I touched down in Kona and had the feeling I would be on another planet. Everywhere just black rocks or black sand. Looked like a desert to me. The airport is quite nice though, everything open air. But no free WiFi. I had to take a shuttle to get to the Hertz car rental place. There was a huge queue, most of the people that just landed at the airport and they all wanted to have a car. There would have been eight service desks with computer so theoretically eight people could deal with this crowd, but there were only two working, both pretty old and super slow. So it took almost an hour until I finally had my car. I got a nice blue Nissan, a lot more modern than the shitty one I got as a trade-in in Canada for the Chevy. I drove into Kona and frantically looked for a place with WiFi. I sort of had a massage appointment, but I didn´t know the address and I also didn´t know if it would work out or not. When I finally found a Starbucks and could check my emails, I saw that she actually agreed on a 1 pm appointment, by then it was already 1:30. But I finally had an address, so I just went there, hoping she wouldn´t be too mad. I had to wait a little since she actually was just giving a massage, but after like 15 min I could get in. She was totally chilled about the whole thing. I had written an email at Starbucks explaining the situation and also told her again. She was free, so I could just go in and enjoy one hour of a really nice and needed Lomi-Lomi Massage. After the massage I asked her for a good but not so expensive place to grab some Hawaiian food. She sent me to Umeke´s where I had some really nice Poke and lemonade. From there I drove to my AirBnB. I had an address, but it was anyway tricky to find, since almost no house there has a number on it. They have a pretty cool outdoor shower and bathroom for their guests, nicely decorated with a surfboard.
The tent I was supposed to sleep in was behind the house. Pretty big tent with a mattress and normal bedding. At the back of the house there was also a really nice sitting area and also a hammock. Unfortunately the WiFi didn´t work at all behind the house, just in the common area in front where it stank pretty much due to the chickens there. They are about to get rid of them though. After hanging out there for a while I walked like 10 minutes to the Magic Sand Beach Park where I had an evening swim and watched the sunset before returning to my accommodation.
I prepared some noodle soup in the microwave and worked on my blog before going to bed. The aircon of the house is pretty loud and there are lots of lights in the garden, which is nice on the one hand to find your way around, but also annoying when you are actually in the tent trying to sleep. I didn´t sleep very well that night. Got up at eight, had a shower and breakfast, put my luggage in the tent and was just about to leave for the day, when Todd came down and talked to me for a while. He invited me upstairs to have some leftover spaghetti. I told them that I heard them watch GOT the other night, and they said I should have come up. But they recorded it anyway and I should just come up when I come back that night and I can watch it there. Super nice and I was really happy about it! When I finally left at around 12 I went to the dive shop of Big Island Divers where I had booked my night dive with manta rays for that evening. I registered and got a place and time where I had to show up in the evening. I got a few fruits and snacks at Safeway and finally took off to Manini´owali Beach. I saw two sea turtles while snorkeling just off the beach. It´s been quite tricky to snorkel there since there were many waves and strong currents, also the turtles were swept around quite a lot. I almost collided with one once. The beach and the bay are pretty nice with all these rock formations and the white sand. I have been reading and eating my snacks and also wrote my journal for a bit.
Then I went to the Marina where I had to be for the dive at 5:45 pm. Until we finally went into the water after driving to the dive side, some information about the mantas and a short dive briefing it was like 7:40 and really dark. This is a very special night dive since they have flood lights on the sea floor to attract the plankton which then attracts the manta rays and some other fish who feed on them. So it´s pretty light and you see almost normally. They made us sit in a line close to the floodlights and put a heavy rock in everybody´s lap to keep us stationary. We all had a torch and you were supposed to shine that torch straight up in front of you, also to attract plankton. When we came down there were two mantas swimming around for a while. Pretty impressive animals! They came super close; you sometimes even had to duck down to avoid a collision. Unfortunately they disappeared after a few minutes and then there was like 20 minutes nothing special to see apart from one yellow eel hiding in a box for the lights. Super short visit from another manta and waiting again. When we were just about to leave after 40 minutes all of sudden 5 or 6 mantas showed up. We all still had plenty of air, so our guide let us stay for a bit longer. That was sooo amazing! It´s super expensive, especially if you have to rent the whole equipment, but it´s absolutely worth it!
