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Trip Report Big Island HAWAII: My 1st Swim with honu; Mauna Kea: Panic at 13,000 ft

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Big Island Hawaii 30th Anniversary Trip Report: January/February 2012:
My 1st Swim with "honu" green sea turtles; Mauna Kea: Romance & Panic at 13,000 feet

The Big Island of Hawaii is now my #1 favorite island in the world! (I have visited Kauai, Maui, Virgin Islands, St. Lucia, St. Kitts, and Dominica.) I love the Big Island. ((L)) The wide open spaces are refreshing to the spirit – natural features with stunning beauty, from the west coast where the dark volcanic rock meets the sea, to the awesome heights of Mauna Kea at 13,000 feet. The Big Island feels more "Hawaiian" and less touristy than the other islands, to us. We felt more in touch with Hawaii's history & cultural heritage on the Big Island.

Mauna Kea left me breathless at 13,000 feet, literally, =-o where I marveled at the view with cold wind whipping my face. I love the colors at Mauna Kea, where the 2 hills called “cinder cones” are streaked with a fire-red color. At night stars lit the sky, although the sky wasn't black due to the moon. I battled my fears to make it up to 13,000 feet to the highest mountain peak upon which I have ever stood. >:D< Reports of the terrors of Saddle Road to Mauna Kea are exaggerated, in our opinion. My husband drove us up Saddle Rd. to the summit at 13,000 feet, and I didn't feel nervous at all about the road itself; but the high altitude made me feel so breathless, I panicked and feared I was having a heart attack! (More details to follow.)

Hawaii Volcanoes National park is a treasure! We didn't see lava flow at the time of our visit, but we loved the volcano for its majesty & beauty...stark and mighty, a glimpse of the powers of creation of the islands. The eerie glow of the lava lake in the center of the smoking crater behind the Jaggar Museum is especially beautiful at night, with stars winking overhead. (Halema'uma'u Crater behind Jaggar Museum.) On our next trip to the Big Island we will return to Volcanoes National Park.


We spent 5 delightful nights at the Shipman House B&B in Hilo on the green, lush, and rainy east side of the island. The island was experiencing a drought and it barely rained at all during our visit. I love Hilo which is a local community, and the locals outnumber the tourists, which is very refreshing. There are lots of interesting local cafes & shops in Hilo.

Shipman House B&B
131 Kaiulani Street, Hilo, Big Island

Breakfast at Shipman House B&B in Hilo was a fabulous treat we looked forward to for every one of our 5 mornings at the B&B, with an unsurpassed offering of a gorgeous fresh tropical fruit platter artfully displaying a delicious rainbow of fresh tropical fruit. Fresh lilikoi butter (passion fruit) was made every morning, and it is addicting when spread on a slice of gently toasted Portuguese sweet bread, or on a whole wheat English muffin. Healthy oatmeal or quinoa was also offered, along with yogurt, wonderful home-made macadamia nut granola, hard-boiled eggs, cheese, and a different home-made baked treat each morning.

The tropical fruit was fresh and local and exquisitely ripened...much of it grown right on the grounds of Shipman House. My husband and I both miss the Shipman breakfasts, and I long for a return visit to the Big Island just to feast on the addicting tropical breakfasts! There were a dozen different tropical fruits at breakfast each morning, and the supply of fruit seemed unending, so we could have seconds of our favorite fruits. I was delighted by the sweet papaya with a scoop of passion fruit and a squeeze of a lime-like fruit.

I'm a foodie so I had to gush about the breakfast! We had booked 2 nights in a cottage room at Shipman, and 3 nights in Aunt Carrie's room in the main house. Both rooms were lovely and comfortable, with queen beds, and ensuite showers with an overhead shower head plus a hand-held personal shower.

Shipman B&B has 5 guest rooms...3 in the house and 2 in the duplex cottage. On our next visit I will be happy to book any of the rooms that have a Queen bed. If you are choosing...the airy cottage rooms have more of a feeling of romantic seclusion, even though they are close to the house; while lovely Aunt Carrie's room in the main house has a slightly better shower, and being in the main house makes it convenient to explore the very interesting main house. (Note: even though the 2 duplex cottage rooms are connected, we never heard a peep out of the other couple in the other cottage room! It felt very private.) I'm happy to answer questions.


We also splurged on a deluxe ocean view room for 4 nights at the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel along the Kohala Coast on the west side of the island, to celebrate our 30th anniversary. (I must say that we enjoyed the Shipman House B&b in Hilo equally as much as we enjoyed the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel, and I recommend them both for a romantic anniversary celebration!)

At the Mauna Lani, we ended up being “upgraded” to an ocean-view suite, since the type of room we had booked was full...we had booked a deluxe ocean view room with King bed. I had to be rather assertive to get this upgrade. The suite was much bigger than the room would have been, although the suite was further back from the ocean, it did have a lovely view. We couldn't hear the ocean from our room, which was disappointing, but I had expected this.

The Mauna Lani is a luxury resort with a laid-back atmosphere, and a lot of “freebies” (free parking, free lounge chairs & cabanas; free water bottles in room; free guided tour of the ancient fish ponds; free rental of snorkel equipment for 4 hours; free Hawaiian musical entertainment & story-telling outside at twilight on Saturday night...)

The snorkeling on the Mauna Lani's beach in winter was good. I was thrilled to encounter my very first “honu” (green sea turtle) while snorkeling with my husband! We saw a total of 3 honu (green sea turtles) while snorkeling at the Mauna Lani's beach. From the Mauna Lani hotel we also walked to the beach at the Beach Club, for more snorkeling.

Mauna Lani Bay Hotel
68-1400 Mauna Lani Drive, Kohala Coast, Island of Hawaii

Snorkeling at the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel's beach & Two-Step:

I'm awash with lovely memories of the warm tropical embrace of the Big Island of Hawaii. I slid into the water in front of the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel, and floated along on my noodle, snorkeling. I was thrilled with my first “honu” encounter...swimming with the green sea turtle! I floated above him, and watched him eating. I swam with a total of 3 honu on this trip. I saw a variety of colorful fish and sea urchins.

Snorkeling at the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel's beach was adventurous enough for me. My husband also enjoyed even better snorkeling at Two-Step near the Place of Refuge on the west coast, and he was fascinated to watch an octopus change colors and swim. Two-Step is evidently one of the better spots to snorkel in the winter. However I couldn't bring myself to go into the water at Two-Step, as I panic if I fear being trapped in the water, and I don't like to snorkel where you have to enter and exit the water on a rocky coast. The Mauna Lani's beach was better for me, as you can enter the water from anyplace along the beach. Someday I'd like to try snorkeling from a boat in a sheltered cove.

Coming Up Next: Perfect Moments; Highlights, Disappointments; best Meals...and my experience & opinion about driving up Saddle Road, up to the Mauna Kea summit at 13,000 feet.

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