Hawaii Post 4: Volcano Village to Kona

This was the biggest move of our time on The Big Island, Volcano Village to Kona.

You can see by the maps, we had a big day ahead of ourselves. We started by leaving the Aloha Junction B+B after eating the amazing breakfast they prepared for us. We decided to backtrack 10 minutes down the road to visit the Akatsuka Orchid Gardens. My sister heard they had a $20,000 orchid that rarely blooms, but happened to be in bloom while we were there. They had gorgeous flowers. My allergies were acting up, but Im glad I got to see a room full of unique flowers. They all smell different, wildly different.

We needed to do one more thing before we started our long road trip to Kona. We went back into Volcano Village and did one more hike. I can’t say we saw anything very different from the day before, but it was nice to be out there getting exercise. There were dramatic lava formations that were cool to hike around.

Around 12p we finally hit the road. At marker “B” we saw a sign for a black sand beach and decided to get some fresh air. This turned out to be a great decision. This black sand beach is Punalu’u Beach and is a common place for turtles to lay out on the beach. We saw several. The other side of the beach had giant crashing waves. Don’t count on swimming here, but if you like wildlife it’s worth stopping in.

Since it was lunch time, we stopped in at a place highly recommended to us, the Punalu’u Bake Shop (point “C” on the map). I enjoyed the tuna sandwich and a malasada. We all split a scoop of mac nut ice cream and got some snacky breads for the road.

After lunch we had a short journey to the southern most tip of the US. I have to share a photo of a house we passed along the way:

Is that not hilariously hideous?

Once we were away from houses, the landscape became rolling green hills with cattle. Such a change in scenerey in such a short drive. Down at the coast, there is a hike to a green sand beach. We didn’t have enough time to make the loop, and from what we’ve heard, don’t try to drive it. I’m sure given how remote it is and the hike you have to take to get there, it’s a magical beach. And green sand is so rare.. oh well, next time. We did get to walk around and stand on the edge of the cliff of the southern most point.

We still had a long drive ahead of us, so we set back on the road to Kona. Along this drive north there were many coffee plantations and fruit farms that give tours. We were tired and anxious to get to Kona so we did not stop off at any. We finally arrived at our hotel (Courtyard King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel) in Kona around 5ish, just in time for a drink and a walk around the property before dinner. This hotel was beautiful, centrally located, and pretty cheap. Judging by it’s high occupancy given it’s their off-season, I’m guessing this is a favorite for visitors.

For dinner we walked to the Kona Brewing Company. The food was so good and the beer even better.

The next morning began out last day on The Big Island. We snorkeled at Kahluu Beach Park and then explored Alii Drive. This road take you along the ocean and is filled with cute shops. We even stumbled on a farmers market.

It was getting cloudy and we needed to head to the airport, but we made one stop at the Old Kona Airport State Recreation Area.

My next post will be all about our flight from The Big Island to Maui.

Hawaii Post 3: Hilo Sunrise to Volcano Village

The next leg of our trip takes us out of Hilo and down to Volcano Village to explore Kilauea.

We all got up super early to catch the sunrise at Liliuokalani Gardens and Coconut Island Park. It was really beautiful. This area (and Volcano Village) are more tropical than the west side of the island which meant for more clouds and occasional rain, but this made for a beautiful sunrise complete with rainbow.

Since it was super early, we decided to stop in at Ken’s House of Pancakes for some of their famous mac nut pancakes. It was fun seeing the breakfast usuals, who I’m sure come to Ken’s every Tuesday at 7a to meet their buddies. Old people are awesome like that.

After a yummy breakfast and a quick nap at the hotel, we packed up and hit the road. We made one stop into Bear’s Coffee before we said goodbye to Hilo. The owner was a hilarious man who actually used to own Akbar in LA. I’ve attended Craft Night at Akbar in the past and was facinated to hear what he had to say. He sold it to the now owners of Akbar and eventually moved to Hilo to open Bear’s Coffee. Such a character, he was.

