I never talked about going to Hawaii on the blog! Huge oversight. It was our 49th state and how could I skip over arguably the best the US has to offer?
Well…because I had a second miscarriage halfway through our Hawaiian vacation in February, 2017. It actually happened on Valentine’s Day! How romantic. Wait, what’s the opposite of romantic? Oh, I guess I meant traumatic and you can read about it in the unedited version of events I’ll post soon. I’ve had a hard time disentangling that experience with the vacation, but I think I’m finally making progress. So…here’s Hawaii, edited.
Although we’d love to see all the islands someday, we decided to go big literally and start with the Big Island on this trip. We flew in and out of Kona, and drove counterclockwise around the whole island. We had about 9 days, and that felt like a decent amount of time to us, but we are speedy do-and-see-it-all travelers. To prepare, I diligently read Hawaii by James Michener and impressed/annoyed Kris with my Hawaiian knowledge along the way. The book was a hundred zillion pages, and I’m not sure it was worth it, unless you count bragging rights (which are ongoing, as you can see).
We flew out of Milwaukee, and had a long layover in Phoenix (Arizona was my 48th state, so I checked that box). I won’t bore you with many details about Phoenix, other than I still have not figured out why people enjoy hugs. They hurt.
The next morning, we flew Phoenix to Kona. American Airlines didn’t give us any meals, which I was bitter about. Yes, it is a ‘flight within the US’ but it’s a seven hour flight! Luckily, we bought some sandwiches at Helpings Cafe, which was so good we went there twice in less than 24 hours. Our sandwiches were remarked upon by jealous passengers (and flight attendants) who had to pay ridiculous amounts for AA sammies that looked terrible. We were very smug about this.
Kona Airport is an outdoor airport (well, technically every airport is outside, but hopefully you know what I mean), and right away it felt like we were in a different country. The air was warm and black lava rock and palm trees proved to us that we were in Hawaii, but after so many years of dreaming about going there, it didn’t feel real.
We picked up our rental car, which was white. I named it Haole (slang for white person/foreigner in Hawaiian and pronounced ‘Hulie’). And we were off! I think day by day recaps can be a bit boring, so I’ll hit the highlights from here on out: food, beaches, hotels and AirBNBs, and nature! Things I will not cover: Kris bottoming Haole out going down a road I told him not to go down, the half day I spent in a hotel room watching KUWTK instead of being out enjoying Hawaii, the dog at one AirBNB peeing on my foot upon arrival, and the dirty look the owner of a wiener dog gave Kris after Kris loudly said the wiener dog was fat.
We tried poi (taro root made into a paste) because Michener does not shut up about it in his book. We bought it at a farmer’s market, and it was awful. We couldn’t even give it away because the locals know better. I guess if you are an early Polynesian coming to Hawaii this might be good, but otherwise, it is not.
There are delicious purple sweet potatoes hiding inside this fish, also procured at the Maku’u Farmer’s Market.
We ate twice at Broke Da Mouth Grindz. It was amazing. Never underestimate a restaurant in a strip mall–there’s a travel tip for ya that’s been consistent wherever we go.
Shaka Restaurant has the claim to fame of being the southernmost bar in the U.S. We had a hearty breakfast there that was cheap and tasty. It felt like a real local place, too.
Speaking of, the real southernmost point of the U.S. was worth a stop. I’ve never seen water as blue. Daredevils were diving off the cliff. I made Kris hold my hand the entire time we were there so that he would not jump.
Coffee everywhere! The Big Island has quite a few coffee plantations, and even though I’m no connoisseur (just a classic guzzler) I had some delicious coffee. This pot was served with a side of gecko.
It’s very true that groceries were more expensive. We stopped at a few convenience stores and grocery stores, and…yikes. Let’s just say I’d have to give up my bacon habit. Milk was around $5/gallon. Meals out were maybe a little bit more than usual, but not too much. We didn’t do any fine dining, so that helped.
