Big Island Trip Report May 2005

Old Jun 10th, 2005, 04:45 PM
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Big Island Trip Report May 2005

We spent the first 4 days of our trip on Kauia then flew to Kona, BI

Day 4 continued- We arrived at the Edge of the World B&B in Captain Cook about 5:00 PM. Traffic between the airport and the B&B was awful. It took an hour to go 17 miles. Luckily that’s the only place we really hit traffic the entire trip. The B&B is on a 5 acre, family run farm that grows coffee beans and macadamia nuts. The owners were really nice and the house was gorgeous. Our room was appropriately named the Crow’s Nest. It was a separate floor at the top of the house (surprise) and we had a private bath, king bed, futon sofa, TV, DVD player (and DVDs), walk-in closet, mini-fridge (and use of one shelf of their main fridge) and a private deck overlooking the valley and the bay below- absolutely gorgeous. We also had the use of their boogie boards, masks, snorkels, reef shoes, fins, beach chairs, washer/dryer and could take any fruit we wanted off their trees. Downstairs they had a large wrap around deck with a double hammock, grill. All this and breakfast for $100/night- you can’t go wrong. I could easily chill at a place like this but too much to see and do!

Once we got the car unloaded we took a 10-15 min drive down to the Pu-uhonua o Honaunau (aka Place of Refuge). There wasn’t a lot to the place but it was very pretty, especially the way the late afternoon sun hits the palm trees and structures there. There is a nice place to picnic right on the water at the south end of the park. There is a lava tube that dumps out into the water over there but a sign was posted that it was closed pending geological assessment of cracks in the roof of the tube. Based on their speed in repairing roads in Koke’e, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for that one.

The best part for me was the great snorkeling at Two Step , immediately north of the Place of Refuge. Just after you turn off the highway into the park, there is a one way street that goes about a block and then turns right at the water. Just park anywhere you can along the street. There is a lava bench 15-20 feet off the beach. On the far left side it literally has two steps in the lava bench where you can access the water. There were lots of coral, colored fish and sea turtles and it was soooo easy to access. When you leave just follow that street out and you will land back onto highway 160.

We stayed there until after sunset and made it to the restaurant at the Manago Hotel just before they closed. The place reminded me of an old restaurant out of the 50’s, complete with 50 year old tables and chairs. I had pan-fried pork chops and Wayne had pan fried Opelu (it was a whole fish, panfried). Tasted just like grandma used to cook on those heavy cast iron skillets. The side dishes were served family style and were kind of unusual. They had potato/macaroni salad, rice, pickled fern stalks (they had an official name that I can’t remember) and some corn combo. Everything was good. The waitress came by and asked if we had tried the “chili water” with the fish. I’d never heard of that one before. It was a jar with water, vinegar, and some other seasonings with whole red chilies floating on top. Smelled like watered down Tabasco to me. She got a little bowl and mixed some chili water with soy sauce and told him to dip the fish in that. My husband tried it and started putting chili water on everything.

Day 5- Captain Cook, Big Island
Kurt has a friend that lets him rent out his double kayak for only $20/day. Not only was that less than half what the rental places were charging but since it was right there at the house, we could hit the water way before anyone else. We got up at 7 am and Kurt helped us load the kayak on the car. Then we drove 15 minutes to the kayak launch at Kealakekua Bay. Unfortunately they have closed off the parking lot there so we had to drop off the kayak and then my husband drove off to find a place to park. Good thing we were there early. It then took us about 30 minutes to kayak the mile out to Captain Cook Monument. There’s supposed to be a lot of spinner dolphins along the way but we didn’t see any that day. We pulled our kayak up on the shore at the lava benches, checked out the monument and then went snorkeling. The water was very clear and the reef was in pretty shallow water so we could see a lot. We saw an eel that was about 6 feet long. About 9:30, 4 or 5 raft boat tours came and it got a lot more crowded. We headed back across the bay around 11:30. No dolphins again ;-(. After loading the kayak, we made a quick trip back to Two Step while I had my camera set up for underwater so I could get some pics of the turtles. I was swimming around looking for them and was just about to go to the car to get my fins when I almost swam right into one. He swam around me for about 5 minutes until I got out.

