Lava Java in the Big Island

Trip Start Mar 20, 2010
Trip End Aug 25, 2010

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Flag of United States  , Hawaii
Friday, July 23, 2010

Hawaii (not Honolulu) or the Big Island (some refer to it as Kona) is so different from Maui, beautiful in its own way. Being the youngest of the Hawaiian Islands, what you predominately see are endless Lava fields everywhere, almost 75% of the island is covered in Lava from different historic flows.  To this day, the Kilauea Volcano on the lower east side of Kona is still active and is currently creating new land every second (and taking some homes with it before the lava hits the ocean) - lava is currently flowing from its Pu"u Oo vent.  Though the youngest, the Big Island is the biggest of all the Hawaiian islands, as it's name infers (Kauai is the oldest).  The Big Island contains multiple micro climates.  Where the lower West Side of the Island is plush and can be cloudy in the afternoon, one can just drive 10 miles north to hit endless sunshine and beaches.  The center of the mountain which is home to Mauna Kea (13,796ft above sea level) gets cool and has snow during winter, then as you move across to the eastern most side of the mountain you are surrounded in Rain-forest climate.  In the northern center of the island is where you will find cowboys and ranches.  When you get tired at looking at Lava all day, the next best thing to do is surround yourself with coffee fields and endless amounts of Kona Coffee - Java.  Kona is also home to the Hawaii Iron-Man Triathlon, everyday you see folks running, biking or swimming in and around Kailua-Kona.

Where Maui provided endless surfing beaches with challenging waves that would satisfy any avid surfer, Kona provides mostly bays, lava tide pools and small calm beaches.  At every beach you are surrounded with some form of Lava and endless opportunities to hike along the waters edge and make friends with the turtles basking in the sun.  Kona provides black, salt-pepper and green beaches.

Our first week in Kona was spent with Steffi and Mark. It was great, being their first time in Hawaii, we took the opportunity to share with them what we learned from our last trip here and also explore new grounds with them.  The last time we were here in 2006 Christina's cousin Elke got married at the Mauna Lani, where we did see some of the island, much time was spent with the wedding, leaving us still a lot of ground to cover for this trip.  With Mark and Steffi we basically drove all around the island, and ventured in to new beaches every day.... trips up to Hawi, Waimea, Hilo, the Volcano, South Point (Road to the Sea) and hit some waterfalls here and there.  Mark (aka Mario Andriette), drove us all over and we all battled with car sickness as he insisted on testing how the SUV handled curves.

On the same day that Mark and Steffi left, Christina's cousin Elke arrived with her husband Dakila and son Baz.  Elke's mom and dad were here also for a few weeks.  With that said, we spent plenty of time with them over the course of our last two weeks in Kona.
Favorite Beaches:
Mauna Lani Beach, Kikaua Beach (we dubbed this the Oasis Beach), Manini'owali / Kua Bay beach, Hapuna Beach, Kiholo Bay.  Mark proceeded to acquaint himself with every body of water and snorkeled up until the end.  At one point, on their last day here, he found himself in the middle of the Trigger fish nesting.  Before he knew it, they turned on him and became aggressive to the point that he was bitten.  When he came back to land he quickly researched and found that unfortunately he had crossed into their nesting ground, which they protect at all cost.  Mark posed a threat.  The Hawaiian name for Trigger-fish is Humuhumunukunuku apu a'a.

Hikes / Snorkeling
The Golden Pools of Ke-awa-Iki:  In the Kohala Coast, this was a great hike through harsh sharp 150 yr old lava field that dumped us out to a very secluded beach that was white on one side, and black on the other side, where the lava poured in.  It eventually brought us to Pueo Bay where we turned back into the lava to see the fresh water pools that looked golden given the rocky floor.

Arch City Coastline:  In South Kona, just north of Honaunau Bay, but south of Captain cook, there is a mile hike along the coast on smooth lava on the waters edge that is filled with blow-holes, surging cracks, coves and lava arches..this was super cool.