Let’s go the beach…
We went to Makalawena Beach (very rocky, lots of big waves and surfers who knew what they were doing).
We endured a very bumpy ride in a beat up van to Papakolea Green Sand Beach. The beach was amazing! It was perfectly sandy and warm. There are only four green sand beaches in the entire world, so we didn’t want to miss out. The green is more olive, but still pretty distinct.
We snorkeled in the Kapoho Tidepools, which were beautiful and painful. We both cut our feet on rocks. It was worth it, though, despite the amount I complained.
We also snorkeled in Kealakekua Bay. The coral was amazing and we saw quite a few fishies. Captain Cook was murdered there, so while we snorkeled I put together the Dateline episode of his murder in my head. Keith Morrison would definitely be the reporter for that episode (and all the episodes I make up). Spoiler: no one would be found guilty.
Captain Cook Memorial
We went to Kehena Black Sand (nude) Beach. There was as much dong as there was black sand. At Punalu’u Beach we saw some turtles. I drank out of a coconut there that some guy sliced open with a machete.
We stayed at all AirBNBs, with the exception of our last night, when we splurged a little more and stayed at Kings’ Land by Hilton. The vibe of the pool area was generally an older crowd (they had a separate adult area). We also explored the Hilton Waikoloa Village, which was the more exciting sister property of our hotel. There was a lot going on there. They had a ton of activities and a lagoon with dolphins. This resort also offered up a canal with boats to escort guests to their rooms. Cool! These were big, beautiful properties and I can easily see how people get sucked in to thinking that is the way to do a Hawaiian vacation. I enjoyed it and wished we had more time there! But in reality, there was a lot more to see and experience and I felt a little sad for the people that just go to these resorts and leave.
Our favorite AirBNB was near Pahoa, on the eastern side of the island (currently evacuated due to lava and eruptions). We stayed in the Coconut Cottage and made friends with Winter, the cat. Winter in Hawaii, get it?
Nice touches from Buck, the owner, and bonus points for not f-ing up my name:
We stayed near Kona, on the western side, at Keli’s. We got some fun, not at all posed, photos at sunset.
At the southern end of the island, we stayed at this place, which was actually very cheap for the area and a lot nicer than we expected. However, it took us about three tries to find it, and we were very frustrated! I hope they are giving out better directions.
Overall, we were very happy with our AirBNBs. One huge advantage to staying at an AirBNB is that almost all of them offered up stuff that would be impossible to pack–snorkeling equipment, beach towels and chairs, and even sunscreen.
The Big Island is home to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Hawaiians are quick to let you know that the Big Island is the biggest mountain in the world…if you count starting from the base on the ocean floor. Does that count? Not sure. Kilaueau is the currently erupting volcano. It was steaming and spewing lava when we visited. We saw it up close and personal on a lava hike, and from a helicopter tour.
While at Volcanoes, we also saw a traditional luau. This one was free, which was better than paying $80 plus at a resort. Another tip: search local calendars online to see what events are going on, and try to plan around what you want to see. I would’ve been pissed if we found out about this after the fact.
Although, if you do hit up a resort luau, I won’t begrudge you. There were hot bodies and fire. Here was a preview we saw at our resort.
At Volcanoes, in addition to the luau, we saw lava rock, lava fields, and lava tunnels.
The other big park we went to was Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park. This is a quick drive from Kona, and here I raised my hand several times during the ranger talk to display my Hawaiian knowledge via Michener. Kris was impressed. I could tell from the way he rolled his eyes.
This park was a ‘place of refuge’ for those who broke the sacred laws. All you had to do was make it there and a) not drown trying and b) not be murdered by your angry neighbors. Easy peasy!
Other highlights from nature:
Can’t beat Waipi’o Valley Lookout. The beach down there is private. Can you imagine owning that?!
And we took a really pretty drive along the northern coast.
To me, Hawaii was beautiful and brutal. I can’t wait to see more, under different circumstances.