Next stop Hapuna Beach. Traffic was bad up until the airport again. It took us about 75 minutes to get there. My husband read a book while I boogie boarded for a couple of hours. The waves weren’t great but there were still some good ones every once in a while that would bring me to the shore. The surf was low our entire trip.

Next we headed up to Kohala Mountain Rd and drove to Pololu Lookout. This area was kid of like the Napali Coast on Kauai. We hiked 15 minutes down to the Pololu black sand beach below. It’s way too rough to swim but it’s a pretty beach and the black sand is fun to see.

We took the coast road back and could see the outline of Maui off in the distance at sunset. First I thought the clouds were blocking the other side then I realized that I just wasn’t looking far enough over. That is one BIG mountain. The whole west side of the Big Island island is pretty barren. All along the highway for miles and miles you see rock graffiti where people line up white stones on the black lava to make messages. We had a nice dinner at Teshima’s Japanese Restaurant near Captain Cook and called it a day.

Day 6- Volcano, Big Island
After a delicious breakfast of fresh fruit and pineapple pancakes we left the B&B and headed toward Volcanoes National Park. First we stopped at South Point (the southernmost point of the US). The water was a gorgeous blue there. It is so windy there that all the tree branches grow to one side there. We also passed the Kanoa Wind Farm. It sure looked rundown. Several of the windmills were missing propellers. It was cool to get out of the car and listen to them. They made a sound kind like what you hear when the aborigines swing their hollow gourds. Then we drove a few miles down to Punalu Black Sand Beach. It’s the easiest black sand beach to access and it was on the way to Volcano National Park so it was pretty crowded with Japanese tour buses. Someone said you can see lots of turtles there but we didn’t see any. We’d gotten pretty spoiled having most places to ourselves and wanted to beat the buses to Volcano so we didn’t stay long.

Next stop Volcano National Park. We stopped at the visitors center and asked about walking out to the lava flows. The woman took one look at me and said it wasn’t worth the trip- HA! She doesn’t know me. We got instructions anyway: 3 miles out to the flow, the first mile clearly marked, the rest of the way you’re more or less on your own. We then drove Crater Rim Drive and checked out the steam vents and walked the short trail to the sulphur banks. Maybe we were just lucky with the wind but the sulphur banks didn’t smell nearly as bad as parts of Yellowstone. The Jagger museum had some very interesting displays. By the time we drove the full circle and checked out all the lookouts I’d had my fill of seeing barren craters so we headed over to Kilauea Lodge to check in. The room was very nice and the grounds were lovely. My husband loved the towel warmers. They have loaner flashlights so we brought them along as spares for our trek to the lava flows.

About 4:30 we headed over to Phai Thai for dinner. They had mild, medium, hot and Thai hot. My husband ordered his “Thai Hot” and the waitress told him he didn’t want Thai Hot, he just wanted hot. When he insisted, she asked if he had been to Thailand. She finally caved in and then had to convince the cook that he wanted Thai hot. My husband says good Thai food makes your lips burn, great Thai food makes your eyes water. This was making his eyes water. Mine too and I only had medium! After about 4 bites I started scraping those little red bits off my food and soaking my tongue in my glass of ice water.

Kurt had recommended that we head out to the lava flows about 2 hours before sunset and I would agree with that. You don’t want to have to walk in the dark both ways and you want to get pictures of the steam at ocean entry before it gets too dark. Unfortunately there was no place to get food any earlier so we didn’t get down to the end of Chain of Carters road until 6:00 PM (sunset was 7:30) AND we had to park almost a mile from the trailhead. It took us 1 hour, 50 minutes to walk the 3 miles out to the flow and 2 ½ hours to walk back (probably 4 miles the way we zigzagged ;-). It wasn’t particularly difficult, just a long way over rocks and boulders. They weren’t slippery or unstable, they just went on forever and it was REALLY dark out there coming back. The moon didn’t even come up until about 11:30. On the way back we saw more stars than you can imagine.

