Thursday, May 8, 2014

Hawaii Part 1: The Big Island

Last week, Cameron and I took off for Hawaii on a long-overdue vacation.  We haven't been on a vaca just the two of us (other than Gulf Shores) since our honeymoon nearly 6 years ago - it's sad I know.  We had an amazing time!!!  Wish we had stayed longer.  Be prepared that this will be picture overload!

We flew out of Mobile at 6am Saturday morning.  After a layover in Dallas, we were off on the 8 hour plane ride to Hawaii.  Since it is 5 hours behind us in Mobile, we landed in Hawaii on Saturday afternoon.  We actually flew in to Maui (it was way cheaper to go in and out of the same city) then headed to the Big Island on our island hopper plane.  I should have had a clue when they told me they couldn't transfer our luggage and we needed to go to the "commuter terminal."  I was still surprised when we walked in to a tiny open-air airport and saw this...

An 8-seater plane!  I have to admit that I was a little scared, especially with the winds whipping around like crazy.  But the ride was an adventure in and of itself!  And we got some amazing views leaving Maui and headed to the Big Island.

Haleakala  summit on Maui

As soon as we landed and picked up our rental car - a wrangler of course

they must have known we are Auburn fans!

we went to meet Tim & Jenica for drinks.  Tim is from Mobile, but now lives in Kona on the Big Island, and an old friend of our friend Poe.  We met him once before at Dauphin Island and Poe was adamant that we should meet up with him in Hawaii.  They took us to this great tiki bar on the water - Huggo's on the Rocks.  Afterwards, we went to a sushi place they recommended then checked in to our bungalow rental.  We found it on VRBO.  It was so private and had an amazing view - we loved it!

Sunday we woke up early due to the time change and enjoyed our breakfast on the "lanai." 

We wanted to start our day with a beach trip and we headed a little ways up north to Kua Bay - beautiful but packed with people.

After sitting for a while, we went off in search of another, more quiet beach.  But first we picked up some fish tacos at a little hole-in-the-wall place named, Kohala Burger & Taco.  Delish!

Next, we went to Manua Kea Beach.  All of the beaches in Hawaii are public and to get this one you have to drive back through a gated resort, but it was well worth it.  The public side was practically empty and we loved it.  We had our own snorkel gear (from a previous vacation my family went on) and were able to walk right out into the water and snorkel.  Unfortunately, my underwater camera died after only a few shots :(

promise we aren't naked! 
the seashell hoarder in me really wanted to smuggle this home!
This was also where we saw our first mongoose.  A little squirrel-ferret thing ran across the path in front of us.  We just assumed ferrets ran wild in Hawaii, then we saw more and decided to Google it (we Googled lots of things on our trip!).  Apparently ferrets are illegal, but mongoose are wild.  We saw them everywhere, even hopping up on the porch at our house.  Never could get a picture though cause they are fast little buggers, so here's one via the internet...

Once we headed back to Kona, we decided to clean up and hit downtown Kona for a sunset cocktail.  We liked Huggo's so much that we went back, and this time I had my first mai tai (of many), a Hawaiin specialty.

After shopping a bit downtown and watching a beautiful sunset, we went back to our little house for steaks on the porch.

Monday morning we got up early and headed to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.  The view on the way was incredible.  It's crazy to go from sea level to 4000 ft and back down again in one day.

we kept seeing signs for Nene crossing (a protected Hawaiian goose) then finally got to see some along the road 

then it gets a little more barren
Quick fact - the Big Island has 11 of the 13 climates zones.  Crazy for such a small place!

In the park, we walked through the Thurstan Lava Tube...

I thought these things were so cool looking.  reminded me of Alice in Wonderland for some reason...

the entrance to the lava tube

Then, drove all the way down to where the lava meets the water.  Both of us expected to see active lava, but sadly no.  Still it was pretty cool to see where something so destructive has formed such a beautiful view.

you used to be able to drive all lot further until lava flowed over the road

the Holei sea arch - crazy that something so destructive can form something so beautiful

On our way back up, we walked through the sulfur pits where you can see steam coming out of the ground.

We stopped by the artist center where I picked up some local art.  It's funny how things change.  I used to want the kitschy souvenirs and now I really want things I can incorporate into my home rather than pack away in a box.

On our way back to Kona, we stopped at Punaluu Beach, a black sand beach.  The thing about black sand is that while it looks cool, it's no fun to walk on!  We picked a place up on the rocks to watch the waves roll in.

yes there are a ton of selfies from this trip

from this...
to this in just a few seconds

can you spot the crab?

