Hawaii, the Big Island

In November, we took a 3-week trip to Hawaii, where we spent 2 weeks on the Big Island of Hawaii (Zach’s mom Virginia joined us for the middle week of that), and 5 days on Oahu visiting with family (Zach’s sister Valinda and her family are there, as well as Jennifer’s cousin Luke and his family). We got back in time to spend Thanksgiving with Jennifer’s dad (her sister couldn’t make it up due to terrible road conditions), and have even been skiing once (quite a contrast to Hawaii!)… and we’re finally getting around to posting to the blog. Sorry for the delay!

Some highlights and notes:

  • Lots of snorkeling! The Big Island has some amazing spots for snorkeling, with clear water, coral, and abundant and varied colorful fish.
  • We rented a kayak near the Captain Cook Monument south of Kona, and kayaked across a bay frequented by Spinner Dolphins. We didn’t manage to get a good picture of them, alas! But it was sure fun seeing them come up very close to our boat, and then jump up in the air and spin around… hard to describe and difficult to photograph, but unforgettable! Some good snorkeling there too.
  • We spent several days hiking around in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which has some really interesting lava formations.
  • We also visited several National Historic Parks on the Big Island, to get a taste of what it was like for the ancient Hawaiians who colonized the island from other Polynesian locales.
  • The wet side of the Big Island has beautiful tropical rain forests… and it rains there, huh? But also waterfalls and spectacular coastal vistas which we didn’t adequately capture in photos.
  • The south coast has a lot of rocky cliffs and high winds, making for dramatic wave crashing watching.
  • We visited the southernmost point of the U.S.
  • They have beaches of various sand colors (black, green, brown and of course white). We saw them all.
  • We drove pretty much the whole circumference of the Big Island in our rental car.
  • For the first half of our Big Island stay, we heard Coqui frog noise (LOUD) every night. When we got to Kalopa State Park, and didn’t have the frog noise, we wondered if we could sleep without it (but we did).
  • We camped on the Big Island — not really recommended! You can stay at county parks, but it’s really expensive ($20 per person per night for non-residents). The state parks were less expensive (about $20 per site per night) but definitely avoid Manuka State Park (right on a highway and people coming and going all night). Kalopa State Park was OK, and the A-frame cabins we stayed in at Hapuna Beach State Park were fine (but a bit more expensive at about $50/night and very basic; you provide the sleeping pad and sleeping bag).
  • On the other hand, we had good luck with the two places we found on the AirBnB web site (we had used that site successfully on our spring European trip as well — highly recommended). The places we stayed in were not that much more expensive than camping, and quite a bit more comfortable.
  • Don’t buy property on the Big Island unless you are prepared to lose it all in a lava flow! The entire island is prone to this, and it seemed like everywhere we went was not more than a few miles from a flow that happened in the last 10-50 years… not good odds!
  • We took a rather steep and muddy hike on Oahu with Valinda, Luke, Luke’s wife Tiffany, and the kids (one 6 year-old, two 4-year-olds, and one 5-month-old in a carrier; Valinda’s two-year-old didn’t come). It went well! The kids are real troupers.

Now, on to photos… not strictly chronological…

Beach hike

Hiking in Honokohau National Historic Park, north of Kona

Sea turtle

Sea turtle

tropical fish

Snorkeling with the underwater camera

tropical fish

Snorkeling with the underwater camera

tropical fish

Snorkeling with the underwater camera

South Point

South Point area (southernmost point of the US)

South Point

South Point area — quite windy!

South Point

South Point

South Point

South Point

Hiking to the Green Sand Beach

Hiking to the Green Sand Beach, near South Point

Hiking to the Green Sand Beach

Hiking to the Green Sand Beach

Green sand cliff

Green sand coming down the cliff to form the Green Sand Beach

Green Sand Beach

Green Sand Beach

Sulfur Banks, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Sulfur Banks, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

lava tube

Thurston Lava Tube, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Kiluhea Crater

Kiluhea Crater by day, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Kiluhea Crater at night

Kiluhea Crater at night, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Lava lake in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Lava lake (Kiluhea Iki) in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Lava lake in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Lava lake (Kiluhea Iki) in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Lava lake in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Colonizing plants at lava lake (Kiluhea Iki) in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Lava flow in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Lava flow in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, near Pu’u Huluhulu

lava trees

Lava trees (where lava flowed around living trees) in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, near Pu’u Huluhulu

Hawaiian petroglyphs

Petroglyphs in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Hawaiian game board petroglyph

Ancient Hawaiian Konane game board

Arch on the coast in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Arch on the coast in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Jello Mold panoramic view

Panoramic view from the “Jello Mold” (Puo Wa’awa’a) north of Kona

hiking near Kailua, Oahu

On the way up to the Pillboxes near Kailua, Oahu

hiking near Kailua, Oahu

On the way up to the Pillboxes near Kailua, Oahu

hiking near Kailua

On the way down from the Pillboxes near Kailua, Oahu

Note about the map: I tried to cover most of the places we went on the Big Island, but not all the driving. There was a lot of back and forth! Oahu is omitted too. Hope that is OK. :)

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Map (note: not exact). The green marker shows the beginning of the route. If you click on other markers, you will see a note or information about that spot.


Approximate elevation profile (markers correspond to markers on the map):

Elevation Profile