It was definitely worth the trip. As you walk down Chain of Craters Rd you reach a point where the lava flows cross the road. Off in the distance, we saw the steam clouds where the
lava enters the ocean. About an hour out, we could see scattered red stripes along the hillside
and some red glow under the steam at water’s edge. We finally walked up to the edge of a bluff with lava flowing like a stream below. When we first got there we saw small flows of lava hitting the ocean and making steam clouds. Once in awhile we’d see sparks fly up along with the steam. We could see some lava flowing about 100 feet up the ridge so we walked up there. Someone said it was all crusted over and grey 20 minutes earlier, then it started oozing and flowing. When we got there the top looked like a giant fireman’s hose pumping out golden lava. You could watch floating glowing lumps in the lava stream. The flow would slow as it got farther from the source and some would start to cool and crust over. Then another burst would come and the lava stream would creep farther and break through the crusted area. We stayed for about an hour hoping the leading edge of the main flow would make it to the edge and go into the water. It kept getting closer but we finally gave up and headed back.

On the way out to the lava flows, you could just follow the trail of people going through the lava fields. However, on the way back it was so dark that we couldn’t see anyone else within about 30 seconds. They have some warning signs to keep you off lava benches on the ocean side and away from the mountain flow on the other side but that leaves a wide path in between. After about an hour of trying to stay between the beach and the hillsides we finally figured out that they have flashing beacons about every ¼ mile. The lava creates rolling hills so you can’t see them a lot of the time but we’d just try to realign whenever we got to a high point. We finally got to the trailhead at around 11:45 and Wayne left me with the backpack while he went for the car. As I was waiting for him I turned toward the lava flow and noticed that the hill directly behind the visitor’s center were glowing red with lava. It’s a darn good thing we saw that big stream of lava after walking all the way out there because I would have been really mad if I only saw the glowing hills just like the ones I could see from right there! It sure felt good to hit the shower and go to bed that night!

Day 7- Volcano
We had breakfast at the Lodge. You got a choice of French toast (one each mango, plain and taro), eggs or pancakes. I recommend the French toast. You can get eggs anywhere. Next we headed over to the Thurston Lava Tubes before the tour buses showed up. Those were pretty cool. They have lights up in the first section of the Thurston lava tubes. Then there’s another section of a couple hundred yards where you can go with your flashlights. It looks like the early beginnings of stalagmites and stalagtites that are just little stubbles to the side if the tubes away from foot traffic. When you get to the end, you can turn out your flashlight to see (or not see) TOTAL darkness.

Next we took the Kilauea Iki Trail across the crater of the same name. It took 2 ½ hours to make the loop. It was neat going from jungle to lava and to see the ferns and other plants starting to come back through the lava rocks. The base of the crater reminded me of a pan of brownies when you take them out too soon and you get a crust that collapses and cracks. I think I would have been just as happy walking down to the base of the crater, taking a peak and going back up, rather than walking all the way across the base of the crater and back up the other side.

Next we hiked the first mile of the Napau Crater Trail (off Chain of Carters Rd) to the Pu’u Huluhulu Crater. There’s a field of tree molds right near the beginning of the trail, then you walk through fairly monotonous lava flows until it become a jungle again right before you get to the Pu’u Huluhulu. The trail climbs up to a lookout platform above the crater where you can see the landscape all 360 degrees around. Very cool. Although everything around the crater was pretty barren, the Pu’u Huluhulu crater looked like the middle of a jungle full of ferns and trees. From the lookout you could also see steam coming from the Pu’u O’o vent in the distance and the nearby Mauna Ulu crater that erupted from 69-74.

Volcanoed out, we headed to the Kapaho Tidepools, almost the farthest point east on the island, about a mile off highway 137. This is a maze of lava tidepools right next to a subdivision. We didn’t see as many fish there but there was a fairly deep pool near the center that had the best coral I’ve seen in Hawaii, Cancun, Isla Mujeres or Akumal. All shapes and colors: lavender, blue, green, yellow- really cool! I wish I had brought my underwater camera housing with me. They say there are more fish in the pools closer to the ocean but we didn’t have our fins with us so I didn’t want to get too close. There was a fun current running through the pools parallel to the shore. Too bad we had to swim against it to get back.

