My friend Holli was a nurse I worked with back home. She is from Hawaii and she moved away to go to school but her family still lives in Hawaii. She was nice enough to give her mom my contact information and her mom ended up driving me all around the island. I would take mental notes of the places I wanted to explore more based off the sights her mom took me to see for a few minutes. Holli planned on coming home for a few weeks to see her family and luckily we were able to hang out a little and grab sushi one night. Her mom was always great at showing me new restaurants to check out because I was always willing to try new cuisines. Holli and I were able to get together on Oahu but we were also able to take a mini vacation on the Big Island. Inter island flights were super quick and they were seamless if flown on Hawaiian Airlines in my opinion. The Big Island is actually called Hawaii but due to the confusion between the state and the island, most people refer to that island as simple the Big Island.
We arrived in Hilo, which is the rainy side of the island. It tends to be a little cheaper than the Kona side but still just as beautiful. One of the first things we did was head to Akaka Falls, which was very close to Hilo. There are two waterfalls at this park and it was so green, with the feeling of being in a rainforest.
The weather that day was dreary and rainy but it may have made the waterfall stand out even more and the greens seemed to be brighter.
We ended up taking a little tour up around the island to explore a little. Below it is hard to tell but it is where the ocean meets the sky. We could see the water from this farm area and we had to pull over and photograph it. The ocean was endless and it was so blue it ended up blending right into the sky.
As we drove up north we ended up taking a detour along the way. How could we not stop and capture the waves crashing on the beach?
The black rock and sand is from the volcanos. The Big Island is the only island that has an active lava flow and is actually still growing in size due to the lava flow. The rocks are a little hard to walk on but it gves the feel of charcoal used for a fire. Remarkable land markings, especially when the vibrant life of greenery sits right next to the lava rocks.
We ended up at ht Waipio Valley Lookout which was way bigger than it appeared in the photo, which were cliffs up to 2,000 feet high off in the distance.
What an amazing view. There were taro fields to the left in the Waipio Valley. To the right was again the ocean for days...
We headed around to the west side of the island. Kona is one of the largest cities on the western side of the Big Island. We headed there for one of the two best experiences in my life. We had scheduled a night snorkleing expedition with manta rays. Do not get concerned because manta rays, unlike sting rays, cannot harm you. They have night dives and night snorkeling. At dusk a boat takes you out in a bay area where there is a large amount of manta rays. Usually manta rays do not hang out in large groups in one area but for some reason (maybe all the plankton) they love this area. We had to put on wetsuits because when the sun went down the water was very cold. We had noodles to help keep us afloat and lights shining downward. Divers could go and sit on the bottom of the ocean or swim around with the manta rays. I cannot explain how amazing it was for a manta ray to come straight towards you in the water and at the last minute almost chest bump you as it does a back flip. There are probably videos online to view such a spectacular sight. I was freezing in the water but I stayed in the whole 45 minutes to have every second I could with these beautiful creatures that could span up to even 18 feet wide. Unbelievable. We were exhausted on the drive home but we made it safe and sound back to Hilo. Below are a few photos taken before we snorkeled.
The next day we had a busy day planned. We headed out to the most southern part of the island. There is a green sand beach on the southern coast of the Big Island, which is only one of two in the world. We were so close, of course we had to go see the green sand. Our rental car was a very small compact car and was not a good car for rough terrain. The parking lot for the green sand beach is about two miles away from the actual green sand beach. We were here, we had to see it! We ended up starting our trek to the beach. There were a few trucks and SUVs making the trip but bouncing the whole way with the uneven terrain. There was a family that was driving slowing due to the crater size potholes and they offered us a ride down to the beach. We thought for a second and said, why not, we could jump out we were going slow enough if we had to. It was a bumpy ride but we made it!
The green was hard to tell due to the lighting but you could see it if you look closely. I am not sure if the beach used to appear more green and has lost a little of the appearance due to tourists taking sand as a keepsake. We looked at the beach and walked down a bit but then we realized with the time and two mile walk back we had to leave. We started our trek back only for the family to come pick us up again and offer us a ride. They live on the island and only came for a short time to the beach. We lucked out because it looked like a storm was coming any minute.
