and the Puako Petroglyph Field
were two more places we visited on the Kona side of the Big Island. These two small parks give you a good sense of the native Hawaiian culture, and at Pu'ukohala, a better understanding of Kamehameha I, who was born in Kohala and unified the Hawaiian Islands.Puako Petroglyph Trail
Ki'i pohaku (images in stone) is the Hawaiian name for petroglyph, and the 233-acre Puako Petroglyph Archaeological District has the largest concentration of them in the Pacific. We did not view all 233 acres. Instead, the Puako Petroglyph Trail
is a flat 1.5 mile hike.
According to the guidebooks, you can see over 3,000 petroglyphs on the trail. There's a bit of a learning curve to discern petroglyph from pockmark, but once you do, you'll see them everywhere. Look for circles of rocks that enclose single petroglyphs. Polarized sunglasses also help. And no matter how enticing a shortcut it may be, especially when it's hot, do not walk on the petroglyphs.
The trail is easily accessible from the Mauna Lani Resort or the Fairmont Orchid. It's best to go in the morning, or the afternoon because walking through lava fields at mid-day is mercilessly hot. Wear shoes
because lava fields and keawe trees are spiky. I wore slippers and shouldn't have.
Kapu markers at the heiau platform
Pu'ukohola (whale hill in Hawaiian) was built by Kamehameha I around 1790. According to a prophecy, Kamehameha would conquer the entire Hawaiian islands if he built a heiau at Pu'ukohola. The National Parks brochure notes that Kamehameha formed a human chain 20 miles long to get the lava rocks to construct Pu'ukohola. They built the heiau literally stone-by-stone.
The first thing that strikes you is the sheer scale. 100 x 224 feet, with walls at least 10 feet tall. Each stone is at least the size of a small microwave and many times heavier. Hundreds of thousands were used. Moreover, all the walls and platforms were constructed without nails or mortar. In terms of architecture, it is one of the last examples of pure native Hawaiian architecture.
Pu'ukohola is a sacred site and is still used for ceremonies today. Stay on the path and don't take rocks as a souvenir. Their gift shop is well-stocked the the guides are very knowledgeable and friendly. Go this route.
Puako and Pu'ukohola can easily be explored in a single day with time to spare for Hapuna Beach. Admission is free. Unlike the busier, more touristy attractions like Volcano and Kealakekua Bay, Puako and Pu'ukohola are enclosed pockets of spiritual quiet, in almost a chicken-skin way. Well worth visiting for the feel-it-in-your-gut sense of what Hawaii is.
Eat Well. Be Well.
Ohia lehua growing in the lava fields
By request again, here's our full-day meander to the Hawaii Volcano National Park
. Eating explorations included the previously-mentioned Tex Drive Inn
in Honoka'a, a power-shopping stop at Big Island Delights
in Hilo and dinner at Huli Sue's
in Waimea. We made our own sandwiches and brought along some wasabi doritos
for lunch at the park.
Driving on the Big Island, while not far by Mainland standards, seems deceptively long. It's best to stay on the coastal roads (My sister calls it the "Circle Island Road.") It is lit and pretty well-maintained. Don't expect freeway speed, so give your lead-foot a rest. Finally, if you must drive Saddle Road, know that it can be a little treacherous. And at night, it can be flat-out dangerous and spooky.
Since we were staying north of Kona, we went around via Waimea, Honoka'a, Lapahoehoe, Keeau, Hilo, Mountain View and finally to Volcano and then back the same way. We left around 9:00 and got back around 10:00 pm.
First stop: Honoka'a Tex Drive Inn. Malasada and Rest Stop.
Look for the BIG sign on the left. Click here
for malasada assessment. Next stop: Hilo at Big Island Delights and another Rest Stop.
762-4 Kanoelehua Avenue (on the main road, in a small strip mall)
Hilo, Hawaii 96720www.bigislanddelights.com
A great place to stock up on local-kine snacks. Nothing says "I love you" quite like heart-shaped li-hing kaki mochi (arare).
Destination: Hawaii Volcano National Park
Volcano National Park is a 'chicken skin' place where you immediately realize and gain utmost respect for how powerful the earth and Madame Pele are. To make the most of your visit, here are our suggestions:
1) Bring your own food, good shoes (no slippers!) and flashlights. Food is very important because there are are no food places in the park or nearby. We were fully stocked with Tex malasadas, homemade sandwiches (no mayo because it is a long day) and wasabi Doritos. The spring water taps are a great way to refill your water bottles. No, you won't get sick from it. Volcanic filtering produces some of the cleanest water in the world.
