Sunday, May 11, 2014

Hawaii: Part One

We are back from a week-long trip in Hawaii!  Long-time friends will note my last full week off was when D and I went to Ireland.  Which will be ten years ago as of July - FAR too long for an actual vacation for us!

We vacationed on the Big Island, flying into Kona last Saturday.  We had decided to rent a house for the week, which was actually much closer to Hilo (on the eastern coast), but since we were trying to use D's points with Delta to cover the tickets, we took what we could get and that got us into Kona.  Knowing we'd have about 3 hrs of driving across the island, we also used some of his Hilton points (yeah... he travelled a lot last year), and stayed at the Hilton Waikolola Resort for a night after we first arrived.  We got upgraded to a lovely oceanview room with a balcony for our 1-night stay there.

We woke up to some gorgeous early morning sunlight and hung out for a while on our balcony.  This is really a stunning resort - tons of walking trails and multiple restaurants and some of the few sandy beaches in the area (most are the volcanic rock).  We took our time getting packed up and then headed east through the grassland areas that raise Kona beef, and continued on to the east coast, south of Hilo.

Our rental house was just one lot away from Kehena Beach, which is about 10 miles south of the small (and funky) town of Pahoa.  The beach isn't exactly a "beach".  There is a space with black sand that's about the length of a half football field, but you have to clamber down a pretty steep set of rocks to get there.  It doesn't stop the locals, but D and I aren't really beach lovers anyway, so we were mostly looking for a secluded place near the water to relax and enjoy the week.

Here's the current view from our front deck of the house we rented - a much nicer view apparently since about 2 years ago the lot between our rental and the water fell off into the ocean, taking the structure with it.

The roofline you see over at the left is a covered portico to park the car under since the area is surrounded by coconut palms, banana palms and papaya trees, which have a habit of dropping fruits to the ground in the winds off the ocean.  It was glorious to wake up in the mornings and hear the ocean crashing against the rocks right across the street.  If you walked onto the now-empty lot, here's the view of the coastline and Kehena Beach to your left.

Monday, we mostly took it easy, puttering around the house, doing a bit of grocery shopping, reading a lot.  

Tuesday, we signed up for a great personalized tour from one of the locals.  She's a massage therapist and personal trainer, but Dawn-Marie also does 4-wheel drive tours of some gorgeous out-of-the-way locations, so she picked us up around 9:30 on Tuesday a.m. and took us to five of her favorite spots for snorkeling and seeing the sites.  We hiked through coconut groves and under towering ironwood trees, and she pointed out some of the local sea life - she cautioned us against damaging certain types of coral in the tidepools, pointed out a couple of giant green sea turtles, showed us some crispy citrusy-salty seaweed that was good to eat - and then took us out to some private land she has permission to tour. 

The drive out was amazing itself - I wish I had better photos, but it was a muddy 2-track that we were jostled around on while we drive under a maze of low-lying, intertwined branches.  It was like something out of The Shire - gorgeous and green and lush, but like being in an underground tunnel at the same time.  We came out onto a gorgeous black rock coastline with tons of little hidden inlets of water, where you could safely swim and snorkel.  D jumped right in and tried the water out.

The area has an amazing natural arch formed at the end of a lava tube, and we sat and watched the ocean crash against that for a while, then finally hiked back to the car.  Dawn-Marie obviously knows and loves the area.  She had all kinds of local information to share with us, from native plant life, to native terms and customs important to the local folks.   A busy but VERY fun day!

We capped the evening off with an ordered-in sampler tasting menu from a local caterer (who lives right behind the rental house, so she walked over the trays of delicious-smelling foods - from pork steamed in banana leaves, Kona beef, and a deconstructed local-caught Ahi tuna sushi, to a hand-made macadamia nut ice cream), shared a nice bottle of wine, and enjoyed the company of the local green gecko population (who were mostly outside, but also quite friendly and didn't mind perching on the interior walls to hang out with us in the evenings either!).

More to come.......

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