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The Big Island of Hawai’i - Part 1

Hilo and the rainy East Coast

View Round-the-world-trip on samandmarta's travel map.

Flying eastwards over the Pacific is probably the closest one can get to experience travelling back in time in the real world. We left Tokyo on Friday evening and landed in Honolulu on the morning of that same Friday. That magic was made possible by crossing the international date line. Our Friday, 30th of November lasted 43 hours and had two sunrises and two sunsets.

Coming to Hawaii was always our dream and we are happy we managed to fulfil it. One of the most beautiful archipelagos in the world, it is so far away from Europe that it only makes sense to come here when flying around the globe. Hawaii is the youngest state of the USA and has its own distinctive culture. Before it was acquired by the USA in 1959, it was inhabited by native Hawaiians whose roots are in French Polynesia.

We have decided to start our Hawaiian adventure on the Big Island, also known as Hawai’i. It is the youngest of the islands in the archipelago and it is still getting larger due to volcanic activity. Following advice of fellow travelers, we split our time between the Western and the Eastern part of the island. Our first five nights we spent in Hilo, the biggest town on the island. Hilo is located on the east side of the island, where it rains almost every day. It is not quite the weather one would expect in Hawaii, but it also means that the landscape is lush and green.

On our first day, we met Sam’s friends Elias and Michelle, who happened to be vacationing there at the same time. Together, we drove to the top of Mauna Kea (4207 meters above sea level) to see the astronomical observatories. The summit of Mauna Kea enjoys 300 days of cloudless sky and thanks to Hawaii’s latitude, 100% of the northern hemisphere’s sky and 80% of the southern hemisphere’s sky is visible, making this a perfect place to observe far away galaxies. Research teams from all around the world apply with their proposals for observatory time, but only 20% of them are accepted. After the summit, we drove down to the Visitor Information Station to join the University of Hawaii’s stargazing program. All the visible constellations and planets in the exceptionally clear night sky were pointed out to us with laser pointers. Through huge telescopes we were able to see the Andromeda galaxy and several other important intergalactic bodies.


Over the next days we visited several scenic locations, including Carlsmith Coastal Park, where we could observe turtles basking on the beach and swim with them in the shallow waters. In the past, Polynesian people considered these animals sacred and never killed them, therefore the turtles in Hawaii are not afraid of people. Some of the turtles were as long as 1.5 meters and had enormous teeth. Another attraction was Waipio Valley in the north, were we felt like on the set of Jurassic Park. Due to the large amount of rain, there is also an abundance of waterfalls on the east side of the island.


We dedicated one day of our visit to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which just reopened after recent eruptions. There, we did some short hikes to the Kilauea crater, looked at fuming steam vents and walked on hardened lava rocks. The park’s visitor center does a pretty good job in showcasing recent volcanic activity and there is one video which shows the red lava flows from April 2018 which destroyed 700 homes. When we visited, there were no active lava flows, but the Kilauea Volcano is still active and nobody knows when the next eruption is going to happen.


Posted by samandmarta 13:57 Archived in USA

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