Hawaii Diary: 3. Big Island


1. Maui
2. Kauai
Place: Volcano, Big Island



Flight from Kauai to Big Island Hawaii

Travelling day: We got up at 8am and packed without a hurry. At 9:30 we said goodbye to Chris and drove to Lihue, with a little side trip to Fish Pond and the harbour. Checking in at Hawaiian Airlines and the security check was fast and relaxed. As scheduled we lifted off at 12:50 for the half-hour hop to Honolulu. During the approach we had a good view on Pearl Harbour and the big city of Honolulu. At 2:50 pm the next flight started to Hilo on Big Island, where we landed after 45 minutes. While Sonja waited on the baggage, i went to the car rental. The shuttle bus was already there, i got in, and the bus left. And it drove on and on through Hilo, until it arrived at the "Pride of America", Don and Bev's cruise ship. All other passengers got off the bus, and i asked, and where is the car rental? Answer of the driver: Just opposite of the Bus stop at the airport, in Hilo you don't need a shuttle bus, as on the other airports! So i went back to the airport with the bus, and after half a hour i was back where i started. All the other customers were already gone at the car rental, so i was first in line, as i originally intended, and i got a brandnew Hyundai Santa Fe (I disdained the Jeep Liberty and the Ford Escape). The road to Volcano was easy to find, just turn left once, and you are on highway 11. On our way out of town we stopped at KTA supermarket, and bought food for a week and a pack of Longboard Lager, a sparkling and 2 bottles of californian white wine. Then we drove up to Volcano Village. Volcano Garden Arts was easy to find, but it was late, nobody was around. We found the key as described in the lockbox. First we found the cottage way too small to get in all our gear, but after a few modifications we got all stuff stored. Then a cold dinner and a beer, ahh! It was cool up here (1500m), and the bed was a bit damp. But it had a electric blanket, which we turned on and then it was quite cosy. Who would have thought you would need a electric blanket on Hawaii?

Hot-cold encounter
The original of the Hawaiian logo
Warships in Pearl Harour
The navy base
Fridge at Honolulu airport...
for flower necklaces(Lei)
Honolulu with Waikiki Beach
Our american small car















Place: Volcano, Big Island



A well watered volcano

We didn't sleep very well, even if the bed was convenient and it was totally quiet, except of the occasional car driving by on the highway. Towards the morning it got really cold, so we needed a additional blanket. After breakfast we explored the garden and then drove to the National Park. The bad news: there was no lava flowing at all and the weather forecast wasn't good too: showers and thunderstorms in the afternoon. So we had no time to lose and drove on to the lookout at the Jaggar Museum. From there you have a great view of the Kilauea caldera with the Halemaumau crater in the middle. Inside the Halemaumau crater is a permanet lava lake, but the level is far too low to see anything except the rising cloud of volcanic gases like sulphur dioxide, thats why the road around the crater is closed. Then we visited the other lookouts along the crater rim, the Kilauea Iki crater and then drove on on the Chain of Craters road down towards the coast. First through rainforest with huge tree ferns, then across vast lava flows, created by the Mauna Ulu eruption of 1969-1974. Now the rain came, we used a gap in the showers to have a look at the cliffs and the Holei Sea Arch at the coast, where the road ends. A short distance back along the road, we went for a short hike to see some petroglyphs. It was there, when the next shower caught us, and we got totally soaked. The jackets were waterproof, but everything else was wet, even the waterproof walking boots, because the water came in from the soaked trousers. Fortunately the rain was quite warm down here on sea level. We drove back to the cotttage and had a hot shower, then a coffee. The rest of the day it rained cats and dogs, so we stayed in the cottage to read our books and cook dinner. Nothing was drying by itself, so we began to dry our shoes with the hairdryer.

The Halemaumau exhales SO2
On the Chain of Craters Road over lava flows down to the Sea
Holei Sea Arch
Recent lava forms instable cliffs
Here comes the next shower
Petroglyphs of the ancient polynesians
Ferns grow out of paehoe- lava
Bamboo orchid