I have put two videos of this adventure on my You Tube channel for you: https://youtu.be/99EgwS5aRdc and https://youtu.be/DXyIGcxhS3Q. Back to the boat the driver was pretty much in a hurry since a hurricane was coming towards the island on the ocean. We speeded back and just after leaving the dive site it started to pour down. It didn´t stop raining until the late morning the next day. Also got quite windy, but the actual storm stayed on the ocean. My outdoor bathroom got completely soaked and being out for just 2 seconds would soak you too. Was quite miserable with the set up they have at this AirBnB, but at least the tent stayed dry. And I could spend a bit of time inside the house after my shower to watch the new episode of GOT and have some more spaghetti leftovers. When I wanted to secure my photos on the laptop, my computer wouldn´t start. Pretty annoying but it was quite late anyway and I was super tired so I just went to bed getting soaked again on the way. I slept a lot better this night with the sound of the rain drowning out almost every other sound. I had charged the laptop over night with my power bank. It hasn´t been empty before but I just gave it a try. And after a few minutes I finally managed to start it and get the movies and pictures from the GoPro on the computer to finally look at them. After a few minutes however it turned itself off and it wasn’t possible to start it again. So I put my stuff in the car and got ready to leave. Went up quickly to say goodbye and got invited in to have some pizza leftovers with fresh eggs on top as breakfast. She also let me use her phone to call a computer place in Kona. They were not very helpful saying that it would take about a couple of days until they could only tell me what´s wrong with my computer. So I called another place in Hilo (close to where I was heading for the next 2 days and where I would stay later) called SuperGeeks. They were like `just drop bye and we can probably help you fairly quick´. That sounded a lot better to me. So I finally left. First stop Kahaluu Beach, pretty close to the place I have been. The beach itself was not exactly pretty and the snorkeling ok, but not especially good or anything. There are supposed to be a lot of turtles, but they are there rather in the morning and I got started too late due to the computer issues.
Well, didn´t stay there very long obviously and continued on my way to Hilo stopping at a few lookouts.
Next stop was at Punalu´u Beach (Black Sand Beach). There are turtles lying on the beach, which is pretty cool! I also went into the water but no need to try snorkeling there. The water was pretty turbulent and so the sand was swimming in the water and since it is black sand you couldn’t see a thing. It was a nice cool down though and the beach a nice place for a lunch break and writing my journal for a bit.
I had to go at one point if I wanted to reach Hilo before the SuperGeeks were closing. The guy in the store had a look and was 99% sure that the battery was defect. Unfortunately he didn´t have the matching one on stock and Hawaii is having some crazy rules when it comes to imports of batteries. So I would have taken like 3 weeks and cost quite some money to get one to there. No option, since I was only 2 weeks on Hawaii in total. I talked to Nate and asked him if I could order one to him and he could bring it with him to Fiji. He was fine with it, so that´s what we did. This also meant three weeks without computer though. If you have some planning, booking, banking and blogging to do that is a fucking long time! But that´s the way it was. I asked the guy at the store for a nice and cheap restaurant close by, had dinner at Ken´s Pancake House and drove back to Mountain View to my new AirBnB. I witnessed a car chase of two police cars behind a white Jeep on my way out of town. According to my GPS I had to drive past the sign for Mountain View and turn into a small street a couple of kilometers later. Suddenly it was only gravel road, jungle on both sides. It was raining and by then totally dark. There were more holes than actual street and I felt like being in the middle of nowhere. Driving on and on, not a single house to be seen. I started to doubt that my GPS was right (on Hawaii it doesn´t work very well in general, pretty inaccurate) and got a bit scared being there all alone in the middle of nowhere with this shitty street in the dark. When I got the `you have reached your destination´ there was still no house to be seen. So I drove on for a little bit longer after I finally found a gate with the right house number written on it. Still no house to be seen though. After another while driving I finally saw a house. I got out of the car, but there was no one to be seen, just a sign the shower, kitchen and WiFi are at the main house. So in the car again, driving further since it was pouring down still. Then I finally found the house and the host. I was pretty relieved. I had a shower and tried to use the WiFi, but it was so slow that it took 10 minutes just to open any homepage. So I gave up and went to my room, wrote my journal and read a bit before trying to sleep with the heavy snorer next door. The rooms are not really closed; the walls are open on the top and also super thin, so you hear everything that happens in the other rooms. After some troubles falling asleep I had a really good night. For breakfast I had some porridge and fresh food out of the garden. The two kittens snuggled up on and next to me.