After chatting and caffeinating, we left town to head south west (45 min drive) to Volcano Village. This was our day to spend in Volcano National Park so we went straight in to their visitors center. It was here where we learned what was worth doing for our one day in the park. The volcano also changes frequently because it is active, so for example, the road leading around the southern side of the volcano was completely closed down due to poisonous gasses. If you are visiting the park, start here because they will plan your day for you.

We followed the rangers instruction and then moved to the most west spot open to the public, the Jaggar Museum, which is full of information about the history of the volcano. It is also the best lookout point for the active caldera.

We then headed east stopping at each of the sights. Here was saw the steam vents and sulfur banks.

We did a hike around devastation trail and a few others that were short (around a mile long) before we had to take a break for lunch. There were no places to get food within the park, so we followed the rangers suggestion and went into Volcano Village (the closest town) for a bite to eat at Volcano Garden Arts’ Cafe Ono. This all vegetarian place looked like a home that was converted to an art shop and cafe. The food was so delicious and the price included soup and a salad. We all really enjoyed the meal and indulged in a brownie with homemade ice cream.

Did I mention they have a goat named Ernest? We played with him after lunch.

We drove back into the park to have more volcano fun. We went to the Thurston Lava Tube, which is now hollowed out, but used to be filled with lava. I’m glad I packed my headlamp. You know me, always be prepared!

Across from the entrance to the lava tube is the start of a 4 mile hiking loop that takes you through the volcano crater. So cool. Do this hike. It’s not too challenging, but wear closed toed shoes. This is the closest I will ever be to walking on the moon (which is what this hike feels like). There are even still steam pockets along the hike. It makes you feel like if you took one wrong turn you could fall through. A little scary, but what an awesome experience. If you only have time to do one thing in the park, make it this.

We continued to the end of Chain of Craters Rd. The road ends where lava actually took out the road back in 2003. It wasn’t even that long ago. The road even looks newly paved, with solid lava seeping out into it. I love the shot of the “road closed” sign. This was a windy ride with steep drops, but it was worth it. This is also where the lava meets the ocean, so it’s a very different sight than the rest of the park.

At this point the sun was setting and we wanted to see the volcano at night (from the Jaggar Museum lookout) so we had to drive the hour back north to the first place we started. It was worth the drive to see this clearly active volcano glowing. The moon and venus were also out. It was a beautiful night.

Once we had our fill of photo taking, it was 8:15p and we needed dinner. Most everything closes early in Hawaii, so we raced into town to get to the only dinner restaurant we knew of, Kiawe Kitchen. We got there just as they put out their closed sign (they closed at 8:30p) but still let us sit and eat. Thank goodness because there weren’t many options to go anywhere else. The meal was fabulous. We split asparagus, pizza, and a veggie pasta dish. The three of us were stuffed and so impressed with the food we had in Volcano Village. Coincidentally our hotel was right next door.

We had a great stay at Aloha Junction B+B in Volcano Village. We were so nervous about booking it because it had lots of availability and was significantly cheaper than all the other options. Suspiciously cheaper. But we wanted to save money and figured it was one night, how bad could it be? It was awesome. Why it was so cheap? I have no clue. The room was adorable and full of amenities. Since it was a B+B, it was a large home with additions put on to it. We had a room in the back with a large deck around it. Such a cute place, and then the next morning the owner had made us a giant feast! He made mac nut pancakes with fruit picked from the garden. Each of our plates had a fresh papaya with more fruit. He provided bacon for the meat eaters and tons of juices and coffees. We were spoiled rotten. This was also one of our top meals of the trip. I normally don’t love pancakes and I had three they were so good! If you stay in Volcano Village, spend the night here. You will be so glad you did.

Orchids, Sea Turtles and Kona Beer, Oh My!

Today we started off visiting an orchid garden outside Volcano Village. They had one in there worth $20,000! All I bought were postcards… 25 cent post cards. Next up, black sand beaches (with sea turtles!) And the southern most point in the US. It was awesome. Pictures will come soon with full descriptions, I swear. I also need to say we’ve stayed at several awesome hotels that you need to know about when making your Hawaiian vacation. More on that when I’m home. Here’s s photo in the meantime!