Place: Volcano, Big Island



Kilauea Iki and Thurston Lava Tube

It rained nearly whole the night and the raindrops hammered on the tin roof of our cottage, built in 1908. In the morning it stopped and after breakfast it looked not too bad. So we did the hike over the old lava lake of Kilauea Iki, which erupted in 1959. Back then there was here a 500 meters high lava fountain, unbelievable! The first part of the hike leaded along the crater rim through a beautiful rainforest with many different plants. Then we returned over the surface of the now solid lava lake. But even after all that time, there was still heat in the ground, out of a lot of cracks there was steam coming, rain from the night which was boiling underground. At the end of the crater the trail leaded up again in switchbacks, and we came out at the Thurston Lava Tube. This tubes form, when the lava flows get a cover from solidifying lava. The lava may flow then underground for a long time, but when the eruption stops, the lava runs out, and leaves a tunnel, some of them kilometers long. The Thurston lava tube has a developed part of some 300m with lamps, but more interesting was the part at the end with no lamps. I went in with a flashlight for about 100m, around a bend. When i switched off the light, it was pitch black, and the only sound was dripping water. Then i remembered some horror novel about hawaii, and what they say what lives in these tunnels, and then quickly swithed the light on and got happily out into daylight. We drove again the Chain of Craters Road down to the cliffs to have a look to the sea. There was no sign of the usual steam column, where the lava flow enters the sea. Then we were hungry and returned to Volcano Garden Arts, where our cottage is. We ate lunch in the cafe of our host, quiche and lasagne. Then we browsed through the exhibiton of artwork. Ira Ono, the owner of Volcano Garden Arts, makes unusual creamic masks. We went again to the NP visitor center, to check, if there is lava flowing or not. The rangers confirm, that due to the eruption in early march the level in Pu'u o'o crater is extremely low, and there was no lava flowing out. So i cancelled the tour we booked for the next morning. No reason to get up at 3 am and stumble through a rainy night, when there is nothing to see.

Kilauera Iki crater
HIke over the crater floor
Which is built of millions of lava pancaces
and still steaming after 52 years
Growing in the smallest crack: ohia tree
Young tree fern
and fully grown
In the Thurston Lava Tube
Picture of the 1959 eruption
The lava lake
And the giant lava fountain
A mask by Ira Ono





















Place: Volcano, Big Island



Trip to Hilo and the Puna-Coast

Again it rained all night and didn't stop in the morning, so we tried to escape and drove down to the coast to visit Hilo, the rainiest city of the USA. And, behold, the rain stopped there! In fact there were some more showes during the day, but basically we stayed dry. First we visited the Lyman Museum, named after one of the first missionaries in Hilo. The museum shows exibitions of the natural and cultural history of the islands. We took a guided tour of the nearby missonary house. I recognized a good part of the stories told to us from the book i read during this holiday, James Micheners Hawaii. After the Museum we did a little sightseeing of Hilo. Especialy the park at Banyan Drive is worth to see, with his many giant Banyan trees. We also went over the footbridge to Coconut Island, from where you have a nice view of Hilo's oceanfront. Then we went to the enormous Prince Kuhio Shopping Center. Near the center is the Discount Fabric Warehouse, a huge old storage building full of all sorts of fabric. Sonja was in paradise! Thousands of fabrics and quite cheap. We bought at least 12 meters of different fabrics for clothes and quilting. Then we were hungry and followed a recommendation of our guidebook, the Hilo Bay Cafe, which has a nice location in between Wal-Mart and Office Max in the shopping center. Anyway, the food was very yummy: Eggplant Casserole, Chicken Focaccia and Crab cakes with asian salad. The drink was tahitian lemonade with coconut milk. In the afternoon we went to Hilo Hattie, a sort of tourist trap, however a good adress when you look for Souvenirs and clothes "Made in Hawaii". We bought a nice dress for Ella and a tiny Hawaii shirt for the new little surfer in Ireland. This was enough shopping, we left town towards the Puna district, the eastern tip of Big Island. At Isaac Hale State Park there was high surf, nothing for swimming, but at Ahalouni was a beautiful swimming pool, filled by the occasional wave washing over the barrier. It was warm enough for swimming even in the rainy weather, and we regretted that we didn't bring our swimmers. Then we drove on the 137 always along the sea, partly the road seems to lead through a green tunnel. Nice area with some nice houses, but i wouldn't like to live here, there are thee major threats: tsunamis, earthquakes and lava flows! At the end of the road the latter happened: Most of the buildings of Kalapana had been destroyed by the current lava flows of Pu'u o'o since 1990. But some of the houses were spared and sit now in a sea of fresh lava, a weird view. Finally we drove back up to Volcano, where it was still raining.

Coconut Island in Hilo
Beware of falling coconuts!
Sooo many fabrics!
Coast road in Puna
House in Kalapana, spared by the lava flow














