<< markandrupa

Big Island, Hawaii

september 2008

I planned this two-week trip myself and settled on a more relaxed pace than usual, limiting us to just three overnight stops. We started off scuba diving for a couple of days while Rupa's parents toured Oahu, and then we all spent ten days circling the island and enjoying a little bit of everything the island offers: snorkeling, caving, boating, hiking, horseback riding, stargazing, helicoptering and more.


You can view a slideshow of our trip on Flickr (64 pics).

Trip log

  1. Seattle to Kailua-Kona - september 9

    We were up early this morning to catch our flights to Hawaii. Rupa's parents were heading to Oahu for a few days before joining us at the Big Island on Friday. Sadly, their flight out was delayed some 17 hours and they didn't arrive in Oahu until early the next morning. Meanwhile, we found our lovely condo in Keauhou Bay, checked in with our scuba diving outfit and enjoyed a tasty dinner at Jackie-Rey's in downtown Kailua-Kona.

    Kanaloa at Kona, Unit #2601, Keauhou Bay

  2. Scuba diving - september 10

    We spent most of the day out at sea, beginning with a pair of morning dives where we saw lots of colorful coral, a few tiny nudibranchs, a couple of octopus, a (young) bright yellow frogfish and a wonderful variety of reef fish. After a quick lunch at the harbor restaurant we were back on the boat for two move dives. The highlight of the first dive was sandy field filled with hundreds of garden eels waving in the current. The second dive, though, was one of my all-time favorite experiences, as we sat on the ocean floor while half a dozen giant 14ft Manta Rays swirled and soared just inches above our heads us as they fed on the plankton attracted to our dive lights. It was a fascinating experience and one that any scuba diver on the Big Island should do.

    Kanaloa at Kona, Unit #2601, Keauhou Bay

  3. Scuba diving - september 11

    We spent another morning diving today, this time in a pair of small lava tube caves that tested our diving ability. We came out just fine and enjoyed a couple of nice sightings, including a highly camoflagued (older) frog fish that was virtually indistinguishable from the coral and three small white-tipped reef sharks. We didn't have any evening dives scheduled today, so we drove into town for some delicious pizza at the Kona Brewing Company Brewery & Pub.

    Kanaloa at Kona, Unit #2601, Keauhou Bay

  4. Seahorse farm & luau - september 12

    We picked up Rupa's parents at the airport this morning, and after a breakfast of local taro "pancrepes" and a nap we joined a tour at the Ocean Rider Seahorse farm, where dozens of seahorse species are bred en masse to be sold as pets in an effort to stem the trade in wild seahorses which are rapidly disappearing from the world's oceans. The tour was fascinating (male seahorses are endlessly pregnant) and lots of fun, especially when we were allowed to "hold" a seahorse, which wrapped its tail around our finger. For dinner we attended the Kona Village Luau, which served a wonderful buffet of Hawaiian dishes, including traditionally cooked kalua pig and purple Hawaiian sweet potatoes. Dinner was followed by an entertaining polynesian dance revue that featured an authentic looking New Zealand Mauri welcome dance.

    Kanaloa at Kona, Unit #2601, Keauhou Bay

  5. City of Refuge & Pelagic Magic - september 13

    The four of us spent time early this afternoon touring the City of Refuge, a rocky palm tree lined peninsula used by pre-western Hawaiians for absolution. The idea was that if you committed a crime, for which the penalty was almost always death, you could escape punishment by swimming to the City of Refuge before the sentence was carried out (the peninsula was isolated from the mainland by a 1000ft long, 10ft high rock wall). On the way back to town we stopped at the Painted Church, a small wooden church with an interior lovingly painted by the parish priest in the early twentieth century. We then had a seaside dinner at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, dropped Rupa's parents off at the condo, and checked in for a night dive billed as "Pelagic Magic".

    The dive was a magical experience and another all-time highlight. We were dropped overboard, holding a powerful dive light and tethered to a 50ft line, into 5,000 feet of pitch-black water to watch all the bizarre, strangely luminescent, deep-water creatures of night float by: Heteropods, Venus girdles, pyrosomes, colonies of salp and comb jellies to name just a few.

    Kanaloa at Kona, Unit #2601, Keauhou Bay

  6. Kealakekua Bay & Kailua-Kona - september 14

    Our big adventure for the day was a morning catamaran cruise to Kealakekua Bay. There were seventy of us on board, but the large boat still felt spacious. Once at the bay Rupa and I took off snorkeling the beautiful reef while her dad received a snorkeling lession from the staff. Eventually, even Rupa's mom made it into the water, employing an underwater viewing device to see the reef without sticking her head under water. After an hour or so in the water we returned to the boat for a filling lunch. We were back in town for some afternoon shopping in downtown Kailua-Kona and finished the day off with another fabulous dinner at Jackie-Reys.

