Biggest Ball of String

Our road trip adventures, quirky roadside attractions, generally in the United States or Canada (and with occasional travel off the mainland into Hawaii, Alaska, Caribbean and Europe – so far)

Big Island’s June27 Lava Flow and Hurricane Iselle

Hi!  It’s been a long time since I wrote!

When I was writing my Biggest Ball of String “adventures” more regularly, I was just finishing up my segment on the Big Island of Hawaii – all I had left was the Village of Kailua-Kona.  (I’ll come back to that.)Summertime

And, although I’ve thought of my blog often, and the unfinished Hawaii segment, and all the places we’ve been that I didn’t discuss, I was side tracked with “real-life” things.  Last time I wrote, I talked about one of the “real life” things, which was a Cottage we purchased on Lake Michigan! THAT has taken up so much of my time! and I love it! I am inspired to do thing for it – it’s like I have tunnel vision! Everything has to do with that one particular event/thing!

Because The Cottage is part of my new adventure, I’ve started a new blog for it.  It’s going to be very specific to that one place – the cottage, the area, the renovations & updates, local business – chocolaterias, wineries, pie & pastry shops, breweries, places to rent boats, etc.   Really, I hope there are people who “browse” and find it,  or maybe it’ll be people who come visit the Cottage and want to know what updates we’ve done, or maybe it will be random people… but, I also just want to remind myself of the journey, and this is a good way!  Come check it out!

Last time I wrote a blog about travel, and before we bought the Cottage, I was writing about Hawaii…

A lot is happening right now on the Big Island – including the relentless approaching lava toward the little village of Pahoa!

June 27 Lava Flow 1Kilauea’s newest lava flow is named for the date the lava began erupting from it’s new vent, June 27.   I don’t know much about it but the pictures on-line seem crazy and amazing!!   The National Park’s website says that, as of September 15, “The actual length of the flow, measured along the lava tube axis (so that bends in the flow are considered) is 17.7 km (11.0 miles).”

I did wonder (since the lava is advancing kind of slowly, I mean, compared to movies like Dante’s Peak) if there were plans to divert the lava… when I asked, the answer was basically “no”.  I had my own guesses as to the reason, but Huffingpost had this to say:

“But diversion methods can be risky, according to officials. Not only could they make the problem worse, there are also considerable cultural sensitivities at June 27 Lava Flowplay.”

Diverting the lava flow — whether by obstructing it, rerouting it or attempting to alter the terrain in its path — is seen as blasphemous to Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes who is believed to live in the Halemaumau crater of Kilauea Volcano.

“This is a very sacred place,” Hawaii County Civil Defense administrator Darryl Oliveira said in response to one Puna resident’s question about diversion, per footage of the community meeting posted online Sept. 3 by Big Island Video News. “It is important to recognize and respect the culture that was and is still here.”

Oliveira also explained that any kind of diversion could worsen the situation and unintentionally send the lava flow toward another community.”

Culture and uncertainty were my guesses.

Maybe something amazing will happen, and there will be a rift that doesn’t affect anyone, and the lava will just drop straight back into the earth and take an underground route to the ocean!

Methusaleh 1 So, speaking of Hawaii, and that side of the Island – did I mention that we have land there…?  The reason I bring it up now is because on that acreage was “Methuselah”.  Methuselah was an O’hia tree , estimated to be around 970 years old (hence, the namesake), and right beside the top of our driveway.

When we first put in our driveway, we took special care of the larger trees and made the road go around them.  Especially Methuselah.

O’hia trees grow up to be about 20–25 meters (66–82 feet), but Methuselah was probably around 50 feet tall, and had been broken in half by either wind or lightning at some point. Two people could not reach around his trunk.  There was an entire ecosystem growing in and on his trunk! He was covered in roots from other trees.  In his leaves near the top, you could see flowers and leaves from orchids living and growing in his bark.   He was magnificent.

This year, during Hurricane Iselle, he blew down.  Even now, writing it, it makes my eyes water.  I love that tree.Methusaleh 2

The people who told us that he’d fallen (and currently is blocking complete access to our driveway) know that I love the tree, and everyone has wonderful ideas: Maybe we can make it into a beam in our house. Maybe we can make it into a bench. Maybe we can lift it with a crane to the edge of the property, and let the branches grow into new trees (this happens in Hawaii…)

It’s hard to find someone with a crane who also appreciates how much I love that tree… also, when O’hias die, they turn to such hard wood, it’s almost like petrified and then …so… I need to decide soon…

Hurricane Iselle (a tropical storm?) did a lot of damage to the Island –  trees and power lines were down everywhere, and tens of thousands were without power for weeks, some communities were without running water, and some people were isolated because of giant trees down blocking the roads.  There are really great stories, though, about communities coming together to help others – which, despite these two major catastrophes, is a really nice part of the story!  It’s worth the Google.

I was going to talk about Kona this time, but I think I’ll save it for next time…which will be sooner than later! (It’s mostly written anyway – just need to add pictures!

Stay tuned!

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Lu’aus, Kalua Pua’a, and icky Poi

Each time we went to Kona (well, The Island, actually), we did some tourist-y things –edit like, visited the Volcano and went to a bunch of beaches and snorkelled… but, we didn’t actually make it to a Lu’au for NINE YEARS!

Lu’aus just weren’t on the list of things I wanted to do. Until, I realized, we’d been there 9 times, and hadn’t done the most classic thing.

After taking a random opinion poll, we decided to go to the Lu’au at the King Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel.

The Royal Family ArrivesWe chose that particular one because the Royal Court arrives by boat, the Court Herald announcing their arrival blasting the Conch.  Also, it was our understanding that they were the only lu’au at the time that had the Fire Dancers.  The dress was traditional, but not what you see in the movies – well, the male dancers were wearing loin cloth, but the hula girls were in full dress, not in coconut shells. (We were fine with that – not sure how the guys in the group felt, but we knew in advance.)