Kiholo Bay.  This was one our favorite hikes / snorkel spots.  We came here last time and during this trip twice, once with Mark and Steffi, then again with Elke.  Here you walk along the beach line, over lava and black sand, pass by two amazing homes, a lava tube filled with spring water (The Queens Bath) and end up in this bay oasis area that has mix of fresh and salt water. The bay is home to what seemed to be hundreds of turtles, they were resting along bay's edge jumping in to cool off at their leisure.  The other thing you would see are jumping fish, one minute you are mesmerized by the surrounding turtles, the next you witnessing these big silvery fish just jumping out of the water here and there.  Mark snorkeled here the first time, the visibility was crystal clear, the second time we went we snorkeled with Elke, but the visibility was poor and Christina freaked out.  On the way back to our car we took a dip in the Queen's Bath - there was a ladder that dropped you into the lava tube spring, once in the water you would swim back into the tube, it was pitch black and spooky, but it went way back..its a shame we weren't prepared with flashlights.
Pololu Beach:  Up at the northern point of Kona is a cute town called Hawi that has a few great restaurants and shops/galleries.  Just past this town at the end of the road is Pololua Beach, which is nestled at the bottom of a valley that required a hike down and up.  Wonderful hike that gave vast views of the Northern cliffs of Kona..but unfortunately the black sand beach at the bottom wasn't summable...yet the hike was worth it.

Waipio Valley:  This was another hike down to a valley where an amazing beach could be found.  This was such a beautiful hike down, but killer on the way back up (steep, steep, steep 25% incline).  At the bottom is a creek that you can crossover and reach the northern more desolate portion of the valley, home to wild boars.  We had the pleasure of witnessing two hunters returning form their kill with rifles, hunting dogs, nap-sacks filled with their fresh kill and boar bones drying out fastened at the back of their nap-sack by bungee cords (gross).  As mentioned the climb back up was by far the steepest incline we had to tackle, one mile up.  Jeeps drove by offering us to jump on their rim but we denied..we figured we dug our own hole, we need to finish it.  There are some people that went down where we aren't sure if they will get back up.

Volcano:  We took a ride with Steffi and Mark up to the Volcano.  We had some great visibility of the crater, but unfortunately no lava sightings.  we had to take a ride to the lower east side of the island through Puna to take a small hike to have a small chance to see lava flowing into the ocean.  Unfortunately all we saw was gas fumes in the distance - an ill-faded trip. 

It is worth noting Kona is home not only to the Mangoose, but also to the worst radio stations ever, aside from their fascination with Bruce Springsteen (which offered some sort of relief), we have had our fill of The Cars, Phil Collins/Genesis, Heart and terrible reggae!
Place where we have eaten that are worth mentioning: - you can tell we didn't do much cooking this time!
Pa'Lini Grill - Waimea:  Fun local joint up in Waimea.  We made friends with Aunt Betty. 
Hawaiian Style Cafe - Waimea:  Local joint again up in Waimea, locals love spam with fried eggs, rice and Portuguese sausages...and so do we.
Coffee Shack - Captain Cook: We loved this cute place and went here for breakfast a couple of times.  The restaurant is nestled in the plush gardens of Captain Cook and over looks Kealakekua Bay.  Friendly Geicos are everywhere.
Kona Brewing Company - Kailua Kona: We went here a few times..good all around.  Great beer, of course
Huggos - Kailua Kona:   Our local hang out, right on the water.
Daniel Thiebaut - Waimea (haunted restaurant):  We went here for Christina's Birthday. Amazing food and the house is haunted (over 120 spirits found)..perfect place for Christina
Bamboo Cafe - Hawi:  This is where Elke and Dakila had their rehearsal dinner, we returned with them and Elke's parents - great food
Cafe Pesto:  The best Italian food and pizza we have had in a LONG time.
Texas Drive-In - Pakalana:  Must go just for the Portuguese donuts called Malasada (yum!!)
Roy's - Waikola Village:  Yes there is one in NYC, but, we couldn't resist going here, not once (with the Artis'), but twice (with Elke, Dakila and her parents).  God this was good.
Harbor House - Kona:  Last, but not least, this place rocks.  Local joint on the harbor with basic seafood, but, the draws is the Frozen Scooners in which they serve their beer - we hit this place a few times of course.  

We enjoyed Kona.  The number of beaches was amazing, each very different from the other, and the endless lava is something one doesn't really see outside of Kona (at least not in NYC), and we agree we would come back for a few days, but our heart still remains in Maui.  Lets see what Kauai will bring.

July 23 - August 13

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