I wanted to go to Ahalanui but I had to realize that neither my GPS nor the one that came with the car knew it and I couldn´t use Google Maps since I didn´t have internet. So I just drove in the rough direction. In Pahao I stopped at a little café and I was super lucky to accidently going to the one and only place in this area that had more or less proper internet, being the internet café of the area. I drank a tea and checked on google maps where all the stuff is I wanted to see. I wrote down everything and was prepared for the rest of the day. At one point I decided to get my laptop out of the car and try if I could get it to start while having it plugged in to use the internet and finally finish the Vancouver blog. It was raining anyway. I managed to finish it, but when I was just about to publish it, the laptop turned off again. Aaaaahhhh! The work of the last 20 minutes gone. At least the pics where uploaded to wordpress already, just not in the blog post. So I paid 2 dollars to use one of their computers for half an hour and did everything again. Finally done with the Canada part of my blog! Next stop was Lava Tree State Monument Park. When I got out of my car, somebody was jelling `Hello stranger! ´. Dan and Twila from my AirBnB also just pulled up. So we walked through the park together. Lava was once running through this area, burning the trees. But they didn´t burn all the way, the inside often was still wood and around basically charcoal. So there are big black tree stumps everywhere. Pretty impressive!
Dan and Twila also wanted to go to the tide pools after and they –being US Americans – had a SIM card and thus internet so they could use google maps. I just followed them in my car, which was a lot easier for me. Arriving in Kapoho we changed quickly, got our snorkeling gear and walked to the pools. The water level was super high and most of the street on the way to the pools was flooded. So we had to walk through the water. The water at the pools is crystal clear, the sea floor is mainly lava stone, but also some corals and loads of tropical fish. There are quite strong currents so you have to be careful, but it is a great snorkeling side.
We spend a couple of hours there before driving back to the accommodation. Dan and Twila invited me for dinner. We had chicken, beef burger and some salad. A few new guests had arrived, a German young couple (Lea & Thomas) and a French guy. All the younger people including me would have loved to go to the crater at night to see the lava glow, but none of us had been there yet so no one knew the way and we were all scared to go there the first time at night. It´s pretty dangerous when you don´t see where you can go and where not. Only a couple of days ago a young man had fallen into the crater and is dead now. So we convinced Dan to come with us and show us. The five of us went together in Lea´s and Thomas´ Jeep. It was raining again and super cold close to the crater being pretty high and also very windy. But it looks just amazing! Since you obviously can’t go very close and it was dark I had no chance to take good pictures with my phone. But I got some pics from Dan and Thomas.
When we got back to the hostel I went straight to bed and slept like a stone even with the snoring next door. The next morning I got pancakes and eggs from Dan and Twila and unsuccessfully tried to start my computer to secure the GoPro pictures. Then I went to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park with Lea and Thomas. It´s $25 per car, but the pass is valid for 7 days. We did the Ha´akulamanu Sulphur Banks Trail with a long extension to the Thomas A. Jaggar Museum and Lookout. It was very hot, sun burning down, no shade, but I really liked it. Being so close to the crater of an active volcano seeing the Sulphur steam coming out everywhere, the cold and hard old lava flows, the crater which is smoking quite heavily, it´s a bit like being on another planet and it also reminded me of Rotorua.
