Posts Tagged With: Big Island

Unscripted on the Big Island

After a busy week exploring Oahu, Maui, and the Big Island, we were ready for an unscripted beach day. And, because it rained most of the previous day on the windward side of the island, we looked forward to dry weather on the “Kona side” (leeward) at Kailua-Kona. Cruise ships anchor offshore at this port, so our first order of business was taking a tender from our ship to the pier.

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Tender to the Kona pier

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View of the Pride of America from our tender

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Beach ready

After the requisite photo on the pier, we were ready to find a beach. Fortunately, historic downtown Kailua is adjacent to the pier so we didn’t have to look far. We stopped at Tourist Information and learned the Kona Trolley would take us south to the beaches for just $2 per ride.

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Roadside view from the Kona Trolley

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Trolley View

We got off the trolley at Kahalu’u Beach where Jim was first into the water. When he spied a large sea turtle swimming next to him, he was intent on avoiding contact after seeing the sign announcing a $35,000 fine for touching these protected creatures. An underwater camera sure would have been handy to capture the experience, however.

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Kahalu’u Beach

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Jim swimming with the sea turtles

While the beach was lovely, there was too much coral in the water which makes for good snorkeling but awkward wading, so we packed up and got back on the trolley to try another beach. Magic Sands Beach was perfect.

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Magic Sands Beach

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Magic Sands Beach

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Magic Sands Beach

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Yours truly in the water at Magic Sands Beach

The official name is La’aloa Beach, but locals nicknamed it Magic Sands because the sand washes away in the winter only to return each summer when the currents change. Fortunately for us, there was plenty of sand during our visit in November.

A sweet little dog wandered about the beach visiting various groups of sunbathers and eventually he joined us, too. We, of course, assumed he was a stray but when he turned up his nose at the granola bar we offered, we knew his owner was nearby. Sure enough, as we left, we saw him jump into a car with a local.

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Lori and I made friends with this sweet dog

When we’d had enough beach time, we took the trolley back to town for a little exploration. We’d been advised to have a shave ice with azuki beans and finally located a place that sold them. Azuki (or adzuki) beans are red beans that are sweetened and used in Asian confections. Since the tradition of Hawaiian shave ice was first introduced by Japanese immigrants, it makes sense that they would use azuki beans. They were surprisingly tasty in the shave ice.

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Shave Ice offerings

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Ordering our shave ice

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shave ice with azuki beans

At the end of a relaxing unscripted day in Kailua-Kona, we were ready to return to the Pride of America to set sail that evening for the island of Kauai. And if you’re wondering why we didn’t visit a coffee plantation, we did –on Kauai, so please come back and check it out.

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Home sweet Pride of America

 

Based on events from November 2015.

 

 

 

Categories: cruise, Travel, Uncategorized, USA | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Legend of Akaka Falls

Legend has it the Hawaiian god, Akaka, lived next to a waterfall with his wife while his girlfriends, Lehua and Maile, lived nearby. When his wife returned early one day nearly catching him with one of the girlfriends, Akaka ran away and fell into the falls. (Some versions say he jumped but I find that hard to believe.) Lehua and Maile cried so hard when they heard about Akaka’s death, they turned into small waterfalls. The waterfall that Akaka fell into was named Akaka Falls and two nearby small cascading falls are called Lehua and Maile Falls.

Today, Akaka Falls State Park is a very popular and iconic attraction near Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii. To reach the falls, we walked a short paved trail through stunning tropical vegetation. While the entire trail is less than half a mile, there are stairs involved so the trail is not wheelchair accessible. The park is a tropical paradise that defies description and the photos hardly capture such incredible beauty. When I say tropical, I mean it was hot, humid, misty, or rainy the entire time but thankfully, I never saw a single mosquito.

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Red Firespike

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Red Firespike

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Ti plant

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Ti plant (Hawaiian Good Luck Plant)

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Lori under the aerial roots of a large Banyan tree with Jim in the background

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Red Ginger

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Yellow Ginger

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Heliconia Mariae

The walk through this lush tropical jungle would have been quite enough to satisfy us but our first view of the Akaka Falls took the experience to another level.

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First view of Akaka Falls

The falls drops 442 feet into a gorge so we knew that we had only seen the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. The full view was truly sublime.

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Akaka Falls

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Akaka Falls and trail

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Jim and Laura on the stairs to the viewing area of Akaka Falls

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Lori and Laura at Akaka Falls

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Full view of Akaka Falls

If the photos don’t fully convey the beauty of the falls, click on this video to see Akaka Falls in motion.