Next stop was the Ahalanui Beach Park 2 –3 miles down the road. This is a man-made spring and ocean fed pool, volcanically heated to ~ 95 degrees. Like the rest of our stay, the surf had been pretty low so it wasn’t getting much spillover from the ocean side. I don’t like being hot so we didn’t stay long but I’m sure some people would love it. On the ocean side of the retaining wall, you could see turtles floating in the waves as they were munching on algae growing on the rocks

We headed down to the end of Chain of Craters Rd where the 1990 lava flows buried the town of Kalapana and a famous black sand beach at Kaimu. The guidebook says you can walk out 1/3 mile to a new black sand beach that has been developed but there were warning signs and we we’d already seen two black sand beaches so we didn’t bother.

On our way back to Kilauea Lodge we stopped by the natural lava steam rooms. Heading north on highway 130, there is a pullover on the right side of the road just before the 15 mile marker. If you walk down the hill along a narrow trail you’ll see a bunch of little trails wandering off. These trails go to individual lava holes of varying size. Rain collects in this area and is heated into steam and collects in these holes. The deepest “room” supposedly has ladder to help people get in and out. A guy came out of one of the holes while we were there and showed us to one of the popular rooms. Wayne went inside first. It was a little awkward to get in because the opening was small, rough and elevated. The one we went inside would easily hold 3 or 4 people. It had a grass mat over the top opening to keep the steam in and wooden benches inside! Again, I don’t like getting hot so we didn’t stay long but it felt exactly like the real McCoy.

The guidebook and the man that showed us to the steam room said that you could get the easiest view of the Pu’u O’o vent from the road across from the Hirano Store on hwy 11, right before the 20 mile marker. Since it was close to the hotel we decided to check it out. We couldn’t see anything but it was a little hazy.

We had reservations for dinner at the Kilauea Lodge. I was really looking forward to it because everyone, including friends of ours, raved about the food there. Well…it sucked. Wayne had Ono (wahoo) with mango chutney and macadamia nut sauce. He said the sauce was good but the fish was very dry. I had some eggplant dish that sounded similar to something I loved in San Francisco but the sauce tasted burnt or something. I’m not sure what you do in a situation like that but, whimp that I am, I just shut up and ate it. To add insult to injury the bread was the consistency of biscuits, but without the flavor, and Wayne’s caramel macadamia nut dessert tasted like toffee instead of caramel. What a bummer. The only saving grace was that the service was good and they didn’t mess up my triple chocolate cake!

Since it was supposed to be easiest to see the Pu’u O’o vent at night and it seemed really clear after dinner, we went back to the road by the Hirano store again to try and see it. No such luck. We looked in every direction so I’m not sure if it wasn’t doing anything at that time or we just weren’t looking in the right place but we decided to give up trying ;-( Can’t complain too much since we saw that good lava flow the night before.

Day 8- Waipi’o Valley
After breakfast we headed north to Hilo. First stop was Rainbow Falls. You need to be there in the morning to see the rainbows in the spray. We were there about 9:00 AM and saw a little bit of a rainbow but the sun was already pretty high so I’d try to get there even earlier. A short trip down the road brings you to Boiling Pots and Pe’epe’e Falls. The Boiling Pots weren’t boiling because the water level was too low. You can see part of the Pe’epe’e Falls from the Boiling pot lookout but there’s another set of falls around the corner and a much better view if you hike down there (if the water isn’t too strong). There is a little trail to the left of the lookout. Once you get to the stream at the bottom, try to cross the rocks as soon as you can. Do NOT follow the trail that stays on the same side and then goes back up the hill. That is very steep and comes to a dead end. When we were there, a couple and their dog swam across the middle pond to get to the last pond where the falls are. I’m not sure what that would be like if the water was high.