They have the unveiling of the Kalua Pua’a (pig) that is cooked in an underground oven (imu), and they serve that, along with poi (which is basically Imugoo made out of taro root… it comes in different textures – depending on how many fingers you need to eat it – one, two and three finger poi, depending upon the gooiness (spell check says that’s the way to spell it). Poi is, in my opinion, GROSS!! but apparently…popular.)

Unburying the pua'a in the imu

pua'aComplimentary mai-tais helps to drown out the icky taste of poi, though, so that’s great! and for dessert, often pineapple upside down cake, which is YUMMY too!

We learned that we could attend a Time Share Presentation and get 4 free Lu’au tickets, which seemed like a good idea at the time.

We agreed in advance to “just say No” – no matter what.  WELL! those are TERRIBLE!!!  Peter’s good at them.  I am NOT!   I caved right away. Well, I made it through the first room and the first presentation.  The second was trickier.  And, by about the 4th, we were arguing.  It pretty much wrecked the entire day.  We didn’t buy a time share.  We DID get free tickets.

We had a lot of fun at the lu’au.  We crossed it off our “we have never done this before” list…

This year, as mentioned, we were with Chris & Amanda & daughters, who hadn’t been to a lu’au before, so we chose the one at the Royal Kona Resort.  (This time, we chose based on the “classic” attire – coconut shell bikini tops BUT, it turns out, they ALSO have Fire Dancers!)More Hula DancersThe hula

The lu’au dinner menu seems similar to the King Kamehameha Beach Hotel (yummy kalua pua’a, pineapple upside down cake, icky poi)…Icky Poi

We paid for the tickets this time – NO MORE TIME SHARES FOR US!!  Learned that lesson the hard way for sure.

Both shows were great! We enjoyed both.  Each had things to offer.  So far, we haven’t been to a lu’au where the dancers invite people up to learn to hula, like in all the movies – but it must happen.  Anyone know where?

Fire Dancer

You should go!  There are other options at other hotels, too. I’m sure we’ll find ourselves at another some time, and maybe I’ll pick a different hotel again. (Which reminds me – sometimes the hotels give special deals, too, if you are staying there.)

We’ve only stayed at one hotel in Kona and that’s the King Kamehameha Beach Hotel, when we were too late coming into town and so we snuck and told everyone we arrived the next day 🙂 shhhhhhhhhhh.

The King Kam Inn (which I believed was the name, until I started writing this particular blog) has THE BEST EVER dinner buffet on Fridays and Saturdays.  They feature Prime Rib (Peter’s favorite) and Seafood (including Snowcrab, which is my second favorite), and a LOT of other items, and a great dessert buffet, too.  (The Buffet is on my To-Do list every year!)Probably the World's Largest Shave Ice

After dinner, you can take a lovely stroll down Ali’i Drive ~ enjoy the sound of the waves lapping against the shore, the happy people sampling what could be the World’s Largest Shave Ice, chirping birds in the Banyan Tree putting themselves to bed for the night, the scent of the seawater merging with plumeria, and the perfect 72°F (22° Celsius) weather (which, as we all know – 72° IS “Comfort Zone”.)

Speaking of Ali’i Drive – I think that’s what we’ll tour next blog.


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Welcome to Kona

Ironman TriathleteWhen you hear the name “Kona”, you might automatically think of the world-class Ironman Competition. Or the world-famous best-ever Kona coffee.

One thing is certain: it is the hub of tourism for the Big Island.   I mean, many people come to see the Volcano, but that’s just a day. The rest of the time, most people visit Kona-side.

And why? well, for one thing, the weather is pretty perfect, and normally predictable.

The weatherman says, every day, something like: “Today will be 83° with a few minutes of mist around 3pm.”  And guess what? Every day is 83°, and every day, there’s a mist, around 3pm. Rarely a pelting rain. Rarely a “cool” day.  (83° Fahrenheit is 28° Celsius.)

You want to be able to count on certain things (like good weather) when you are vacation. Especially if it’s your first trip to Hawaii.

Our first trip to Hawaii happened to be the same weekend as the Ironman Competition, coincidentally.

We were coming to visit family, so they “warned” us of the Ironman and got inner-Island flight tickets for us at Kama’aina rate.  (At that time, there were no flights from Calgary directly to Kona, so we’d had to fly into Honolulu, which will be the topic of another blog sometime.)

Along the Ironman route“Kama’aina” basically refers to an actual resident of Hawaii, and the rate is generally very worth-while.  It’s pronounced “Comma-eye-nah” (kind of) and often you have to ask for the rate (Shop people don’t ask you if you are eligible) but you must have proof of residency to get the discount.  (To tell the truth, on the Hilo side, I sometimes can get kama’aina rate, because I blend in better there…)

Anyway, we managed to get onto the Big Island during the Ironman World Championship, one of the toughest triathlons.  Not only do athletes have to complete a 2.4 mile (almost 4 kms) swim in the Ocean, followed by a 112 mile (180 kms) bicycle race (still covered in salt water residue?), and then a 26.2 mile (42 km) run/walk/crawl to the Finish Line, they also have to deal with thick humidity, the hot sun over an ancient lava field, and cross winds.

The morning of the Ironman, I was blasted out of my solid slumber by the sound of the Starter Pistol – from our view, we could see a sea of bodies heading out into the Ocean .

By the time we got down to Ali’i Drive (the main street on the wharf in Kailua-Kona and great for experiencing all-things-Kona, including restaurants)MmmmmmMai Tai for breakfast, the triathletes were zooming by on their bikes.

