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)

Place of Refuge, Punalu’u Bakery, and Mark Twain

Between Punalu’u Beach and South Point, you will pass through Naʻālehu.  It’s a tiny little town of around 1000 peopleIs this Heiau? and one main street that runs through it.

TripAdvisor says “3 things to do in Naʻālehu.  And, without looking, this is my list of 3 things to do there:

1) The Punalu’u Bakery – I would drive all the way to the other side of the Island for Punalu’u Bread, BUT now you can just buy it in the local grocery store.  Still, it’s worth going to the actual bakery, which not only has the best bread EVER (along with samples) but just happens to be the southern most bakery in the United States.

Punaluu BakeryYou can buy purple (taro), pink (guava) or yellow/cream-colored (traditional) bread or swirled combinations.  You can buy mixes to make your own at home later.  (At the Maku’u Farmer’s Market, I had a Polish sausage on a Punalu’u Guava bun.)

It’s a bakery, so they also have cookies, and other desserts, but we really love the bread. (Oh, there’s also a quirky gift shop there, too.)

2) Shaka Restaurant – it’s Claim-to-Fame is that it’s the Southernmost Bar in the United States. But, Peter says it also hasShaka Restaurant the coldest beer he’s ever had! It’s a good place to eat – pub food – yummy fish-n-chips, macaroni and cheese – that kind of food.

3) Mark Twain‘s Tree – Mark Twain’s tree is actually in Waiohinu, a town 2 1/2 miles north of Naʻālehu.  He visited the town in 1866 and supposedly planted a Monkey Pod Tree. THAT tree blew down in 1957, but a shoot lives on and grew into what is now there, on the side of the road.

Mark Twain Monkey Pod TreeIf you follow the Hawaii Belt Road (Hwy 11) clockwise from Mark Twain’s Tree, 37.5 miles later, you will arrive at the Place of Refuge Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park.

This was a place that “protected the kapu (sacred laws) breaker, and civilians during the time of war and the defeated warriors”, according to the description on the Place of Refuge website.  You would have to run for your life, literally, and if you made it to the Place of Refuge, you could gain asylum.

There are two main areas – the Pu’uhonua and the Royal Grounds.  The Royal Grounds housed the chiefly residences and ceremonial structures. The Pu’uhonua IS the actual Place of Refuge and was sacred (it is still considered sacred, so there are some very specific rules about how to behave while there.)

The Pu’uhonua included:

  • the ‘Āle‘ale‘a Heiau (a “heiau” is a Hawaiian temple – all that I’ve seen are stone platforms made from lava rock Hale o Keawe– they are easily recognized and still considered sacred, so you canNOT walk on them…I don’t know what ‘Āle‘ale‘a means…?)
  • the Hale o Keawe (this is reconstructed – the original was built around 1650 but has that was a long time ago! It originally held the bones of many chiefs, including Kamehameha I’s son) (*By the way, Hale o Keawe means: House of Keaweʻīkekahialiʻiokamoku. Keaweʻīkekahialiʻiokamoku was great-grandfather of King Kamehameha I, who was the first king of the Kingdom of Hawaii…)
  • and Konane (a game similar to checkers, and also chess..sometimes, the chiefs would use this game to settle disputes).Konane

Once upon a time, apparently, Queen Ka’ahumanu had to swim there after a fight with her husband (King Kamehameha I).   She got caught, but made up with the King, so… all’s well that ends well.

There were once many Places of Refuge, but now this is one of the few that has lasted… There is a fee to get it – $5 per vehicle for 7 days!

There’s aLOT to see and lots of history. Just go and get the guide from the National Park Service and see all you can see.

Whittington Park There is a view that can’t be missed!  Between Punalu’u Beach and Punalu’u Bakery in Naʻālehu (5.3 miles from Beach and 3 miles from the Bakery) is one of the most breathtaking views on the Island.  It’s of Whittington Beach Park (Honuapo).

Once upon a time, it was a thriving sugar cane town, but then a tsunami (in 1946) destroy the town and left behind just remnants of what used to be the shipping pier.  That’s exactly what it looks like.  It’s beautiful and deWhittington Park areasolate. It looks like a scene from a movie.

Pull over and take the picture – don’t forget!

Sunday – we continue on to see where Captain Cook met his demise.

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Punalu’u, South Point, and the Green Sand Beach (Hawaii)

Back to Hawaii! It’s been awhile, but last time I was telling about our Hawaii adventures, I meant to continue on to the Green Sand Beach…

I can’t remember when I first heard that there was a “Green Sand Beach”, but I’ve been trying to get there since.South Point  The problem is: there’s a 2-3 mile hike to get there.  That didn’t seem like very far, but nobody was willing to go with me.

However, every time someone new comes with us, I continue to suggest we go.  THIS TIME, Amanda and family thought it was a good idea! YAY!

So, one day, when it was supposed to be rainy in the Hilo area (I know – you think it’s always rainy there, but I find the weather very pleasant with a good mix of sun and rain), we went on a field trip to South Point.South point blow holes - tides out

South Point (“Ka Lae”) is only about 50 miles south-ish from Volcano Village and Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park.  It is the southern most point in the entire United States (19° North), including the Florida Keys (25° North.)

