Today was a pretty low-key day for us. The plan today was a mid-day flight from Honolulu over to the Big Island (yay for new explorations!). We got up, packed (ugh-everyone who knows me should know how much I HATE packing, so it’s a good thing we each chose to only do a carry-on for this trip, as less bag space = less stuff to pack up), and had our last breakfast at Turtle Bay. It was a little over an hour for us to get back down from the North Shore to Honolulu, and there is always traffic around Honolulu so we wanted to make sure we gave ourselves enough time to get there!
Thanks to Southwest starting flights in Hawaii and my obsession with checking on flights for various locations pretty routinely, I snagged $39 inter-island flights and with our SW Companion Pass, that meant we flew from Honolulu to Kona for $78 total!!! Winning! So, a really quick flight over to the Big Island and we picked up our rental Jeep. Chris was pretty excited to drive a Jeep and of course we took the top off before we got out of the lot. We were all getting hungry/on the verge of hangry, so I looked up some places that would be in our direction and found Broke Da Mouth Grindz, which was featured on Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives. We went for the garlic furikake chicken, which is one of the featured foods on the show, and some teriyaki beef, with a yummy pineapple cider on the side. For Hawaii, the price was moderate and the portions were huge, so we definitely recommend this place! Then we continued on towards Volcano, as we had a long 2 1/2 hour drive ahead of us to get to the Forest Cottage we were staying in for the night.
We took the southern route, which is a little longer, but passed through cute little towns and has nicer weather than the route across the middle of the island. I really wanted to stop at the green sand beach, Papakolea Beach, as it is one of only 4 green sand beaches in the world! But, cell reception was really spotty along the way, and before we knew it we had already passed the beach. We did get internet back about 2 minutes before we also accidentally passed the black sand beach, so YAY, we decided to make a pit stop. Punalu’u Beach is a beautiful, finite amount of black sand that was made by the lava flowing to the ocean. Apparently, there are a lot of turtles that like to hang out here, but alas, we did not see any. A few quick pictures of the sand, feeling the cold water from the natural freshwater spring that feeds this beach and mixes with the ocean, and we were on the road again.
We were really excited to see our Forest Cottage that I had booked on Airbnb for the night, and it did not disappoint. It was in what I guess they consider a neighborhood for that area, but there were only two houses that I could see nearby, and those were the neighbors and the owners of the cottage. The cottage was a studio with a small kitchen and table, a private bathroom, a great covered porch with a small table and chairs, and the most amazing forest view ever! Instantly, we opened the windows to let the sounds of nature and cool breeze in. The town of Volcano and surrounding area is significantly cooler than down on the coast, and when we got there it was somewhere in the lower 60s. Aaaaaahhhh. We played a few rounds of Skip-Bo (Aly is now an official part of the family as she is obsessed with this game!) and then we were lulled to sleep by the sounds of birds, insects, and gentle rain. The soft light filtering through the ferns woke us up in the morning, and we were all excited to get to a new National Park. We stopped in the town of Volcano (actually we drove through twice because we thought we missed some of it, but nope, we saw it all) and grabbed some sandwiches to take into the park as I had read the food choices in the park were not great.
We got to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, and started at the visitor center to pick up Aly’s Junior Ranger book. We explored the visitor center first to get some of the pages of the book done and learn a little more about the plants and animals, as well as the history, of the park. We then walked across the street and started down the Halema’uma’u Trail towards the Kilauea crater.
This was an amazing hike through the lush trees and was shaded for most of the hike. Aly was able to spot many of the different plants in her junior ranger book, including the popular Ohi’a trees with their red puffball flowers and lots of cool ferns. The hike down was easy going, and though it was all uphill on the way back, it was relatively short at 1.8 miles round trip. The significant change in flora from the hike down to the crater made the floor feel like another planet compared to where we started. It was amazing to see Ohi’a trees and ferns that managed to grow down there, despite minimal moisture and very inhospitable conditions (as in, lava rock all around).
After that hike, we drove over to the steam vents which occur from moisture seeping down onto the very hot rocks below the surface, creating steam.
Then we drove down the super scenic Chain of Craters Road towards the Sea Arch. The road is long, taking us about 30 minutes to get to the end, and windy, but beautiful nonetheless.
Then, back up the road to the Pu’u Loa Petroglyphs Trail. Aly was really wanting to see the petroglyphs as we have seen a few at other parks and it always feels exciting to see someone’s stories from the past. According to the park service, there are over 23,000 images at this site. The most common markings at this site were small holes, where the umbilical cord of a newborn baby was placed and covered to insure long life. I really enjoyed the idea of connecting your child to the land around you, and I hope that through all of our travels to various National Parks, we have instilled a connection to the land in Aly.
We collected Aly’s 14th Junior Ranger Badge when we were done, and had a nice picnic lunch with the birds before we got back on the road towards Waikoloa where we were staying for the next two nights.
We drove the Saddle Road route, across the middle of the island, and ended up going through a large, seemingly peaceful protest at Mauna Kea. The native Hawaiians are protesting the building of a new, very large telescope on Mauna Kea, as they feel enough have been built and this area is sacred ground, and I think they have a point. Two hours after leaving the park, we got to Hilton Kings Land. We were kind of over all the Hawaiian food we had been eating, so I found an Italian restaurant nearby with great ratings, Pueo’s Osteria. Many celebrities have eaten there, and we have learned not to wait long for a table with the little one, so we ordered some takeout and took it back to the hotel. The pasta was great, and the Genoa style pesto pasta I ordered was *almost* as good as what I had in Genoa last year. It was at this time that Aly hit her traveling wall, and quickly went from tired and quiet to sobbing, missing her dog, her fish, and home in general. She went right to bed, while Chris and I caught up on a little TV and reading before bed for us too.