Edward and Jennifer's Hawaii Journal

Edward and Jennifer's trip to the Islands

Day 0 - Day 1Day 2Day 3 - Day 4
Day 5 - Day 7Day 8 - Day 10 
More PicturesAbout 
Volcanoes N.P.Rim DriveChain of Craters Rd.
Thurston Lava TubeAkaka FallsMauna Loa Plantation
Lava Tree St. Pk.Rainbow FallsPee Pee Falls
Boiling Potsroad to HanaWalanapanapa St. Pk.
Hassagwa General StoreHaleakala N.P.Oho'o Gulch
Haleakala CraterMolokini CraterTurtle Town
Kahulia-KonaOld Airport BeachSouthpoint

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Golden Gate Bridge.

Day 0 12/4
In Santa Cruz. We checked the weather in Hilo, it was raining with predictions of more rain. Not exactly what I wanted for my vacation. As a preview of things to come it was foggy and rainy. We drove through San Francisco (Jen had never seen it) but there was too much fog to see much.

Day 1 12/5
We flew to Hawaii. Guess what? If you look out the window of the airplane,you will see water. Wait a couple of hours and look again, you'll see the same thing. Bring a book or two for entertainment (the water gets boring).

We stop in Honolulu then land in Hilo. I really like the airports, the walkways don't have windows and in some places you walk through open air. It gets you into the tropical mood. The neat thing is, my baggage beat me to the baggage claim. I don't think that has ever happened before. Of course, it was not without incident. At Honlolulu, the inter-island terminal is quite a ways from the main terminal, and we didn't get our bags checked all the way through, so we had to pick them up and re-check them on Hawaiian Air. A word to the wise, make sure your bags get checked all the way through to your final destination. At the Hilo Airport, it rained on and off, just for about 5 minutes at a time.

After checking in to the Hilo Hawaiian hotel, we decided to drive around town and check things out. One of the first places we stumbled across was Rainbow Falls. This waterfall is right at the edge of town, we weren't even looking for it. Unfortunately, it was dark and we couldn't see a thing. We could hear the water crashing down below us. Talk about a teaser.

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Sulphur Banks
Day 2 12/6
Volcanoes National Park is 50 miles from Hilo, which makes it less than an hour's drive. As we went up the side of the volcano, it started raining again. It was raining pretty steadily on the way. At the visitor's center we found out that it rains most of the time during the rainy season, so it would probably rain all day, and the whole next day as well. I guess I shouldn't be suprised that it rains in a rainforest during the rainy season, but somehow I was expecting a bit of sun on vacation. As you go down Chain of Craters Road, it often clears up. We took Rim Drive around the main crater - there are lots of interesting things to see. Kileaua is still an active volcano, but it isn't erupting in the main crater; instead, the lava is flowing out a side vent.

Rim Drive goes around the rim of the main crater. The first stop is Sulphur bank. Here there is steam coming up out of the ground and in some areas the ground has a dusting of yellow sulphur. You can smell the fumes, but they weren't too bad. This is your first indication of how geologically active this area still is.

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Steam venting from the edge of the crater.
Near Sulphur bank are the steam vents. Right at the edge of the parking lot is a small well with steam rising from it. Rain falls in the well and the ground is hot enough to make it turn to steam. You can feel the heat coming off the ground. There is a short trail which takes you to the edge of the crater. The whole edge of the crater is steaming, you can look down and see where the trees come to an abrupt end at the edge of a old lava flow. It is just like looking at the edge of a lake, except instead of water there is hard black rock. The ground here is too hot for trees or shrubs to grow, so there are only grasses. The Jagger Museum is right at the edge of the crater, you can look out over it and see a large caldera that still has steam rising from it. For over a hundred years, until the early 1900's, it was a lake of molten lava, then, it rose and covered the floor of the whole crater for a short time then cooled. The Jagger Museum also has explanations of how they study the volcano and artifacts they have collected. There is even a demonstration of volcanic activity where you can affect a seismograph by jumping up and down.

Rim Drive continues around, but we turned off and went down Chain of Craters Road. It meanders down to the coast, going by several older craters and many lava flows. Since it was raining, we didn't stop at the craters. Many of the lava flows that the road cuts through have signs giving the date of the flow. The newer flows are nothing but black rock, flows a little older have ferns growing in them. The oldest flows have scrub trees. As you get lower, the rain becomes less frequent, the sun never breaks through the clouds, but being able to get out of the car without getting wet was a welcome change. Soon you are driving along some cliffs by the ocean.

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Natural bridge at the oceans edge.
There is a nice pullout where you can walk to the edge and look down on the ocean and a natural bridge. Even though the water is a good 20 feet below you, occasionally some spray would come up 10 feet over the cliff's edge.

