Part 1 of this pair of posts concerned our visit to Maui, which wildly exceeded our expectations!
Here is a map of the Big Island, thanks to Google Earth, and annotated by myself, to show some of the places mentioned below.
We flew in to Hilo, to start our visit of the Big Island. Again, we rented a car and planned to camp out as much as possible as we toured the island. But first, we stayed a short while in Hilo, which is located on the wet side of the island.
We found Hilo to be a very pleasant town. Our first outing from Hilo was south down the coast, with a stop at the Kapoho tide pools. These pools are found in an inundated lava flow, and make fun snorkeling.
We continued to the south, to the town of Kalapana, which was located along the eastern edge of the lava flows that emanate from Kilauea, in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. This eastern edge was active, and was encroaching upon the town. The town was destroyed the next year: “In the Puna District, in 1990, lava from Kilauea volcano engulfed Kalapana, a historic Hawaiian fishing village and residential area, as well as the famous black sand beach at Kaimu. Pele, the volcano goddess, also destroyed Hawaii’s oldest heiau (temple), two subdivisions and several miles of public highway. No lives were lost, but 182 homes were swallowed by lava. Today there’s an entirely new coastline here with a few poignant traces of the town that once thrived here. A visit to Kalapana is a sobering reminder of the raw power of Pele.” (www. gohawaii.com)
We returned to Hilo, and next day drove uphill to Hawaii Volcanoes NP.
The Visitor Center, at 3980′, is located adjacent to the main Kilauea caldera, and contains the Halemaumau crater, which was not active in 1989, but is now occupied by a lava lake.
Offerings to Pele, at the rim of Halemaumau Crater:
Off to the side of the main caldera is Kilauea Iki crater:
And the Thurston Lava Tube:
We set up our tent at a nearby park campground, and next hiked out on the Napau Trail. This trail took us first to Pu’u Huluhulu, a crater that contains lush vegetation:
With the enveloping mist and strangeness of the landscape, we had no idea of the dimensions of Mauna Ulu, but decided to walk up to its summit crater next.
Next up was a drive on the Chain of Craters Road, which would take us down to the coast.
Views from the top of the cliffs:
Where the road descends the pali, or cliff, are fabulous displays of ropy pahoehoe lava, contrasted with aa lava.
The variations are practically endless:
The sun came out for the following shots:
After I spent a LOT of time photographing the ropy lava, we descended to the coast, and found a campground in a palm grove located alongside a black sand beach.
Then we continued along the road towards the western margin of the current lava flow, and were stopped at the point that the lava had flowed across the road the day before:
Exquisite patterning in ropy lava:
Towards evening, the ranger shooed us away, and we returned to the campground, which was not far back down the road. Not long after, we returned on foot to this closest area of flows, anticipating the REAL show.
Glowing lava and pink plumes of steam, in the last light of day and the illumination provided by the full moon.
As it darkened the steam plumes turned orange.
We then carefully worked our way up to the edge of the nearest flow. In the moonlight, the freshest lava glistened brightly and was easy to distinguish from the older lava, which was safe to walk upon.
Getting right up next to flowing lava is one of those experiences of nature that should not be missed!
We continued south from the national park towards South Point, and stopped at Punaluʻu Beach Park. There we snorkeled and saw turtles, and turtle nesting spots that were cordoned off.
We didn’t spend much time in Kona, and found a largely deserted beach park to the north (probably Hapuna Beach Park) to spend the night. There, we were accosted by a dozen or more feral cats, who, we discovered, ate spaghetti! We continued a little ways past the northernmost point on the island, to the Pololu overlook, where we took a short hike down to the beach. This where the roadless portion of the northern coastline begins, ending at the Waipio Valley at the other (eastern) end.
From Pololu, we traveled south and then east, taking the Saddle Road, between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea, back to Hilo. The saddle is at 6700′. As we descended towards Hilo, we were returning to the wet side of the island and the vegetation quickly thickened. From there, and to complete our circumnavigation of the island, we drove the other part of the north coast to the Waipio Valley.
We found a cabin at a forest reserve on the return to Hilo.
Next we visited the Memorial to those killed in the tsunami of 1946, at Laupahoehoe:
Akaka Falls was further to the south:
What spectacular sights we saw! We would return to the Big Island in 1997, in the company of Kathy’s folks, Rainie and Raymond.