On the left side of the bridge less than a mile down the road is Wai’ale Falls. There are two bridges but you can only see the falls from the first. There is a path just to the right of the bridge that will take you to the top of the lower falls.

Next stop Kaumana Caves. Heading back toward Hilo, you turn right on Kaumana Drive (200) and go about 3 miles. This is a lava tube where the roof has broken through. Since this part of the island gets heavy rainfall, this open portion of the lava tube has developed dense jungle-like vegetation. A stairway leads down into the open area, then the lava tubes revert back to rock caves but with roots hanging down several feet from the ceiling. If you bring a flashlight you can explore further in the tube caves. They run 2 miles and open into some large rooms.

Next stop Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens. They have tons of gorgeous plants that I’ve never seen or heard of before. It takes about an hour to walk the grounds. They also have a nice waterfall and scenic ocean views. They have 3 pairs of McCaws in cages and they’re getting ready to build an aviary

We had just enough time to sneak in a stop at Akaka Falls State Park before we had to be in Waipi’o Valley for a wagon ride. The circle path that takes you to the smaller Kahuna Falls, then Akaka Falls takes about 20 minutes. You can just go to Akaka Fall in about 5 minutes.

We got the last wagon ride into Waipi’o Valley at 3:30. My friend recommended the trail ride but it was already booked for Sat when I called. FYI nothing runs on Sun there so take that into consideration in your planning. They take you down into the valley in a 4WD van and then you ride the Mule drawn wagon around the valley. Our guide was originally from England and had lived in Waipi’o for 25 years. It was a decent 2 hour tour with nice views and a good deal of historical background.

We spent our last two nights at a cottage in Waip’o Valley our last two nights. It had an amazing view overlooking Waipi’o Valley. The cottage was open with a kitchen and dining area on one side and Queen sofabed and Queen size platform bed on the other with a screen separating the bed from the living area. All the entries in their guest book were very positive and at $75 per night for 2 or more nights, it was a deal but it is out in the boondocks. There’s only a couple of restaurants in the area so you if you don’t want to cook, you may have have to drive to Waimea for variety. It would be a great place to just chill out. We drove to Hapuna Beach in about 45 min and Mauna Kea in 90 minutes so it wasn’t too inconvenient. There are supposed to be some good hiking trails along the back ridge of the valley but I was all hiked out by then. You CAN’T drive into the valley without 4WD and there’s no way I’d walk it. There is a black sand beach in the valley if you can get to it but they said the water is usually too rough to go in. This si the only place we had trouble with mosquitos and they had the wildest sounding frogs I’ve ever heard. .

We had a nice Italian dinner at the Café Il Mondo in Honoka’a. It’s so funny to go to restaurants in these old places. I went to the bathroom and there was no sink in the ladies room. The only sink was in the men’s room. Luckily men seldom use the bathroom so it wasn’t a big deal but it was kind of strange to walk into a bathroom with two urinals on the wall to wash your hands. The food was good and they had a married couple that show up every Sat evening and play cello and guitar. We didn’t recognize any of the songs but they sounded good. Then at the suggestion of the wagon guide and the guidebook, we stopped at Tex’s Drive In for the “best” malasadas. I didn’t see what the big deal was. They were doughnuts! Hot Krispy Cremes beat them hands down.

Day 9- Mauna Kea
This was our last full day. We decided to check out Mauna Kea Beach in the morning and then head up to the visitor’s center on Mauna Kea for the U of H tour of the observatories. The public parking at the Mauna Kea hotel was already full at 9:20 am so we went back to Hapuna Beach just 2 miles down the road. The surf was even calmer this time so I went snorkeling along the reef on the left side of the beach while Wayne read. I love just floating in the water breathing whenever you want to ;-) I found some sea turtles so I went and got Wayne. At 11:00 we rinsed off and headed up to Mauna Kea for the 1:00 UH tour of the observatories (every Sat and Sun, free). You watch a one hour video at the visitor’s center (at 9200 feet) to get you acclimated to the altitude before you go to the summit. Then they take a caravan of 4 WD vehicles up to the summit and take you into at least one observatory. Our tour went to Keck One (10 meter scope) and the U of H 2.2 M scope. We didn’t have 4 WD so we got there at about 12:30 and asked a couple of they’d give us ride and we’d give them money for gas and expenses. The couple was very nice and we had a lot of fun.

