The BIG Island


Hawaii Part 2!

From O’ahu I flew to Hilo on the Big Island. The island is actually named Hawai’i which can cause confusion since the entire state is also Hawaii. Most folks just call it the Big Island which is absolutely true. All the other Hawaiian Islands could fit on the Big Island. One of the things I love about the Big Island is its diversity of landscapes and ecosystems – farm land, cattle country, tropical jungle, barren lava fields, volcanic mountains, a ski area!, beaches, etc. Also because it’s bigger the tourists are spread out which I really appreciated.

In all honesty the real story of my time on the Big Island (really, all the islands) is in the pictures. So go ahead and click on the image below to see them first.

Rainbow Falls
Rainbow Falls

The city of Hilo has a great beach front downtown and is close to all sorts of cool stuff. My first day there I drove a short distance to Rainbow Falls. Beautiful falls but no rainbow on that day. Just down the street from the hostel I stayed in (interesting former hotel) was imageLiliokalani Garden. This garden/park on the ocean had a Japanese garden, amazing banyan trees and was flooded in parts due to high tide which added to the charm.

From Hilo I drove to Volcanoes National Park. Still not adjusted to local time, I was up super early and according to the ranger at the entrance the first visitor in the park that day. This came in handy when I decided to stop at the Thurston Lava Tubes soon after my arrival. “the Thurston Lava Tubes is a 500-year old lava cave. Lava caves like this are formed when a river of lava gradually builds solid walls and a ceiling. When the lava flow stops and the last of it passes downhill, a cave is formed. These caves can be a few feet high and only yards long, or they can stretch for miles with high ceilings.” –from This while walking in this amazing lava tube (despite the name there is only one) I only saw two other people and they left before I did, so I was able to enjoy the creepy, cool, super old, humbling, thought provoking tube in solitude. When I drove past the parking lot an hour later, there were 4 tour buses and hordes of people there.

imageOther highlights of the park were seeing the steam from an active volcano, the lava petroglyphs, the desolation of numerous lava fields, the Holei Sea Arch at the end of the Chain of Craters Road (oh yeah, that is the actual name of the road), and mentally singing Hot Lava by the B52s while looking at Mauna Loa.

I had my share of rainy days on the island and they started as I made my way North. So glad I packed my rain coat! On the other hand the jungly areas looked even more so in the rain. Some of the sights I wanted to see were obscured by clouds, but hey, I was in Hawaii so I didn’t complain (much). During that first drive the temperature went from 85 degrees to 63 degrees as I went from the eastern coast through the mountain areas. I spent several days near the town of Waimea in cattle country. From there I drove all the Northside of the island seeing whatever wasn’t shrouded in clouds. I also went horseback riding and had a chance to herd some cows – fun! There are no pictures, just trust me it happened. Next I spent time near Kona, home to the Kona Coffee region of Hawaii. My plans for sightseeing were curtailed by more rain and a head cold – I finally just gave in and spent one full day in my super cute room with screened porch and balcony to give my body a chance to recover. Plus it was the perfect place for a sick day – I spent the entire day on the screen porch reading and watching British mysteries and the rain.

Apparently my day of rest made me cocky because I followed it with a day of too much driving, too much hiking sans lunch or enough sunscreen and other poor choices. Luckily my home for the next two nights was a good choice. A jungly paradise surrounded by fruit trees (avocado and papaya right off the tree, yes please). The following days I drove the length of the Red Road and an amazing dirt road through a mango grove. Along the Red Road I discovered huge lava cliffs, shade and pounding ocean surf – perfect place to sit and read for an afternoon.

It may not seem like I did much in my 9 days, but there was a lot of driving, photo taking, food eating, walking, sight seeing (or attempting to see), reading and nose blowing going on.

This is the kinda stuff you encounter when just driving around Hawaii.
This is the kinda stuff you encounter when just driving around Hawaii.