March 9, 2013

Hawaii Vacation: Coast to Volcanos to Coast

Filed under: travel — mmrobins @ 9:54 pm

With my week of working from Kona ended, we got our rental car and struck out counterclockwise around the island. Our first stop was Ho’okena Beach Park south of Kona for some camping on the beach. As we descended the single lane paved road down to the beach, we realized we had camped here 7ish years ago on our honeymoon. This time we camped two nights instead of just one, and had a great time. It’s definitely a bit crowded camping by Pacific Northwest campground standards with your neighbors only a couple feet away, but everyone was nice and there weren’t any loud, wild parties late into the night. Geneveve loved the beach, mostly rolling around and getting sand everywhere, and even braved the waves a little bit. The snorkeling here was actually the best we’ve found so far despite what the guidebooks say about other places being better. I swam around with a turtle for a while, and there was nobody else in the water.

We wanted to go kayak across Kealakekua Bay to the captain cook monument, but they aren’t allowing kayaks on it now to help preserve it. We didn’t see any dolphins there either, and the snorkeling was only so so. We wanted to do more in this bay last time we were here in 2006 too, but then it was closed because an earthquake had just happened. The guide books rave about this bay, but sadly so far we’re 0 for 2 on having it impress us.

Next destination was Volcanoes National Park. On the way we stopped at the black sand turtle beach on the south side of the island. You’re pretty much guaranteed to see turtles in the rocks here, so there’s a *lot* of other people here in giant tour buses too. I tried snorkeling around, but there was an oily film in the water that made visibility pretty bad and left me feeling gross afterwards. Not sure why it was so oily in the water. It seemed like someone dumped a bunch of sunscreen all over. Hopefully it’s not normally like that.

Once we got to Volcano we setup our tent at the Kulanaokuaiki campground, which is primitive with no water and a little bit of a drive down a one lane road. We pretty much had the whole campsite to ourselves except for a single strange tent that we couldn’t figure out since there was never a car around to go with it. Maybe they hiked out there to camp, but I can’t imagine why anyone do that since it’s in the middle of a bunch of mostly open, treeless landscape. From our site at night you could see the stars amazingly well with no light pollution around for miles except for a faint red glow coming from the crater a few miles away. It gets pretty chilly at night, so I was glad a couple at Ho’okena gave us a blanket they said they didn’t need anymore.

We did pretty much all the major hikes this time that we didn’t do last time including the steam vents, Pu?u Huluhulu to overlook Mauna Ulu, the petroglyphs, and a bunch more. We saw the major coastal hike we did last time from a viewpoint and reminisced about when we could backback overnight. Geneveve is definitely getting to be a better hiker, but overnight backpacking with her is still a ways away. We also saw the Halema’uma’u crater from Jaggar museum, which is a new thing since we were there last. Basically a lava lake opened up in 2008 that you can see the glow from pretty much every night even if you don’t see actual lava. We still haven’t gotten close to flowing lava since the Pu’u O’o flow isn’t in a place that’s convenient to hike to with a toddler.

After 4 nights of camping in beaches and on volcanoes, we headed to near Pahoa to sleep in a bed at an off the grid meditation center we heard about from a friend. All the power is solar and all the water is catchment. We’ve been here a few days and done a lot of swimming at the nearby warm pools and tidal pools. Today we went to the local farmers market, a event with a lot of colorful characters, and to see where the lava flows end and the smoke from the lava going in to the ocean from a distance. The whole area has a very hippie vibe to it. I think it’s in large part because the whole area could be wiped out by lava flows at any time (and portions of it have been in the last 30 years), so land is cheaper and you get a less permanent kind of people.

After tomorrow I have another week of work before my next week of vacation. I’ve never done this split work and vacation thing before, so we’ll see how I like mixing it up.

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