Hawaii: Big Island

Hawaii

Trip to the Big Island of Hawaii with my family, summer of 2014. Photos, stories, and bucket list successes.

Jungles, Waterfalls, Volcanoes and Rainbows!

Summer, 2014

We arrived on the big island early in the day. Having to commute 6+ hours back and forth from college to my home town so often, the tiny flight from Sacramento to Hawaii felt like nothing.

We only stayed about two days on the big island, but in that time, we took in as much as we could. Our hotel was gorgeous, right on the beach.

Dinner at sunset on the beach. We also had live music.

Dinner at sunset on the beach. We also had live music.

Walking around the hotel grounds. Paradise.

Walking around the hotel grounds. Paradise.

There was also an infinity pool and a water slide, although those were not quite as impressive as you’d think. The grounds were littered with sweet scented flowers and colorful birds.

Plumerias

Plumerias

The beach was a lot of fun to explore.

We watched snorkelers and sun tanners by the beach, explored ancient fishing farms, and saw ruins of old Polynesian buildings.

Exploring the beach

Exploring the beach

I even completed one of my bucket list items: See a Giant Sea turtle in its natural setting.

Chilling with a Giant Sea Turtle

Chilling with a Giant Sea Turtle

The picture messes up the perspective a bit, but this fine chap was HUGE. As big as a beagle. I knew that turtles could grow to large sizes in old age, but I had no idea how big they looked on average. This one was perfectly chill with me hanging out with him on the beach, and his eyes groggily opened every once in a while to check up on me.

Pools and Beach on the BIg Island

Pools and Beach on the BIg Island

After a day of relaxation and fine food, we took a van-guided tour to see as much as possible. We used a private tour service called The Volcano Van, which I highly recomend if you want to see as much of the island as possible in one day.

First stop on the tour: lush Hawaiian fields, volcanoes in background

First stop on the tour: lush Hawaiian fields, volcanoes in background

Exploring the lava rock

Exploring the lava rock

We must have traveled through about five vastly different climates. We were ceremoniously cheauffered through thick jungles, taking winding roads that wove through tropical flowers and vines. We visited some caves formed by ancient lava, saw lots of gorgeous jungles, and even stopped in Hilo for milkshakes and a look at the quant Hawaiian town.

Found a little baby mushroom in the jungles! For size reference, that's my pinky

Found a little baby mushroom in the jungles! For size reference, that’s my pinky

Foggy Hawaiian Cliffs

Stormy cliffs on the outer edge of the jungle

Hilo Sharks Coffee

Hilo: I WISH we could have spent more time here

We stopped at Hilo Sharks Coffee, and got some of the best milkshakes of our lives.

Caves of hardened black magma, Pahoehoe

Caves of hardened black magma, Pahoehoe

50 foot waves along the coast

50 foot waves along the coast

and got to see lots of landmark-worthy waterfalls. Rainbow falls is the picture featured at the top of this page. The picture doesn’t do the area justice, as it leaves out the delicate flower petals floating through the breeze, the ferel kittens foraging in the lush underbrush, and the absolutly daunting magnitude of the falls themselves. We even got to climb on the rocks at the top of the falls and view the river from the vantage point:

From the top of Rainbow Falls, about eighty feet up

From the top of Rainbow Falls, about eighty feet up

Top of the falls

Top of the falls

Eventually, we made it to the top of a very large mountain:

Rainbow over Kiluea crater.

Rainbow over Kiluea crater.

No big deal. Just a massive rainbow spanning across the crater of the world’s most actively erupting volcano. Bucket list? Check.

We couldn’t get any closer, since, you know, the lava + gases would have killed us, but we did come back at night to see the glow that the lava made. Another thing I should mention: Hawaii has a lot of rainbows. And I do mean, a lot of rainbows. A plethora of rainbows, each stretching magnificently across the entirety of the firmament in breathtaking iridescent glory.

You kind of get bored of them after the eighth one in a day.

But, then, as the sun goes down and the moon gets brighter, a fantastic phenomenon takes place: moonbows.

At least, that’s what our tour guide called them, because they are “way too metal to be called Rainbows.” Huge, ombre bands of blue-white light stretching across the night sky. Impossible to photograph but hard to miss with the naked eye. We saw about three of these while touring the Big Island, and they never ceased to take my breath away.

That being said, they weren’t my favorite part. Of all the spectacular wonders we saw, the moment in which I sincerely felt as if I were in a truly extraordinary corner of the world was when we stopped at a fruit stall at the side of a road.

Pit Stop

Pit Stop

The workers here met us with warm smiles and free samples. The fruit was so fresh that some of them were still being cut from branches and vines with a menacing rusty machete

A worker at the fruit stand uses a machete to chop up a coconut for me to sip

A worker at the fruit stand chops up a coconut with a machete for me to sip

The food, while obviously being delicious, was also a spectacle within itself

Mangos, Papayas, Bananas, Oh my!

Mangos, Papayas, Bananas, Oh my!

We bought a white pineapple (much sweeter and creamier than the American grocery store variety), and I had a fresh drink made from ginger and sugarcane juice. Of all the foods, though, ice cream bean was the most exciting. If you don’t already know (I had never heard of them before when it was presented to me), an Ice Cream Bean, or “Inga edulis” is a fruit originally brought from South America. The pod looks like a giant peanut with a light green shell similar in texture to that of a palm tree husk. Once cut open, the inside reveals a white flesh surrounding shiny black seeds. The flesh is unlike anything I have ever tasted. It almost resembles the texture of soft fur, yet begins to melt in your mouth. The flavor is very sweet and creamy (hence the name) with slight fruity undertones. Absolutely amazing. I highly recommend you add it to your bucket list if you haven’t tried one already.

Fruit Stand Cat

Fruit Stand Cat

Along with the delicious local food and the amiable people, the area surrounding the fruit stand was perfect. If you didn’t want to spend money on pre-picked fruit you could practically just reach into any of the surrounding trees and pluck a banana or a papaya. The fruit stand was at the top of a hill that looked down on the Hawaiian suburbs. There were some cats owned by the growers of the fruit who decided to pay us a visit. To this day, this is still one of my favorite pictures.

And until further adventures, this is my favorite fruit stand.

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