And, after a day of overall relaxation and laziness, and just breathing in the thick humid air, scented with Plumaria, we settled in for dinner and mai tais near the Finish Line, and watched those amazing athletes finding their way to the finish line!!

After months and months of what I can only assume is grueling training, athletes must first qualify and be accepted to run. It’s not like you can just show up and participate.  Rigorous training (an average of 7 months, according to the Ironman website) including weekly swimming (7 miles/11.3 km), biking (232 miles/373 km), and running (48 miles/77 kms).

This year’s Ironman competition is October 12th, and approximately 1800 athletes are expected.

Amazing! I would like to say that I was inspired, but… well, I can say I was “awed”.

Coffee Shack, Plantation in backgroundSpeaking of “awe” about things I won’t be doing – one of my friends (who also happens to be family) decided to make her own coffee.  And, not just “make myself a cup of coffee”, but since she happened to live on a coffee plantation at the time, and since Kona coffee is, after all, world famous, she decided to start from scratch.

She went out and picked coffee berries from the bushes.  She followed all of the intricate steps in between, and then roasted the coffee beans. Then she ground them.  She made 1/2 a cup of coffee. … It was DELICIOUS!

But NOT worth doing again…

It’s a good thing, then, that you can buy coffee EVERYWHERE.  You can buy it at kiosks on Ali’i Drive. You can buy it at Walmart.  You can buy it straight from the Coffee Farmer. You can even buy it on line.  I’m not saying it’s all the same quality, and you have to watch for “blends”, but it is available.My Kona Coffee

You can also tour some of the Coffee Plantations. One of them is Kona Joe Coffee.  (They also have a nice lunch and an amazing view.)

Normally, coffee plants are bushes or shrub-like, but at Kona Joe Coffee, they have mastered a way of growing coffee on trellises, like grapes in vineyards.

From what I can understand, the advantage of trellis raised beans (or, as I’m reading, coffee cherries, not beans) is that they have a more dispersed exposure to the sun, and that enhances the quality.

I’ve tried Kona Joe Coffee, and it is GOOD!  I’d have to do proper taste testing to determine which method is my favorite … I love coffee! I love trellised coffee…and I love “shrub” coffee…

One thing is for sure! I LOVE KONA COFFEE! any which way.

Kona SunsetSomething else for which Kona is famous: THE MOST Brilliant and Amazing Sunsets! (Will discuss those more later..)


Seahorses and Petroglyphs

I missed seeing the Petroglyphs in Volcano National Park (we accidentally opted to take a scenic drive downCoy Pond at Queen's MarketPlace an old road so it was too dark by the time we got to the Petroglyph Trail), BUT, fortunately, Chris & Amanda and the girls were up for hiking to the Petroglyphs along the Kohala Coast.

The Petroglyph Trail is beside the King’s Shops, and apparently, there’s a free tour of the petroglyphs.  We just walked around out there and made guesses about what everything was (there are occasional signs, too, to help with your guesses), but it might be handy to have an expert on hand…

The King’s Shops are located in Waikoloa Beach Resort, and include high fashion stores (Louis Vuitton, for example), restaurants, and gift shops.  Across the street is The Queen’s MarketPlace, which includes, along with the fashion stores (Quicksilver and Sunglass Hut, for example) and restaurants, the Island Gourmet Marketplace, which includes gifts, groceries and wine tasting.  (There’s also a large coy pond, at which to wile away the hours, if that interests you – I stayed there while Peter went watch-shopping.)

Petroglyph FieldBetween the Kings and Queens shops is the Petroglyph Trail (or Ki’i pohaku, which means something like “Stone Image”.)

The majority of Petroglyphs were carved into the lava stone sometime between the Hawaiian people’s arrival on the Island (obviously) and the late 1700’s (the sign on the pathway says between 1400 and 1800).   Since then, there’s been an occasional addition – some of it is still considered petroglyphs, just newer, but I’m certain that the Smiley Face is just vandalism by some… idiot…

The walk down the trail is as long as you want it to be, really, I think.  You can spend a few minutes or hours, but take water – there’s no shade at ALL!

Petroglyphs and Shelter Petroglyphs

Also at the Waikoloa Resort is the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa and the Hilton Waikoloa Village.  I’ve never spent any time at the Marriott there, but you could actually spend an entire trip at the Hilton, I Cute little Seahorsesthink. (Time and entertainment-wise, anyway.  I can’t speak for your budget…heh… maybe just Google it.  But, they have a lake in the middle for boating (non motorized), Dolphin Quest, a luau, restaurants – and all this just 20 minutes from the Kona International Airport.)

Just 11 minutes from the Airport is Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm.

The Tour is really amazing!  You get to:

~ see baby seahorses (which you can almost not see- but if you look very close, you can see their tiny little Not as tasty as it lookstails curling while they swim)
~ sample some super salty seahorse food (veggies grown in salt water, not the microscopic shrimp – blecht)
~ see some pregnant seahorse dads (Yes, it’s true – although the mom deposits the baby egg(s) into the dad’s pouch, and he carries them (maybe 1000’s of them !!!) for up to 25 days!!    The eggs actually hatch in the dad’s pouch, and he carries the babies until they are ready to be out on their own. According to National Geographic, fewer than 5 of every 1000 survive, which is one reason for their decreasing population.   (Also, the same article explains that, although the spiny plates on the seahorse make it difficult for other animals to eat, it’s survival is still threatened by humans, who hunt the seahorse for traditional medicinal usage…)

Seahorse RanchThe Ocean Rider’s website reveals that “According to research done by Project Seahorse the current world consumption for the medicine market alone is estimated to be over 20 million individuals per year and increasing at rate of over 10% per annum and there has been a 50% decline in the world seahorse population from 1990 to 1995, and 70% since 1980.”