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Lava flow crossing the road.
The road eventually comes to an abrupt end where lava covered it in 1984. Since then, there has been one continuous lava flow. About 10 miles of the road has been covered. Currently, lava is flowing into the ocean 4-7 miles away from the end of the road. You can just see a cloud of steam rising in the distance where it hits the ocean. It is a long hike over unmarked land to get to the hot lava. The rangers recommend against going, but many people do hike to the lava and stay until dark. Be sure to take a flashlight and plenty of water with you if you intend on doing this. You can also hike to it from the other side of the road, outside the park. We didn't do it, so I don't know how far it is. If you really want to see the running lava, I think a helocopter is the easiest way. There is nothing else to do but turn around. It is an interesting but long drive. On the way back, we stopped where the road had been overrun by lava and they rebuilt it some distance away. There are little bits of road left and you can still see the white line going down the center.

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Thurston Lava Tube.

Back on Rim Drive, we stopped at Thurston Lava Tube. As lava flows to the ocean, the top cools and forms a crust. Lava flows under this crust, often for a great distance. After the lava stops flowing, the tube drains. Some of the tubes are hidden, but others have entrances. To get to the tube you walk down a path through a short stretch of rain forest. Giant tree ferns 20 feet tall or more tower over you and all manner of plants grow around you. The trail goes through the tube. Once inside, water is constantly dripping, even if it isn't raining outside. The tube is lit while the trail goes through it. At the end, the trail makes its way back up to the ground. The lava tube continues and if you have a flashlight you can walk through the unimproved tunnel. We didn't have one, so we followed the trail back to our car.

There were a couple of places we wanted to see but didn't because we were sick of the rain. First was Devastation trail which is a loop that takes you through several lava flows. Second is the rainforest near Thurston Lava Tube. There is a longer trail that runs through it, but we were tired of getting rained on, so we headed back.

Day 3 12/6
More drizzle. We drove north to Akaka Falls State Park. You have to take a narrow road through sugar cane to get to it. There is a short loop hike that goes by it and several others. It is more impressive if you go toward Kahuna Falls first then around to Akaka. Akaka Falls is a 420 foot drop. It is the longest waterfall that is easily accessable in Hawaii. The lush vegetation and thick vines make for an interesting walk. There was such a variety of flowers and a profusion of colors. There are also stands of huge yellow bamboo. This bamboo is close to six inches in diameter and 30 feet tall. Past Akaka Falls there are many small falls right near the trail. Akaka Falls isn't far from Hilo and it is an easy hike. This makes for a good afternoon jaunt.

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Akaka Falls

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Small waterfall near Akaka Falls

There are many gardens in Hawaii so if you like flowers, be sure to go to one. If you don't, it's a waste of time. We went to (Name here), 26 acres of orchids, orchards and flowers. I liked the orchard part best. It had lots of different fruit trees, macadamia, breadfruit, papaya, pineapple, banana and more. (I realize that not all of the above are fruit, or even trees, but I think you get the idea of what is there.)

The Mauna Loa plantation is nearby and was our next stop. After driving a few miles through macadamia nut trees and lanes with whimsical names, we got to the factory and visitors center. The factory was between shifts so we didn't get to see them working, but we were able to look through glass windows onto the factory floor. They also have a bus which gives a tour around the plantation. The gift shop is the main draw. They have shirts and lots of macademia products, including some you can't get other places, like macadamia nut oil. The prices are pretty good, but nuts are cheaper in the Wal*Mart in Kona.

Lava Tree State Park is a small park with an interesting reason for existing. Once, long ago, a lava flow covered a forest. Above the lava the trees burned, but below the lava there was no oxygen so they burned very slowly. When the lava receded, it left pillars of lava where the trees were. The lava cooled around the trunk, but the trunk kept burning, so these pillars are hollow. Don't go expecting too much or you'll be disappointed; its like the petrified forest in Arizona, you're not going to see trees with branches and stuff, just stumps.

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Rainbow Falls.

Since we still had a bit of time we went back to Rainbow Falls. This time we got to see it. I am continually amazed at how close to Hilo this is.

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Pee Pee Falls.
There aren't any hiking trails there, it is basically a driveby place. It was cloudy so we didn't see a rainbow; there usually is one when it is sunny. A few miles up the road is Pee Pee Falls and Boiling Pots. Boiling Pots is named because of how turbulent the river is downstream of the falls. I don't know how Pee Pee falls got its name. You can walk a little bit below the overlook and get a much better angle, and that is where I took the picture of the falls.

