi that offered a view of the sea.
Punaluu Black Sand Beach ParkPunaluu Black Sand Beach ParkPunaluu Black Sand Beach Park

... in the south of the island.
My hotel room was huge, with two bathrooms and even a kitchen. I booked a snorkelling tour for the next morning, had a coffee by the pool, and then went for a stroll through Kailua-Kona. I liked the place. It is nicely located along the coast with shops, bars and restaurants. It is very touristy, but I did not mind that too much. This is also where the famous Iron Man takes place every year in October. I gave myself another treat and had a nice Jazz dinner with the view of the sea.

The next morning I went snorkelling. A boat took a whole bunch of tourists south to a bay with incredibly clear water. On our way to the bay we had breakfast on the boat and then had about two hours for exploring the bay. I enjoyed it a lot. There were a lot of fish in the brightest colours – yellow, blue, red, black, with stripes and spots and in all kinds of shapes. They were not too shy so I could get rather close to them. That was really fun and I only interrupted my snorkelling twice, once for trying out the slide on
Green Sand BeachGreen Sand BeachGreen Sand Beach

... in the south of the island. Apparently this is one of only two beaches in the world with green sand. The other one is supposed to be in Guam.
the boat, and once for a quick lunch. My whole back got beautifully “lobsterised” although I had applied sun screen of the highest protective factor. But the fun was definitely worth it.

When getting back to the hotel I took a quick dip in the pool and in the Jacuzzi, had a nap, and then drove north along the coast. The landscape turned from dry and treeless with brown grass into green and fertile and then into rain forest. I drove all the way to the very north of the island, to the village of Hawi. It is a small village with a kind of hippie atmosphere and I just had to stop for an ice cream. Then I went on the nearby Kapaau, where there are a lot of shops selling pieces of art. There is also a statue of King Kamehameha I who lived in the 18th century and who united the tribes on the islands.

I drove the highway until its end at scenic Pololu Valley, made a stopover at Keokea Beach Park, and then started making my way back. I decided to drive back via Waimea, a town that is a higher up in
South PointSouth PointSouth Point

The southern most point of the US. You can actually jump off this cliff (which I did not do).
the mountains, and was surprised to find a landscape that reminded me of the Alps, even with cows everywhere around. The trip from Waimea back to Kailua-Kona was rather boring because it was already dark and the journey seemed to take forever. But eventually I arrived there, had Indian food for dinner, and then went straight to bed.

On Friday morning I had a sleep in, then checked out of the hotel, dropped my rental car off at the airport of Kailua-Kona and started the long journey back to Singapore via Honolulu and Tokyo. I really enjoyed my time on Big Island and after a not so nice start I had a great time there!


Additional photos below
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Sunset in Kailua-KonaSunset in Kailua-Kona
Sunset in Kailua-Kona

... on the west side of the island.
Pololu ValleyPololu Valley
Pololu Valley

... in the north east of the island, where the highway ends.
Between Hawi and WaimeaBetween Hawi and Waimea
Between Hawi and Waimea

No, we are not in the Alps. This is Hawaii, somewhere between Hawi and Waimea in the northwest of the island.
Kona Coast ResortKona Coast Resort
Kona Coast Resort

... where I stayed during my two nights in Kailua-Kona. View from the pool café towards the Jacuzzi, golf course, and coast.


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