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Published: October 6th 2015
One of the things I didn't know about Hawai'i is that it's actually made up of 6 main islands… and lots of little ones. Our first task, back before we left home, was to decide which two of these to visit – tricky! We eventually decided on The Big Island (actually called Hawaii) and Maui. According to my faithful guide book, The Big Island really shines for the adventurous traveller, which sounded like fun - so here we are. We also decided on Maui as it seemed to have a bit of everything – and that’s where we’re heading later on today!
Another thing I didn’t know - and no amount of reading of guide books could have prepared me for this – was just how stunning Hawaii would be. This island has pretty much every type of scenery I could imagine – lush green mountains, one of the most active volcanoes in the world, tropical rainforest, paradise beaches, rugged cliffs, beautiful rainbows and amazing wildlife. I have just one negative thing to say about Hawaii and that is that the locals HATE tourists. As soon as they realise you aren’t one of them – and let’s face it, I
don’t exactly fit in around here – they barely look at you! There’s also often one price for tourists and one for residents. All of this seems a shame in a place which basically survives on tourism.
Anyway, our landing in Hawaii was an experience in itself. We walked off the plane, into an outside reception area with a few huts around the edge and a baggage carousel under a bamboo shelter. Bags were already coming out onto the carousel (maybe Bristol could learn from this) and, of course, the skies were brilliantly blue and it was lovely and hot. This was unfortunate for us as, in order to fit everything into our bags, we were basically wearing everything we owned! We noticed that ours were the ONLY backpacks that came off the hold of the plane and it soon became apparent that they don’t get many budget travellers here!
So we headed off to Hapuna Beach, where we had booked a ‘shelter’ in the state park. After a typical unfriendly welcome, we managed to find our little hut, complete with benches to sleep on, a picnic table, a locking door… and, best of all, views down to
the sea and to green hills behind. Unfortunately the public bathroom was a little basic – you had to hope nobody walked in while you were on the loo/showering… and avoid the cockroaches. I failed twice at the latter and squealed loudly enough for Tom to hear when they crawled on my foot. Ewww. Anyway, slightly upset after my first cockroach incident, we headed down to the beach… and all was right with the world. We timed our arrival perfectly, just as the sun was sinking to create one of the most beautiful sunsets we’ve seen.
The next few days seemed to pass in a bit of a blur… the highlight for me was walking to the blue lagoon at Kiholo Bay, along a series of black sand beaches where there were sea turtles bathing in the sun. We saw four or five of them on the sand and loads in the water, they were awesome! We spent a happy while watching one from afar until the tide came in and he decided it was time for a swim, we particularly enjoyed his flipper flapping every time a fly landed on his shell. Sticking with the wildlife theme, we
were lucky enough to see dolphins leaping out of the sea as we arrived at the most incredible paradise island beach ever! We sort of found it by mistake one morning in Kekaha Kai State Park, it was a lovely cove with fine white sand, clear turquoise waters, palm trees and, to make it interesting, black rocks and lava around the edges. The sea was the perfect swimming temperature too!
Having read lots about the brilliantly clear waters, we decided to buy a snorkel on a whim at the supermarket and headed to Two Steps, a famous spot. The views under the water were INCREDIBLE, so many colours!
Another day was spent touring the Northern section of the island. We headed along the Saddle Road to Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano at 13,000 ft. Unfortunately we couldn’t see a thing from the Visitor Station (9,000 ft) and it was freezing so we continued on our way to Hilo, the main town on the East side of the island. It was incredibly humid here, and sure enough, just as we’d finished exploring the Farmer’s Market, the rain came… and didn’t stop until we made it back to the West
Coast! In the meantime, we drove up the East Coast, barely able to see the beautiful waterfalls and savage sea, and out to the Pololu Valley, where we walked/slid down a steep trail to a very dramatic black pebble beach on the edge of the rainforest.
Next up was Hawaii Volcanoes National Park in the south of the island, where we’ve been staying for the last two nights. We arrived just in time for a fascinating ranger talk but were a bit gutted to find out that loads of the walks were blocked off due to air quality and there was no flowing lava to be seen anywhere at the moment. Nevertheless, we headed to the Halema’uma’u Crater to see the smoking volcano and then set off on the Kilauea Iki hike, which took us into a lava tube large enough to drive a car through, through a section of rainforest and into an enormous crater. It was pretty amazing! The highlight of this day, however, was seeing the volcano at night. The lava’s glow in the dark was an amazing sight!
Our final day saw us driving the Chain of Craters Road down to the coast. We
made various stops en route, walking to the Mauna Ulu crater and the Pu’u Loa Petroglyphs. The crater trail involved some brilliant views, over to the island’s mountains and rainforest in one direction, the sea in another and down into a massive crater! The petroglyphs were also quite cool, ancient drawings carved into the lava. We were a bit grossed out to learn that people still believe that if they make a hole in the rock here and put their baby’s umbilical cord in it, they will be blessed forever. Urgh. At the end of the road, the Holei Sea Arch was impressive and the views were great, waves slamming up as high as the cliffs. We could also see the enormous black trail of lava from various eruptions running down the hills into the sea!
OK I’m done, The Big Island has been awesome … now off to Maui!
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