Day 4 12/7
For a change of scenery we flew to Kahului, Maui. We had planned on going to our hotel right away and then the next day driving to Hana and back. After looking closer at the map and reading a bit, we decided to try and stay in Hana. Both of the hotels there are very expensive so we decided to try Aloha Cottages, a much more reasonable $80 a night.

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Black Sand Beach at Walanapanapa State Park.
Fodor's describes it as a run by a retired woman who has 5 cabins she rents out. We got the last one, it was really a house a couple of blocks away from the main cabins. We had a living room, dining room, full kitchen, much bigger than the hotel rooms we had been in. She even gave us some home grown bananas for breakfast. I think doing the whole trip to Hana and back wouldn't give you enough time to see everything, you should stay the night. The road to Hana can be described as a winding road, but that doesn't do it justice. It is fifty miles of narrow, nail-biting winding road with sharp turns and 56 one lane bridges. At most of the bridges, there is a waterfall. I heard from someone who went in the dry season that there were very few waterfalls so it wasn't impressive. Good thing for us it was the rainy season. It rained most of the way there, but that made the waterfalls beautiful. Near the beginning of the trip, past the town of Paia, there is Twin Falls, we drove right by it without stopping, but after seeing it from the heliocopter, I wish we had stopped. As you get near Hana, you'll go by Walanapanapa State Park. They have a black sand beach there so stop and take a look. This beach was formed by the erosion of the lava rock, and it isn't as fine a grain sand as you see on most beaches. Furthest away from the water, it is pebbles and as you get closer, these pebbles get smaller and smaller until it is sandy. The water looked a little too rough for swimming so we didn't try it. Since we had a kitchen for the night, we went to Hassagwa General Store. This store is a local landmark and really does carry a bit of everything. The selection of food isn't very large, but they also have T-shirts, plumbing supplies, fishing tackle and rental videos.

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Ohe'o Gulch

Day 5 12/8
Hana and beyond have been used in many movies, parts of Jurassic Park were shot there and and Meg Ryan talks about the Seven Sacred Pools in the movie Einstein. Everyone is quick to point out that there are more than seven pools and they are not sacred, that is just a Hollywood thing. In any case, they are on the eastern side of Haleakala National Park. Keep driving past Hana and you will get there (with only one road that goes through Hana, you don't have to worry too much about getting lost). First stop at Kipahulu Ranger Station and check out the trails and weather then head toward Ohe'o Gulch. It is a short hike to the pools. After, you can hike a couple more miles

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The road past Hana.

Two miles past the park is the church where Charles Lindburgh is buried. You can drive up and see his grave. His wife still lives in the area. A little past the park the road gets even narrower. The yellow line down the center disappears and occasionally, the curves will have a sign telling you to honk your horn before going around. The road is in pretty bad condition and you won't be driving very fast. It does go all the way around the Island, but it turns to gravel so you aren't allowed to take your rental car on it. We turned around at the gravel and headed back, stopping at Paia for lunch. Paia has a popular wind surfing beach and is your typical yuppie antique shop and beach bum town.

Day 6 12/9
Vacation is the perfect time to get up at 3:30 am. Jen doesn't agree with me, but East Coast time it is 8:30, which is still early for vacation. If you want to see the sun rise at Haleakala Crater, that is when you

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Sunrise at Haleakaia Crater.
need to get up. Allow 2-3 hours for the drive to the top, depending on how lost you plan to get. We planned on getting very lost so it took us the full 3 hours. The maps you get from the rental car agencies don't always name the roads the way the highway department does, so that may add to the time it takes. I've always thought that sunsets are more impressive than sunrises are and that they come out better on film than in real life. This trip did not change my mind. It wasn't that impressive and there were too many clouds to actually see the sun, but on film it looks pretty good. Many companies run trips where you go up for the sun rise then ride a bike down. We didn't do that, but we passed a lot of people who did. On the way up, we kept seeing cattle crossing signs, but couldn't figure out why. On the way back, we saw tons of cows along the road and in the road, causing trouble for those ahead of us.

This was the end of the pre-planned part of the vacation, the rest we were going to spend laying on the beach on the warm side of the island. Fortunately, we were on the dry side so rain was less of a concern. After the trip we came back, took a long nap, then went to the beach to read a book. Since we had been constantly doing stuff until now, it was a nice change of pace.

