The Big Island: Trip 6

In September, our friends Andy and Anna got married on The Big Island! My immediate family all came so we spent some quality time exploring new parts of the island along with celebrating our friends!

We arrived to Kona early on Thursday. We stopped at Daylight Minds for some coffee before heading to Da Poke Shack for some delicious poke. We checked in to our hotel and relaxed for a bit. Then headed to the coffee farm where they were getting married for a BBQ.

The next day, we got up early to hike to Papakōlea Beach (also known as Green Sand Beach). This had been on our list for years and we were so excited to finally get to see it! The hike was beautiful and even though it was completely exposed to the sun, it was such a windy day that it was pretty comfortable. The downside is that we were totally covered in dust/sand from head to toe because of the wind.

After we hiked back, we were all very ready for lunch. We stopped at Punalu’u Bake Shop for lunch and some malasadas (which were amazing). We then continued on to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park since Linda and Tom had never been there. We saw the steam vents and the caldera (but couldn’t see the green lake that’s forming).

We arrived back at the hotel and took much needed showers. We then decided to go to dinner and enjoy the sunset along the coast at the Four Seasons. We were all really excited to go back as we were fortunate enough to have dinner there two years earlier. Such a beautiful sunset!

On Saturday, we decided to relax at the hotel before the big celebration that night! We arrived at the coffee farm in time for cocktails with a side of misty rain and a beautiful sunset. The weather cleared up and we had an AMAZING time! So much fun eating, drinking, and dancing!

On Sunday, we spent some time enjoying the lovely view before heading to the airport to part ways. Such a fun, packed weekend! ❤

The Big Island: Trip 4 – Day 3

Saturday we woke up and had coffee on our lanai before embarking on a long haul to the Hilo side of the island for a packed day. We drove through the middle of the island and stopped at Kaumana caves first.

After exploring the caves, we drove a few minutes down the road to Rainbow Falls. We spent some time enjoying the falls and the banyan trees.

After exploring, we decided it was time for breakfast at Ken’s House of Pancakes. The goal was to eat enough so we could make it through the day to our late dinner after our hike. We definitely achieved that goal!

After breakfast, we drove through the Puna area and stopped at MacKenzie State Park and to watch some turtles.

We finally pulled ourselves away from the turtles so we could meet up for our lava hike at Kalapana Cultural Tours! Josh and I went with this company before and they are so wonderful. The hike was different than a few years ago (as expected) and we started by riding bikes a couple miles down a gravel road and then hiked the remainder of the way to the surface flow. We lucked out as there were quite a few breakouts. After that, we hiked back to the ocean entry to check that out before hopping on our bikes for the ride back.

After our hike, we were all pretty hungry and ready to relax. We drove back to Hilo and stopped at Pineapples for dinner before driving back to the other side of the island. It was perfect after our long day — good food, good drinks and open air seating!

After dinner, we drove back and completely crashed after much needed hot showers…very excited to sleep in the next day!


The Big Island: Trip 3 – Day 1

This past weekend, Josh and I headed to the Big Island one last time for our last trip before Josh deploys and I move. We flew in on Friday night and checked into our hotel to get some sleep before starting our early and very busy Saturday.

Our first stop of the weekend was kayaking across Kealakekua Bay to the Captain Cook Monument to snorkel. The snorkeling and kayak tour came highly recommended to us and they definitely did not disappoint! On our 1 1/2 mile kayak to the monument, we were surrounded by a pod of spinner dolphins. It was so amazing to be so close to them and on their level! The video below shows just how close they were too us. Amazing!

Kayaking with Dolphins Video

After kayaking over to the monument, we landed our kayaks and got our snorkel gear ready. We also took some time to admire the monument. Captain Cook first visited the islands in 1778. It was thought that he and his crew were gods and were welcomed with open arms during a time of peace. After exploiting the kindness of the Hawaiian people, he left and returned during a time of war where he was not exactly welcomed back with open arms. He was killed in the bay by the Hawaiians and the monument memorializes his death.