Although they do require 4WD to go on the UH summit tour (because they are responsible for you then), the guide said you don’t have to have it otherwise as long as you know how to drive in the mountains and the roads are clear. The couple that took us up said the road was much better than stuff she regularly drove in her 2WD in Colorado. It’s not that step and it’s paved most of the way. They both were amazed at Mauna Kea. They said it was different than Pike’s Peak and the other peaks they’ve climbed in CO because it was so clear up there. When the tour ended at 4:45, they asked if we wanted to stay up there for the sunset and we said YES! We spent the next 2 ½ hours putzing around up top. We hiked to the summit at 13796 feet (just a short hike down and back up a hill near the observatory) and we had a snowball fight and made a mini- snowman from the snow on the north face of the summit. Then we drove a little way down the mountain and hiked out to the permafrost Lake Wai-au. We were at 13,796 for over 4 hours and I even did fine hiking around up here (no way I could have made that at the beginning of the trip though). The summit was 40 degrees and windy when we went up. It was pretty comfortable with a couple of t-shirts, a fleece jacket and two pairs of pants but it got cold FAST once the sun started going down. We stayed in the car to keep warm in between taking pictures of the remarkable sunset.

After sunset we went back down to the visitor’s center for stargazing. They have telescopes set up around the visitor’s center until 10 PM every night for people to look through. We saw Saturn through one telescope. It looked fake- a white ball with a white disc around it. Someone gave a star tour with a laser pointer from 8:00 -8:15 (as it was getting dark). However there are SO many stars in the sky, it was hard to find even the easy constellations. Then as I was watching the star tour I started getting a bad headache, couldn’t walk straight and felt nauseous so I told my husband we needed to leave. Shortly after we got in the car, we had to pull over and I got sick but STILL felt awful. 5-10 minutes down the mountain and I started feeling better. I’m pretty sure that was altitude sickness even though it was long after hiking around up top and after coming down from the summit. It was very strange, especially since before hiking while waiting for the sunset, I asked the ranger if we’d be having signs of altitude sickness by then if it was going to be a problem. He said we should be fine if we made it that long. The only thing I can think of is that tilting my head back to look at the stars was restricting blood flow to my head causing my O2 level to drop even more since everything hit me just a few minutes after I started looking up at the stars.

I wish we could have stayed a little longer and gotten to peek through some more telescopes but wasn’t too upset since we had a 90 minute drive back to the cottage and had to head back to the airport at 6:00 am for our flight to Oahu. Luckily we made it into the drive thru at McD’s just as they were closing so we could get some food. Unlike the mainland, they don’t have groceries stores or fast food restaurants open all day and night. Most places are mom and pop shops and close down early. It’s great to get the variety, you just have to make sure you don’t starve to death when you’re playing hard.

BTW, Saddle Road is absolutely fine, although narrow. It is 2 lanes wide and paved. The outer 3-4 feet of each lane is cracked a lot so we stayed in the middle of the road most of the time, but there’s very little traffic so it’s not that big a deal. When we were there, they had a sign posted that “realligning” the road and it was supposed to take a year. I don’t remember when/if they said it was supposed to start/finish. I didn’t see any sign of construction.

We packed up and drove to the airport first thing the next morning. For a perfect ending to a perfect vacation, I was sitting on the left side of the plane on the flight to the mainland and got some nice shots of Honolulu and Diamondhead and then a beautiful sunset . It doesn’t get any better than that.

mdod is offline  
Old Jun 10th, 2005, 05:57 PM
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Aaalohhhaaaa... WOW mdod. What a great trip you had. I enjoyed the Kauai report as well. You weren't kidding when you said you were on the "move". Great report. Many mahalos for sharing your memories!
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Old Jun 10th, 2005, 06:52 PM
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Thank you for that very detailed trip report! I especially enjoyed reading the Volcanoes Nat'l Park portion of your trip, very helpful for our visit next month. My husband is determined to hike to the lava also, no matter how long it takes! The problem is that I'm afraid it will be difficult with kids along, especially the way back in the dark.