It’s possible that this is the landing place of the first inhabitants of Hawaii – Polynesians from Tahiti.  James Michener wrote in his novel “Hawaii” that they were escaping political upheaval – and headed out to sea in Fishing shelvescanoes, following the North Star… and eventually came to land safely, on the Big Island.  Of course, that’s technically fiction, but it’s fiction-based-on-fact, and the fact is: The Polynesians came, and archeology supports that they landed right there, on South Point.   Wikipedia summarizes: “Ruins of an ancient Hawaiian temple (heiau) and a fishing shrine can be found here. In addition, ancient Hawaiians drilled numerous holes in the rock ledges to use for mooring their canoes. Tying long ropes to their boats, they would drift out to sea to fish without fear of being carried away by the strong currents.”

Nowadays, people fish along the same shore – some even wrap their fishing “rope” around the wheel of their car, and when they catch something (which…I’m not how they know, but they carry their fishing lines far out into the sea with huge industrial size garbage bags tied to them every 100 feet or so), they start their Jeep and wheel in the catch!  (I haven’t seen this happen, but I’veCliff Jump seen it set up, in hopes of happening.)

We also saw people cliff-dive from one of the fishing stations, too, this year. In fact, I saw that there are tours offering South Point cliff diving/jumping as an option…  This girl was encouraged by her boyfriend to jump, on the promise that he’d jump right after her… which he did… which is good… so we didn’t have to push him…

Off we went towards the Green Sand (Papakōlea) Beach.

Just so you know – it IS too far to walk. WAY TOO FAR!  Some people do it, but you have to be really dedicated to it, in good shape, with sufficient water.

Some people drive in, but they need 4 wheel drive vehicles that they don’t care about.

Being in a rental car (shhhhhhh), we decided to walk.  We didn’t know, yet, that we would never have made it.

This man parked beside us (at the last possible place to abandon your vehicle) said: “I’ll drive you in, for $10 perRoute to Green Sand Beach person, kids for free.”

Although I was the advocate for “Lets just walk – how hard can it be?”, I immediately abandoned that idea as soon as this guy offered to drive us.  After convincing everyone else, we placed ourselves in his truck.

His truck, by the way, was held together by rope and duct tape.  The truck is completely covered, inside and out, in dust. There’s a jump seat inside, and a couch in the back..  I could understand the apprehension about renting his truck BUT it was a GREAT option!

He, himself, was EXACTLY who he should be – a local.  He was wearing board shorts and a beat up baseball cap, and flip-flops (which are “slippahs” in Hawaii), and when he drove, he could reach his big toe over to the clutch while still keeping his foot on the gas.

Green Sand BeachIt might not sound like a pretty picture, BUT he quickly became our hero!  So much so, that I asked him if I could keep his name (Magee) and phone number and hand it out to people who wanted to get to Green Sand Beach.  (So, if you want to go, and you don’t know anyone to drive you in, and you can’t walk in, please let me know!)

Also: he didn’t make us pay until we were safely delivered back at our own vehicle, AND he let us just take our time at the beach – he stayed up above and visited with the guy selling coconuts until we were ready to leave.

The Beach itself was amazing! I’ve never seen anything likeGreen Sand Beach 1 it! (I mean – there are only two beaches in the world that are made out of Olivine – this one, and one in Galapagos Islands (to which I haven’t been), so it makes sense that this was my first time seeing it…)

Olivine is a “magnesium iron silicate with the formula (Mg,Fe)2SiO4.” (That’s for my sister – checking to see if she’s reading… I should cut-and-paste it incorrectly… that’d be the real test 😀 )  Here’s what I know about it – it’s green. REALLY green! (Although you can’t really tell from the pictures, for some reason…) It’s “this close” to being the precious gem, Peridot. (“This close” is based on quality and size, but it didn’t stop me from feeling privileged and giddy to walk around on sand-size gemstones.)

Apparently, the Beach is inside what used to be a cinder cone.  It has now eroded on one side (Footsteps in Green Sandmaking the beach) but that completely explains the steep, steep, STEEP walls that you have to climb down to get to the Beach.
Green Sand Beach 2

You are NOT ALLOWED to take any sand from the beach – the fine, I think, is $500.  This makes sense, since there are only two such beaches in the world, and if everyone took some of the sand….

Speaking of interesting colored beaches in the area – there’s also the Punalu’u Black Sand Beach.   This is a turtlePunalu'u Turtle nesting area, and, though you aren’t allowed to touch them (penalty of $10,000 to $25,000 fines – I’ve seen both signs), you CAN snorkel in their vicinity!

This beach also has bathrooms, a refreshment stand, and a shower.

There are a few Black Sand Beaches on the island (as I’ve previously mentioned ~ Kalapana/Kaimu and Kehena), but this one is very easily accessed, and it’s worth it to just “be” there.  If you haven’t been to a Black Sand Beach before, you might be just as surprised as I was that the sand doesn’t make your feet dirty… It’s like little tiny black glass beads, made of basalt.
Punalu'u Punalu'u Beach

Wednesday, on to the Place of Refuge!


