I fought myself this morning between sleeping in and jumping out of bed. I was still under the covers 45 minutes later. We collected our things, grabbed a snack with juice from the hotel buffet, and went to the dive shop to get stamps in our dive logs – sad I didn’t get someone else to sign mine.
We visit the Kaloko Fishpond of Kaloko-Honokōhau National Park. The weather is great, the fish are feeding, but there’s this awful sound coming from one of the three vehicles parked within miles of us. We explore the rough sand with waves crashing into the rocks a few meters out to sea, leaving little ponds of calmness at our feet. On the other side of a basalt wall is a larger pond used as a fish breeding and nursery area.
It’s our interest in the disturbance in the water that will have us accidentally trespassing into bird-only territory. It was clearly marked by the random lava rocks, as nature has yet to lay things down in such a pattern, and we find our way out behind the Do Not Enter sign posted on the other side of the trees.
We leave the loud music and the man fishing on the wall to drive north on Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway. Google Maps alerts Caleb to a roadside tourist attraction – a lava tube open 24 hours a day. I reverse on the shoulder a bit and we begin our descent into temporary darkness. It’s incredible to see the crater where the flow started and to be standing in its path. We begin to see the light from an opening, but a short peek into this great wonder.
Our retreat leaves us passing tourists who managed to stop with no sign to attract them. Is this all Google or did I miss a website or tourist book in my research – time will tell. I drive us down an unimproved road, term used loosely, as the shoulders seem rougher than our all-terrain vehicle, and sharper than our tires, can handle through Kekaha Kai State Park. Caleb tells me to go faster, fly over the volcanic rock, and let the shocks do their job. The timing was perfect, the road improved and I parked us in the first lot.
We walked past the second lot, all 528 feet, to the beach. Families are setting up coolers and umbrellas, couples grabbing swimsuits for a beach down the trail, and we are looking for the shade. The temperature seems to rise ten degrees and the facilities offer no relief for sweaty skin. I think Caleb does this on purpose to acclimatize me to the port-o-potty life. He’s in there reading Calvin and Hobbes while I’m debating which tree or crevice to hide behind. I assure myself the passing families won’t mind, but when the battle comes down to nature (mine v bowels) vs nurture (my soul) I find myself inside debating to drag the trashcan out.
I find Caleb outside looking for me behind the trees. He knows me oh so well, but maybe I’m getting myself used to the thunder-box situation. I take it easy on Caleb’s back on the return to the smooth road that would take us among a resort next. He was looking for a picture on the map but it is guarded by private property. I drive us further north and stop at an intersection when I notice a sign for donuts sold out of a small trailer.
The woman inside has made fresh malasadas (meaning ‘under-cooked’ in Portuguese) and I ask for three – one with li-hing (sweet/sour plum sugar), one stuffed with haupia (coconut mango), and the last with lilikoi (passion fruit). They are delicious and the filling is mushed fruit paste inside that has covered the container and erupted on my fingers. I try to save a bite for Caleb and a convenient store stop for water interrupts my devouring process. I’m licking my fingers as we walk in.
We find the National Historic Site in Kawaihae after a few turn arounds. It’s a short drive to the visitor center of Pu’ukohola Heiau (temple) and we patiently wait at the door for the 200 students to pile out, two to three abreast. We buy a map inside for $7 so we won’t get as lost with phones that don’t get signal on the north end of the island. Outside we learn that in 1791, a cousin of Kamehameha, was slain here. That event led to the conquest and consolidation, over a period of 15 years, of all the warring Hawaiian islands into one monarchy that would be under the rule of Kamehameha I for nine years till his death.
We walk the paved path, enjoying the sailboats to our left and the temple to our right. We’re not allowed inside, but we can enjoy the shrine set up between the two closed trails leading around to the entrance. We continue on, enjoying the patches of shade and the calming beauty that surrounds us. The sunscreen is starting to make our faces glisten as we walk back to the Jeep, passing only one other couple on the trail.
On the road again, and we pass a large boot commemorative of the four Waimea paniolo (Hawaiian cowboys) who reigned as World Champion steer ropers in the 1908 Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo in Wyoming. Caleb had put the top down on the Jeep this morning and by now my hair is an island mess. I pull over as the rain hitting the windshield begins to climb in with us. The top would help keep us dry while listening to island music (not as popular as I thought it would be) and look at the animals (horses, cows, goats) getting soaked along with the plants (banana and papaya trees) growing beside them.
It will rain on and off for the rest of the day. We try out the 4WD on Waipio (curved water) Valley – a steep descent (25% grade) into wetness and beauty. We parked along the road and walked to the lookout for a peek at the coastline and the valley leading to it. The road is narrow, but the views grand as we inch downhill in high-range fourth gear (meaning we can travel at normal speeds), but that’s definitely not the case as we pass hikers, one horse, and a few cars. Closer to the bottom, we turned left towards Hi’ilawe Falls where there is no public trail to get us closer to the falls, just a two-foot high river (at the crossing) and some muddy road to turn around.
Had we turned right, we could’ve dipped our toes into the black sand beach (where the characters of Waterworld find dry land, in 1995), about a half mile from the road junction. The climb up by foot would need proper shoes, strong thighs, and patience, but the Jeep gets us back up in moments, passing a horse leg-deep in the Wailoa Stream.