We went to the Volcano House for lunch with a view on the crater. From there we drove to the Thurston Lava Tube and walked through it. It´s a cave formed by an old lava flow. The walls cooled down and got hard forming this cave. When I read about it I imagined a tube where you can maybe go through on all fours or something, but it´s actually very big and you can go upright, several people walking next to each other. You have to bring your own flashlight and should wear proper shoes there. The water droplets on the walls and ceiling shimmer like diamonds, it´s nice and cool in there and really amazing, especially when you think about how this thing was made.
From there we went to the Devastation Trail. Lea and Thomas only did the first 5 minutes and realized that they should actually leave, because they wanted to go to Mt Mauna Kea for sunset and watching the stars and it is a two hour drive from where we were. So they left and I finished the trail on my own. It´s an area that is still recovering from the last eruption. Almost nothing is growing there, only black stone as far as you can look.
From there I drove to Hilo, first went to Walmart and then to my new accommodation – the Hilo Bay Hostel. I cooked dinner, ate that, got a beer from Timo – another guest and talked to them for a bit wrote my journal and worked on my blog before going to bed. With help of my eye mask I slept quite well. Next morning I went to the Rainbow Falls with a few people from the hostel. It was about a 40 minute walk to get there. We took some pics and swam a bit in the pools above the falls. Was really nice and relaxing there and the water was a great cool down.
We walked back to the hostel, where I had a little lunch of my supplies and then I took Claudia (Swiss), Timo (German) and Josh (Kiwi) with my car to Richardson Beach Park. We saw a few turtles in the water, went snorkeling a bit (without seeing much) and just chilled. We also met another guy from the hostel, a Canadian named Will.
On the way back I also took Will, was pretty cozy in my little car! I quickly took a shower and went out for dinner with Will and Josh. We went to some vegan organic restaurant just around the corner. Will had to go to the airport after. The next morning I met Josh in the kitchen and asked him what he was up to that day. He didn´t have any plans so I told him what I wanted to do and if he would like to join. We first went to the Kaumana Caves, another lava tube close to Hilo. This one is a lot bigger and even more impressive than the one in the National Park. After a couple of meters you get to a pretty narrow point, but if you crawl through the cave is opening up again and you can walk on and on.
From the caves we drove almost 2 hours to Papakolea (Green Sand Beach). We parked and from there we had to walk another 3 miles pretty much through desert to get to the beach. Super dusty and super hot, but great views and definitely worth it. The beach is not really green, but greenish, but with everything around it just looks amazing. The last couple of days the tides were pretty high and so it was pretty rough and not really good to swim. Also the beach was rather small due to that. But it was anyway worth it.
We walked back to the car and drove back to the hostel. On the way I bought a beer at 7/11. Back at the hostel I first had a shower to get rid of all the dust and then prepared some tomato soup with carrots and enjoyed my beer with it. I gave Timo part of it since it was a huge bottle. I really like the beer – Big Wave Golden Ale from the Kona Brewery. I sold my Volcano National Park Pass to Josh for 10 dollars, wrote my journal and blog and went to bed. Next day I went to the Pana Ewa Rainforest Zoo & Gardens. It´s for free, but super small. And most of the enclosures are way too small for the animals inside. Plus there is a very tight mash in front of every enclosure so that you can´t even see the animals properly, not speaking of taking pictures. The only big and nicer enclosure was the one for the tigers. They had a white and a normal one. Since tigers are my favorite animals I spend quite some time there.