    Kanaloa at Kona, Unit #2601, Keauhou Bay

  7. Kona to Pahoa - september 15

    After checking out of our condo we drove south to Ocean View to Kula Kai Caverns, a braided network of 1000-year-old lava tubes. We spent over two hours navigating the dark tunnels with headlamps while our fabulous guide Kathlyn explained how they were formed and then later used by the Hawaiian natives. After lunch in Na'alehu we paused briefly at the narrow but scenic Punalu'u Black Sand Beach before continuing on to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. We watched a short video about the current eruption at the visitor center and then proceeded to the informative Jaggar Museum for a view into the large caldera and the 200ft diameter steaming vent, which has only been erupting since March. We also learned from a guide that Mauna Loa, the largest of the Big Island's five mountains, is the most massive mountain on earth and actually deforms the oceanic plate beneath it. If measured from the bend in the plate it would also be the world's tallest mountain at 56,000ft (compared to Everest's 29,000). From there we drove on to the east coast and settled into our comfortable seaside home in Hawaiian Beaches.

    Private residence, Hawaiian Beaches, Pahoa

  8. Hilo - september 16

    We were up early today to catch a helicopter ride over Kilauea Volcano. The four of us crammed into an open air (doors off) Hughes 500 and off we went. It was quite chilly up there but the views were fantastic, and it really gave us perspective on the panoramic devastion caused by recent lava flows. Our pilot flew us out to the ocean entry, where underground lava was flowing into the ocean, producing a voluminous acid plume. From there we followed the lava tube all the way up to Pu'u 'O'o Crater by following a zigzag line of venting steam and glowing red skylights - sections of the tube that have collapsed, revealing the flowing lava within. We finished off with some time around the large crater, which has been erupting continuously since 1983 and is currently venting an enormous cloud of toxic steam.

    After breakfast at a popular local restaurant (I had the "spam loco") we took a scenic drive north of town that led us to the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden. We spent over two hours walking the forested trails and admiring a lush collection of ferns, heliconia, bromeliads and orchids among others. Our last stop of the day was nearby Akaka Falls, which drops 420ft, after which we retired to our house and spent the evening enjoying the $1,000,000 view.

    Private residence, Hawaiian Beaches, Pahoa

  9. Puna Coast - september 17

    We spent the morning relaxing on the lanai (the neighbors even brought over some fresh fruit to share). We eventually made it out of the house to do some sightseeing, beginning with a lovely, isolated drive through a dense coastal forest. We stopped by a couple of scenic shore line attractions - the Kapoho Tide Pools and Ahalanui Park - before walking the grounds at Lava Tree State Park, where hollow columns of solidified lava ("lava trees") attest to the fast moving flows that once consumed a forest of wet 'O'hia trees here. As the lava surged by it quickly cooled around the surface of the trees. Once the flow drained away and the trees decomposed all that remained were hollowed out towers of fresh stone.

    Our big adventure for the day, and a highlight of the trip, was a three hour sunset boat ride out to the current eruption's ocean entry. We boarded a 20 passenger catamaran for the bumpy 30 minute ride out site, but it was well worth the back pain as we were able to spend the subsequent 45 minutes cruising back and forth directly in front of the steaming lava entry, sometimes as close as 100ft. Small tephra explosions and thin funnel clouds sprang from the acidic plume and when the wind shifted just right, we could see half a dozen lava drips spilling into the sea (the primary lava tube emerged unseen under the water). As the boat drifted through the swirling, steaming water it felt as though we were caught up in a giant witch's cauldron. I've never experienced anything like it, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

    Private residence, Hawaiian Beaches, Pahoa

  10. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park - september 18

    We enjoyed another beautiful morning at the house, and then drove up to HVNP for the moderate, four hour Kiluaea Iki crater hike. It was overcast and cool up at the park, perfect hiking conditions, and we set out through the rainforest along the rim of the crater before descending 450ft to the crater floor. There was a well-worn trail across the lava and we generally stuck to the path, though we did wander off a bit to check out some of the steaming cracks, caused by rain water contacting subsurface rock still hot from the 1959 eruption. That eruption filled the crater with a rippling lava lake and left the floor especially smooth as the surface of the lava lake cooled and then drained away from below. We had a picnic lunch on the crater floor and then climbed the trail back up to crater rim, finishing the hike in about three hours.

    After the hike we drove 19 miles down the Chain of Craters road to the sea. The entire landscape was one large lava desert, though interestingly enough it was possible to make out the various flows by the color and texture of the lava. Smooth pahoehoe and rough 'a'a flows abutted and overlapped all the way down to the ocean, and in at least one place it was still possible to see a previous iteration of the road, now covered over by late twentieth century flows. We paused at the ocean to check out the shoreline, and then drove all the way back to Pahoa for a tasty Thai dinner at Ning's.