Day 7 12/10
Today we slept in. We didn't have to get up until 4:30am. We went snorkeling at Molokini Crater and Turtle Town. The tour starts really early in the morning, and you get breakfast on the boat. Molokini is a crescent shaped crater that sticks up out of the ocean, it is a bird sanctuary, so you can't step on it, and you aren't allowed to feed the fish there. You will see lots of coral, fish, and midnight blue sea urchins. The water is pretty warm, so don't worry about freezing. After snorkeling for about 45 minutes we were tired and got back on the boat and went to Turtle Town. Green Sea Turtles live there. They used to be endangered but are staging a comeback and now are only protected. You can't touch them, but you can feed the fish there. Pull out the fish food and you will be mobbed by hundreds of colorful fish. You are much more bouyant in salt water so you can just can put your head in the water, breath through the snorkel and float, without treading water. Two hours of snorkeling doesn't seem like much time but you will be tired by the end of it. After Turtle Town, we headed back to the dock and ate lunch and had drinks on the way back.

Before going back to the hotel we stopped by the Hard Rock Cafe for drinks and to get souveniers. We also stopped at a store specializing in gecko merchandise that had the floor covered in sand (on purpose).

For dinner we went to a Polynesian Luau. A Polynesian Luau is diferent from a Hawaiian Luau because they give you a shell lea instead of a flower one. Good food and a pit cooked pig, with dances from different areas of Polynesia and Hawaii. We even learned to hula.

At this time, you have to mention Poi. It is a traditional hawaiian dish made of pounded taro root. Sooner will hear you went to Hawaii and ask if you have poi. If you listen closely, you can usually hear them chuckle to themselves when they say it. If you were ever in kindergarden and ate paste, you know poi. It has the same consistency and taste as paste, but it isn't quite as salty. Of course, you can add salt and take a trip down memory lane.

Day 8 12/11
We flew back to the Big Island, but before that, we took a helicopter tour of the island. The main draw is the Hana area, and if you don't drive there, the helicopter is a great way to see it, otherwise it is an interesting, but expensive, trip. The tour took an hour and we went all the way around the island; there are other, shorter trips that go to specific parts.

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Rainbow over the mountains.

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The narrow part of Maui.
The helicopter seats six and I think we got the best seats, in the front, next to the pilot. You get to see the waterfalls and the crater from a different persective and you can really see the transition from the dry side to the rainy side. As a bonus, you see some really nice falls that you can't see from the ground; one canyon in particular has about 20 waterfalls in it, it is quite a site. I was too busy looking at it to get a picture. We got the video of the flight, which wasn't nearly as good as the flight itself. I guess that is good because if it were just as good, I would have felt like I wasted money on the flight instead of just buying the video.

Maui is made of two volcanos, one on each side of the island. Between them is a narrow bit of flat land that was formed when the lava flows from one volcano met the ones from the other volcano. You can tell its narrow by looking on the map, but from a helicopter, you can see just how narrow it is.

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Sunset at Old Airport Beach.

Day 9 12/12
The last couple of days we spent in Kahulia-Kona. Nothing planned, just hanging out, doing some shopping, spending time on the beach. Most of the Kona coast is rocky, so finding a good beach is hard. We went to White Sands beach (the sand is normal brownish-grey, not white) which was small and crowded. There were lots of little shops that have interesting stuff. I was looking for christmas presents or I would have been bored after an hour. We also went to the Old Airport Beach north of town. This is a long stretch of mixed areas of sand and rock. I would recommend skipping the other beaches and going to this one instead if you find yourself in Kona. Quite a few local kids hang out there and the area has a wide paved airstrip, so I bet there is some drag racing there after dark.

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Day 10 12/13
Our last day in Hawaii. We had almost a full day with nothing to do so we decided to drive to Southpoint. In case you are ever on Jeopardy! keep in mind Southpoint is the southernmost part of the U.S. This is really its only claim to fame.

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Windblown tree.
It is a long drive over lava flows and scrub forest, and when you get there it is a rocky, windswept point. There isn't much to do there. About two miles east of Southpoint is a green sand beach. The road to that beach is basically a track over lava, don't even think about taking a car over it. There isn't any water in the area either, so bring everything you need if you go there. At Southpoint there was a little bit of green sand. The sand is made of Olivine that is naturally in the volcanic rock, and it washes up there. It really is green, and you aren't likely to see it very often. There wasn't enough of it at Southpoint to get a good idea of how a whole beach would look, but I bet it looks pretty unique. The drive was about one and a half hours each way, so don't do it unless you have some time to kill and no kids to sit in the back seat. I don't think kids would appreciate it.

Time for the long, long trip home. We left the big Island at 5pm, flew to Honolulu, stayed there until 8pm (Hawaii time). The trip back to the mainland was long, I slept during most of it. We landed in Dallas-Ft. Worth at 7am (Texas time) then finally got into Baltimore at noon (Eastern time).