Place: Volcano, Big Island



Hiking in the Volcanoes National Park

A rainy night , again. But we fought depressive feelings with a walk in the RAINforest, and the rain stopped! Then we visited the Volcano winery and did a wine tasting there. The grapes they use for winemaking come mostly from California, so i think the location at the volcano is determined by marketing reasons rather than good growth of the grapes. Anyway the wine tasting was fun, not so much the wines from grapes, but the more experimental stuff. There was a mead of honey from macadamia blossoms, a wine of 50% grapes and 50% jopoticabu berries (originally from Brazil) and, what we liked best, a wine of 50% white grapes and 50% guava. So we bought one bottle of the guava wine and 2 funny t-shirts. At the Pu'u Pua'i lookout of Kilauea Iki we had some crackers for lunch and made a stroll along the Devastation Trail, where you can see the pumice cone of the Kilauea Iki eruption. Then we drove to the Mauna Ulu trailhead. From there we started on a great hike over the lava flows of Mauna Ulu which erupted 1974. All sorts of lava can be seen there, the sharp-edged A'a lava and also the soft forms of the rope-shaped Paehoe lava. Where the lava flowed around trees, there were tubes of lava, where you still can see the bark of the trees molded in. At the end of the trail there is a great view from the Pu'u Hulu Hulu lookout. We had a view of nearby Mauna Ulu crater, but also over to Pu'u o'o. In between both craters was the location of the short-lived eruption in early march. But the only thing we could see of that was some steam coming out along the fissure. Anyway it was a great feeling to stand in this primeval landscape. Back in our cottage we were real hungry and made a early dinner of steak, sweet potato and salad, and the rest of yesterday's Robert Mondavi bubbles. And at dusk it started.. right! it started raining.

The lava rlow of Mauna Ulu (at the horizon)
The Chain of Craters Road was destroyed here only 2 years after being built
Weird plants
Mauna Ulu crater
Left: Puu'oo and the fissure of March 2011
Lava column with the mold of a palm
Here was also a tree
Our cottage in Volcano















Place: Captain Cook, Big Island



Drive around the southern tip to the Kona Coast

In the morning we said goodbye to our host Ira Ono and made a last side trip into the national park, because the sun has come out! So i got some pictures of Halemaumau and both of the big Hawaiian volcanoes Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea in the sunlight. Then we drove southerly on the long descent down to the coast. At Punalu'u there was the first attraction, a black sand beach with many turtles having their midday rest. In Nualehu (the southernmost town otf the USA) we stopped at the bakery for some sweet temptations like macadamia pie or donut filled with passion fruit cream. At the back of the bakery there was a nice garden with a lot of local food plants on display. As we turned around the south point it started to rain, despite the fact that every guidebook tells you that it NEVER rains at the Kona Coast. Finally we arrived at our last accomodation in Captain Cook village, Belle Vue. The name is well chosen, you have a magnificent view from the garden to the coast 500 meters below. Our host, Vivien, greeted us in german, she was born in Straßburg in the Alsace, about 150 km from our hometown. She lives since 28 years on Hawaii. First thing was to start the washing machine and the dryer. After the humid, cold weather in Volcano this was quite urgent. With the last load in the dryer, we went on a short trip of the vicinity, down to Kealakekua Bay. Here we could see some damage of the Japan-tsunami in March, which hit here with about 3 meters height. Some houses and cars were destroyed. Back at the belle vue we met our neighbours Renate and Achim, who were also from Germany. They were experienced travellers too, so we had a lot to talk while consuming some beers.

Neither Mauna Loa nor..
Mauna Kea look as if they have more than 4000m
Turtles having a midday snooze at Black Sand Beach
Pineapple plant
Two Red Cardinals
Here hit the Japan-Tsunami














Place: Captain Cook, Big Island



It never rains at the Kona Coast (ecxept when we need good weather)

Today was the day of our 25 year anniversary photo session. So we got up at 7 and dressed up after breakfast. Just as we were about to start off, David called and told us , it's raining in Kona. So we postponed the session until tomorrow, hoping the low will have moved away by then. We drove in the pouring rain to Kona to have a look on the location where we will do the photos tomorrow. The Old Kona Airport is funny, the old runway is directly at the sea and is now used as a parking lot for the beach, for joggers and pushbikers and we saw also a bus driving school practising parking backwards. Then we moved along the Ali'i drive back along the coast, checking out the beaches. Sometimes we saw some damages from the tsunami. There were not so many sandy beaches, the coast is mostly rocky. At the first good one, Lo'olaou Beach Park i went in and played a bit in the surf, Sonja considered the waves too high. At the next beach, Kuhalu'u, there was also not much sand , but a lot of snorkelers in the water. So i went in too, and it was great, even with the cloudy sky. I saw many fish like Humu, parrot fish, etc. and the water was crystal clear. We had a good lunch in the Nastrurium Cafe - Curry Turkey Burger, Maroccan Chicken Wraps and Ginger lemonade. Then we drove down to Kealakekua Bay, tasted Kona Coffee and Maca nuts and then went on to Pu'uhonua O Honaunau, a state heritage park. This was once a refuge place for taboo breakers and also in times of war. There are examples of grass houses, temples, statues, canoes on display, very interesting. We spent the rest of the afternoon at Belle Vue reading, watchicng the birds and the chameleons in the rose bush of our porch.