    Private residence, Hawaiian Beaches, Pahoa

  11. Hamakua Coast - september 19

    We left Puna behind this morning and drove north along the Hamakua Coast, detouring whenever possible onto the older, more scenic, Old Mamalahoa Highway. It was a lovely drive and we took it slow, though we made only one stop, at Laupahoehoe to take in the crashing surf at the seaside park. Arriving in Honoka'a we grabbed lunch and tasty malasadas (Portuguese doughnuts popular in Hawaii) before joining our houseback ride through the gorgeous Waipi'o Valley (Rupa's parents took a mule-drawn wagon ride instead). The drive down into the valley was part of the adventure, but our guide navigated the rough 25% grade with ease and we were soon crossing steams atop our well-trained steeds. Rupa's horse had an inferiority complex and loved to ride at the front, nipping at the other horses if they tried to pass. Mine, on the other hand, was about as lazy as they come, and preferred to hang out way in back and search the margins for potential snacking oppotunities - guava was his favorite.

    From the valley we drove west across the island through rolling pastureland that quickly changed to a lava wasteland as we neared the west coast. In the middle of this wasteland, along the coast, are some of the most luxurious resort complexes in all of Hawaii, and the contrast of the stark fields of black lava and the lush, manicured grounds of the resorts is striking. We had booked a private residence at the Mauna Lani complex and we were not dissappointed - we found ourselves in a stunning 2,800sq ft, $2 million dollar tropical villa (that slept eight) for half the price of a nearby hotel room.

    The Villages at Mauna Lani, Unit #712, Kohala Coast

  12. The Big Island from above - september 20

    Early this afternoon we embarked on a scenic helicopter ride over the rugged Kohala Coast - this time with the doors on for a more comfortable ride (though it made photography rather difficult). It was a spectacular ride and a wonderful opportunity to see this remote, uninhabitated area that is otherwise inaccessible. Virgin forests and dramatic thousand-foot waterfalls filled the steep valleys, and our pilot did a fabulous job of ensuring that we all had excellent viewing opportunities.

    Later in the afternoon we joined an excellent, small group astronomy tour to the summit of Mauna Kea, the world's tallest mountain at 33,500ft (though not the highest - only 13,800ft of it rise above sea level). We stopped for a picnic dinner enroute to help acclimatize, and then drove straight to the near-freezing summit to see the dozen or so observatories that dot the slopes and to watch a lovely sunset. We then descended back to the visitors center and marveled at the star-filled sky while our guide gave us an informative tour of the planets and constellations. We were able to identify four planets tonight - Venus, Mars and Mercury were all in direct allignment and Jupiter was visible through the scope, where we could make out its cloud formations and three of its moons.

    The Villages at Mauna Lani, Unit #712, Kohala Coast

  13. Mauna Lani Resort - september 21

    We didn't have any prearranged plans today and we decided to take it easy and enjoy the resort - Rupa's mom even made us taro pancakes with coconut syrup that we enjoyed out on the lanai. In the afternoon we made it out on a couple of nearby hikes, the first to see hundreds of ancient Hawaiian petroglyphs carved into a smooth "field" of lava. Our second hike took us out to the coast where we walked around a couple of scenic palm-lined fish ponds used by Hawaiians to breed their favorite fish meat. We also had our fanciest dinner of the trip at the Mauna Lani Bay Canoe House, where we watched a beautiful sunset from the beachside location while enjoying cocktails and an expertly prepared meal.

    The Villages at Mauna Lani, Unit #712, Kohala Coast

  14. Vacation shopping - september 22

    Today was even easier then yesterday as we spent the morning on the lanai and the afternoon in Kona, picking out small gifts for friends and family back home. We also did some shopping for ourselves, including a nearly five foot photographic print of the Kilauea ocean entry taken by world famous photographer Peter Lik. We'd seen his stunning landscapes at his gallery in Sydney earlier this year and when passed a gallery of his in Mauna Lani we stopped in. As it turned out, he was on the Big Island a month ago and hiked out to the current eruption to take some early morning photos. One of the prints was on display but the other, more impressive print of the ocean entry, was only viewable on a computer screen. Despite not seeing the print in person we were totally taken with it and ordered a copy. We ended the day with our tastiest meal of the trip at the Tommy Bahama Cafe next to the art gallery. Everything we ordered was flawless, particularly the red-pepper stuffed chicken breast.

    The Villages at Mauna Lani, Unit #712, Kohala Coast

  15. Mauna Lani to Seattle - september 23

    Our trip came to an end this morning as we dropped off Rupa's parents at the airport for their early morning flight and then returned a couple of hours later for our own flight home. We made it home without incident and arrived around midnight for a solid night's sleep in our own bed.

    At home in Seattle

Souvenir List

  1. Hawaiian hula girl magnet
  2. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park magnet
  3. Hawaiian steel guitar CD
  4. Coconut syrup (for pancakes)
  5. Book: Mauna Kea - A Guide to Hawaii's Sacred Mountain
  6. Mauna Kea astronomy mug for Jason
  7. Framed 5ft Peter Lik print "Pele's Whisper"