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random thoughts from my life & the universe

someplace totally different

One of the things I did during my sabbatical was go on a nice long break to someplace completely different from where I live and have lived…we went on vacation to the Big Island of Hawaii.  Neither of us had been before, but it’s been on the list of places to visit, so off we went 🙂

Over the course of our two week trip, we drove some ~1500 miles, visited lots and lots of beaches, saw some waterfalls, did some hiking, swam with sea turtles (and lots of other creatures), went from sea level to over 13,000 ft in elevation, saw plenty of beautiful plants and animals, and visited with Madame Pele while observing the very active Kiluea volcano.  While visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, we had the good fortune to get on a ranger-led trip where we got to learn more about the flora and fauna of Hawaii while also visiting a pristine lava tube.

White Mouth Moray Eel, Captain Cook Monument, Hawaii

For our trip to the Big Island, we split our time between the two halves.  The western side of the island sees less rain, and was pretty much sunny the whole time we were there.  We took the opportunity to take up snorkeling, and visited several snorkeling spots south of Kailua-Kona.  Snorkeling was something completely new to me, and I really enjoyed it.  We opted to bring our own mask and snorkel set and went finless.  Capturing photos of the wildlife underwater proved to be a bit challenging, what with the bobbing about on the surface and the swift moving fishes, but we did get some fairly nice captures 🙂  At some point, I think we’d like to learn how to scuba dive so we could see some of the wildlife closer up – it would also allow us to see some of the deeper-sea wildlife.

Created with flickr slideshow.

The eastern side of the island is the wet side.  Our base was in the Puna District, which receives anywhere from 80 to 200 inches of rain per year, depending on elevation.  It was from this side that we visited the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, Volcanoes National Park, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa.  We definitely saw a lot more terrestrial wildlife on this side of the island…unfortunately I think pretty much everything I captured (with the exception of the Green Sea Turtles) are introduced species!

Created with flickr slideshow.

We really enjoyed ourselves a lot.  Visiting the Big Island can be as adventure packed or as relaxing as you please.  I managed to catch a cold while traveling, so I did just sit back and enjoy the view of the ocean and some easier walks on a couple days while my husband went to check out Mauna Loa and some of the longer hikes in Volcanoes National Park.  Things I particularly enjoyed:  Sunset from the summit of Mauna Kea, snorkeling at Captain Cook Monument, and viewing Kiluea at sundown – even though we weren’t able to view any active lava flows, it was entrancing to see the color shifts at the crater due to the moving magma reflecting on the steam plume.  Also not to be missed should you ever visit: the white pineapple – it’s super sweet and very low acid.  Apparently the season peaks in July, and we caught the very tail end of crop.

Created with flickr slideshow.

We definitely enjoyed ourselves, and would love to go back again some day.

In case you were wondering, about planning/logistics: We rented out some private residences via VRBO – this allowed us to have access to full kitchens during our stay, which cut down on the eating out and allowed us to make use of the fantastic farmers market finds.   Our days were not pre-planned, with the exception of the previously mentioned ranger-led hike (we had to call a week ahead to reserve a coveted spot on the once-per-week trip).  We browsed a couple guidebooks: Hawaii – the Big Island Revealed and Hawaii – the Big Island Trailblazer, and made a list of the various things we wanted to do.  Each day was planned out the evening before, leaving us to be quite flexible.  Usually, my type-A sensibilities prefer a very regimented plan, but this worked out very well.  For car rental, if you are patient enough to wait for emails to travel back and forth with response times sometimes taking over a day, we recommend Discount Hawaii Car Rental – they were able to find us the best rate.  If you happen to be driving around the Puna District, we definitely recommend Ning’s Thai Cuisine in Pahoa.  I’ve been hunting for a good Thai restaurant since coming home and so far, haven’t found anything near as tasty!

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