Pahoa’s Mexican Food, Li Hing Mui, and the Chicken Guy

Going and coming to Kalapana, you must pass through (or right beside, depending on the exact road) Pahoa.Old Pahoa

When I was telling Amanda about Pahoa, I mentioned: 1) the best Mexican food on the island (Luquin’s), 2) the first time we were there, there was a brawl in the street of Old Pahoa, like “old West” style, with, it turns out, fireworks going off, but it sounded like gun-shots, and 3) there’s a guy who rides around on his bicycle, with a chicken on his shoulder.

There’s a lot more to Pahoa than that, but those are my highlights.

Luquin’s ~ If you have read my blog off and on from the beginning, you will know that Mexican food is an ongoing theme – a constant under-current.   I love Mexican food.  I mean ~ I’m not adventurous at all. I order the same exact thing wherever I go: a cheese enchilada, a beef enchilada, and soft shell (if available) beef taco.  I do switch it up with the sauce ~ choosing randomly (so as to throw chaos into the situation) between tomato, mole and verde sauces.

Lilikoi Mango Margarita, with li hing muiPeter switches things around, but always gets chili relleno (at every Mexican restaurant).

And, always, a margarita – house specialty, blended, if possible.  At Luquins, my favorite FAVORITE is lilikoi (passion fruit) mango combo, blended, with a Li hing mui rim.  Wikipedia says “Many bars in Hawaii also rim their glasses with li hing powder in addition to putting it in the drink.”   I wonder why it’s specific to Hawaii… SERIOUSLY! if you try it, you will LOVE IT! Love love love it.

Luquin’s always is exactly what we hope for! We are never disappointed.

We’ve also been to 2 other really good restaurants right on the main street in Old Pahoa, across the street from Luquins – one is Thai food, and the other is a fancier style restaurant – I forget the names of both places. However, we were told that the Thai restaurant rivals the Thai food in Volcano Village, and the cost is less expensive.  We’ve eaten there, and I remember it being good – I think that’s the place that has Trivia Pursuit cards at each table, in case dinner conversation wanes.  (You should still go to the one in Volcano Village, too, though.)
Enchilada Chili Relleno

Somewhere in Pahoa is the Black Rock Cafe, which is half bar (not even a pub, but more saloon-y), and half restaurant.   On the restaurant side (and maybe also the bar-side…?) has really good fish and chips, and I’ve never been disappointed with any of their food either.

There’s a pretty good grocery store just as you come into town (the Kea’au way), called Malama Market.  Perhaps it’s moreFarmer's Market expensive than shopping in Hilo, but it’s pretty convenient and has every possible thing you can think of! (Well, I’m not sure what all you can think of, but so far, I’ve found everything I’ve needed.)

Halfway between Pahoa and Kea’au you will find the Maku’u Farmer’s Market.  It’s one the largest Farmer’s Markets on the Island, but it’s only open on Sundays, and only from 8am to 2pm… And, to get the best of the choices, you have to get there early.  (Also, if you want a hotdog with “all the fixings”, you have to get there early, too.  I had mine on pink Punalu’u bread (more on Punalu’u bread later, probably.)

Kea’au also has a Farmer’s Market – it’s very small, but is open every day, forFarmers Market purchase your convenient fresh vegetable and fruit shopping.  I bought avocados, a bag full of rambutan (which I bought because I’d never seen such a thing and the vendor gave me an entire bag for $1), and a bunch of apple bananas for about $5.

Across the street from the Farmer’s Market is the Kea’au Shopping Center, which has everything in just 2 parking lots:

  • There’s a nice little grocery store there – Foodland. The prices are pretty good, and if you have a Maika’i card, you can often save about 1/4-1/3 the cost on most items.
  • There’s also a health food store there, called Kea’au Natural Foods, which has a lot of everything packed into a very small space.
  • Pizza Hut and McDonalds
  • A couple of restaurants
  • a laundromat
  • Ace Hardware (Peter’s favorite place in Kea’au)

Kea’au is on the main road going from Hilo to Volcano, and is at the turn-off to go to Pahoa.  It’s a larger town than Pahoa and has more options for shopping, etc., but isn’t near as quirky.

The first time we were in Pahoa, this man rode by on his bicycle with a chicken on his shoulder.  This time, I told everyone to “keep their eye out” for the “chicken guy”, but really didn’t expect to see him.   The next thing you know, Tom, the Chicken Guyin the parking lot of Malama Market, there goes the chicken guy!  The chicken was riding on the back of the bike this time.

Originally, apparently, Tom (the Chicken Guy) was on his way to a parade of some sort, and the chicken jumped on the back of his bike all by itself, and so started the tradition.  Since then, Tom has been around here and there with his chicken (including, apparently, the Burning Man festival/event in Nevada….)  He even now collects pictures that people take of him…

Sunday, I think we’ll talk about Punalu’u, South Point and the Green Sand Beach.


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