We took an overnight trip to the Kilauea Volcano and Hilo.
The volcano was breathtaking. There is no other way to describe it. We had read about it and hoped to see spewing lava, but when we stopped at the first stop on Crater Road – the steam vents – and walked the short path to the Kilauea Caldera overlook, we were just floored. It was staggering to see just a huge expanse of what once was simmering lava. Just…wow.
A lot of the road was closed because of noxious gases in the air, but we managed to see the Thurston Lava Tube, another, smaller caldera, and the part of the park where the lava has covered the road. It was awesome.
Kiddo wasn’t too pleased with all the car time so we tried to be thoughtful about how many stops we took. While she was sleeping, we took turns walking briefly on the black sand beach at Punalu´u. Amazing. Not great for toddlers though. She would have burned the crap out of her feet, and I guess the water is super cold. I saw a huge turtle, though, which was fun.
That night we stayed in Hilo. It was a backpacker´s joint, but we had the whole suite to ourselves, and it was perfect. Clean, with a kitchenette for our morning coffee and snack/lunch prep, two small beds (so Hubby could take one and Kiddo and I could take one), and a parking place. The Internet didn’t work, which meant we had no excuse and had to chat and read our books. Love that!
Hilo was a great little town. Less touristy than the Kona side. We ate burgers and watched kiddo dance as a Hawaiian guitarist played Jack Johnson. We went to a farmer´s market that made us swoon, no joke, it was stocked so full of island treasures. We went to a free zoo with macaws, monkeys, a white tiger, and tons of animals I had never heard of, like the Binturong. It was jungle territory, really. Hot, steamy, felt like we were on the set of Jurassic Park or Lost. A great excursion.
We also fell in love with Island Natural Foods, where we bought some lunch stuff and three desserts to share. Vegan chocolate cake, chocolate mousse, and lilikoi mousse. (Oh. I just googled that and apparently lilikoi is what the locals call passion fruit. Learn something every day!) It was not cheap, but compared to other island prices, and even Whole Foods in downtown Portland, this was totally reasonable. Hubby wants to move to Hilo now. 😉
We drove back to Kona via the northern road, which means lush jungle, cow country and then high desert. Waimea, a sleepy cattle town, Waikoloa, a retiree paradise, and Kohala, home of the best known beaches on the island. We stopped at Hapuna beach for a couple hours. Kiddo was in heaven in the waves. Compared to Kikaua beach, this was super busy and not as relaxing, but definitely fun to see.
In Waikoloa, we bought local grassfed beef. We had that for dinner with the salad fixings we picked up at the farmer´s market. I was in foodie heaven.
We talked about how we are not even one week into the “holiday” part of our adventure and we already feel super relaxed, super grateful, and super happy about our status as funemployed travelers. Life is…great!