Back to Hilo I went to the Farmer´s Market and finally got some affordable – actually super cheap – fruits and some honey. I had Poke for lunch and went back to the hostel for a nap. I ate some of my fruit and then got ready to drive to the shopping center where I was supposed to meet Lea and Thomas. We all got a 6-inch sub and then went together in the Jeep to the Lava Viewing Point. We got a bike for $20 each and cycled the 3 to 4 miles on a hilly gravel road to the point where the lava flows into the ocean. During the day it´s not that impressive since you mainly see steam, but when it is getting dark it is amazing! We also walked over the lava field for about 2/2.5 hours to find the flowing lava where you can stand like a meter away from, but we didn´t find it unfortunately. After enjoying the view of the lava dropping into the ocean for a while we cycled back to the shopping center, I got in my car and returned to the hostel at around 11 pm.
Next morning I packed my stuff and loaded the car. Nate had found a video on YouTube talking pretty much about the problem I have with my laptop and how to solve it. So I went to SuperGeeks again and showed it to him, he did it and tataaaa my laptop suddenly worked again. I was so happy about that. I could leave it in the shop for a while to charge while I went to the Farmer´s market again. It was Wednesday so the big market was on with all the art and handiwork too.
Back to the computer store I used the WiFi there for a bit and then drove to Coconut Island. I first walked through the park and then over the bridge to the island. I first had to repair my beach bag; it was completely ripped open on the bottom. So I sewed it back together. Once done I went for snorkeling and swimming. It´s really nice there.
I also ate some of my fruit and read there while drying. Then I got some supplies in the supermarket and drove to Akaka Falls. I parked before the barrier to safe the $5 for parking and thus only had to pay $1 for the entry. Unfortunately most of the trails were closed due to some landslide and flooding. But you could still walk to the Akaka Falls. Looked like in Jurassic Park again and the falls are quite impressive. Didn´t take long, because it was only a very short walk now.
From there I went to my new home in Pepeekeo, an AirBnB, where you sleep in a Hammock. It´s also in the jungle and only reached by gravel road. GPS is useless here; you have to follow the instructions of the owners to find it. I made sure to arrive in daylight this time to make it easier for me. This place is amazing, great view over jungle and ocean, the cabanas with the hammocks look nice and are constructed in a way to make them boar proof and keep insects out as good as possible. There is a nice outdoor kitchen and outdoor shower, but if you prefer inside, there is an option of both too.
They have WiFi which is not too bad for Big Island. Since I finally had a working laptop again plus working WiFi, I spend quite some time on the computer after cooking and eating dinner and a shower. At first the hammock was quite comfortable, but after a while I missed not being able to turn around and I didn´t sleep very well. It was a nice experience, but I was anyway happy that I only booked 1 night there. I had a great breakfast with the supplies I bought at the supermarket and the farmer´s market in Hilo. I wanted to check something quickly on the computer but it wouldn´t start. Not again! With a power reset I managed to get it running, but then it was doing updates and I couldn´t turn it off. So I had to wait for like 2 hours, before I could finally leave the place. I drove to Hapuna Beach, which is supposed to be one of the most beautiful white sand beaches on Big Island. It used to be some military area and there are still some unexploded explosive devices to be found. Since it had something to do with the army it was of course another state park and you had to pay $5 to get inside. The beach is nice and there is some decent snorkeling, but it was not the very best weather and I had definitely seen nicer beaches before.
After a few hours there I started my drive to Kona. Originally I wanted to go to SuperJ´s in Captain Cook (one of the restaurants the massage lady had recommended) which is not far from my hostel – the Pineapple Park. But close to the airport I got stuck in traffic and it took me almost 1 hour more than expected. Since I passed the hostel anyway on my way to the restaurant and it was already quite late, I decided to check in first, just to be sure. I ended up not leaving the hostel anymore, but cooking something out of my last supplies. I talked to a few other guests, packed my stuff in a fly safe way and got a few things done before going to bed. Next morning after shower and breakfast I checked out, returned the car and took the Hertz shuttle to the airport. I had put 676 miles (1087 km) on the car in these 10 days. I arrived pretty late at the airport, but since the airport is so super small, that was no problem. And off I was back to Honolulu.