Sites on the Hilo Side


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North America » United States » Hawaii » Volcano
November 16th 2012
Published: July 7th 2017
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Geo: 19.4308, -155.238

So today was a mishmash of various things which took me north, south and west of Hilo. First stop was the Homelani Memorial Park to track down the headstone of some distant relative on my dad's side. The ladies in the office were very helpful and one walked me over to the section and helped me find him. Apparently he was located in the prominent people
section so he must have had something to do with the settling of Hilo or something like that. So, dead people taken care of, it was time to do some sightseeing. First stop was Rainbow Falls State Park. The park is located a little farther inland from the cemetery and has no entrance fee. All the park consists of is an overlook platform for the falls. But it is worth the visit to view the cascade of water. The sun wasn't out so no rainbow😞

I headed north out of Hilo on Hwy 19. A little ways up you can take the 4 mile scenic route, which used to be the old highway. It is a narrow winding road through a maze of tropical plants. I was glad the car in front of me was driving slowly like I was and there were no cars behind so I had time to look at all the different trees, ferns and plants. Along the route is the Hawai'i Tropical Botanical Garden. I planned to stop, but it was $15, had a steep descent and would take 1-1/2 to walk through. It turned out to be a good thing I didn't go since it started
pouring as soon as I pulled out of the parking lot. It rained the rest of the way which made the drive even more beautiful.

I headed back towards Hilo to follow a driving route I found on a website. The route followed Hwy 130 to Pahoa, which is some little town south of Hilo. From Pahoa I followed Hwy 132 to Lava Tree State Park. There is no entrance fee and the park is very accessible and has a real
bathroom. There is a paved walking path that takes you in a short loop through the forest to view the lava trees. They are suppose to be the main attraction, but I was more interested in the many different kinds of plants. It's amazing how many different kinds of ferns there are!
And the colors! There is a big sign telling you to stay on the path dues to large cracks in the ground throughout the park. So it seemed right that the girl in front of me slipped in the mud and bloodied her knee when she went off the path to stand next to one of the trees. If it says to stay on the path, then stay on the path! The park was not crowded and you could really spend a lot of time examining all the plants, but the rain started up again so I headed on my way.

Next stop on the route were the tidal pools at Kapoho. These pools are way off the highway at the edge of a residential area. They allow you to park and visit the pools but ask for a $3 parking donation for upkeep. Well the parking lot was horrible so I guess most visitors don't make the donation. There were lots of tidal pools, but the lava rocks make it hard to walk without paying a lot of attention to the ground. I only saw a few crabs and did not spend much time.

I followed Hwy 137 to it's end. Well, it used to go farther, but then the lava flow came and wiped out the road and the town. There are a few little stores and craft stands at the current end. This area used to be a world famous black sand beach, and it will be again someday, but for now it's just rolling lava. Hwy 137 gets very narrow, windy and hilly before you get to the end and it seems like it takes forever. I wouldn't recommend it. Hwy 130 is the one that everyone takes to the end and then hikes out to view the current lava flow. I probably should
have done that instead.

So then I decided to head back to Hwy 11 and go check out the black sand beach, which is 30 miles south of my hotel. The road goes through the Ka'u Desert and has great views of Mauna Loa and lava and the coast. Punalu'u Beach Park is just south of the town of Pahala. There is plenty of free parking, picnic tables and restrooms. Swimming doesn't seem to be recommended and with the giant waves, I wouldn't try anything other than walking along the shore. There are two main attractions at this beach - the black sand and the sea turtles. The sand is beautiful and feels different than regular beach sand. At least I thought it did. Luckily for me, there was a nice sea turtle resting on the sand. Again, the area was swarming with those Japanese tourists and they were all standing right next to the turtle, pretending to touch it and taking pictures. They finally left and I was able to get my picture, from the recommended distance of 25 feet. There were also other turtles bobbing around in the surf and I was just waiting for one to crawl up on the sand, but I wasn't that lucky. Then I noticed some people around one of the little pools and wandered over see what they were looking at. And there was another turtle and he was having a little snack of whatever was growing on the rocks. It was so neat to watch him just being a turtle. Hopefully these turtles won't be my last marine life encounter of the trip.

I stopped back at the park to see if there was anything new going on with the lava lake, but it's status was unchanged from the day before. It was cold and rainy so I decided I wasn't going to drive in to view the volcano once more. It's strange to talk about being cold in Hawaii, but this part of the island is cooler and much wetter than the rest of the island. Tomorrow I check out of Volcano and head over to Kona. I doubt I will be cold again until I land at O'Hare!

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