Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Hawaii ... Day 3 ... Road Trip to Hilo

Day 3 ... Monday
February 24, 2014

We stayed in Kona, which is considered the dry side of the island. On Monday, we drove to the other side of the island; the wet side or the rainforest side. (Half the island is literally a rainforest, it gets 160 + inches of rain a year. The concierge told us that we would be able to tell when we crossed over into the rainforest & she was absolutely right! The landscape went from grassy rolling hills to the tallest trees I've ever seen!)

We were headed for the town of Hilo, which is the biggest city on the wet side.  It's about a 2 hour drive from Waikoloa. But it ended up taking us a lot longer. For 2 reasons... One because we made several stops along the way & two because it was a long & twisty road around the volcano & I was driving.

Our first stop along the way was at the Tex Drive Inn in Honaka'a.
This place is known for their malasadas, or Polynesian donuts.

Of course we had to try them! I thought they were ok. It tasted a lot like a regular ol' donut to me & I'm not really a fan of donuts, so you know... But everyone else seemed to like them!

And not only do they have malasadas but they also have a nice view of the valley from the parking lot. (I love this picture because it's kind of hard to tell where the water ends & the sky begins because of the 'vog' or fog caused by the erupting volcano on the island.)

Our second stop was the Laupāhoehoe Point lookout. This place is just stunning. The blue blue water, the lush green tropical rainforest, palm trees & waves crashing against volcanic rock. It's the epitome of Hawaii!

Our next stop was Akaka Falls State Park.

We took a short (paved) hike through the rainforest to see this beautiful waterfall.

Along the way we saw some interesting plants in the rainforest. Including this... I have no idea what it is but I assume its a large seed pod of some sort.

We also saw bananas growing wild in the rainforest.

And giant flowers! They were almost as big as my head! (And you know that's big! Lol!)

This little fruit stand was right down the road from Akaka Falls. After our long hike we were all exhausted hungry & so we stopped here to get a snack.

The guy working there said that it was his family's farm & that they grew pineapples, bananas & mangos (or maybe guavas or maybe both!) We ended up getting a pineapple & 4 bananas. The pineapple was really yummy. So white & fresh. The bananas were good too, but they tasted a little different than the bananas that we're used to.

Our next stop was Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
This place was really cool. It's on top of Kilauea, an actively erupting volcano & about 4000 ft above sea level. (My ears are still popping 3 weeks later. This girl who lives 50 ft above sea level is just not used to that kind of pressure!) 

Sadly, we didn't have a lot of time to spend at the park because we had a reservation for a helicopter ride later in the afternoon. So we chose a couple things to do there that looked the best...

We started with the steam vents. They are giant cracks in the ground that have steam billowing out of them. The steam is created by groundwater reaching the hot volcanic stone underground.

The air was almost as thick & humid as it during the Southeast Texas summer, lol!

We took a short trail out to the Steam Bluff Overlook

and saw this.
 Which is the Kilauea Caldera & the Halema'uma'a Crater on the volcano Kilauea.

The next thing we did in the park was to go to the Jaggar Museum. 
The museum had a brief history of the formation & settlement of the Hawaiian islands & some other interesting things in it, such as this display of the two varieties of lava flows.

I found this interesting because the dry side of the island where we stayed was full of the Aa lava which looks like what I would assume moon rock looks like. But when we went on the helicopter ride, we saw lots of the Pahoehoe lava flow which looked very smooth. Its pretty cool how different the lava flow can be even though it comes from the same place.

And this was really cool too. This is called Pele's Hair. It is very very fine volcanic glass but it literally looks like strands of hair. I almost didn't believe the docent when she told me what it was!

Here is another view of the Caldera & Crater. 
This view is from outside the Jaggar Museum.

The last thing that we did at HVNP was to walk through the 
Thurston Lava Tube.

It's a cavelike tube 

that was created hundreds of years ago by lava rushing through it. 
Pretty neat concept!

After that, we had to head back to Hilo to go to the airport for our helicopter ride over Kilauea, the volcano that we had just seen at the park.

Not only was I brave enough to go on a helicopter ride, but I was brave enough to go on a helicopter ride with no doors! And I sat on the outside in the front! And I say brave because I don't like to fly. AT ALL... But actually I was less nervous in this helicopter than I am when I'm flying in a big commercial jetliner. And I'll tell you why... Because I could see the ground the whole time that I was in the helicopter & it didn't look that far away.

We had some really beautiful views during our ride... 
Like this rainbow

And the Mauna Loa macadian nut farm

And lava flowing through the rainforest

burning down trees as it goes.

Part of Kilauea

And this...Which used to be a road in a town and sadly this is all that's left of the town.

We also got to see the Hilo Harbor

and Rainbow Falls.

When our helicopter ride was over, we headed back to Kona. It was a 2 hour drive & I really wanted to get back before it got too dark because I don't like to drive in the dark, especially on unfamiliar winding roads!

On the way back to the resort, we called & made a reservation for dinner at Pueo's Osteria.

It is a small Italian restaurant in Waikoloa Village

and OMG it was delicious! I think it was my favorite restaurant that we ate at the whole time. This is what I had, Chicken Milanese with arugula salad on top. De.lic.ous!

Yet another great day in paradise!

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