Two crazy hitchhikers below!
Since we had a little bit of time, we went to the Ka Lae, the South Point of the island. This was the most southern part of the U.S. Anyone that has gone to the Florida Keys and gets confused with that just has to remember that was the southern most part of the continental U.S., this was the southern most point of the whole United States. There was a puka (Hawaiian for hole) in the cliff, where two young boys were jumping. They had to time the jumps with the oceans waves. Activities like this get people killed in Hawaii but these boys were quite comfortable jumping down the hole and climbinb back out. A lady was taking photos and cheering them on. I may have mentioned how unsafe I thought it was to which she agreed slightly and then told me one of the boys was her son. Oops. They also jumped off the cliff and climbed up the 40 foot ladder back up, just to jump again. Wild!
Above is the cliff where people jump into the ocean just to climb back up and do it all over again.
We made it right in time. It started raining after we got to take a few photographs and saw this area. We were so lucky our nice family we ran into gave us a ride or we may have missed out on the beach and the southern point. We cut timing close but we had to head back to Hilo to go to an expedition we had planned and for which we could not be late for! We were going to see LAVA. LAVA. This was the other best experience of my life. At this time the lava flow was still entering the ocean. There were boat tours that went 45 mins south to the lava entry to the ocean. The water was pretty rough that day from the storm. Our captain warned us that we would all get wet and the front of the boat would be the most wet and the roughest ride. One man jumped up and went to the front as he shouted YOLO! No thanks for me. I tried to stay as dry as possible because I had my camera bag on me. I had it wrapped in a trashbag and I held it at my chest and zipped my rain jacket around me and the backpack. Then I had a poncho on. I did not want to ruin my camera but I had to have it on me when we got to the lava. Switching between my phone and real camera took a little time but I also just stared at the lava through no lens because it was a sight I may never see again and I did not want to forget. We took the sunset cruise which they said due to position is usually not as great as the sunrise tour but on this day it was amazing.
This was the sight we saw when we floated up to the lava. Billows of smoke were coming from the entry of the lava to the ocean. We got close to the lava and the captain told us we could take out our cameras. The heat from the lava and the smell of sulfur was a bit overwhelming after our rocking boat ride with 4 foot crests of waves. The poor man that shouted YOLO immediately got up and ended up getting sick over the edge of the boat. So much for YOLO. Our captain was amazing, he would get us so close to the lava and I thought the waves were going to crash us right into the island but he manuevered us so well.
Just amazing. If there is one thing you can do in Hawaii, I would say see lava. I would see it again if we had more time on this island. We stayed for awhile and got lots of photos and we could even see the fresh black sand from the lava. Our trip back was basically in the dark and the night cruise had to be canceled because the water was so rough. We lucked out that we got to see this cruise. It was a long day of driving and time of a boat and we were freezing. We changed clothes and headed for dinner at a great local restaurant and then off to bed.
Our last day we traveled to the Hawaii National Park and saw the crater where the lava is but it is hard to see in the daytime. We also got to walk through some lava tubes which were very interesting.
Next we headed to Ahalanui Park which was a hot pond near our boat launch for the lava (near Hilo). This was very cool because the water is actually heated from volcanic activity underground. Part of the pond is manmade to act like a pool and there is an opening where water from the ocean can flow in and out of the pond.
Warning everywhere (as usual) so no one gets swept out to the ocean. Some things should be common sense but unfortunately signs are needed.
This last photo is a closer version of the "pond", which is still very natural even with the man made ponds.
We were off exploring the ponds and when we returned to our car we had a present on it!
Three presents actually, a crown and two roses. They were very cool! A man was making them and I assume selling them but he just left for us on our rental car! We were so excited and we ran over to give him some money for his hard work, which surprised him I think but I hope we made each others days.
We had enough time for one more stop, Rainbow Falls. We walked around and checked out the falls and the fun banyan trees located around the falls. It seemed there was always something else to see around a corner of each island.
I think we made the most of our time here but I could spend weeks more on this island exploring but this trip with Holli was beyond memorable!