Another cause of the declining population is that the poor little wild seahorses are not acclimatized to living in fish tanks, and many people want to include them in their scenery.  Not only are they not acclimatized, but they don’t get proper food, so they die.

It’s very sad.

So, places like Ocean Rider, Inc., are studying seahorses and ways to preserve them, especially for domesticated pets.   They have successfully rebred seahorses in captivity, and provide education and food for people who feel they must have seahorses as pets.Being held by a Seahorse

The experts at Ocean Rider have also figured out a “work around” when dealing with the fact that seahorses are monogamous, and what happens when one member of the happy couple dies… But, I don’t want to give it all away, and I also don’t want to get the details wrong, so you will just have to go on the tour yourself.

Two more reasons to go: 1) they also have Sea Dragons at which you can take a peek (no pictures – they are not yet successfully domesticated) and 2) at the end of the tour, you get to hold one of the seahorses!!  (Or, rather, as they clarified, “the seahorse holds you”.  You make your hands like a coral basket and the little seahorse wraps it’s tail around your finger and holds on.  AMAZING!!!)
Seahorses loved the girls The Girls love the seahorses

Next week, Kailua-Kona.

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North Kohala Coast and Waimea

Once upon a time (1878),  Thomas R. Gould, a sculptor from Boston, living inKing Kamehameha I Florence Italy, sculpted a statue of King Kamehameha I.

Now, the way I heard the story is that there was a debate over where the statue should be placed – the people of the Big Island wanted to for North Kohala, where King Kamehameha was born.

The Government Seat, though, is in Honolulu, and the plan was for the statue to be placed there.

Well!  Mr. Gould forged the sculpture in Italy, and sent it off to Honolulu by ship.  The ship sank somewhere around the Falkland Islands, near Cape Horn, and the statue was lost at sea.

Mr. Gould made another sculpture and sent that one, again, to Honolulu. That one arrived safe and sound and was erected in in front of Aliiolani Hale (Hawaiian State Supreme Court), and dedicated in 1883.

Pololu ShoreBUT THEN, in 1912, the original statue was recovered, restored, and guess where it now sits!  North Kohala, in a little town called Kapaau.

I don’t know which town is which, when I remember them, but there’s Hawi and Kapaau, and they are only  about 2.5 miles apart.  So, if I tell you all about it, and you get there and it’s not how I explained, just go on to the next town.

Here’s what I know: there’s a little boardwalk, quirky art stores, galleries, and ice cream parlor and patio, some yummy little restaurants, and a grocery store.  I think, technically, you Hawicould spend a whole day walking that 2 block strip and going in and out of stores, and stopping for coffee and lunch.  (I think it’s Hawi.)

Pololu Valley OverlookBut, we (each time) have been passing through – to and from Pololu Valley Lookout.

  Actually, this year is the first year that I’ve hiked down INto Pololu.  Totally worth it. Take water.  (And your inhaler, if you need one.)

Pololu PathWPololu Pathway

Pololu Valley is like the sister valley to Waipio Valley, and in fact, you can see the jut-out from Waipio if you look way beyond Pololu.

It is about 1000 feet deep and cuts into the Kohala Mountain, and the Pololu Stream runs through it.Pololu Valley 3   (By the way, further inland, Pololu Valley is Privately Owned, so you need to stay near the Shoreline.  I guess there are tours, too, that can help you navigate properly.)

Hmmmmm.  There was a tour and trail that went to, and around, Kapaloa Falls.  Apparently, the waterfall dropped 300 feet above and 200 feet below the trail! However, the trail was destroyed in Hawaii’s big earthquake a couple of years ago, and there’s no access anymore… Keep your eye out, though. Maybe someday it’ll be re-opened?

It’s ANOTHER spectacular view from the Pololu Valley Overlook and I completely forgot to add it to my Top Favorite Views on the Island. (Obviously, the almost entire Island is beautiful and my list of “Absolute Favorite View” is growing…)
Pololu Valley 2Pololu ValleyPololu Valley 1

Enroute, between Waipio Valley and Pololu Valley is Waimea, also known as Kamuela. (“Kamuela” was adopted later (because of some confusion with the Postal Service) in honor of a resident named Samuel Parker, but Waimea is the original name and means “reddish water”. )

We haven’t spent a lot of time there, but always like driving through the little town of just over 9,000 (according to the 2006 Census).   It’s a “western” town, partly made up of Hawaiian cowboys (Paniolos) who work on Parker Ranch, and the Stop Signs say “Whoa” instead of “Stop”.  🙂

It’s a good place to stop for lunch or dinner, or to pick up your supply of Parker Ranch beef at the local grocery store.  (For non-meat eaters, the veggies and fruit are generally locally grown too, and high quality.  It is Hawaii, after all.)

Just down the road (30 minutes South of Hawi and 20 minutes West of Waimea) is Hapuna Beach.  I’ve talked about black sand and green sand beaches.  This is the WHITEST sand beach I’ve ever seen!

HapunaThere is now a $5 entrance fee for non-residents, but not only does that include almost 62 acres of fine, white sand, but it has restrooms, drinking water, lifeguard services and is right beside the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel, which has restaurants and lounges, and, of course, accommodations.

Hapuna 1

OK! So if you’ve been looking at a map at all, you will know that we’ve gone around the whole island, and are now coming down the stretch to the Kailua-Kona area.

Many would say I saved the Best for Last 😀 (refer to my Kona vs. Hilo blog!) I love both sides for different reasons.  But, for a certainty, without bias, Kona-side as ALOT to offer!

We are going to talk about… the Seahorse Ranch next. And, Petroglyphs, I think.


