A week ago my gentleman friend and I took a week’s vacation on the Big Island of Hawaii. The gentleman was my tour guide; he had lived in the Hawaiian Islands for most of his working career. We stayed in a time-share condo in Kona, Hawaii, and we drove the entire Big Island.
Whenever we looked down from mountain heights or when we drove the coast, we saw ocean — beautiful blue and calm. I get a sort of spiritual feeling when I see an ocean. Obviously we are just specs on the planet, but the ocean is in charge. We. got home and saw the news about Hurricane Ian and the devastation bought by angry winds and heaving ocean. We were grateful for the calm we saw.
The Big Island can be beautiful, but having done no research before our trip, I was shocked to find out that volcanoes are “land-builders” and actually created the Hawaiian island chain. I also never knew that plenty of lava remains on the Big Island. Whole big fields of lava — flows that reached from mountain top to the ocean. We’re told there are five volcanoes on the island but the two most prominent are Kilauea and Mauna Loa. I picked up a small lava rock as my only souvenir of the trip. LOTS of lava.
Having paid little attention to Hawaii over the years, I was not prepared for every street sign being a Hawaiian name, and each name was more beautiful and lyrical than the last. I loved the names, though remembering them all would have been a problem. The names are not short. On one of the boats I saw at a seaside resort in Kona had this name on the side of the boat: KAWEHIONAPUAOKALANI.
Being a fair-haired blonde, I haven’t spent a lot of time in sunny beach vacation resorts so I did not recognize many of the trees I saw on the big island. I understand they were not necessarily native to the islands but were imported long ago, and how lovely they were. Small trunks with huge canopies providing plenty of shade. Trees with twisted trunks unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.
And the palm trees — tall with pencil thin trunks and with leaves that are much more attractive than the dessert variety we see in Las Vegas. The palm trees are trimmed regularly to prevent coconuts from landing on unsuspecting tourists, I was told. We saw no dead leaves hanging from the trees. I gather the tree-trimming business is brisk.
Living in Las Vegas and its “dry heat” did nothing to prepare me for the Hawaiian humidity with just short walks. Everything was drenched — underwear, blouses, foreheads, etc. I did more laundry in Hawaii than I expected.
The Rain and Clouds
Driving the Big Island one realizes that rain is a constant on the windward side of the island. Hilo, Hawaii is not a tourist destination, but it is where we headed to visit a local market and otherwise look around. Our drive “across the mountain” from Kona gave us a good deal of occasional rainfall, and we drove through clouds as well. Loved that aspect of the non-Vegas weather.
Our Busted Volcano Visit
I made such a big thing about all the lava, that the gentleman was determined to take me to see real live lava at the Kiluaua volcano in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. We drove quite a way and after entering the park; we saw several places where steam was coming out of the ground. Oh great! We made it to the volcano site–but alas, signs and fences prevented us from going close to the big hole in the ground. I did my best to take a photo of the big hole–but sadly, I missed seeing live lava.
The Big Island is home to many wild animals and we saw a few: a sea turtle, goats, wild turkeys and several mongoose. Wild pigs are around, but we didn’t see them though they may have seen us.
The roads we used were typically two lane and because the gentleman was showing me the scenic back roads of the island, we had lots of curves to maneuver. The roads were all wonderfully smooth and the other drivers were courteous. My gentleman friend, driving a rented Hyundai, filled the gas tank three times during our stay.
During the Pandemic I didn’t use all the weeks I had at a timeshare in New York so I traded one week for the timeshare in Kona, Hawaii. Our Kona timeshare was lovely: big kitchen, living-room seating area, a balcony overlooking a golf course, two bathrooms, a large bedroom and a pull-out sleeping couch. The only problem was, it was on a third floor with no elevator. Thanks to the gentlemen, who lifted my heavy suitcase up three floors, we made it to the top, but needless to say we were always a bit breathless after the climb, We were careful not to leave needed items in the car. We did twice go up and down the stairs to take a rather long walk behind our timeshare along the ocean. Lovely…and lots of humidity.
The economy was looking rather grim when we left on the trip and when we saw the large kitchen, we went shopping and basically “ate in” during most of the week. We picked up some home-made Hawaiian dishes at two local markets and loved our meals. The gentleman cooked some wonderful hamburgers and my bringing several hard-boiled eggs was also appreciated. No $160 luaus, but I didn’t fade away from hunger.
The plane ride
The trip to Hawaii took us lots of hours. We flew to San Francisco (1 hour) then waited an hour and a half for a five-hour trip to Kona. On the way back our 9 a.m. flight was changed to Noon (after we arrived at the airport at 7:30 a.m.) and we didn’t get back to Las Vegas until after midnight. We were TIRED. But the next day after a long daytime nap, I looked at my pictures and realized we had had a great trip.
The Big Island isn’t Hawaii’s most lush island, but still, the flowers that we saw everywhere were lovely. Even the Walmart had a great blooming hedge that would be an envy anywhere. The gentleman said that at other times of year, I would have seen even more flowers, but I was satisfied. Colorful interesting plant leaves and brilliant flowers obviously LOVE the humidity. Plenty of picture-taking opportunities.
Having visited Hawaii and having started the book, “Hawaii”, I now looked on YouTube for more information. I found lots, including a video that was not kind to the U.S. in how native Hawaii has lost its one-time innocence. I hadn’t realized that President Clinton had actually signed an apology for the 1893 overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy. Other videos talked about how expensive it is currently to live in Hawaii, noting the dependence on food, furniture, medication, etc.that must come to the islands by ship and is therefore, expensive. One video mentioned that the moderators could think of no item that was less expensive in Hawaii than on the mainland.
Note: My gentleman friend’s three daughters and their families all moved to Las Vegas after finding it becoming too expensive to live in the Hawaiian islands.
Las Vegas, incidentally, is known in Hawaii as the “ninth island.” It is home to the largest population of Hawaiians outside of Hawaii and is a popular destination for visitors from Hawaii. In fact, most high school reunions from Hawaii are held in Las Vegas every year.