Next, it was time to snorkel!! It was absolutely stunning. By far the best snorkeling I have ever seen. I could have spent hours just swimming around the area. It was great, as we were the only group (us and one other couple with our guide) and two other random people. We beat the crowd of tour boats!

Kealakekua Bay Snorkeling Video

After we finished snorkeling, we headed back across the bay. We encountered more dolphins along the way showing off their spinning moves. After we had lunch, we went back to the hotel to shower, change and start making our way towards Mauna Kea. The Mauna Kea summit sits at 13,796 feet and houses University of Hawaii’s Institute for Astronomy and Mauna Kea Observatories. The 13 telescopes are operated by astronomers from 11 different countries. It was an incredible sight to see.

We stopped at the Visitor Information Station (9,200 ft above sea level) to acclimate to the elevation before heading to the summit. After about an hour, we headed up to the summit to catch the sunset and check out the observatories. Unfortunately, it was pretty cloudy so we didn’t get to see the sunset, but the clouds were still beautiful.

After that, we headed back down to do some star gazing. The Visitor Information Station sets up multiple telescopes for people to view things far, far away! It was awesome. The stars were absolutely breathtaking. I have never experienced anything like it! Once we finished viewing everything through the telescopes, we wandered through the gift shop and then headed over to a picnic table area, where it was pitch black, to better view the stars. As we were sitting there mesmerized, Josh said “So I have a question for you”. My response was, naturally, something along the lines of “Yeah, what’s up?”. To which he replied “Will you marry me?” as he got down off the bench onto one knee (in the dark). I was COMPLETELY shocked and surprised and uttered things such as “EXCUSE ME!?” and “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!”. After I slightly recovered, I remembered to say “OF COURSE YES!!!!!!”. Since it was so dark, I couldn’t see the ring he had…he jokingly said “So I know it’s dark, but I promise it’s pretty”. It was an absolutely amazing and unexpected way to end the day! As I sit here writing this, I’m still in shock! We attempted to take a selfie picture of the two of us and, of course, cut half our faces off (typical). So that is our engagement picture…sitting in the dark with half our faces cut off and squinty eyes! Once we got back to the car, we took a much better one (below). Then I decided to call my mom and wake her up at 2:00 am her time to tell her the amazing news! We then made it back to civilization to find a place to eat dinner. Since it was so late, one of the only places open was “Humpy’s”. Yep, we celebrated our engagement at a restaurant called “Humpy’s”. Hilarious! All in all, I would say it was one successful day on The Big Island!



The Big Island: Trip 2 – Day 2

On Sunday, Josh and I woke up at 3:15 a.m. to head to our sunrise lava boat tour. Our tour was leaving at 5:00 a.m. from Isaac Hale Beach Park and we had to be there a half hour early to check in. We booked our tour through Lava Ocean Aventures and it was well worth it! Our boat was open on all sides so we were prepared to get wet and be cold! The coast we traveled on has some of the roughest waters in Hawaii. Part of the reason we chose the sunrise tour is that it would be the calmest time of day.

The amusing thing about this tour was that we all boarded the boat in the middle of a parking lot. They towed the boat to us and we all climbed up via a ladder. Once we were all on board, they towed us to the boat ramp and launched us…then we were off!

It took about 35 minutes to get to the lava ocean entry. It was pitch black and you couldn’t see anything…kind of scary! You could see the glow of the lava 10 minutes before we got there…amazing! Once we got there, you could instantly feel it getting warmer. The water around where the lava was entering the ocean was 180 degrees. Even 25 feet out, the water was still about 75 degrees. They stuck a bucket in the ocean to get some water so we could all feel how warm it was. The Captain got us within a couple yards of the flowing lava…it was SO close that we could hear the lava hissing when it hit the ocean. Pictures and videos below!

