Hawaiian Vacation
February, 2009

There are many attractions along the southeast and south sides of the Big Island. We took a drive on Saturday to see some of them. My first thought was to drive all around the island but after adding up the miles, over 200, we opted for a shorter trip. And the west side of the island is a big tourist area. Lots of hotels and condos. I suppose one reason is there's less rain there and also no recent volcano activity. Wouldn't want those expensive hotels to get surrounded by lava.

Black Sand Beach

Our first stop was at the Punalu`u black sand beach near Pahala. Yes, this picture is the one I used for that title on the top of each page. The area for swimming, which we stopped at first, is in the distance.

The black sand is from the lava rocks, which also cover much of the beach. Walking barefoot can be a little difficult. Those rocks are sharp. The stand of coconut trees add a real Hawaiian flavor to this place.

Black Sand Beach
Sea Turtles

Not only people come to the beach. We saw three sea turtles. Guide books say they're "Green Sea Turtles" but they didn't look very green to me. But they were huge; a lot bigger than Jackie's pet turtles at home.

These are a few of the coconut trees near the beach parking lot. Another parking lot is near the picnic shelters about a half mile down the beach. And we needed the shelter to eat lunch. The wind was at least 30 miles per hour.

At one parking lot we saw a most unusual sight -- a car with Virginia license plates. It was the only out of state one we saw during our entire trip.

Cocomut Trees

From the black sand beach we continued south and then west through the small town of Na`alehu, the southernmost community in the United States, to the even smaller town of Wai`ohinu. It's really just as far south as Na`alehu.

Dave at South Point

From Wai`ohinu a two lane and rather rough road heads south for about 11 miles to the coast. It's the southern most land in the United States and very popular with local fishermen.

One our way back we stopped at this Monkey Pod Tree in Wai`ohinu. It was planted in 1866 by Mark Twain. A storm in 1957 blew it down but the tree re-grew from shoots.

Monkey Pod Tree
Wai`ohinu Theater

I'm really not sure if this theater in Wai`ohinu is still used. The population here is sparse and wouldn't seem to support it. But it looked interesting so I took a picture.

It was still early when we got back to the eastern side, so we went on to the Lava Tree State Park. In a 1790 lava flow the trees were surround by lava which cooled. As the hot lava drained away the lava that stuck to the trees solidified leaving the lava trees.

Lava Tree Forest
Lava Trees

The park is small but has a easy paved trail through the many lava trees. These are just a few. It was a pleasant walk through the almost ghostly surroundings.

Dinosaur Foot Print

One unusual plant in the park was this Rattlesnake plant. The close up on the right shows why it got that name. But to us it looked like it should be the Corncob Plant.

Dinosaur Foot Print

From here we headed back to our cottage. It was already getting dark. Tomorrow we'll tour the city of Hilo. Rather than another page I've continued that right below.

The next day we got a late start. Just sitting on the lanai and enjoying the scenery around our cottage can take a lot of time. Our first stop in Hilo was Ken's Pancake House which our cottage owner suggested. He was right. It was crowded, mostly with local folks, and the food was very good.

Liliuokalani Gardens

After lunch we visited the Liliuokalani Gardens, a formal Japanese garden. It was only a few blocks from the restaurant. It covers 30 acres and the arrangement is spacious.

The park is named for Hawaii's last monarch, Queen Liliuokalani. Why a Japanese garden? The majority of the residents in Hilo are of Japanese descent.

Liliuokalani Gardens
Liliuokalani Gardens

Slowly walking the paths or sitting on the many benches in the gardens is a relaxing experience. And it wasn't very crowded. .

The Lyman House is part of Hilo's history. It was built by a missionary couple from New England in 1839. There's a museum adjacent to it, but, to our surprise, it was closed on Sunday's.

Lyman House
Hilo Banyan Tree

Banyan trees are everywhere and this is a fine, well pruned, example at a public square near downtown Hilo. Not as big as the one in Lahaina but very well groomed..

Before leaving Hilo we stopped at this statue of King Kamehameha in a park along the main bayfront street. Kamehameha was the king who united the Hawaiian Islands and led the first government. The most famous statues of him are in Honolulu and Kapaau, his birthplace.

King Kamehameha
Packing for Home

Back at the cottage we began our serious packing for the long trip home. It's not so much a space problem as it is weight. American Airlines has a 50 pound limit per bag. But we did each have a carry-on and a "personal item", small duffel bag for Jackie and a computer for me. We put heavy stuff like books in the carry-ons.

One last check of the email before packing up the computer. It was very handy that the dining table was very large. No need to pack it up during supper.

Final Email Check
Twin Volcanoes

Our scheduled flight left Hilo at 2:30 Monday, but everything from rental car return to check-in went so smoothly we got there just after noon. Go! Airlines is quite informal, and they offered us an earlier flight at 12:30. We took it. It was even luckier than we thought for conditions were just right as we flew along the northern end of the island for this picture of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, the biggest volcanoes on the Big Island. Oh, that white stuff? Yes, it does snow in Hawaii.

We now had over three hours to kill at the Honolulu airport. Starbucks helped, plus we both had books to read. We also ate supper in the terminal, after we checked in and went inside the secure area. It was a Chinese fast food place which was very good.

Honolulu Starbucks
Honolulu Airport Japanese Garden

A final picture from Hawaii -the Japanese garden nestled between concourses at the Honolulu airport. A good place to walk off the dinner while waiting for departure time.

The flight home left on time at 7:00 pm and was packed. It was almost dark as we took a final look at Hawaii. The flight home, east bound, was an hour shorter than the flight out due to the prevailing winds but it seemed a lot longer. We tried to sleep but didn't manage much more than an hour. We arrived back in Houston at 8:30 am the next day, Central Time. I managed to drive home without falling asleep. After picking up Toad, our cat, we unpacked necessities and took a nap.

Three months later we're still reliving those wonderful two weeks in Hawaii.

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