We drove to Hilo by way of Waikolo Village, Waimea, and Honokaa and stopped at Gramma’s Kitchen (a homey Portuguese restaurant) for lunch, which was excellent! We ended up sitting next to a French couple from Paris on holiday. 🙂
We spent the next day at the Hawaiian Tropical Botanical Garden, which were gorgeous! Note: There are lots and lots of photos below!! 🙂
The history of how the garden came to be was fascinating!
On our way back to the house, we stopped at What’s Shakin’ Smoothies for a coconut water, a smoothie, and a stunning view! It turns out the business, house, and land are (were?) for sale for just over $2 million…in case anyone’s interested! 🙂
G and L found a gecko near one of the pots, and we got some cool pictures of it!
After a super tasty late lunch/early dinner at the Pahoa Fresh Fish and Chips (which was recommended by our French friend, Nastia, at the Mariott in Kona), we headed back to the house, where we worked on our hackey sack skills! 🙂
The next day, we had a lower-key day as L had a nasty cold brewing. We drove through kitschy Pahoa Village, stopped by the nearby transfer station that only a few years ago had lava running right up to its fences, and then headed into Hilo. We ended up having lunch at the Hilo Burger Joint AND watching playoff hockey! (Mike’s Note: The hockey game was about as exciting as the botanical gardens, but still hockey.) On the way back to the house, we stopped at the Lava Tree State Monument. There’s a loop trail where we saw lava molds of tree trunks that were formed when a lava flow swept this forested area in 1790! It was an easy, quick and interesting stop.
On our way back to Kona for our last three nights, we took the Saddle Road, which allowed us to stop at the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy Visitor Information Station (Mauna Kea Visitor Center) at 9,200 feet!
According to its web site, “Mauna Kea is the world’s home of astronomy. The clarity, stability, and darkness of our skies make us the premier location for astronomical research, and is why we are home to thirteen of the world’s largest, most powerful, and most productive telescopes.”
The summit, where the telescopes are located, is one of the only places in the world where you can drive from sea level to 14,000 feet in about 2 hours, so altitude sickness is a high possibility (there is 40% less oxygen at the summit than at sea level!). For that reason, it’s recommended that children under the age of 16 (as well as others with various health issues) not go any further than the visitor center.
It is possible to hike to the summit, if you are so inclined. However, reading through the information about what it entails (and the dangers/riskes involved) makes me have absolutely no interest in adding it to my bucket list. 😉 I was happy and content to read and enjoy the information at the visitor center. We even got to look at the sun (!) through a special telescope and saw solar flares and sunspots! Cool!
Next stop, we return to Kona for our last 3 nights/4 days on the Big Island before we head home!