Day 5 Continued
Waterproof Fuji shots continued
After an early start and 4 hours in the sun out on the water we were all pretty beat. So after getting back to port we did a second round of Target & CostCo shopping runs. We decided to spend the second half of the day relaxing. So we went back to the hotel, got food and drinks and relaxed by the pool.
Caught a calm sunset over A-Bay and retired early because guess what? We had an early start the next morning.
Another early start on Monday. We had take off first thing to make our 9am appointment at the Hilo Airport with Paradise Helicopters. The early morning commute was a quick 1.5 hour drive and it was nice to have some locals to set the pace on the saddle road through the middle of the island.
After a safety and general rules meeting we were off... this time with flowing lava to be seen. Dan and Kara were in one helicopter and Beth and I were in another.
Ready to Fly
Once up in our copter the pilot headed over Kīlauea volcano which is much much more active than the last time we were here. Lava tubes are piping lava under the ground and long paths of steam could be seen from the air showing where these were.
It was an overcast day so the photos weren't as clear as I had hoped but they show the craziness of the volcano and the amount of activity we were witnessing. Near the ocean the overcast skies were also mixed with steam from the lava.
We then went along the coast to see where the lava meets the ocean. This was not happening at all last time we were here, so this was one of the main reasons we did the helicopter tour. What we didn't appreciate at the time was "road" along the coast that the lava had flowed over. More on that later... but if you look in these shots you can clearly see the dirt road that follows the coast.
Lava Meets the Ocean
End of the Road
Another person on our helicopter had some pro level camera gear and I sparked a conversation back at the airport. Turns out it was Jake Marote (aka Jake of All Trades on IG) who is a well known Instagrammer and photographer born and raised in Hawaii.
Jake recommended if we wanted to see the lava flowing into the ocean to rent bikes and gave us the location of some ambitious locals who rent them cheaply.
After the tour we went to downtown Hilo and got the most insane smoothies at Big Island Juice Co.
There's a smoothie in there somewhere
After our delicious frozen lunch, we headed to Kalapana to find the bike rental place Jake had mentioned to us after the helicopter tour.
We brought less than the recommended 1 gallon of water per person but we were on bikes versus walking which was one of the best decisions we made all week. The overcast day continued so there wasn't much direct sunlight but the locals recommended putting sunscreen on our faces and underside of arms as the pavement was still radiating a lot of heat.
The road was unpaved but pretty well packed for biking. We cruised the ~3 miles down to the literal "end of the road" and got to walking on lava to get a good viewing angle. Some not so smart tourists decided to walk on the steaming rocks and melted their shoes... where's there's smoke there's heat, got it.
New Land Forming in Kalapana
Duller lava is older lava
Don't walk on these rocks
While watching the lava it began to mist and rain. I was forced to use the rain cover on my camera bag, which worked perfectly, even while biking. We happily paid the $30 a person for the few hour bike rental and we were all smiles zipping past people walking.
We packed up, hydrated and decided we were too close the skip the amazing self guided tour at the Mauna Loa macadamia nut factory. Beth and I warned Dan and Kara to set expectations low but we were able to grab some samples and cool off in the AC.
We made one last out of the way stop at Volcano National Park to see the lava tube and crater lookout. It was getting dark and we were all tired, hungry and exhausted so we began the 2+ hour drive home... stopping at the famous 24 hour Ken's House of Pancakes. Dan tried Loco Moco for the first time and we happily had dinner before heading back across the island... again.
After a long and exhausting Day 6, we slept in... to a reasonable time only to be woken up by construction in the hotel. The Marriott did comp us a few things to say sorry but a jack hammer makes an extremely good alarm clock.
We packed up food and drink and began the 1 hour drive down to Pae'a aka Two Step, where the snorkeling is excellent and free, and there are two steps that lead you into the water.The shallow waters and clear weather proved to be a great combination for seeing coral, fish and many honu (sea turtles).
This was the best day of snorkeling I've ever had. The honu were everywhere and the weather was perfect. After a few hours in the sun, we headed back to the hotel to spend the rest of the afternoon by the pool.
On the way home we returned snorkel gear Dan and Kara rented; which made us realize we were near the end of vacation.
After an afternoon by the pool involving catch, swimming and cutting some kids in the line for the water slide, we headed to Lava Lava wearing real clothes for a fancy dinner (relatively speaking). After dinner and drinks we called it a night.
On the way to dinner we did catch sunset at A Bay.
Today was Dan's 30th birthday!
We started the day off a little late but headed to Makalawena Beach... which requires a quick couple mile hike over a black lava rock field. This was a little longer and hotter than expected... especially when everyone was wearing flip flops or sandals... but it was well worth it.
The views along the walk were amazing. Makalawena is made up of three inlets and we opt'd for the middle one which only had one other couple on the entire white sand beach.
Highly recommend this beach. The snorkeling here wasn't bad either and a few honu were hanging out with us in the water.
The Walk to Mak's
That Perfect Water
After a few hours in the sun and perfect water we headed out so we could shower and change before our Luau.
We did the Luau at the Marriott, which includes food, open bar and a great presentation of Hawaiian culture and history during the meal.
Kara also brought some candles to celebrate Dan's big 3-0.
Kalua Pig being dug up
The View from behind the Hotel
Our final day... and no camera used.
We had to get up and pack before heading out. We went back to 69 Beach and the hung at the hotel until heading to the Kona Airport.
The Explorer and Island treated us very well during our stay. When you look back, we packed a ton into a week long vacation in paradise; making sure we hit all the major items that Dan and Kara wanted to see.
There is just a feeling you get while on the islands. It's a peace of mind and respect for nature that is best experienced.
So until we visit your beaches again, Aloha.