After every trip, my father would always ask, “What was your favorite part?” It’s never an easy question to answer. I cheated in my response after this vacation… I have a favorite activity and a favorite experience.
My favorite activity of the trip was kayaking. My travel book, Lonely Planet Hawaii: The Big Island (Regional Travel Guide), offered many options for kayak rentals and great locations to put the kayak into the water. However, I was not confident enough to trust the two of us a “divorce boat” without the experience of a tour guide. (My favorite experience will be told later… stay tuned!)
In South Kona, we booked a morning tour from Aloha Kayak Company. They have two kayaking/snorkeling tours – a 3.5hr Keauhou Sea Cave & Cliff Jumping and a 3.5hr Kealakekua Dolphin Kayak. The latter is their most popular that lands near the Captain Cook monument, and has a high probability of dolphin sightings. We opted for the Sea Caves tour, it has less snorkeling but I am always awed by the power of waves splashing against the rocky coastline and was excited to experience it from the ocean perspective. Stuart and I were the only two booked on the tour!
We were surprised and privileged to see a pod of dolphins swim directly towards us! We lifted our paddles and just watched them – tails slapping the surface, noses and blowholes emerging from below. Our guide, Nick, said that dolphins in that area are very rare. Unfortunately we forgot the GoPro at home so weren’t able to capture the moment on “film”, but Stuart says that it’s an image he will never forget.
After it was safe to paddle again we made our way to the first sea cave. We pivoted the kayaks and backed into the mouth of the cave. The caves are much smaller than I’d imagined them to be. There was only room for us and Nick. (On a larger tour group kayakers take turns in the cave) We sat in the cave for about five minutes, combating the waves with our paddles, feeling the swell of the ocean, and hearing the crash of water against rock echo around us… until a strong wave pulled us out into open water! The second cave we backed into had a small lava tube running to a neighboring cave and we could see the light bouncing off the walls – I took a photo of it with a cell phone, but it’s impossible to decipher what it is.
We then anchored the kayaks and Stuart and Nick took to cliff jumping. They climbed the rock face above the cave we were just in and jumped into the crystal blue waters below. I enjoyed the comfort of the kayak and videoed the jumps with the cell phone. I took in the beautiful scenery around me and basked in the perfect weather.
Snorkeling was next on the agenda. The waters are so clear that snorkeling along the Kona Coast is good anywhere. Stuart spotted an eel snaking its way along the bottom of the ocean and I floated there watching the large fish slink in and out of the rocks.
We hit a black sand beach in North Kona – Kiholo Bay. The sand wasn’t as black as I was expecting it to be, it was just slightly darker than dirt. But the weather was perfect and the views spectacular. The waters were a little too rough and the rocks pretty sharp for snorkeling. According to Lonely Planet this beach is good for sporting turtles when the tide is out because they come to feed on the abundant seaweed – we must’ve been there during high tide.
Stuart is a big coffee drinker so we had to take a tour of a coffee plantation. Hawaii is the only US State that grows it’s own coffee, and the volcanic soil is what makes Kona Coffee award winning. We went to one of the oldest coffee plantations on the island – Greenwell Farms. I’ve never claimed to know anything about coffee, but there was so much that I wasn’t aware that I didn’t know! The coffee plant is related to the gardenia (my favorite flower)! There are two coffee beans in each coffee berry. Coffee berries are picked when they turn cherry red. Coffee farmers get paid by the pound, $1.60/lb, of coffee cherries – and in Kona everything is hand picked!
Things to do on our next trip (aka things we didn’t have time for but wanted to see)
- St. Benedict’s Painted Church; 85-5140 Painted Church Rd. Father John Berchmans Velghe painted the walls of his church with scenes from the Bible in an effort to convert the native people to Catholocism. They have services in Hawaiian on the 2nd Sunday of every month.