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The Big Island of Hawai’i - Part 2

Kona and the sunny West Coast


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On our way to the west side of the Big Island, we stopped at the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Visitor Center. There, we visited the macadamia orchard, witnessed the production process and most importantly tried many delicious macadamia nut products. Marta’s favorite one was the honey roasted macadamia nuts, while Sam of course preferred the ones covered in chocolate.

The Western coast turned out to be much drier and sunnier, which was very welcome. Especially Kona, where we stayed for four nights, was a pretty nice tourist resort town at the seaside. Most of our days here, we spent on the beach and in the water. Our favourite snorkeling location was Two Steps in the south of Kona, which had easy access to the water and abundant marine life. Our favourite beaches were Hapuna beach and Mauna Kea beach in the north of Kona, mostly due to the gentle slope and the fine sand. We also discovered a new favourite beach activity, called body boarding or boogie boarding. It’s like surfing, except the board is smaller and you don’t have to stand up on it, which makes it much easier than surfing. We could spend hours riding the waves like this without getting bored.

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One day we visited Pololu valley, located on the western end of the rugged valleys that start with Waipio valley we already visited from Hilo. From the slippery and muddy hike to the bottom of the valley, we saw the most stunning scenery we have seen on the island. A black sand beach and the sea on one end and deep green rainforest on the other, framed by steep cliffs to the West and East.

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On our last evening in Kona we watched the local Christmas parade, one of the most important annual events in the town. The streets were full with locals and tourists alike. The parade was a great way to see some American culture. It was big, it was bright, it was loud, and most importantly, it was extremely commercial. Each of the many Christmas floats was made by a different local business or organization, who made sure to prominently display their logo. In the meantime, a moderator introduced each float and read some advertising text from the respective business, telling us how awesome this company was and why we should spend our money there.

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Even later that same evening, we did the ‘must do’ attraction on the Big Island – snorkeling with giant manta rays. The entire activity happens at night and snorkelers are holding a surfboard with lights mounted underneath, which attracts these animals. Manta rays luckily do not eat people, just plankton. The experience was absolutely splendid. The manta rays were passing literally centimeters before our snorkeling masks. Seeing these 4 meter giants in their natural habitat, joyfully frolicking under the surface was our most memorable moment from the Big Island.

Posted by samandmarta 13:55 Archived in USA Comments (0)

The Big Island of Hawai’i - Part 1

Hilo and the rainy East Coast


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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.

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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.

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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.

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Posted by samandmarta 13:57 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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