Saturday, November 1, 2008

Hawaii Part Two: Big Island

We flew from Maui back to Kona which has the coolest airport I have ever been in. You can stand and turn in a circle and see the entire domestic section of the airport. The airport is also almost entirely open air. The waiting areas at the gates are under thatched looking roofs and open to the beautiful Hawaii warmth. We also got to deplane old-school: portable stairs to the tarmac! I have always wanted to do that. No lei grettings at the gate (dang!) but Kevin did arrange for someone to meet us inside the airport in Maui with leis when we first arrived.

First day in Kona we went to a luau. Fun times, fabulous tasty pig unearthed from the ground where it had been cooking all day, good show but I don't need to go to another one. The Tahitian fire dancing was impressive though.

Post luau Hawaiian overkill.

Kona is filled with these darling little guys.

Geckos everywhere! They were all over our B&B that we stayed at. This little guy was at a craft booth we found. One of the ladies there feeds them every day by opening little single serving size peaches and the geckos come down and drink the peach juice. We took a long walk all around Kona including a few beaches with a few more sea turtles. That night we went to Kona Brewery for delicious food, great service from an English guy who knows his beer and many, many tasty beers for Kevin. Although, as he will point out, he never even had a whole beer. These were merely samples. Lots and lots of samples.
He was relieved to finally be able to find good beer because the islands are mostly filled with Budweiser, MGD, and Corona type beers which he hates.

The next day we were off to the eastern side of the island to visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. On the way we stopped at Mountain Thunder coffee company where I got to taste fresh off the farm Kona coffee.Wow. Huge difference. I always have to doctor my coffee up with milk and sugar but this was so smooth and not bitter that I drank it black. True Kona is definitely worth more money. However, maybe not what they charge for it.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park was one of the more phenomenal things I have ever seen. The volcano, Kilauea, has been erupting since the 80's which is the longest continuous eruption ever recorded. In March of this year the volcano began a large steam eruption from its crater that is still going on today.

The rangers say that in this new crater the magma is only about 300 feet from the surface. At night you can see the glow from the steam vent. Watching the steam continuously curl and swirl and rise from the crater is mesmerizing. Kevin and I could have pulled up chairs and sat and watched it for hours. This is one of the best views from any restaurant I have ever been in. You get to eat your breakfast and look out on a volcanic eruption. How freaking cool is that?! You can also stay here at the Volcano House and some of the rooms have crater views. We opted for more frugal accommodations and were in darling little tiny national park cabins instead. View not so good, price so much better.
We took a hike through the Kilauea Iki crater. One of the best hikes for a "wow" factor I have ever done. Kilauea Iki is a crater on Kilauea that erupted back in 1959. It filled its crater with 400 feet of lava. The crater is now half its original height. It took 36 years for it to harden and you can still see steam rising from cracks in the crater floor because there is still hot rock below from this eruption 50 years ago! Thrilling to be able to walk across something like this.The view from Kileaua Iki crater rim with the current steam eruption from Kileaua in the background.
At night we drove out to the ocean where the current lava flow was entering. They keep you about 3/4 of a mile back from the flow but we got to see the steam cloud from where it was entering the ocean and the glow from the lava. As the night wore on and it got darker we were able to see globs of lava shoot up into this cloud every so often. We sat there on a previous lava flow from the early 90's through intermittent heavy rain showers for about two hours to watch this. Phenomenal. Awe inspiring. We were seeing new land being created.

Next day was back to the Kona coast for more snorkeling and seeing some ancient Hawaiian historical sites like this Place of Refuge (I am not even going to try to type the Hawaiian name).

If Hawaiians who were in danger of being killed could make it to this place alive they were absolved of whatever sins they had committed and were allowed to live. Sins could be something as simple as looking at the chief or walking in the chiefs footsteps. Pretty strict society.

So there is our Hawaii trip in a (big) nutshell. We are definitely going to go back some day and see and do the things we didn't get to on this trip. Aloha!

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