Hamakua Coast and Malasadas

Not quite as tall as the Hi’ilawe Falls, and not as ummm… petite… as Rainbow Falls, Akaka Falls stands out.  It fallsAkaka Falls straight down 442 feet (129 meters), and you can semi-easily get to it’s Overlook.  (“Easy”, in that there are pathways right to it, and “semi” in that there’s a lot of stairs, so if you need your inhaler, take it with you.)

Hiking to Akaka Falls is a nice walk through bamboo forests, passed Kahuna Falls (100 feet), oversized trees and huge flowers.

There is now a $5 parking and access fee (for non-residents) , which was a big surprise to me, but still worth going. (The parking area is about 11 miles North of Hilo, and through a cute little town, Honomu, where we stop each time to buy water (which we always forget), ice cream, and browse through antique bottles displayed at one of the shops.)
Akaka Walk

Akaka Falls is on the Kolekole Stream, and just past the turn-off is Kolekole Beach Park.  You can see the beautiful scene from the bridge that goes overhead, but it’s gorgeous inside the park, with bridges and trees covered in moss, a waterfall off to KoleKole Beach Parkthe side… it’s a bit isolated, though, in my opinion – even though you can see it from the road… and people live in the trees in tents… I mean…maybe they were just camping, but they weren’t excited that we were there… Although, one of my friends who lives on the Island says it’s sKoleKole from under Hwy 11afe, so it probably is… Beautiful, anyway – if you just want to take a peek….

KoleKole Beach Park shore

Before you get to the turn-off to Akaka Falls, though, pay attention to the small sign on the right side of the road (coming from Hilo ) that identifies the 4 mile scenic loop.  It might say “Onomea Bay Scenic Route”…I can’t remember. (Coming from Hilo is the best angle because you are on the outside lane, overlooking the cliffs and Ocean.)4 mile loop

Don’t assume that you can just zoom down the road in a few minutes – be prepared to pull over on the side of the road for random hikes and photo opportunities.  There are roads that take you down the side of the cliff, right to the shoreline. (One such road also takes you to the back gate of the Botanical Garden. They have a gate with a gate keeper – you can’t (and shouldn’t try) to sneak in.  However, you can get a nice glance at the Gardens – enough to consider paying the price to go in.)

It’s normally open 9am to 5pm, everyday, and is only $15 for adults!  It’s approximately 40 acres and contains over 2000 species of tropical plants.
Tropical lily?Botanical Garden

About 1/2 way between Hilo and Honoka’a (which is our final destination on this particular blog) is Laupahoehoe, and I have to tell you – the view is MAJESTIC!! (Especially if you are coming from the Kona-side, through Waimea.)

On our very first trip to Hawaii, we landed on the Kona-side, which is beautifuLaupahoehoel, but more…dry…and doesn’t smell like greenhouse… and wasn’t exactly as I had imagined Hawaii to be.  BUT, as we drove around to the other side (through rolling hills and fields of pear cactus) and then came around this corner and there in front of us was a view of Laupahoehoe, I actually gasped out loud because of it’s beauty!Laupahoehoe, I think

(This same gasp triggered a …uh… reprimand… from Peter, who was driving, and thought something had jumped in the road – or some other disasterous event which might initiate a “GASP”!)

Amazing view! Amazing!  On my Top 3 on the Island!  (The top 3 really are all tied for #1. I can’t really say which is the most spectacular… but, there’s Laupahoehoe, Waipio Valley, and the view of Whittington Park, near South Point, especially coming from Kona.)

Speaking of Waipio Valley, Honoka’a is the Gateway to Waipio Valley.

It’s a cute little weather beTex Drive-inaten town, which I love.  BUT it’s BIGGEST claim to fame is TEX DRIVE IN!!

What is so great about Tex Drive-in you wonder?  OK! I am not exaggerating when I tell you that they have the world’s GREATEST Malasada!  (I confess – I’ve never had them anywhere else, but I am convinced that there is no way that they could be any better than they are here!)  They are so good and so appreciated in Hawaii, apparently, there is Malasada Day! (I just learned this, just now.)

Have you tried Malasada? Wikipedia defines: “a Portuguese confection, made of egg-sized balls of yeast dough that are deep-fried in oil and coated with granulated sugar.”  … Basically, they are like… a light airy doughnut, without the hole in the middle, and often filled with something yummy, like strawberry, or chocolate, or lilikoi.  Mmmmmmmmm…
Malasadas freshly madeMalasada

They make them in the morning, and you really should be there FIRST THING!  They open at 6:30am.  The earliest I’ve made it there was 9am, and they had already sold out of their most popular flavors.Not the normal way to eat Malasada

(I found a recipe for “Tex style malasada” on  I’m 100% positive they won’t be as good if you try to make them, but don’t let that discourage you!! I might try, too, because I’m CRAVING THEM now!!)

Not sure what we’ll be talking about next week – I think the North Shore of Hawaii… for now, all I can think about is Malasada!

(Or, I might interrupt my Hawaii theme with a short blog about Global Fest, here in Calgary.  I totally forgot I have tickets to go, so it depends – might write something for Wednesday…)

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Rainbow FallsHi’ilawe Falls (and it’s twin, Hakalaoa) are the tallest waterfalls on The Island (not the tallest in the State (Olo’upena Falls, which is  2,953 feet (900 meters), but it is the 138th tallest in the world.

Nowhere near the tallest (it’s “only” 80 feet tall (24 meters) but estimated to be one of the most photographed waterfalls in the world, is Rainbow Falls (Waiānuenue, which means “Rainbow Water), in Hilo.UpRiver from Rainbow Falls

The Falls is really beautiful, but probably the main reason that it’s photographed so often is because the parking lot goes right up to it, so it’s very easy access.

There’s a nice little walk upriver from the parking lot, and if the water level is lower, you can climb along the rocks shaped and carved by the swirling water.