On our way home, we stopped at a fruit stand and picked up some random fruits and macadamia nuts.  We liked the little red spiky things, but the other two were a little odd for us.

strawberry papaya, Rambutan, Guanabana

Cameron's one big request for our trip was fishing, of course.  Thankfully, Tim was able to fulfill that without us booking a charter.  We met up with them after they got off work and headed out.  What's crazy about fishing in Hawaii is that you are in deep water immediately.  We hooked on to a wahoo within 15 minutes.  Cameron was in heaven!

We weren't so lucky the rest of the short trip, but enjoyed an amazing sunset from the boat.

After cleaning up the boat, Cameron & I went into town and decided to try a little local food stand called Kanaka Kava.  We chose the lau lau (pork steamed in taro leaves), poke (raw ahi tuna), and kahlua pork plate to share.  Not such a fan of the lau lau, but the other two were amazing!

Tuesday we decided to spend the morning snorkeling.  Our first stop was Kealakekua Bay, where Captain Cook first landed in Hawaii and according to the guide book, one of the best places to snorkel on the island.  After managing to make our way down to the water over the rocks, we quickly realized the coral was a good ways out and since I was already fulling the undertow pulling me, I bailed on swimming out to it.  The local guy on the beach told us you really need a kayak to get to it - which of course he could rent to us.  Go figure.  We enjoyed the view, then headed up the road to another spot.

We kept seeing these "no spray" signs and Googled it.  Apparently they are from residents who don't want the government to spray pesticides on their property because there is a big push to go organic.  I'm not even going to touch on that but I thought I should document one of the signs since they were everywhere!

a view from our drive

The next place was Puuhonua O Honauau.  I'm so glad the first place didn't work out because this place was gorgeous!  Granted the first place was practically empty and the place was full of people, but it was still worth it.  Difficult to get in and out of the water in its own way - you just jump off the rocks then have to figure out how to climb back up and not cut yourself on the coral & sea urchins.  This was some of my favorite snorkeling.  There were tons of pretty fish, a baracuda, AND dolphins!  I've swam with dolphins before on a vet school trip to an aquarium but these were in the wild and so much cooler.  There was a pod of about 10 swimming together and while we got close, we didn't try to touch them.  This was one of the instances when I was so sad my underwater camera wasn't working!  After snorkeling, we laid out on the rocks to dry off and watched the spinner dolphins jump out of the water.  One of the best mornings ever!

sea urchins everywhere!  really made that whole climbing out of the water thing difficult

examples of the local canoes

When we started getting hungry, we headed back to Kona for another one of Cameron's must do's - the Kona Brewing Co.  While this was really more for Cameron, I really enjoyed it.  The food and atmosphere were great and I found several beers we liked.  They offer a sampler platter and my favorites were one that had banana bread flavors (weird sounding but delicious) and a porter (and I do not ever like dark beer).

Once we were full, we went over to Jenica at work.  She works for a fish farm that produces the Hawaiin version of amberjack.  Such a cool process to see at work!  And let me tell you, 17 day old fish are TINY!

Still full from lunch we decided to spend the rest of the day laying on a beach.  Jenica recommended a place nearby that the locals call Pine Trees, but the sign said Kohanaiki Beach.  It was perfect - a long narrow sandy (well kinda, it was more like lots of tiny pebbles) beach (most Big Island beaches are rocky) that was practically empty with waves to watch the surfers.

Dinner that night was fresh wahoo from the fishing trip - a little sashimi and some grilled - enjoyed watching the sunset on our porch

Wednesday morning, we packed up the house so we could head back over to Maui.  Then spent our last hours in Kona doing a little shopping in the markets.  The flowers are amazing!

On the topic of flowers - it is crazy how common such beautiful flowers are.  They put orchids in everything!  Your drinks, food, leis, hair.  And the plumeria trees are everywhere and these flowers just litter the ground.

Just before our flight we met Tim for lunch at the Harbour House.  It was pretty funny when we were eating lunch because Cameron mentioned that he was disappointed that he hadn't seen a turtle yet.  Tim goes "oh they're around" then looks out in the marina and says "hey, there's one" and sure enough he was poking his head up out of the water.  Haha!

Then it was back to the tiny plane - which gave us some pretty views leaving the island.

that is actually Pine Trees beach where we were the day before

Vaca Part 2 - Maui is coming soon!


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