Today was going to be a full day of driving with the goal of heading as far as Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Driving down Highway 11 towards the southern end of the Big Island, we made our first stop along the side of the highway in Naalehu to stretch our legs and enjoy the views. After the quick break, it was a short drive to the most famous black sand beach on the island, Punalu'u Black Sand Beach. Created by the erosion of volcanic rock, the first thing you notice about the black sand is that it is very hot to walk on. Like most sandy beaches, I thought it would be easier to walk barefoot but I quickly had to put the flip-flops back on. We walked over to where a crowd had formed to see what everyone was looking at. A few sea turtles had come ashore to rest on the beach. Rocks were placed around the resting turtles to prevent people from getting to close. Additionally, there were posted signs that clearly indicated that it was illegal to bother the turtles. Of course as with anything, there was always one idiot who wouldn't follow directions.
in a town appropriately named Volcano where we made a quick stop for lunch. Walking around the small town, it was very clear that we were in a different climate zone than in Kailue Kona. Owing to the much higher elevation, the weather here was much cooler and wetter with the foliage much more lush than in Kailua-Kona. From here, we drove into Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Again, like with other places we have visited, I would have loved to do some hiking here. However, I knew Kevin and Lisa would have absolutely no interest in that! We drove around the Crater Rim Drive and made a stop at the Jagger Museum and the Halema'uma'u Crater Overlook. At the Jagger Museum, we checked out the exhibits which gave a great overview of the local geology and even included information on Hawaiian gods and goddesses. Afterwards we walked over to have a look at the crater, Halema'uma'u Crater is a small crater located within the much larger Kilauea Crater. We were able to see the steam from the volcano but disappointingly did not see any lava. Continuing our drive along Crater Rim Drive, we were unable to continue along the road
to check out the Kilauea Overlook so we had to turn around. We stopped along the road to check out a few of the steaming vents before making our way to the Thurston Lava Tube. It was a short hike through the forest before we entered the lava tube. Even though there was artificial lighting, it was rather dark in there and at a few points, I almost slipped and fell on the damp ground. After exiting the tube, we took our time just enjoying the scenery and the sounds of the forest before making our way back to the car. From Thurston Lava Tube, we drove the long and windy 20 mile Chain of Craters Road where we descended about 3,700 feet from the slopes of Kilauea down to the coastline. The drive down the mountain consisted of miles and miles of hardened black lava and eventually the road ended at a point where the lava consumed the road. We parked the car and explored the lava covered landscape. After peering over the edge to have a look at the Holei Sea Arch, I went off on a solo hike beyond the end of the road for about a
mile before turning around to meet back up with Kevin and Lisa. From here, it was a very long drive back up the southern slopes of Kilauea to Highway 11 and eventually back to Kailua Kona.
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