Nearby, are The Boiling Pots and Pe’e Pe’e Falls.Pe'e Pe'e Falls

First of all, it’s pronounced something like: “Pay-ay Pay ay”, just so you know.

Fed by the Wailuku River, Pe’e Pe’e Falls is runs along, finding its way through and around old lava tubes, creating rapids and careening through pools that make the water look like it’s boiling.

Which brings me to the “second of all”: the Boiling Pots aren’t hot – they are more “roiling” than “boiling”.  (Just thought I’d clarify, since there’s so much volcanic activity – thought it could be a No Swimmingsurprise to find out that the water is cold.)

There are warning signs and swimming is not allowed… that being said, the first day I went, I witnessed this:
Boiling Pots
TERRIBLE Idea – but people do it. There’s a bunch of things to keep in mind (in an effort to talk you out of it): Depth of the water (or lack of depth), speed of water, the fact that this pool dumps over a steep cliff immediately, into another deep, fast-moving, pool, and the fact that there’s more than one ledge you have to clear, even before you hit theMy Cronies meal water…

We always kick off our Hilo-visit with a trip for lunch at Cronies Bar and Grill – I get popcorn shrimp and a Hilo Hula drink every time.  I’m always really hopeful that someone else will order their Bucket of Onion Rings, and then be willing to share, because they are SO GOOD!!

Cronies is right on the main strip alongside the wharf, near the farmers market, the Kava bar, and Cafe Pesto.

Cafe Pesto is YUMMY! And entirely different atmosphere than Cronies – they serve such foods as Smoked Salmon Pizzette, Wild green salad, and chicken and wild mushroom risotto.  (I think that’s what I had – can’t find my pictures…)

Awa JuiceKava Bar

If you go to Hilo at the right time of the year (April), you should go to the Merrie Monarch Festival.

The Festival is a week long, celebrating Hawaiian arts and culture. It includes art exhibits, performances, a parade!Merrie Monarch Exhibition and a 3 day hula competition!  Tickets to the Competition are hard to come by (and by “hard to come by”, I mean “almost impossible”), but there is also one day that is a hula exhibition that is free to the public.

However, it’s so popular, you have to line up hours in advance (we, fortunately, had a friend who was willing to sacrifice his day to stand in line – thank you Don), and then hope that you can get in! (There’s limited space, so chances are – you could stand in line and still not get in…)

The seats are REALLY uncomfortable (concrete bleachers), and the show is really, really long, so maybe bring a pillow or something to sit on.   (I was sad we couldn’t stay till the end…. no pillows… next time!)
Merrie Monarch Exhibition 1Merrie Monarch Exhibition 2
If you meander down Kalanianaole Avenue (starting at Ponds Hilo Restaurant), there are many snorkelling and kayaking and beach opportunities – we’ve only driven by, but will eventually give some of the places a try.  We were told to go to Richardson Beach Park, but there’s also Leleiwi Park, Wai O’lena Beach Ponds EntertainmentPark, Carlsmith Beach Park, Kealoha Beach Park, Onekahakaha Beach Park, Reeds Bay Beach Co Park, and Keaukaha Beach Park… Seems like a good selection!

Ponds Hilo “Restaurant on the Edge” is on the corner of Kalanianaole Avenue and Banyan Drive, which I discussed in my last Hilo blog.  For years, I’ve been wanting to go there for dinner, and finally made it this year! Not only was the food DELICIOUS!! but they also had live entertainment – jazz, the night we were there.
Tiger Shrimp FettuciniAlmond Joy maybe?

Check out Hilo – I think you’ll love it! Kalanianaole Ave

Next week, Hamakua Coast.


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Waipio Valley

I found a painting of a beautiful waterfall, and the Gallery Owner toldWaipio Valley Overlook me that it was Hi’ilawe Falls!

Hi’ilawe Stream empties into the Pacific Ocean right in Waipio Valley.

Waipio Valley is, in my opinion, THE most picturesque place on the entire Island!

You can see the most Amazing VIEW right from the top at the Overlook Point…which is the easiest option…

The steep cliffs are about 2000 feet (610 meters) above the Valley floor, so going IN to the Valley is complicated!

You can either:
1) drive in – which is the scariest option! You are not allowed to take in a rental vehicle, and the vehicle must be a 4 wheel drive with low low low gear.

On your way down the hill, you must yield to upcoming traffic – if they have to shift, they can possibly roll off the cliff.  When you look over the edge of the cliff into the trees, you will see carcasses of vehicles that Hi'ilawe Riverdidn’t quite make it.   Also, don’t wear your seatbelt, in case you have to jump out!

When the road in is classified as “a road”, it is the steepest road of it’s length in the United States, and maybe even then entire world (says Wikipedia), gaining “800 vertical feet (243.84 m) in 0.6 miles (0.9 km) at a 25% average grade”.

2) take a tour, which will take you in by van, recreational vehicle, or donkey

3) make friends with a Local, who knows how to drive in AND/OR who is ok with abandoning their vehicle

4) hike – which isn’t as easy as it seems. It’s so steep, it’s recommended that if you do hike in, you leave enough recuperation time before you climb back out…

We went in by “Local”.  My brother, who had been down into the Valley at least once, and who didn’t mind abandoning his vehicle – in fact, seemed like that’d be part of the great adventure!

We arrived safely at the bottom of the Valley right where Hi’ilawe Stream empties into the Pacific Ocean, after meandering through the Valley, towards the Black Sand Beach at it’s mouth.  (On the way out, we were propped up in the bed of his little pick-up truck, and it’s seriously so steep, I was practically standing against the tailgate to keep fromWild Horses sliding out!  For us, that’s the only option.  There’s no way I’m hiking in.)