Grass house at Puuhonua O Honaunau State Park
All parts are skillfully tied together by ropes
A reconstructed temple
Impressive statues..
....guard the temple














Place: Captain Cook, Big Island



Filally the Great Picture

As we awoke, the sun was shining brightly, so we had a quick breakfast and we put our good clothes on. We left ten before eight, which was good, because we were jammed a bit in the daily rush hour. But we arrived at Old Kona Airport at the same time as our photographer. David was a laid-back guy, he packed his gear (Canon D1, 70D and a lot of lenses) and off we went to the beach, which looked much better in the sunlight today. It was really fun to be photographed, and we felt like some celebrities. David did everything to get some unusual perspectives, like climbing on trees or wading in the water. The state park has everything for good pictures, sun and shade, the sea, small pools, yellow sand, black lava rocks and green trees, palms and bushes. The session took a little more than a hour, so we finished around 10am. We put on our swimmers and bathed in one of the rock pools, marvellous! Then we drove to Kuhalu'u beach, but the parking lot was already full, obviuously everyone was on the beach today after the previous rainy days. But over the main street in the residential area we found a spot. I went snorkelling again, Sonja turned around due to her leaky goggles. But the snorkelling today was glorious, visibility 20-30 meters, only at the maldives i had a better snorkelling, and that was a platform reef far from any coast. But the sun was getting quite mercyless around noon, so we packed our gear and drove back to Kailua, where we first bought some more t-Shirts for Det and me and a dress for Beate. Then we had lunch at Bubba Gump. We sat on a nice terrace directly at the sea and had such a big serving of differently cooked shrimps, that we took a part of it home for dinner (i liked the shrimps in coconut crumbs best). The rest of the day we spent on our terrace with a view at Belle Vue. For dinner we had the rest of the shrimps and some leftovers from the fridge, e.g. the last three bottles of Longboard.

Some of the photos...
...of our session with David O Baldwin
....at Old Kona Airport Beach








Place: Captain Cook, Big Island



The last day

Our last day on Hawaii - beautiful weather. We had breakfast on the terrace, then we packed our baggage. We stayed until noon and enjoyed the gret view of the coast. The chameleons and some colourful geckos were around, so we had something to watch - better than TV! We had lunch at Cafe Ke'ei, a bit down the Hwy 11, yummy fish sandwiches. Then we drove to Kailua to the Walmart to buy some gifts for our people at home, Macadamia nuts and Kona Coffee. At 2 pm we were at the Old Kona Airport, where we occupied a picnic table under a tree. We stayed the whole afternoon there, swimming, reading, taking pictures and watching the surfers. Don and Bev's cruiseship "Pride of America" anchored off Kalilua, it was much higher than any building of the town. At 6 pm we drove the remaining 10 miles to the new airport. Returning the car, check in, security check, everything was fast and without any problem. At 9pm the plane to LA lifted off exactly in schedule. Unfortunately the plane was completely full this time and a big hawaiian sat in the seat next to Sonja.

Our last accomodation: Belle Vue
View from BelleVue
Flowers in the garden, and even the ....
,,geckos are colourful
The last afternoon at Old Kona Airport Beach
Don und Bev's cruiseship "Pride of America"
The departure gates at Kona Airport














Place: in the air



We have to go through this....

Despite the cramped seating we slept at least 3 hours of the 4h50min flight time, and we landed shortly before 5 am local time in LA. We had some coffee and bought sandwiches for the next leg to Atlanta. There the seating was 2-3-2, so nobody sat next to Sonja, that was much more convenient, so it didn't matter that this plane was also completely full. The 4h20min went fast, the plane had indvidual screens and we played trivial pursuit against the other passengers. It was beautiful weather and we had great views on Long Beach, the still snow-covered San Gabriel Mountains, later of the deserts of New Mexico and the Missisippi near Memphis. In Atlanta we refreshed ourseves with a giant mango-smootie for two. The airport is enormous, and just the list of departures of filled 12 screens with 26 rows. Fortunately it was sorted in alphabetically order of the destinations. The flight to Stuttgart went in time at 5:40 pm from the gate but to until liftoff it took another twenty minutes (we were the tenth plane in the queue). The route was along the Chesapeake and Delaware bays, off the coast of New York (nothing to see of it against the setting sun), then along the coast of Long Island, before we headed east out on the Atlantic.



Place: back home



Finally back home!

After 7 hours at daybreak we were over Ireland, but there was nothing to see due to clouds. At 8:30 am local time we landed in Stuttgart 1/2 hour ahead of schedule. We took the S-Bahn to the spot where we parked our car, and it was still there and even started immediately. Only the brakes had rusted a bit and were noisy for a while. At 10 am we were back home after 25 hours of travelling time!