Lava Boat Tour Video 1
Lava Boat Tour Video 2
Lava Boat Tour Video 3
Lava Boat Tour Video 4


After hanging out at the lava for a little over an hour we headed back. I was SO seasick at this point, so I was thankful to start moving again. We got back to the park and headed back to Hilo, showered and slept for two hours until we had to check out. I was dying from being so seasick, so I was quite happy to sleep for a few hours. We checked out of our hotel and had lunch at Café Pesto before going to the airport to catch our flight out. I was quite happy to have some good food and a diet coke. After our amazing weekend, I think Josh and I can mark off the volcano area of the big island. It was so worth the two trips and a once in a lifetime experience!

The Big Island: Trip 2 – Day 1

Josh and I headed back to the Big Island this weekend with two purposes: to see lava (since we got rained out a few weeks ago) and to see Belinda and Ted (two people who have known me most of my life and were visiting Hawaii for vacation). I am so very happy to say it was a HUGE success!

We landed late Friday evening and headed to Ken’s House of Pancakes for dinner since it was the only place open past 9 p.m. in Hilo. I had a fantastic curry chicken salad sandwich and Josh had a conglomeration of things (pictured below). After that, we checked in to our hotel which was on Hilo Bay and crashed in preparation for our big weekend ahead.


We got up on Saturday, grabbed a small to-go breakfast and coffee and headed to Honoli’i Beach Park. It is a black sand beach full of surfers. It is just north of downtown Hilo and is on a beautiful, scenic road.


After our slight detour, we headed north to the small town of Honokaa to meet Belinda and Ted for lunch. Honokaa was about halfway between where we were staying and where they were staying. We had a wonderful lunch at an Italian Pizzeria called Café Il Mondo. We then headed to Tex Drive In to introduce them to malasadas. They were pretty amazing!


We then drove down to where our hike was starting in Kalapana (fingers crossed the entire time that the weather would stay nice). We arrived around 3:00 p.m. and took off around 3:30 p.m. with our guide. Our group had nine people in it, which was a great size to be hiking with. We started off heading towards where a surface flow might be. From what our guide said, it didn’t sound like we would get to see one but he wanted to try anyways to see if there was any action. The terrain was definitely rough on the ankles and feet. It was amazing to hike on the different types of lava from over the years. You could tell a huge difference between ten year old lava, three year old lava and month old lava. The newer stuff was much looser and easier to slip on (luckily, neither of us fell). The lava is super sharp (kind of like glass) and can cut you if you fall on it. We could see the different areas where the steam was rising from the lava tubes on the hillside. It appeared that there would be lava to see there, but it was all underneath the top layer flowing in the tubes to the ocean. After about three miles, we reached a surface flow and it was amazing! At first, there wasn’t much action and we spotted just a faint glow. But once we got there, there were a few different areas opening up and flowing. I have never seen or experienced anything like it in my life….the sound alone of it hissing was just insane! The lava was 3,000 degrees and if you got close enough, it felt like your face was melting. The closest I got was about two feet and I couldn’t stand it after that. It was incredible. Pictures and videos below describe it much better than I ever could.

Lava Surface Flow Video 1
Lava Surface Flow Video 2
Lava Surface Flow Video 3
Lava Surface Flow Video 4
Lava Surface Flow Video 5


After spending about 45 minutes at the surface flow, we headed to the ocean entry area to see the lava flowing there. On our way there, we stepped over a crack that was glowing orange…amazing and scary at the same time to think about what you are walking on! There was tons of lava pouring into the ocean! There were about four different areas…it was so hard to see because of all the steam, but you could see the glow through the steam.

Lava Ocean Entry Video


After about a half hour, we headed back toward where our shuttle would come to pick us up. Walking back on the lava at night was pretty rough and I was so thankful for my headlamp. The lava was so incredibly beautiful under the light…super shiny and sparkly. We finally made it back after about an hour and a half hike from the ocean entry point. In total, our hike was 5.6 miles. Our hike was through Kalapana Cultural Tours and they were AWESOME.

