The Big Island – Kona and Kohala
We left Logan Airport in Boston at 8:00 AM and arrived at our VRBO on Oneo Bay in Kona at 11:00 PM, just in time for bed. The Alaska Air flight was on time and the service friendly. In the morning we gazed out the slider, consulted a map and realized we were looking at the swim course of the Ironman Triathlon. We wandered up Alii Drive with the ocean on our left, past stores, restaurants and historical sites. Went grocery shopping, fought off jet lag and started planning the adventures.
The next day we ate breakfast at Huggos, noted for its proximity to the water. The food and service was as you would expect. Drove south to Honaunau Bay and hiked Arch City from south to north, then easterly along a trail to the road and then back to the car. The round trip hike lasted about 3 hours. The trail is undefined and more of a boulder scramble. There are at least 12 arches plus numerous blow holes and coves. Highly recommended!
Across Kealakekua Bay we could see a white obelisk, the monument to Captain Cook. Cook arrived in Hawaiʻi in 1778 and found the islands were already inhabited. He was briefly revered as a god and then clubbed to death in 1779, at age 50, in a dispute over a stolen row boat. It is said that he was self-aware enough to realized that his mere presence would have an affect on these islands and did not allow sick sailors to leave the boat, knowing they would spread disease to the islanders. The monument is reachable only by kayak or a long heinous trail. The permitting situation for kayakers was in flux and open water ocean kayaking is never one our favorite activities, so we decided to skip the monument this time.
We ate lunch at Puʻuhonua o Honaunau National Park, considered to contain the finest example of a Place of Refuge. The laws of the time were harsh and the penalty for most crimes was death. If a lawbreaker could escape to a place of refuge, he was allowed to perform certain rituals and then was forgiven. Defeated warriors could also go to a place of refuge to live out their lives in peace.
After lunch we changed into bathing suits and drove a short distance to “Two Step.” This was our first time snorkeling in years, and the first time in Hawaii. The place was crowded so we found a spot on the rocks and tried to make it look like we knew what we were doing while watching to see the customs of the place. We got on our gear and tried to enter the water on the northerly end of the beach, which was less crowded than the southerly end. The entry was rough but the variety of sea life was unbelievable, both in color and abundance. We stayed in until we got cold (no wetsuits) and took a break. The second time out we tried the southerly end of the beach and discovered why it was called “Two Step.” There are literally two stone steps that lead you quickly and easily right into deep water. We also discovered that snorkeling equipment had vastly improved since our last foray into the sport, with corrective lens masks and dry snorkels. We rented our equipment from Snorkel Bobs for 2 weeks. It was top quality and we were able to rent it on Hawaiʻi and return it on Kauai. Made a quick stop at the Painted Church on the way home, definitely worth a stop to see the beautiful frescos.
On Thursday we drove up the Kohala Mountain Road, a gorgeous scenic drive, stopping in Hawi at the northern end of the island for some snacks. Then headed south on Route 270 to Puʻukohola Heiau National Historic Site. The heiau it is one of the last sacred structures built in Hawai’i before outside influences affected traditional life. It was constructed by Kamehameha who was born in 1758 and once stayed overnight on Captain Cook’s ship. He was considered strong, smart and ambitious and was the first king to unite all the islands under one rule. This was especially remarkable because it was a class society and the customs of the time dictated that the best offspring resulted from brother/sister combinations and he was born of cousins. The heiau, along with the museum and Ala Kahakai Trail is definitely worth a stop, both for the sights as well the historic knowledge to be acquired in the museum.
We ate lunch at Spencer Beach State Park. It’s a gorgeous relaxing spot, but too calm for boogie boarding, and too cloudy for snorkeling, so we drove to nearby Hapuna Beach, (which is consistently named the best beach in the entire country by travel magazines), to try our luck there. It was afternoon and the wind had kicked up so we got to do neither. The lifeguards were advising everyone to stay out of the water because there had already been a broken arm and broken neck that day. Towards evening a few Hawaiian kids came along with boogie boards. They handled the pounding surf with ease and we watched them in awe. Lava Lava Beach Club seemed like a touristy place from the descriptions and not a place we would ordinarily gravitate to, but a relative had a relative who worked there, so we stopped by for dinner. Unfortunately, it was his night off, but the food was great and the setting on the beach is unmatched.
I know this section is a little long on the history, but Cook and Kamehameha are two of Hawaii’s most legendary figures. Stay tuned for Part 2 – no history, just the most epic beach trip ever.