This was a trip we took in 2004 when we lived in California.
We went to the Big Island in Hawaii for our fifth year wedding anniversary. Hawaii is famous for sunny beaches, exciting snorkeling trips, tropical rain forests, waterfalls and of course the live and active volcano. After several days of anticipation, we were on a flight to Kona. My husband Saru, slept very well as usual, while I struggled to find a comfortable position to sleep. As soon as I found that position, the captain announced that we were landing. With images of sandy beaches and lush greenery in mind, we looked out of the window to take a glimpse of this beautiful island and were shocked. There was nothing but miles of black lava fields!! They built the Kona airport in the middle of black lava fields.
We landed, picked up our baggage, and started driving towards Kona. Soon things got spectacular. After a few minutes of driving, the black lava fields turned into beautiful vistas all round.
We were in the middle of a rainforest and true to its name it started raining. We stopped for coffee. There is nothing like having hot coffee and cake (especially when it has rum in it) while watching the rain.
While we were driving, we a saw a big sign saying “GOT BALLS?” Our car of course came to a screeching halt. It was the “Bad Ass” coffee shop that was selling “Donkey Balls”. Donkey balls are chocolate covered macadamia nuts. Their restroom had hundreds of “Ass” jokes scribbled on the walls. I spent a good 15 minutes laughing my heads out until somebody knocked on the door. I came out and promptly sent Saru inside to ass-imilate (pun intended) all the humorous material.
We drove towards the area of Captain Cook to check into our Bed & Breakfast. The house, Areca Palms was sitting on an acre of lush green lawn and Palm Trees. We slowly walked up the stairs and found a couple (Nancy & John) enjoying coffee on the lanai (balcony in Hawaiian). The hosts Steve and Janice greeted us with great smiles. They had a huge living room with lots of books and games for the guests. In all these years of traveling we stayed in a wide range of budget to luxury hotels, but nothing beats the experience of staying in a Bed & Breakfast. You get to stay in a homely place, enjoy wonderful conversations with other guests, get restaurant/activity recommendations, and of course enjoy home cooked breakfast. Areca Palms was a very charming house with a lot of character and more importantly pleasant/interesting hosts and guests.
Based on our hosts recommendation, we went to Aloha Cafe for dinner and had excellent seafood while watching a picture perfect sunset.
Next morning, we woke up to the sounds of chirping birds. There were two other guests and by 8:00am, we were all sitting at the breakfast table having pleasant conversation. The 3-course breakfast started with fresh organic papayas and mangoes from their backyard. It was followed by macadamia nut short bread and a plate of Chili Cheese Souffle. That was the most sumptuous home cooked breakfast I ever had!! We talked about the plan for the day and while we were eating, Steve called the Kayak rental place and booked a reservation for us. They also gave us free snorkels and fins and reef shoes.
Pretty soon we had the Kayak fixed on the car and were driving towards the Kealakekua Bay. The plan was to kayak in the bay for a mile to reach the Captain Cook Monument, which was known to be the best snorkeling spot in all Hawaii. The tricky part here was to unload the kayak from the car, lower it 3 ft down into the water, and jump on the kayak before it wandered away. If Saru were doing this by himself, it would have gone smoothly. But here I was – the queen of timidity! We decided to pay a guy to help us lower the kayak. Saru got on to the kayak without batting an eyelid. I took some time and slowly lowered myself onto the kayak. Now, try to visualize this: Both my feet were in the kayak and my hands were holding the wall, when the kayak started moving away from the wall!! It was good stretching exercise both for my body and my vocal cords. I started screaming – “I am falling, I am falling!!!” and quickly grabbed the guy’s leg with one hand. The guy was screaming, “let go of my leg”, Saru was screaming, “Calm down” and I was still screaming, “I am falling, I am falling”!! Bear in mind that I was wearing a life jacket and the water was only 4 ft deep at this place. But logic does not dictate every action of mine! I was very close to falling flat, face down into the water before I plopped myself into the kayak. Now, once I was seated comfortably, I was the epitome of courage (Alright, if you must know, I did freak out one more time when I thought the kayak was going to topple).
The weather was great and there was a pleasant breeze. I was in high spirits. Just when we were thinking that nothing could have made the trip better, we spotted, if you can believe our luck – a dozen dolphins! These dolphins are called Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins. They travel in big groups and are very playful. It was a treat to watch them jumping and spinning and frolicking in the water. After the excitement of dolphins died down, we kayaked towards the Captain Cook Monument.
We parked our kayak under a tree. Saru, who was very impatient, jumped into the water with his snorkel gear. Snorkeling is a water sport where you are floating on the water with a diving mask. The tube or the snorkel remains ouside the water and you can breathe through it. While swimming, you can observer underwater water activity like corals, fishes and other sealife. Our very first snorkeling experience was in the Great Barrier reef and now we are addicted for life.
The water was pretty rough in that part of the bay. Saru got pushed around by the waves and wounded the middle finger on his right hand. Every time I asked him about his wound, he would show me his middle finger and get a kick out of it. Blood was oozing out of his cut, and we didn’t have anything to tie around it, until I remembered my sarong!! We had a perfect Bollywood moment when I tore a piece of cloth from the sarong and tied it around his finger!!
We went to the other side of the monument where the water was calm and began snorkeling. We were immediately treated to hundreds of colorful fish and corals. It was absolutely amazing. We tried to keep a count of the different colors, but lost track. Every corner of the bay treated us to a rainbow of colorful underwater life. We snorkeled for a few hours and then went back to the kayak to eat our sandwich. We relaxed a little bit and I was very enthusiastic to get back into the water. Saru complained that the waves made him queasy and he wanted to relax for the day. I went back into the water and was having too much fun. Every time I saw some cool fish, I would pop my head out of the water and tell him. Finally I made him so jealous; he jumped back into the water despite his nausea.
We kayaked back, saw more dolphins on our way, and went back towards home. Fortunately ,I had no trouble getting out of the kayak. We went home and washed ourselves and exchanged stories about our day with Nancy and John. They went snorkeling near the beach at the Place of Refuge (no kayaking necessary). It was called 2-step place. One step you are on the rocks, second step you are in the water, snorkeling. They told us that they saw beautiful corals and turtles at that place. We decided to get up early, the next day and go there.
Next day, we woke up at 5:30am for our snorkel trip. The plan was to snorkel and come back by 8:00 and not miss the 3-course breakfast!! John and Nancy told us the exact spot we should swim to, and we followed their directions. Again, we saw a number of colorful fish and colorful coral, but turtles still eluded us. We went a little deeper into the water. It was getting close to 7:30 and I swam back towards the bank when Saru started screaming “Turtles“. I swam back all the way to him and saw turtles. It was great!! We ran back home and took quick showers and sat down for breakfast. We started off with fresh fruit from the backyard and banana bread. The next course was pancakes with macadamia nuts. This was getting to be a habit – we were stuffed.
Part II of Big Island will have pictures of a live volcano, so stay tuned!