There, we were surrounded by gigantic trees, with “wild” horses grazing here and there – I say “wild” because I don’t think they are owned by anyone, but they have perfect manes, so I Tiny Girl in the Land of Giantscan’t be sure. (I was TOLD they were wild, though.)

Waipio Valley is called “The Valley of the Kings” and was the home to King Kamehameha I and other royalty once upon a time.

So, remember we wanted to find Hi’ilawe Falls, and didn’t realize there was a path, so we decided the best option was to go straight up the Hi’ilawe Stream.  (This was a good idea in theory, and worked out well – but some of the Locals were keeping an eye on us to make sure we were safe (we didn’t realize this until we were safely out of the canyon) because of flash-flood warnings…)Pink Mountain Apple?

Anyway, for the most part, we were in the Stream and once in awhile, when it was too deep or the rocks were too big to climb over, we hiked right beside the River, through giant blades of grass (could be Ginger or something besides Grass, but I liked feeling like I was a tiny person in the Land of Giants), and over fairy-tale-like pink carpeting (which I’ve since learned was, I think, Mountain Apple (Hawaiian name is possibly “Ohia’ai”).

It was a beautiful hike!

Hi’ilawe Falls was impressive – it’s such a tall waterfall, it makes white capped waves when it hits it’s pool.  It’s two tiered and (apparently-reports vary) the first tier is in the 200 foot range, and the main tier drops 1400 feet!!  (Some reports say 1400 in total, and some say it’s 1600 in total… doesn’t seem like that should be that difficult to confirm…)

THi'ilawe Falls 2here’s a second (“twin”) waterfall called “Hakalaoa”, which dries up on occasion, but yay! for us! we got to see THREE waterfalls that day!

Either way, it’s REALLY magnificent!

Hi'ilawe FallsHi'ilawe Falls 3Hi'ilawe Falls 4

Next week, hopefully, back to Hilo.


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Hilo, Hawaii

OK. So, there is a big rivalry between Hilo-side of the Island and Kona-side of the Island.Hilo Side Lushness

If you ask a Kona-side person what they think of Hilo, they will typically say things like:  “It rains too much.”  “They have coqui frogs.” “There’s no place to surf/swim/snorkel.”

If you ask a Hilo-side person what they think of Kona, they will typically say things like: “Kona? Pfft.”

We love both sides for different reasons. I will talk more about why we love Kona later. (The primary reason is that we have really wonderful friends there, and that always makes a difference, doesn’t it.)

But, some of the reasons that we LOVE LOVE LOVE Hilo side is that:
1) It rains. I don’t want to say “too much”, but it rains enough to make it lush and smell like a greenhouse. It has amazing waterfalls, vines, rainforests. And, I’m sure locals would tell me otherwise (they always do), but I haven’t seen it rain “too much”. The last time we were there (2 weeks), it rained every single morning – poured, actually. But, around noon, the sun came out and it go really warm, and then the next morning (or sometime throughout the night) the rain would come and cool down the earth again. For me, that’s perfect.
Rainbow Falls2) There are coqui frogs. I love them! I do! I’m sorry to all you coqui frog haters, but I love them! Sure, they are a little noisy (see previous blog), but if you think of them as “singing a song in chorus” rather than “screeching at 90 decibel”, I think you’d love them too! (and, if you can’t make them into “white noise” when you sleep, where earplugs and/or get a sound machine.)
3) There are MANY places to swim/snorkel/surf – they just are a bit off the beaten path and not near as crowded… (There’s more, too, than just that link I’ve included – they may or may not show up in my future blogs (or this one) but 1/2 the fun is finding these places by yourself.

But the REAL reason I love Hilo-side, is because of the “Locals.”  “Locals” include actual Hawaiian people, as well as (by way of my definition) people who are not tourists.  “Tourists” (by way of my definition) are those people who are travelling (obviously) OR people who’ve moved there, but haven’t really become part of the culture yet.Tom, the Chicken Guy

For example, I consider Tom, the Chicken Guy, to be a “local.”  Or, a little boy we saw at the beach, who, it seems, lives outside, and looks exactly like I would imagine Tom Sawyer looked – white blonde hair, lightly tanned skin with freckles, and no shoes.

Here’s another difference I’ve observed between Kona-side and Hilo-side.  Kona-side, you can pick out tourists because they are pale(r) than the residence.  Hilo-side, you can pick out tourists because they are tan(ner) than the residence.  (Not because of the amount of time that the sun is available, but because the Hilo-side has an abundance of people who wear hats and avoid full exposure to the sun.  Lots of – ummm – organic people on the Hilo-side. Heh! I love it!)

I will concede that there is more obviously touristy things to do on the Kona side (again, will discuss those later – if you are going to Kona before I get to that blog, please feel free to email me for suggestions), not including the most Hawaiian Hilo Hotelphotographed waterfall in the world (in Hilo) and the longest erupting volcano in the world (south of Hilo at Hawaii Volcano National Park.)

There are very few hotels in Hilo, and the only one I’ve ever stayed at is the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel, right on Banyan Drive, and beside the Queen Liliuokalani Gardens. (We usually rent a Vacation Rental by Owner.

Banyan Drive is known as “Hilo Walk of Fame”, because the Banyan trees along the drive have all been planted byBabe Ruth's tree celebrities, including trees planted by Babe Ruth, Amelia Earhart, former U.S. Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt & Richard Nixon, Dr. Thomas Jaggar, and others.  It’s an interesting walk, and just across the street is an ice cream and shave ice stand, so you can have a little break, too – especially if it’s hot out.

The Queen Liliuokalani Gardens was named after Hawaii’s last reigning monarch, and dedicated in 1917, the same year the Queen died.  (Her full name was Lydia Liliʻu Queen Liliukalani GardenLoloku Walania Wewehi Kamakaʻeha.)

