The BIG Island of Hawai'i Part I: Tropical Forests, Waterfalls, Volcanos, and and Ancient Hawaiian Sanctuary


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North America » United States » Hawaii » Big Island » Kailua-Kona
October 22nd 2015
Published: October 25th 2015
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The Plan

We've visited the island of Oahu many times, but never any other Hawaiian island. So last year when I got a call from Hilton Vacations offering six nights at the Hilton Waikoloa Village on the Kailua-Kona coast of the Big Island for a very low price we decided to take the deal.

The resort is situated on the northwestern side of the island. We planned four day trips to see every part of the island, with the days for each trip depending upon the weather:

- a short day to Kailua-Kona and surrounding area.

- a short day to the Kawaihae Coast (northwestern side), as far as Hawi and the Polulu Valley Overlook, and then inland to Waimea and ranch country;

- a medium length day along the Kona Coast (southwestern side) to the sights in the Captain Cook area and then to Ka Lae, the southern most point of the island of the United States.

- a long day to along the Hamakua Coast (northeastern side where most of the rainforest is located) seeing its steep valleys and waterfalls and the sights near Hilo, then ending up at the Hawaii Volcanos National Park (southeastern side) where we would stay until dark to see the red glow from the crater; and

This left three days for swimming at the hotel pools and nearby beaches which are said to be some of the finest in Hawai'i if not the world.

What Actually Happened

22 October 2015 Thursday. We don't like getting up 3:30 AM to drive from Woodland Park to DIA for an early morning flight. We learned that when staying at a DIA airport hotel, in addition to having a shuttle, parking at the hotel is free for a week or more, thus avoiding airport parking fees. So we decided to drive to our daughter's home in Fort Collins the day before to drop off our dog Bonnie (our neighbor graciously feeds our cats), and then stay at an airport hotel for the night...the cost of the hotel being less than what we would have paid for parking. We left a wake up call for 4:30 AM, but were awakened by the call at 3:30 AM. It didn't matter as we were already awake...can't sleep much the night before a big trip. At DIA we learned our flight, scheduled to depart at 7 AM, was rescheduled to 7:40 AM leaving just 35 minutes to catch our flight from Seattle to Kailua-Kona. The Alaskan Airlines reservations agent kindly rebooked our seats from 24A-B to 10 A-B to allow for a faster exit from the plane in Seattle. Fortunately tailwinds got us to Seattle 20 minutes early. Our six hour flight to the Kailua-Kona was uneventful, and we landed at 1:25 PM. We picked up our free rental car, but didn't know how to start it as the ignition was just a start button. I soon learned to put my foot on the brake before pushing the start button. We drove directly to the Hilton Waikoloa Village which is 20 miles north of the airport. For supper we ordered guava barbeque chicken pizza from the hotel's Italian restaurant and hit the sack as we were both tired from the early start and the four hour time zone difference.

23 October 2015 Friday. The day started with a 6 AM phone call from a reporter at our city's newspaper asking for my response to a County Commissioners angry comments about my suggestion in last week's City Council meeting that the County should contribute more for services the City pays for county residents. It's hard to get away from all the controversies back home!

Since we were up we decided to head out early starting with a drive along the Hamakua Coast, the northeastern side of the Big Island where most of the rainforest is located. We took it easy. Our first stop was at the overlook of Waipio Valley, otherwise known as the Valley of the Kings. This valley was once a center of Hawaiian life from the 13th to 17th centuries with as many as 20,000 people occupying the valley. Last century a tsunami wiped out what remained of those ancient villages.

Heading south we stopped briefly in the nearby town of Honokaa, to do a bit of shopping. This town was in its heyday in the early 20th century when the area was surrounded by sugar plantations. Today all that remains is a quaint town supported by artisans and tourists. Linda did her best to support the local economy. We had planned to have a mid-morning break featuring a malasada, a Portuguese donut, but we couldn't find the place mentioned in our guidebook.

We continued south along the coast to Akaka Falls State Park, where we took a short hike down to the falls overlook. The hike was through lush tropical forests with beautiful flowers. We then continued along the coastal scenic route to Hilo, the islands major town, where we ran across the Chiang Mai Thai restaurant in a back street and decided to have lunch there. We sat next to a table of astronomers who worked at the Moana Kea observatories...at least that's our assumption based upon their conversation...apologies for listening in, but we couldn't plug our ears!

Our next stop was the Liliuokalani Gardens, a Japanese garden built to honor Hawai'i's first Japanese immigrants.

By now it was only 1:30 PM so we had a decision to make. We could head home via the Saddle Road, or continue to Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park, and thus save a trip back to the park another day. We decided to continue to the national park. On the way we stopped for a tour of the Moana Loa Macadamia Factory, tried some samples, and made some purchases.

