Monday, March 25, 2013

Big Island, Hawaii [Part 2] - March 2013

Find Part 1 here

DAY 3: It was Ah's birthday, so the day started with a surprise! A cupcake bouquet from Bleu Cupcakery.

We wanted to snorkel again and tried a place further down Ali'i Drive, north of Kahalu'u beach park. However, we returned to the same spot as the previous day as people said it was the best in Big Island. Be careful of the rocks as they are sharp. Both of us had small scratches all over the body from swimming close to the rocks to see the smaller fish and turtles. Ah got a big gash on his finger that needed treatment from the lifeguard. 

As my underwater camera got damaged the previous day, I provide you with some pictures I found online of the fish and turtles we saw.

Source: Google images


We spent the evening sleeping under the cabana at Sheraton and later at night dined at Rays on the bay while seeing Manta Rays. There are lights flashed into the water. These are supposed to attract the smaller fish that in turn attract the manta rays. You can go for a paid swim with the manta rays, but you can also enjoy it from the restaurant or grab a drink and watch from the open garden next to it.  The food is only decent,  but the drinks are good.


DAY 4: Next day was planned for the east side of the island - green sand beach, black sand beach, volcano national park and Rainbow falls. The distance is not too much, but considering that the roads are single lane and curvy at many places, it took a long time to reach our first destination: PapakĊlea Beach (also known as Green Sand Beach or Mahana Beach). It is at the southernmost tip of the island, which is also the southernmost tip of the US. There are only 2 green sand beaches in the world - one in Big Island and the other in Galapagos Islands. The sand is actually an olive green color caused by volcanic eruptions. We didn't know that there is a 3 mile hike to the beach along sandy paths. A great alternative is the shuttle service that the locals provide. It is well worth the money if you want to save about 3 hours and not walk so far. Or if you have a sturdy 4 wheel drive or an ATV, you could take that. We started walking but along the way hitchhiked in the open back of a pickup truck. It was like a roller coaster ride and we were covered in sand by the time we reached the beach. It was the perfect excuse to get into the water. We had a short stop there and enjoyed every moment of it. 

Southernmost point of US
Need a 4 wheel drive 

Green sand beach

Green sand beach
The color of the sand is more prominent in person. In pictures it ended up not looking very green.

Panoramic view of Green sand beach

From there we went to the Volcano national park. The weather changed from sunny bright to windy rains and the temperature dropped considerably. We were so not prepared for that! At the visitor center, a park guide told us the best route to cover the park. It is a beautiful place, so different from any national park I have been to. We saw the different calderas and drove down to the ocean level, where we saw the hardened lava that had flowed down the mountain into the ocean and extended the island (Big island is the only growing island in the world). The best place to observe a volcanic eruption within the park at present is from Jaggar Museum overlook, and other vantage points at the summit of Kilauea that provide views of Halema'uma'u crater. At the jagger museum, during daylight there is a constant plume of volcanic gas is a constant reminder of the molten rock churning in a lava lake beneath the crater floor. After sunset, a view from the jagger point shows a bright red plume . 

Steam vents

Kilauea crater during the day from Jagger Museum

Lava on mountain 

Lava tubes

Lava on road

Red plume seen during evenings from Jagger museum

I have added a couple of pictures from an outside source to show the molten lava. You can get closer to the lava by taking a guided hike, boat tour or helicopter tour. These are not offered by the National park and have to be booked privately. Learn more here


- Dee

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Big Island, Hawaii [Part 1] - March 2013

Ah and I went to Big Island to celebrate our first anniversary and Ah's birthday. We got an amazing deal on Alaska Airlines. We took a 5 day trip, with a day specifically for travel. We took an early morning flight on a Thursday and were in the Island by 10am. 

DAY 1: We got ourselves a cool Mustang convertible and after grabbing a quick breakfast went straight to Hapuna beach state recreation area. After a quick nap on the beach, we went driving northwards towards Waipio valley. The landscape changes drastically along the drive. As we started, it was all Volcanic land with very sparse greenery. As we went up the hills towards the valley, the landscape changed from rocky black to lush green. It got colder and with the top of the convertible down and the wind blowing into my hair, it was absolutely amazing. 

Arial view of the island

At the airport
The big island airport is really different and beautiful. It is an open air airport, with each gate having a sheltered seating place. The rest of the airport has no roofing. 

Hapuna Beach

Sunset at Hapuna beach. Source: Flickr - patricksm

We had decided to just spend the day around Waikaloa, have our Anniversary dinner at Roy's (an amazing restaurant that I had tried earlier in Oahu) and then set out for the hotel. But all plans changed, as we had not considered the time change. After spending a day in the sun, all we wanted to do was to get to the room and hit the bed. We stayed at the Sheraton Kona resort and spa at Keauhou. It is a beautiful resort and the location is amazing!! 

Source: Sheraton Kona

View from Sheraton lobby
DAY 2: The next morning we went snorkeling at Big Island's best snorkeling spot - Kahalu'u beach parkIt was very close to the resort - a 2 minute drive and has the prettiest sea-life I have ever seen. The water is clear and we had schools of fish swim right past us. Also seen were green sea turtles, eels, surgeon fish, trigger fish, needle fish, box fishes, flat fish,  Parrot fish and goat fish . There have also been humpback whales breaching about 1/2 mile offshore but we did not see any. Not that we would have noticed, as we had our head in the water the whole time. Wear sunblock as the sun is very strong in HI. The best place to spot turtles is near the rocks close to the shore and you can swim with them. We got our snorkel gear from an organization called ReefTeach that rents them and educates people about safeguarding the reef. It's $13.50/day to rent gear regardless of how long you snorkel. You can also exchange flippers for a boogie board. They are costlier than others, but are most convenient and it feels good giving your money to an organization that puts it back into protecting the reef. If you rent gear from them, ReefTeach makes you watch a 15-minute video that drives home these two points about reef etiquette:

1. Try to stand on sandy areas, not on the coral. Standing on coral can kill it.
2. Don't feed the fish. You may be upsetting their ecosystem.

I bought an underwater camera specifically for this trip, but about an hour into the water, the camera got flooded with water and died. Luckily I could retrieve the few pics that we took. 

Adding a few pictures from other sites to show you the wonderful marine life we saw:




After snorkeling we went to try Poke at Da Poke Shack. Poke is a raw salad made with fish. Usually served as an appetizer, we got ours as a meal with spiced rice and sides of spicy California crab and garlic soy beans. We tried ahi, yellowfish tuna and octopus. There were also some cooked poke and we tried the cod which was our favorite.

Source: Yelp

Source: Yelp
 We also visited a refuge park called Pu'uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park in Honaunau which is about half-hour drive south of Kailua-Kona. You can see lava rocks and as you walk along the shore look out for turtles in the water and crabs on the rock. You can't get into the water here as it is fenced, but to the right of the historic park is a great snorkeling spot where there are lots of turtles. We skipped snorkeling there, as we had just finished 3 hours in water at the other location.

Source: Norwegian cruise lines


There was a beautiful beach with picnic tables next to the historic site. The views were breathtaking. 

This post is getting too long. Stay tuned for Big Island part 2.

- Dee