2) Go to the Visitor Center first to decide what you want to do, and more importantly, to confirm what's open or closed off. Kilauea is very much alive and conditions vary daily. We did a 4-5 hour highlights tour.
3) Start easy with the steam and sulphur vents. This is a very short, flat walk on a clearly marked path/walkway. Get a free steam facial and clear out your sinuses too! Look along the ground for the sleeping grass too.
4) Take a hike. We chose Kilauea Iki, a moderate 4 miles with a 400 ft ascent/descent. You hike down into the Kilauea Iki crater, cross it and hike back up. The change in plant life from rainforest top of crater to steaming lava vents and no vegetation is amazing. It's also best to go in order of the trail markers (1-15), rather than reverse order, which you see first.
5) Check out the Thurston Lava Tubes. This is where the flashlight comes in. Half of the lava tubes is lit, and the other deeper half is a dark flashlight tour. There are times when the flashlight portion is closed off, but when it's open, it's a lot of fun. Just go slowly.
Dinner at Huli Sue's
On the way back to Kona, we stopped at Huli Sue's in Waimea. It's a family-oriented place with homestyle food. 4 grubby, hungry kids and 4 equally grubby and hungry parents would not have been a good scene at Merriman's! Next time...
Huli Sue's was the perfect place to end the day. Picnic tables and an easy-going atmosphere, plus hearty portions and friendly service. We all had a combination of BBQ, and one amazing seafood curry.
Just another day in Paradise. Eat Well. Be Well.
Kayaking to Kealakekua Bay
During the Super J's/Kalama's/Greenwell Farms
jaunt, we also visited two of the most amazing and historically significant places in Hawaii. Despite the big resorts, the Big Island is deeply imbued with native Hawaiian culture.
A few people asked to expand on the full (long) day trip. We started at 8:00 am from Kohala, kayaked and snorkeled in the morning, ate at Super J's, went to the Pu'uhonua o Honaunau in the afternoon, then to Kalama's and Greenwell Farms, and returned around 7pm.Morning Outing--Kayaking across Kealakekua Bay to the Captain Cook Monument
Kealakekua Bay is a very calm, very, very, VERY clear bay. It is where Captain James Cook became the first European to make landfall in Hawaii in January of 1778. There is a monument on a patch of land still officially owned by the British that marks where Capt. Cook landed, and another plaque where he "met his death" in 1779.
It is about a 1 mile kayak across the bay. Best to go in the morning, when the wind is down and the dolphins hang out. Here are some things to consider. And no, you can't 'just drive' there.
1) Use a licensed kayak organization. These businesses pay their taxes, keep records and take care to keep the Bay clean. Reward the good.
2) Get a landing permit. It's free and allows you to land your kayak legally on Captain Cook's monument. Not required, but in the interest of keeping the place clean and prevent over-crowding, again, do the right thing. On the smiting hand of the law side, if a park ranger asks for your landing permit and you don't have one, you're looking at a stiff fine.
3) Use the facilities at the dock before you go out, and don't litter. There are no facilities on the monument. It is generally considered Very, Very Bad Form to use the ocean as your restroom. Think about this--do you go fishing in your commode?
4) Snorkel away! It's some of the clearest, calmest water
you will ever find. Kayaking gives you a lot more time flexibility, versus the boat ride to Molokini on Maui, and there are far fewer people than Hanauma Bay on O'ahu.
After Lunch Outing--Pu'honua o Honaunau
This was once a residence for Hawaiian chiefs as well as a "City of Refuge." In ancient Hawaiian society, if you had broken kapu (law) but managed to make it to Pu'honua, after being chased, through the surf, reef and very sharp lava rocks, you were granted asylum.
Some of the walls and stonework date back to around 1550. When you go to Pu'u honua, or any native Hawaii site, be respectful. Think of it like visiting a church. The self-guided walking tour takes about an hour. The park rangers are very knowledgeable and it was interesting to listen to their talks.
1) If you are up for more snorkeling, there is a good spot just outside Pu'honua on the right, but it's best not to launch from the park. Go around instead.
2) Get a brochure and take the walking tour. Stay on the path and make sure you have sturdy shoes or thick slippers because some of the rocks are quite sharp.
3) Don't take anything from the site (like rocks). Get souvenirs from the gift shop instead.
So that was Day 1 on the Big Island. A great beginning to our vacation!