Continuing along the trail, we also spotted the small Lehua and Maile Falls crying copious tears together.

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Lehua and Maile Falls

Our visit to Akaka Falls was part of the Pride of America excursion to Volcanoes National Park. The third component of this excursion was a stop at the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Visitor Center. Although I’m not a huge fan of these commercial stops that all cruise lines include in their excursions, we actually appreciated this shopping opportunity to pick up some macadamia nuts to take home. Unfortunately, the factory was closed or we’d have enjoyed a look about there, too.

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We spent only a day in the port of Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii but felt we’d gotten a good introduction to the windward side of the island. That night the Pride of America sailed on to Kona where, the next morning, we would explore the leeward side.

Based on events from November 2015.

 

Categories: cruise, Travel, Uncategorized, USA | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Hiking Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Mauna Loa and Kilauea, on the island of Hawaii, are two of the most active volcanoes in the world. Mauna Loa last erupted in 1984 and is due to erupt again. Kilauea has been continuously erupting since 1983. In addition, Mauna Loa is actually the tallest mountain in the world standing 56,000 feet (17,000 meters) when measured from the ocean floor rather than sea level. These two volcanoes comprise Volcanoes National Park and a UNESCO  World Heritage site. In my opinion, this was the single most important “not to be missed” sight on our Hawaiian cruise and for this reason, we booked an excursion to Volcanoes National Park through the cruise line. For $139 per person, we were transported to the national park, we hiked the crater of Kilauea Iki with a guide, and visited Akaka Falls, too.

The Pride of America docked in Hilo where our excursion began. Our bus stopped first at the Kilauea Visitor Center which interestingly, was built in 1941 as a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) project. The CCC was a New Deal program established during the Great Depression in 1933 that taught young unemployed men many valuable skills while improving the infrastructure of the United States.

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Kilauea Visitor Center, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

We began our 4-mile hike at the Kilauea Iki (Little Kilauea) Trailhead. The trail followed the rim of the crater through a lush tropical rainforest, then descended 400 feet (122 m) by switchbacks and stairs to the floor of the crater, crossed the crater, and ascended again.  Our guide led us through the hot, wet, humid, tropical rain forest telling us about the vegetation as we hiked. Periodically, we had stunning views into the crater.

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Our guide telling us about the rain forest on the Kilauea Iki Trail

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Kilauea Iki Trail

 

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View from Kilauea Iki Trail

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Tropical rain forest vegetation

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Fern fiddleheads in the tropical rain forest

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Kilauea Iki Overlook

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Looking into the crater of Kilauea Iki

Kilauea Iki last erupted in 1959. Prior to the eruption, the floor of the crater was 800 feet deep and covered with forest.  When a lava lake of 86 million tons flooded the crater, the floor raised 400 feet. Today the lava lake is solid but steam vents indicate it’s still hot inside.

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Reaching the floor of the crater with rain to welcome us

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Hiking into the crater at Kilauea Iki

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We made it to the bottom but still had to hike across the crater and back up the other side

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Lori and our group hiking the crater

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The trail is marked by ahu (stacks of rock)

One of the advantages of an organized tour is the interesting facts the guide shares that you may otherwise never discover. One of those tidbits was Pele’s hair. Pele is the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes and Pele’s hair is the thin volcanic glass threads produced when molten lava blows through the air.

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Pele’s hair

Our guide also showed us a steam vent which honestly, I would have told my husband to stay away from if we didn’t have a professional with us.

The incredible resiliency of our earth amazed me with the amount of impressive vegetation that sprouted in cracks and crevices of lava rock.

 

When we ascended back to the rim of the crater, we visited nearby Thurston Lava Tube, named after the discoverer in 1913, Lorrin Thurston. A lava tube is formed when molten lava flows through walls hardening around it. The Thurston Lava Tube is about 600 feet long.

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Thurston Lava Tube

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Thurston Lava Tube

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Inside Thurston Lava Tube

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Thurston Lava Tube

Our final stop in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to eat a sack lunch at the Jagger Museum offered views of the active Kilauea caldera from a safe distance. Active lava flows were only visible from the air during our visit. You can check the park website to find out whether views are safely available during your visit.

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Steam rising from Kilauea Caldera

Next time I’ll show and tell about Akaka Falls. But let me just offer a spoiler alert right now. Our excursion to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Akaka Falls was the highlight of our visit to the Big Island and indeed, a top highlight of our entire trip.

 

Based on events from November 2015.

Categories: cruise, History, National Parks, natural history, Travel, Uncategorized, UNESCO, USA | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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