After 5 days at sea, we arrived into the port of Hilo, Hawaii on the Big Island on time at 7am, completed Immigration and made our way down to the gangway for a 7:30am exit from the ship. We were picked up by the local Enterprise Rental Car shop (all the Rental Car companies had mini buses and vans for the incoming ships… Yes, we were joined in port today by the Pride of Hawaii, so there were a few more folks in town for the day.) It was nice to be picking up a car and heading out on our own so we could set our own schedule and enjoy a full day in port.
Upon getting our silver Dodge Charger for the day (upgrade!) we headed up Highway 19 along the coast, and took a detour onto the 4 mile scenic run (old highway) where narrow one lane roads and bridges crossed over lush rainforest style trees and plants as we arrived at our first stop, Onomea Bay. This bay is a black sand bay in a large U shape with towering black rocky cliffs. We grabbed some pictures and made our way to a wooden one lane bridge and saw our first waterfall of the day (it was very small), but just a hint of what was to come.
As we made our way back to the main highway, we began to see the tour buses from the cruise ships and decided that we would do the best that we could to stay one step ahead of them for the day. We arrived at our northernmost point of the day, Akaka Falls, parked our car, and proceeded to take the larger circle route, which let us see the Hanuka Falls in addition to the Akaka. The falls were dramatic and much higher than I though they were and made for some great pictures as a very gentle and light rain began to fall. As with all weather in Hawaii, it was just momentary, and we headed out of the park and made our way south back towards Hilo.
Once we arrived at the northern edge of Hilo, we turned onto Highway 200 and headed about a mile and a half inland to Rainbow Falls. Another tourist trap, we timed ourselves right in between several big groups and were able to see the falls and walk a small trail to the top of the falls where a towering banyan tree was located.
We left Rainbow Falls a few minutes later and went into downtown Hilo and took a short scenic drive along Banyan Drive, along the waterfront, and home of a large number of huge Banyan trees provide shade for the locals. While we were there, we saw he Japanese Gardens along the waterfront and grabbed a few pictures.
From here, we were back on Highway 11 headed towards Volcano/Puna. As we have been to Volcano before, we took a turn south on Highway 130 and headed into Puna District, where we were able to head into Pahoa town. This little town is considered the hippie capital of the island, where everyone is just a bit more laid back than your standard Hawaiian (is that even possible?) We had a wonderful Mexican lunch at Luqin’s right on the main street of town and continued to head to the Eastern most point on the island, at the end of an unpaved road, off of Highway 132. Here, the air is considered the cleanest on earth and we both took a big deep breath and enjoyed.
From here, we turned south on highway 137, and made a stop at Ahalanui Park, a public park with an actual hot pond, heated by the volcano! Though we found things to be a bit cooler than standard (apparently, everyone is blaming the tsunami and the recent volcanic eruption for things that don’t work out the way you expect them), it was a beautiful natural pool/pond, and we took a nice leisurely swim and enjoyed the waves breaking in the surf just over the park barrier walls.
From here, we took Highway 137 as far as it could go, to the village of Kalapana (which is the new village, since the old town was swallowed up by volcanic lava) and took a short walk out on the lava, which runs for an additional 1/4 to 1/2 mile before you reach the ocean.
As we were starting to run short on time, we made our way back to Hilo to return the rental car, and the shuttle got us back to the ship with 30 minutes to spare. Though it was a just a day in Hilo, we were both excited at all of the great new sights and experiences we were able to see and share.
Once back on the ship, the Captain came on to inform us that we would take the southerly route around the Big Island to make our way towards Maui, which would give us the opportunity to see the volcano just before dinner (between 7:30 and 8:15), so most passengers are going to make their way up to deck and we’ll see if we see anything… Update: Between 7:30 and 8:15pm it was pitch black dark outside and nothing at all could be seen. So, as the captain accurately said, we could see the Volcano between 7:30 and 8:15, if there was any light from which to see it… Apparently, there was a tiny speck of amber light, but that was the best the volcano could do for us this time around. (See odds and ends above…)
Dinner was back in the dining room tonight (following last night’s Sterling Steakhouse dinner — see Odds and Ends post), and we headed off to bed early for our very first visit to Maui tomorrow!
Tomorrow — Maui!