We said our goodbyes to the Big Island and drove to the Kona airport (28 October 2016). Along the way we found a lava tube cave and wondered at the ‘mini’ calderas we whizzed by.
Evening found us in Hilo, renting a car and picking up supplies at Walmart and the local shopping market before following Liz and Glen’s instructions to their beautiful home in Kalaheo. (Thank you again so much for letting us stay in your place of refuge!)
At the Kamokuna Ocean entry on the island of Hawaii, you can get up close and personal with lava as it flows into the ocean from the continuously erupting active volcano, Mauna Loa!
We started the 4.5 mile hike/walk across the hardened lava flow at the perfect time of the day- about 4:30pm. We power-walked along at a good speed and arrived to the lava flow right as the sun was setting! The lava flowing into the ocean was the same color of the colors of the sunset over the ocean! It was breath taking.
Luckily the winds were blowing the sulfuric acid steam away from us so that we could safely stand less than a quarter mile (about 500m) away from the lava flow.
Mesmerized, we sat and watched the lava sizzle and crack into the ocean for more than two hours, oo-ing and aw-ing when small explosions of pressure sent glowing rock spatter hurdling skyward.
Lava spitting as it flows into the ocean (41MB, 19 sec):
We even walked inland along the edge of the fresh lava flow, guided through the sharp rocks and cooled bubbles of lava by flashlights, looking for the opening in the lava flow crust. The closer we got, the more articles of clothing came off. Standing so close we were starting to sweat, we peered across the makeshift fence into the huge gaping hole glowing with the lava flowing below.
Hearing the lava crack forebodingly under us got us to start the hike back, but not before we happened to bend down to touch the ground. It was warm! In some places hot air escaped through small fissures, so hot you couldn’t keep your hand in place since if felt as hot as an oven!
It was quite an experience that we can definitely recommend to everyone visiting the island of Hawaii. Just be sure to brave the long walk at the end of the day and have a flashlight with you!
The south eastern coast of Hawaii is gorgeous, lush, and windblown (open to the trade winds).
The ancient royal Hawaiians used to come specifically here to the mango groves to spend the summer in their splendor. We really enjoyed cruising under their towering branches. Too bad mango season had JUST ended!!
The traces of lava flows past are everywhere. The landscape along the side of the road switches abruptly back and forth between forest and sharp jumbled grassy lava rock fields. At Lava Tree State Monument you can see huge empty straight tubes of lava where large trees once stood tall, but burned up as the lava flow passed by.
There were beautiful little surprises around every corner!
Our air bnb for the next two nights was to be the Lava Rock Hale, smack dab in the middle of the jungle, with a private water reservoir, battery powered electricity, and generator heated water (to heat up the gorgeous outside shower)!
Why you might ask? We wanted to be close the lava flows of course! The best way to do that is to stay in Pahoa on the south east shore, where there is no public running water and no electricity. Entrance and exit to and from Pahoa is restricted to one road! All other roads have been cut off by the steady flows of lava prohibiting the state from redoing the compromised infrastructure.
It was so peaceful at the Lava Rock Hale and our hosts were very nice and accommodating! They had built the round little lava rock house themselves and filled it with Aloha! Finding the place was challenging, but well worth the dirt road leading through the jungle many times over! We saw wild pigs, ate delicious fallen avocados, and learned how to open a coconut with a machete.
Lukas and I waved goodbye to the family as they pulled away in the minivan (26 Oct 2017). They were off the airport, but we fortunately had two more weeks in the Hawaiian Islands! We drove away with the top down, and our tanks clunking gently from the trunk.
We snuck in a dive before turning in the tanks and heading to the east coast of the island, where we would be staying for the next two nights. We beach dived (my first) from the dog beach to the left of the harbor opening at the old airport. A local counseled us to be alert since he had seen a few tiger sharks here (probably enjoying the fishermen’s left overs thrown overboard before entering the harbor). That kind of spooked us, but we were able to see an eagle ray (missing his tail) and a cute puffer fish! Thankfully there were no signs of the tiger sharks that day!
Lukas and I were hankering for diving, so we picked up dive tanks from Honu Divers (on Oct 25th 2016) in Kona. They had a great deal for tanks: $10 a day with free refills. We even bought a float with a dive flag since we were planning on doing a ‘swim out from the shore before descending’ dive later on.
Where’d we dive? You guessed it! -our new favorite spot, Two Step- (secretly hoping to have the privilege of diving with dolphins).
The dolphins were nowhere to be seen, but we had a fun exploring the wall along the edge of the reef (tons of different eels and coral species), occasionally blowing special bubbles up to Dom and Gary snorkeling above us.
To cap off a great day, we visited Kona Brewery and enjoyed local caught tuna and flights of their freshly brewed beer. Not normally a beer connoisseur myself, but surprisingly I took a likeing to a few of their beers!
Did you know?……these Madagascar geckos are everywhere now on the Big Island! They are beautiful but they EAT the native Hawaiian geckos!
I tell you what, front row seats at the luau are totally worth it!!
This luau was right along the water next to King Kamehameha’s tomb, complete with tiki torches and talented dancers! Lisa and I received leis, and the boys shell necklaces. The ‘king’ and his court came in by boat, landed on the beach, and opened the luau onstage. There were games, we learned to dance hula (embarrassingly fun), the buffet was amazing, open bars, fantastic band, and very talented dancers!
‘Swing Those Hips!’ video (22MB, 11 sec): dscn5796
They even had cooked pigs and turkeys underground in the traditional emu style. Everyone needs to try this type of meat at some point in their lives because it is so amazingly yummy! 🙂
What a great night! Thank you Dad and Lisa! (Shout Out to Dad who won the game of Smart Ass later that night! 😛 )
On a warm and sunny Sunday morning (23 Oct 2016), we decided to go to the beach that the locals call ‘Two Step’ (because of the steps carved into the rock at the water’s edge) since we had heard from a local Hawaiian artist that dolphins like to sleep there, and the gorgeous reef was an added bonus.
We could see tons of dorsal fins right off the reef in the middle of the small bay. “Get that wetsuit on faster!” I thought to myself. Surprisingly, it was almost eerily quiet when we finally slipped into the water…
To our surprise, we could see an entire pod of dolphins swimming in a funnel formation in the deep water in the middle of the bay (maybe 50-60ft, 18m). Countless groups of two to 10 dolphins swam slowly (as if in a trance) all circling some imaginary middle point as they half slept. The groups pumped their tails slowly to the surface to grab a breath of air before swimming down again to the depths.
“Take a deep breath!” video (14.4 MB, 7sec): dscn5700
It was a surreal experience to have the dolphins surfacing all around us! In total, there were probably about 200 dolphins!! We even saw a few baby dolphins! So cute! They were the first ones to wake up and start making little squeaking sounds. Gradually, over the next hour, the rest of the pod woke up and soon the water was alive with their chatter. It was so cool to hear all their clicks, whizzes, and whistles from under water!
You could see some of the adults take speed under water and burst through the surface spiraling into the air. That’s how we figured out we had a pod of spinner dolphins all around us!
Absorbed, we waited and watched in the water until all the dolphins left the bay before making our way to shore to warm up and eat lunch. We looked at the clock when we got out and saw that we had been in the water for roughly three hours!
What an amazing day Under the Sea!! …And the day wasn’t over yet, we had a luau to look forward to!