The Garden is beautiful and last time we were there, we found a paintbrush in one of the trees.  You can just imagine someone spending the day, perched in a mango tree, painting the scenery below.  Perfect.

So…I have a LOT more to say about Hilo.  I haven’t really gotten started.. But, I have a tiny complication, which I will explain in a couple of weeks, so, I will have to return to this area later.  Hilo – to be continued…sometime.

In the meantime, next Sunday, I will be talking about some of the waterfalls.


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Holualoa, Cloud 9, and Saddle Road

Who wouldn’t LOVE to go for a Coffee and Art Stroll? Now that I know there IS one, I might plan an entire trip aroundHolualoa Cafe it!

That’s one of the many things Holualoa has to offer – looks like the first Saturday of November.  Apparently, each shop in town (which is almost certainly an art gallery of some sort, whether it’s paintings or woodwork or quilt-type things) hosts a coffee from one of the (more than) 30 Kona coffee farms.

It is a fun, quirky, cute little town (well, it’s not as “little” as I thought – apparently, according to the 2000 Census, there were over 6100 that lived there) – one of my two (maybe three) favorites on the Island (so far).

You can park and walk from end to end of the main street, stopping in at this Gallery or that Gallery, have a break at this coffee shop or that restaurant.

Pink Hotel (Kona Hotel)There’s an iconic pink hotel that completely represents the friendly, relaxed atmosphere of the town.  We stopped in one time, to take a look around.  There was nobody at the front desk.  There was someone asleep in the rocking chair, watching the TV in the reception area, and a cat sleeping on the other rocking chair.   (Nobody came, and we tiptoed out.) I didn’t take many pictures, but I’ve filed the memory away for safe keeping.
Cat Sleeping @ Kona Hotel

It’s better if you make an afternoon of visiting Holualoa – don’t rush through.

Right before you get into Holualoa Village (if you are coming from Kealakekua), you will pass a little wooden shop, Kimura Lauhala Shop ,  with a wooden boardwalk (at least that’s how I remember it), and filled with shoes and hats and bags made of Lauhala (pandanus leaf).   The little shoes (slippahs) are very durable and I’ve had mine for years! (They even lasted through a teething puppy.)

We had the opportunity to talkKimura Lauhala shop with the ladies who make the hats (which, by the way, are very intricate and delicate – not just like a typical woven leafed hat), and their art has been handed down, from generation to generation.  Unfortunately, they don’t have anyone to whom to hand down their art… 😦  (At least when we talked with them – maybe that has changed by now, hopefully.)

I didn’t buy a hat (or take pictures), but I have a couple sets of the slippahs.

Passing straight on through, and out the other side of Holualoa, you will go down a very scenic drive, with a very winding road through coffee plantations.  If you go at the right time of day, you might even be able to stop at a shop or two along the way for samples.Eucalyptus Trees at Intersection

Eventually, you come to an intersection where you can go down the hill to Kailua-Kona, or up the hill towards Waimea.

Be sure to take a look at the Painted (well, Rainbow) Eucalyptus trees there, before you proceed.  My picture isn’t great (but it does show the particular Eucalyptus Grove…I’m including another picture I took in a different place on the Island, just so you can see how pretty they are!!)  Apparently, they are the only Eucalyptus to grow in the Northern Hemisphere AND the most colorful trees in the world!
Eucalyptus Trees on the Big Island

We are going up the hill towards Waimea.

Just about a mile up the hill is the turn off, onto Kaloko Drive, to go to Cloud 9.


I don’t know exactly where, but you can get out and walk around in the Tropical Hiking the Cloud ForestGardens of the Kona Cloud Forest.  It’s a beautiful walk with moss-covered trees, and native tropical plants.  Unlike a Rain Forest, which receives it’s precipitation from Rain, the Cloud forest receives 40% of it’s precipitation from – guess where! yep! Clouds & Mist!

Continuing up the winding and fairly steep Kaloko Dr. (and perhaps Hao Street, says Google-maps), you will start passing addresses: Cloud #7, Cloud #8 – Cloud #9 (the ideal address), and on up! I forget how many “CloudTop of Cloud forests” there are, but it seems to me that we got to at least Cloud #14.
Road up through the Cloud Forest

This grey cloudy picture is a view from the top of the Cloud Forest road, looking back down to the shoreline.  I guess seeing the shoreline is rare since normally, it’s completely clouded in!

Down at the bottom the hill, and continuing uphill toward Waimea, you will probably be surprised by the scenery.  It’s rolling hills and tall waving grass, and cattle ranches, and pear cactus! Yes, in Hawaii – cactus.Pear Cactus

There’s also Hawaii-typical scenery, too – The Ocean, for example, and Cinder Cones.

After driving about 30 miles (from the Cloud Forest road), you will get to Saddle Road.

Once upon a time, rental cars were not allowed to take it – the road used to be TERRIBLE and the Pass is high altitude, and not very busy, so if you ever had any car trouble, you’d be stuck.
Old Saddle Road Old Saddle Road 1

NOW, the road is GREAT! And well travelled! It saves about an hour of travel time (at least) from the old route.

Up at the top of Saddle Road (well, it feels like the top – I think it’s actually sort of on the way down the other side), it’s completely barren.  It looks like the lava just came through – almost nothing has grown back (probably the high altitude?) and is usally misty and eerie.

Then, suddenly, you emerge, and sometime after that (I always think it’s going to be 10 or 15 minutes, and then it feels like hours), Saddle road you see the sparkling lights of Hilo, coming through the trees.

Next Sunday, Hilo.

(Normally, as some of you know, I post on Wednesdays and Sundays, but I have a project I need to work on, so, I’ll just be posting on Sundays until probably the end of August.  I’ll keep you posted… heh.)


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