On the way we encountered our first and only rain, more like a heavy mist, on our vacation. We arrived at the Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park about 3 PM and started our visit by watching the movie about the recent volcanic eruptions of Kilauea which started in 1959, with lava still flowing today. That area is closed to the public. We then took the Crater Rim Drive to Kilauea's Iki Crater trailhead where we walked along the crater edge for a ways. It was this crater where eruptions occurred last century, before the hot spot moved down a fissure to the east where today lava flows are impacting the town of Puna. We continued our drive around the crater to the Jaggar Museum, where we could see steam rising from an active caldera in the Halema'uma'u Crater. We were told that after sunset, we could see the glow from the molten lava. As it was only 5 PM, we drove to a Thai restaurant in the nearby town of Volcano to order take out. We returned to the Jaggar Museum at sunset and were able to see the red glow in the steam rising from the crater.

We drove back to the resort via Saddle Road. As it was pitch black, we had difficulty finding our way and got lost, adding about an hour to what otherwise would have been a two hour trip. Back at the resort our Thai take out was cold, but still delicious.

24 October 2015 Saturday. Today started with a 6 AM call from our daughter. Doesn't anyone know what time it is here!

We planned to visit the sites around the town of Captain Cook so with the early calls we got another early start. We drove south from our resort to Kailua-Kona and stopped at Wal-Mart for some shopping for emergency supplies before continuing to Captain Cook. We couldn't find the Kona Coffee Living History Farm, but found ourselves at Kealokekua Bay where Captain Cook the explorer was killed by Hawaiian warriors. Just beyond along the coast is the Puuhonua O Honaunau (City of Refuge) National Historic Park.

In ancient Hawai'i, if you broke a kapu (or law) such as entering an area reserved for ali'i (chiefs) or eating forbidden food, or eating food with a woman the punishment was death. However, if you could run faster than your pursuers and reach the nearest puuhonua (sanctuary) you would be spared. We approached the massive (a thousand feet long, 10 feet high and 17 feet wide) walls surrounding this puuhonua which separated this place of refuge from the royal grounds. Ki'i (or carved wooden images) surround the Hale o Keawe (housing the bones of King Kamehameha's ancestor Keawe), the source of mana (or power) protecting those who broke a kapu. As the ali'i entered the royal grounds from Keone'ele Cove by canoe, a pu (or conch shell) was sounded to warn of their approach, as it is kapu for commoners to look upon or even cast their shadow on the ali'i. Fortunately for those who committed the kapu the puuhonua was nearby. We took the self guided walk around the site.

Back on the Mamalahoa Highway, the main road around the island, we had another decision to make; head north back to Kailua-Kona to the coffee planation/factory sights we had missed or head south an hour and a half to Ka Lae, the southern most point in Hawai'i and therefore the southern most point in the United States of America. As a traveler I'm drawn to unique geographical locations such as the Four Corners and the furthest north, south, east and west of various countries and continents. As it was only noon we decided to head south. Along the way we stopped at a van that sold Hawaiian and Thai food. I ordered spring rolls in Thai and enjoyed a conversation in Thai with the cook. We arrived at Ka Lea about 1:30 PM and after a brief look around headed back north. We skipped the sights around Captain Cool, deciding to come back another day, and drove directly back to our resort, arriving there about 3:30 PM. We had an early dinner of fried shrimp and relaxed the rest of the day.


Additional photos below
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Kealakekua BayKealakekua Bay
Kealakekua Bay

Where Captain Cook was killed by Hawaiian warriors


25th October 2015

your trip
Well Bob you are definately packing a lot in . Enjoying the read. Couldnt help but smile at the fact that politics are following you in your travels. Wonder if they will chase you down on your walk next year.
25th October 2015
Waipio Valley - Valley of the Kings

Exotic sites and Macadamias (yum)!
I love The Plan and then What Actually Happened, and well as Linda's adorable hat. Glad to hear that the flights were easy as opposed to your last holiday, and you got booked into such a gorgeous resort! How wise to take the time to see the Big Island's exotic scenery and then have time to relax--a perfect holiday!
26th October 2015
Waipio Valley - Valley of the Kings

So gorgeous!
I've just been wondering why I haven't put Hawaii on my travel wish list yet. It looks and sounds fabulous.
7th November 2015

The Big Island
We have not been there yet but have several friends who have loved it. We have been to Maui and Oahu and are eager to see the Big Island. Glad you are having a great time.
7th November 2015
Sanctuary at Puuhonua O Honaunau (City of Refuge)

sanctuary
Love this one

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