Big Island: 2. South of South – National Volcano Park

Hawaii’s National Volcano Park is located close to both Kīlauea and Mauna Loa, the two active volcanoes on the Big Island. The Chain of Craters Road weaves over lava. Trails crisscross the park.

We spent an afternoon at the park by driving the Chain of Craters Road, which travels 4,000 feet through lava fields down to sea level.  At the bottom of the road, we saw the Holei Sea Arch.  While the arch was created within the last 100 years, the lava from which it is created is from a lava flow from about 550 years ago!

Cool lava patterns.

Heading toward the plume of smoke where the lava meets the sea.  It’s an 10-mile round trip hike, which we didn’t quite finish.

Lava mounds and hills.

Getting a little closer…

Wahoo!  We made it to the one-mile marker!! 🙂

And now it’s mile 3!!!  Yay! Actually, all we did is take a step forward and look at the other side of the 1-mile sign! 🙂

A view from near the top.  That faint beige line running across the flat section is the road we drove on down by the sea.

This lava field reminded us of a pan of brownies! 🙂

On our way back to the visitor center, we stopped at the Pu’u’ Loa Petroglyphs.  We walked along a path out to a boardwalk, where we were able to see some of 1000s of petroglyphs that are in this area — a sacred and religious place for many Hawaiians.

As we continued our way back up, we stopped at several volcano craters. The photos don’t do these craters justice – they were huge, deep, and very cool-looking.  It’s hard to imagine them full of boiling rock.



I love how this hardy little plant (‘ohi’a lehua) just springs up here and there on the lava fields.

Big Island: 1. South of South

Naaleau, Big Island, Hawaii, May 4 – May 11, 2017

We took a turboprop plane to the Big Island, which I wasn’t too sure about doing. Mike thought it would be cool because you fly lower and can see a lot more.  I’m glad we did it, because we could see 4 of the other islands as we flew over them — Moloka’i, Lanai, Maui, and Kaho’olawe.  

After landing at the Kona airport, we picked up our rental car (a Renegade Jeep, good for 4WD!), met Ricardo the Rental Car Rooster (he showed up one day and never left) and headed south…way south.  

We stopped for lunch on the way at the Strawberry Patch Restaurant, a great little spot with delicious dishes made with fresh, local ingredients and a whimsically decorated interior with gorgeous chandeliers, quirky salt and pepper shakers, and various mix and match tables and chairs. (Note from Mike: I am vehemently opposed to the use of the word “whimsically.”)

Our house, between Oceanview and Naaleau was close to the southernmost point of the U.S.! In fact, a coffee shop down the street is the southernmost coffee shop, a bakery in Naaleau is the southernmost bakery, etc. 🙂  The neighbors who take care of the house came to say hello, introduce us to their beautiful (and funny bird) Belle, and gave us a tour of their amazing garden full of flowers and fruit and nut trees!! Unfortunately, L and G all of a sudden were being eaten alive by mosquitoes, so we had to head inside…but not before they generously gave us some bananas, limes, papaya, and oranges! 

We spent an afternoon at Punalu’u Beach (a black sand beach) playing in the sand, building rock towers, climbing palm trees, hiking, watching green sea turtles, and playing in the waves.   


While G and Mike went for a short hike for another view of the beach…

L climbed coconut trees!


As we were getting ready to leave, we spotted a turtle in the rock pools and watched it for a long time.  G was very concerned about its welfare, but Mike looked up info about sea turtles and rock pools, and we were convinced the turtle was fine and doing what he wanted to do — relaxing and eating algae on the rocks.

G reading on the info about turtles in distress.

On our way back to the house, we stopped in Naalehu at Taco Tita’s (a new Mexican taco shop), as the house neighbor recommended it. Unfortunately, it had closed shortly before we arrived.  Fortunately, the woman working there (originally from Hungary!) still had all the food out, so she let us order!  As we were getting ready to leave, the woman asked if we knew what “Tita” meant in Hawaiian, and then told us that it’s a woman or young girl who doesn’t “take crap from anyone.  You don’t like our tacos. Don’t come back!” 🙂  The tacos were delicious, so we knew we’d be back!!  

We went across the street to the Punalu’u Sweetbread Bakery (the southernmost bakery in the U.S.) but a tour bus was there, so we walked over to the Will and Grace Variety Store, which was a small food market, where in addition to finding some pineapple juice and coconut milk that we wanted, we found some canned squid, which we didn’t want!?!  


We walked back over to the bakery and each chose a treat — an eclair for G, a vanilla cream puff for L, a macadamia nut cinnamon pinwheel with cream cheese frosting for me, and a chocolate malasada (Portuguese donut).  Soooo tasty!!!

Down the street from our house was Paradise Meadows Orchard and Bee Farm. We’d driven past the signs several times, so decided to check it out one morning.  They were sampling their Hawaii’s Local Buzz deliciously smooth coffee and lots of their tasty macadamia nuts, cookies, and honey! We also got a tour around the gardens and orchard, which was fun!  


Just next door was this beautiful inn, and I couldn’t resist taking a picture of it.


We continued driving about 10 miles south to South Point, which is the southernmost point of the Big Island of Hawaii and of the 50 United States. We past a giant wind farm on the way and when we got to the point, we watched several building diving from the cliffs, despite the warning signs! 🙂  


For dinner, we enjoyed fresh papaya and pina coladas with our pizza. 🙂

Honolulu: 6. Diamond Head and Pearl Harbor

We went for a morning hike to the top of Diamond Head!  It was plenty hot, as we weren’t there super early (Mike’s Note: We’re never ANYWHERE super early), but we were prepared with water and sensible shoes! 🙂  The views were gorgeous! It was definitely worth having to walk (sprint!) through the long, dark tunnel and climb the narrow, enclosed spiral stairs that led to the observation area at the top!


We came back to relax and have lunch and then headed over to Pearl Harbor for a 2:00 pm tour of the WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument — USS Arizona.  I hadn’t been there in 15 years, and Mike hadn’t been there in probably 26 or 27 years.  It was nice to share the history and meaning of it with the kids.  Such a beautiful place with so much sadness and solemnity.

After we got back from the tour of the U.S.S. Arizona, we wondered around the grounds looking at telescopes, submarines, gunners, and torpedoes.

…and smelling the beautiful and peaceful plumeria.

That evening, as L and I headed to the pool, we heard someone blowing a conch shell in the courtyard.  We saw an older man dressed in traditional Hawaiian clothing from the era of King Kamehameha.  When he was done, we asked him about it.  He told us, “in the old days, when we had royalty, they’d blow the horns to let them know that royalty was coming.”  Now they use it to signal the end of the day.

After some evening pool time and sunset pictures, we had dinner on our lanai, did some packing, and then had dessert at Sorento’s restaurant on the 30th floor of our building.  It had amazing views of the city and was softly lit inside with live music playing in the background — a guitar player and piano player.  L and Mike shared the chocolate volcano with cake, ice cream and toasted macadamia nuts.  G and I shared the 4-layer chocolate cake with raspberry coulis. Mike and also shared a Pina Colada! 🙂

Next stop…The Big Island!