After profusely thanking our tour guide, we headed back to Hilo for a quick dinner before crashing. We decided to try a new place instead of going to Ken’s, since it was Saturday night and places were open past 9:00 p.m.! We ended up at a restaurant called Ponds close to our hotel. We had a corner table that was surrounded by water on both sides. It was very nice and relaxing. I had a pasta dish and Josh had fish. After dinner, we headed back to the hotel to go to bed. We had to get up at 3:15 a.m. for our lava boat tour the next day!

The Big Island: Trip 1 – Day 3

The third day started out with another amazing breakfast and oddly enough no rain! We had pancakes, fruit, toast, coffee and juice. The other two cats also studied us during breakfast, attempting to decide if they should bother with us.


After breakfast, we packed up and headed to the easternmost part of the island. Since the winds come from this direction, scientists use this “untouched air” as a benchmark to compare to air in other areas around the world. The lava on this side of the island was also incredibly difficult to walk through!


After we stopped for a bit, we headed down a 4WD road to Champagne Pond. We took the road for about a mile along some very bumpy lava and ended up at the pond. The pond is a calm, protected ocean inlet that is completely clear. You could see to the bottom…and it was heated! It was about 90 degrees. When I got in, four little yellow and black striped fish surrounded my legs (of course). So I immediately got out and let Josh entertain the fish while I took pictures.


Unfortunately, after our visit to the pond, we got a call telling us our Lava Hike was canceled due to weather. We were both pretty bummed as we had been looking forward to it all day. But we decided to grab some lunch in Pahoa and head back to the Volcanoes National Park to see Chain of Craters Road in the daylight. We had lunch at Kaleo’s and it was just as good as the dinner we had there the night before!


Back we went to the park for our third and final time for this trip. It was definitely a good decision to go back. Chain of Craters Road was beautiful during the daylight (pictures below). At the end, you can hike to the current lava flow. Had we known this, we would have planned a bit better and hiked there ourselves. But it takes about 3 1/2 hours to get there and back and we were running out of daylight…so we made the safe decision to come back and do it on another trip (even though we both were DYING to go).


We headed back up Chain of Craters Road and out of the park towards the Puna area to check out Kehena black sand beach. It was actually kind of hard to find. It was created by the 1955 lava flow and then it sank three feet all at once in 1975 because of an earthquake. We ended up there during high surf and it was ridiculous. The waves were HUGE and covered almost the entire beach when the tide came in. It was beautiful!


After visiting the beach, we headed to the Kalapana Cafe for dinner (Josh) and ice cream (me). Yes…I had ice cream for dinner and it was amazing! We headed back to the B&B to pack up as we had an early morning with a lava boat tour!

The Big Island: Trip 1 – Day 2

Our second day started out with a delicious breakfast of french toast, tons of fruit, toast, juice and coffee. The breakfast set up at our B&B was fantastic. Our B&B also had three cats..which I loved of course. I forced them to be my friends :).


After breakfast we headed to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park for the first of many trips. It was about an hour away from our B&B and yes it rained almost the entire drive to the park.  We arrived and started with the steam vents. These were incredible…especially since they were super warm and it was cold and raining. I would have stood there all day if Josh would have let me. The steam vents are created when rain seeps into the ground and is then heated by the Kilauea volcano, thus creating steam coming out of the earth. It pretty incredible to see. This was a positive to the massive amount of rain they were receiving. More rain = more steam.


From here we went to visit the sulphur banks…along the path were some of the steam vents, which did not smell, but the closer we got to the sulphur banks the stronger the unpleasant smell. Sulphur banks are created when hydrogen sulphide gas and steam form deposits of sulphur, gypsum and hematite on the ground. It was pretty, but not the best smelling thing. A highlight of our walk is that we passed a guy with a Purdue hat. Boiler up!


