Hawaii: The Big Island: Puna

We only did one thing in Puna. But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t more we’d have loved to do. And that definitely doesn’t mean that one thing wasn’t worth it. The one thing I wanted to do in Hawaii was see lava. Seeing lava is the premise of this final blog post about our vacation in Hawaii.

When I discovered Lava Ocean Adventures I became obsessed with getting on a boat, speeding past the coast and watching lava drip and sizzle into the ocean. This excursion was the only one we pre-booked before leaving the mainland. We were going to do the Lava Boat Tour at sunset on August 29th (my 25th birthday). Unfortunately Pele had other plans. The weekend we arrived on the Big Island the lava tube to the ocean collapsed, halting all flow to the ocean.

Lava Ocean Adventures contacted us about the changes in condition and we transferred our reservation to a guided lava hike on Wednesday. The hike was so much fun. We walked across the lava rock dessert to where red hot lava was flowing to the surface. The hike took us 4 ½ hours (round trip) of carefully stepping over uneven terrain. As lava hardens, the glass particles rise to the surface creating very sharp rock. Lava Ocean Adventures recommends wearing long pants on this hike as a precaution against cuts if you fall. Not wanting to hike in jeans, we took our chances and trusted our ability to stay balanced. One thing I would highly recommend are high socks. I was constantly plucking shards of lava rock from inside my shoes. Also, be sure to have a good pair of hiking boots as you really don’t want to fall. Rain was coming in behind us and I spotted a beautiful rainbow blessing our trail.

Lava Hike 1 Lava Rock

Rainbow Over Lava

Photographs and imagination can’t even begin to describe the experience of seeing new earth being formed. Feeling the heat and staring into the glow of the magma is incredible. Off in the distance we could see the smoke from the top of the mountain and after the sun set could see the trail of fire making its way down to the sea.

Flowing Lava 2Flowing Lava 1

For our hike back to our vehicles, our tour guides provided us with headlamps so we could maneuver the environment safely. I actually had a lot of fun getting back. Stepping carefully onto solid ground and not into crevasses reminded me of the childhood game “don’t touch the ground it’s lava!” I had two twin beds in my room when I was little and was constantly rearranging them, whenever they were on two separate walls my brother and I would throw pillows on the floor and jump from pillow to pillow to reach the other bed, taking care not to fall onto the carpet. Except in this situation, you wanted to step on the (hardened) lava!

Lava Hike 2

Things to do on our next trip (aka things we didn’t have time for but wanted to see)

  • Lava Tree State Monument; Highway 132. In 1970 10-foot-deep lava flowed through the forest from Kilauea Volcano hardened around trees which burned away. The molds from these trees still stand.
  • A local we met at Kona de Pele in Kailua-Kona recommended we drive along Red Road for one of the most scenic drives on the island.
  • Ahalanui Beach Park. At this park the waters in the “hot pond” reach up to 90degrees. For my thin Florida blood, this is perfect water temperature.
  • Kumukahi Lighthouse. Cape Kumukahi is the easternmost point in the state and boasts the freshest air! This lighthouse survived the lava flows from Kilauea Volcano that wiped out the town of Kapoho.

Hawaii: The Big Island: Ka’u

I thought it would be fun to check out the three different colored sands on the Big Island – black, white, and green. South Point, in the district of Ka’u, is the home to one of only four green sand beaches in the world. I wish I could tell you that the olivine sand is stunning, but regrettingly I cannot.

To get to the green sand beach you must drive ten miles down South Point Road. At this point you can continue to go straight a couple hundred yards and stand in the southern most point of the United States or you can go left for a mile to park for the green sands beach Papakolea.

Once you park your vehicle it’s a 2.5 mile hike to hit the green sands. If you decide to take this trek, don’t do it in flip flops, and have water with you. Even though we had a beach day planned, we were still prepared with hiking boots in the car. The walk is windy but beautiful. The color of the water is unrealistically turquoise and the power of the waves stunning. So the trip wasn’t a complete loss. Note: These photographs have not been edited or changed.

Turquoise Waters

Our day to the southern tip of Hawaii was the day of my birthday. And I’m going to admit off the bat that I was a big birthday baby. I had really wanted to sit by the hotel pool and have a couple daiquiris, but at the same time I didn’t want to waste a day either! So we decided that we’d come back to Kailua-Kona before dark; which actually put me back into my rush rush rush mentality. But on the way to the car from breakfast we found sea turtles Seth and Sandy! (previous post) An hour and a half later we finally hit the road. 

South Point

About a mile into the walk to the green sand beach I’d called it quits. There was another beach I’d wanted to see that was known for sea turtle spottings and still wanted to get back before sunset. The sand we’d been trekking through was a greenish-yellow, if that counts?

At Punalu’u I was relieved to see a turtle feeding in the rocks and laying on the beach and another laying on the beach. This sand was the blackest of the previous two black sand beaches we’d seen on the trip. It was what Stuart pictured in his mind. 

Punalu'u Turtles

PhotoGrid_1378952743416After the beach and after coming to terms with missing sunset in Kailua-Kona, we decided to stop at the Southernmost restaurant in the US, Hana Hou, in Na’alehu. It was here that we tried the Hawaiian fast food Loco Moco. Traditionally Loco Moco is white rice, brown gravy, hamburger patty, two over easy eggs. There are variations that change out the meat choice. Our waitress said that their best was with shredded pork. Stuart and I shared a large plate of it, and still couldn’t finish it – serving sizes in Hawaii are huge! I wasn’t completely convinced by the ingredient list, and it’s not the most beautiful of dishes, but let me tell you – it’s surprisingly delicious, and comforting.

The day may not have gone as I’d planned, but a “bad” day in Hawaii is never a bad day. And a day seeing sea turtles is a good day. The sea turtle, or honu, is a symbol of longevity and is the guardian of family.