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.
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 96720
A great place to stock up on local-kine snacks. Nothing says "I love you" quite like heart-shaped li-hing kaki mochi (arare).
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.
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.