We continue south to Akaka Falls State Park, with $5 parking, which is a great deal considering all the other parks have been free. I see the pile of people wearing their plastic bags and I debate getting out into such weather. I finish my donut for strength and put my camera under my arm to partially shield it from drizzle – let’s go! On the welcome/info board, there is a picture of a small fall as a movie site (this might be for Jurassic park, but not sure which one).
Down the stairs, to the right, and the foliage protects me from the light rainfall, as it provides droplets of its own. It’s not a long walk, whole loop is 0.4 mile, until I hear a commotion behind the trees. I appreciate the racket as the Kahuna Falls seem smaller from the distance, hidden in the crevice it created, falling over 300 feet.
The paved trail is lined with handrails providing a safe and clean (no falling, no getting lost, and no trekking through mud) way past lush greenery and shiny red plants that we’ve been warned not to pick or eat as they may be poisonous. Some may find this path boring, and maybe stepping-stones or a raised wooden walkway would be more interesting, but I’m ok with focusing on the rest of the surroundings.
We are able to get a better view of Akaka (meaning a split), and it’s twice as tall as Niagara Falls, the famous one on the border of New York and Ontario. We’re inland of a cliff lookout making it hard to see all 432 feet of waterfall in the steam and excitement of learning about the o’opu alamo’o and the ōpaekala’ole. A freshwater goby fish and a native shrimp with embryos born in the stream and carried to the ocean. Once they hatch, they begin their 2.5 mile swim upstream and then climb, using a suction disc and pectoral fins for the goby, the falls to repeat the process.
I’m happy that we stop to see the details of the native plants, describing what they look like to us, unlike the poor girl left standing alone pointing to something as her boyfriend blows by with his one track mind – to see the falls and get out of the rain. I knew we were walking faster than usual, but this pace will keep us drier as the rain starts to drop heavily again.
I’m probably more excited than I should be, but we passed a bakery and a fruit stand on the way to the falls and I’d been thinking about them since. I parked close to the pineapples and apple-bananas. I handled the ‘mango’, rambutan, papaya, and starfruit, but when the girl laughed at my mistake of abiu (also a yellow and green fruit) for mango I hesitated to buy anything. I grabbed the new fruit as she told me how to eat it (cut and scoop) and charged me $2 for two. She thought it was funny that I knew ‘nothing’ about tropical fruit and said I could find mango on the drier side of the island.
I couldn’t be mad at the girl, but I figured there was other ways she could’ve handled that situation instead of laughing at me the way she did. I parked us in front of some guys socializing in front of the bakery just around the corner from the fruit stand. I grabbed some Hawaiian bread, since I’ve been known to be such a fan of the sweet stuff on the mainland, and some garlic Macadamia while Caleb got me some chocolate macaroons. We tried the bread and agreed it was dinner time. This didn’t stop us from detouring off the 19, Hawaii Belt Rd, to see the Tropical Botanical Garden.
They stop admitting guests into the garden 20 minutes before closing, just as we arrive, but let us inside to check out the gift shop/museum. There are nuts and chips, soaps and lotions, shirts and trinkets. Caleb pointed out the opium bottles as I admired the Chinese carvings and shells of the Indo-Pacific. The best part is having a gecko stare at me. I didn’t bring my camera in, so I didn’t get a good picture of his blue-rimmed eyes.
Fifteen minutes down the road and we are looking for restaurants and parking. I figured better to continue on foot than to pass a spot and go somewhere else anyway. We notice lots of Thai restaurants here too. We walk into Jackie Rey’s on the corner – on their fifth day of business. The price seems a bit high for mushrooms or lettuce, but I’m willing to try the pork and ahi. The fried rolls aren’t thrilling in their appeal, but the sauce is good. The tuna stacked with mango, avocado, and tomato comes out looking like a rainbow of flavor – more so with the wasabi. It wasn’t overwhelming so I kept eating and the waiter knew we were done after I cleaned both plates.
The view from our table is of a hostel across the street – something new to try. We walk down to the KTA grocery store to have a peek inside at their elephant garlic and aid in digesting my dinner. Upstairs at Hilo Bay Hostel, we get the tour of bed choices – sleep in the same room or in different ones for the same price. House Rules: no smoking, vaping, candles, incense, sageing, or unregistered guests. No food in the rooms, no alcohol in the lobby or noise after 10:00pm.
We walk the two blocks back to the car for our bag and split ways to shower. I get stopped by the long table in the social area and talk with a man who lives in Spain and his 68-year-old brother is from San Diego, but they want to build a house nearby. The shower is warm and orange liquid soap ready so I don’t have to use the round soap bar provided. I come back to the room after skimming the bookshelf for readable material with two choices, but go to the kitchen for water at 7:00pm and the temptation to chat is strong.
I drink some water out of a white mug with blue stripes. I return to the room, but am soon gone again to talk with Metal Man as I fill my cup with chamomile tea. Caleb joins us and the conversation is everywhere till 9:30 – it’s comforting. We make our final, or so I think, return to the room for the evening. Caleb goes to the car for a piece of paper and I excuse myself to another room to use paper in a different manner. Caleb is asleep by 10:30pm while I continue to enjoy the high-pitch whistling Coqui frogs outside the nailed-open windows with other faint animals and bar music in the background.