After the sulphur banks we headed to the Kilauea Overlook to get a good view of Kilauea Crater and the Halema`uma`u Crater. Halema`uma`u is said to be the home of Madame Pele, the Hawaiian volcano goddess.


After viewing the crater at a few locations, the road was closed so we had to turn around and head back the other way. There is a road (Crater Rim Dr.) that goes around the entire crater. It changes on what and when parts of it are closed, depending on the volcanic activity. We definitely learned that information you read in a book or looked up online literally changed on a daily basis. It was very hard to find information on certain hikes, etc. because of the always changing landscape. It definitely made it more of an adventure!

Our next stop was Thurston Lava Tube. Unfortunately only the lighted portion was open to the public. There is a darker section that is usually open, but has been closed due to recent volcanic activity causing rocks to fall in the tube. We were ready to explore the darker side, but the lit area was still very cool to see.


Next, we headed down Chain of Craters road for a bit to Mauna Ulu, the source of the second longest eruption (1969 – 1974). Along the way we stopped at Lua Manu Crater which is 109 yards in diameter and last had lava flow into it during the 1974 eruption. After Lua Manu we stopped at Puhimau Crater, which still has magma activity flowing beneath it.


After these two stops we made it to Mauna Ulu for a short hike up to Pu`u Huluhulu. The hike consisted of different markers pointing out types of lava, trees, regrowth, devastation, etc. It was an interesting hike with some cool views. It was also neat to walk across so many different types of lava that had hardened.


After finishing our hike, we headed out of the park back towards our B&B. The current lava flow is sometimes visible at the end of Highway 130. So at the recommendation from our B&B owner, we headed over there around 5:00 p.m. to see what was going on. We got there and were told that the only things visible at this time were steam from the lava hitting the ocean and steam rising from up on the hill where the lava flow was. The lava had reached a point in this flow where it was mostly flowing in lava tubes to the ocean. Which made for great ocean viewing. Luckily, we had scheduled a boat tour for Monday morning to see this in action! This most recent lava flow had completely wiped out the historic fishing town of Kalapana. A few people have rebuilt their homes on top of the lava (picture below). It was very interesting to see. The road to the viewing point is public property, but the lava field on either side of it is private property and you are not allowed to walk on it. There is a guard at the end of the path who gave us the tip to head back to the park to view Kilauea Caldera at night as they would have the best “show” for the evening. The absolute BEST thing about this walk out to the viewing area was that there was a giant double rainbow over the lava field. It is the must stunning rainbow I have seen to this date since my time living in Hawaii. Of course, shortly after viewing this it started to pour rain again. However, getting soaked again was worth seeing something so incredible.


After stopping at the viewing point we headed to the end of Highway 137, only about five minutes away. At the end of this highway is a little cafe and the start of the new Kaimu Black Sand Beach. What was previously Kaimu beach was a beautiful black sand beach with many gorgeous palm trees lining the shore. It was eventually, completely covered in 1990 by the Kilauea eruption. Today, new palm trees have been planted on this brand new shoreline land in an effort to restore Kaimu beach.


Next, we headed back to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to check out Halema`uma`u Crater at night. We had no idea what to expect…well we expected it to be raining…but we didn’t know what to expect besides that. It looked like a fireball had lit up the sky. We drove in and could see the clouds above the crater illuminated well before we got close to it. The clouds were a light orange from afar. We got to the Volcano Observatory and couldn’t believe what we saw. I would try to describe it, but the pictures will do a MUCH better job of it!


After many pictures, rain drops and getting very cold, we got back in the car and decided to drive Chain of Craters Road all the way to see if we could see anything. The road was pitch black and it was raining, so it made it interesting for Josh to drive. We saw two things on this trip down the road: 1. We saw a red glow in the distance of the current vent and 2. Stars were super bright out here because it was so dark. The pictures does not do them justice!

Chain of Craters Road Stars


We finally headed back to the B&B after a ridiculous amount of driving for the day!