We are also staying at the Kilauea Lodge for two nights, probably will not eat dinners there since the menu does not seem very kid friendly. Which type of room did you have there? We have a room in the lodge and they will supply two futons for the kids. Was your room spacious, or do you think adding futons would have been crowded?

Did you think the Waipio Valley trip was worth it? We have reservations to do the horseback trip. It seems like a lot of money, I hope the scenery is spectacular enough to justify the expense!
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Old Jun 10th, 2005, 06:59 PM
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Great report! I am headed to the Big Island in 2 weeks...I was wondering - when you visited the Thurston Lava Tube and then did the Kilauea Iki hike (which we are also planning to do) - did you have to drive to a different parking lot - or are they close enough that you just stay in the same spot? Thanks...
WendyWhy is offline  
Old Jun 11th, 2005, 08:35 AM
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You never know what you'll get with the lava flows. DEFINITELY take flashlights for EACH person and spare batteries. Believe me you DO NOT want to run out of light out there. We left the restaurant at 5:30 and didn't get back to the hotel until 12:15 so it could be a long evening of whining kids. As I mentioned I would leave at least 2 hours before sunset so you can at least make it out there while you still have some light. We had to use the flashlights the last 30 min and it was really dark by the time we got out there. Other than seeing the steam clouds in the distance and some red streaks on the hillside there's not much to see but mounds of black lava the entire hike. That being said, IF you get to see lava flowing like we did, it's awesome.

We brought 3 1.5 liter bottles of water with us and only used half that but we got a later start and it wasn't too hot that day. Bring something to eat too. Don't forget to stop and take in the stars on the way back. You have NEVER seen that many stars in your life.

I don't remember which section we were in at Kilauea Lodge (and I'm too lazy to look it up) but we were on the second floor of the building in the back (the one without fireplaces in the rooms). Our room was very large and would have NO problem fitting a futon. I believe they said the rooms without a fireplace were bigger. The place and staff were very nice so I doubt they would recommend adding the futons if it would be too crowded.

As for the wagon ride into Waipi'o, I'm not sure it was worth it for us but it did fall at the tail end of the trip after we had already seen more beautiful valley's and waterfalls in Kauai than I could count. The view from the lookout (or our cottage) was as good as anything we saw down in the valley and you can read about the historical information of you want to. Not sure about the trail rides but the wagon didn't go to the beach. It just went back toward the back of the valley. OTOH, if you don't have 4WD you ain't getting into the valley unless you take a tour (or walk down the one lane road- no thanks).

It was different to ride around in a wagon but not that big a deal. The trail ride is nose to tail so there's not going to be any excitement there either. I suspect the kids could probably have more fun going on a trailride back home for a lot less. Unless you really enjoy riding horses, juts have to soak in the scenery from below (at the tour's choosing and pace) or want to add it to your list of adventures in Hawaii, I don't think you'd miss much if you didn't do it. BRING INSECT REPELLENT if you do!!!

One of the access points for the Kilauea Iki Trail is right across from the Thurston Lava tubes. Just park there and walk across to the trail when you're done.

Have a great time.
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Old Jun 11th, 2005, 12:37 PM
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Thanks mdod.

I think that is the same location that our room is at the Kileaua Lodge, so that should work out fine.

Now I have another decision to make...maybe cancel the horseback and add a trip flying over the volcano instead.

We don't really care so much about riding the horses. The reason we chose this trip was to see the valley, and it seemed the best way to go of all the choices. However, if the scenery is not worth it, I would rather spend the $$ doing something else.

My husband would really like to take the flight plane trip that flies over the lava going into the ocean and also goes over some valleys and waterfalls. However, that's another $500 for the 4 of us. We could replace the horseback ride with the flight plane for about the same cost.

Anyone out there who has experienced both that could help us out?

Tasha440 is offline  
Old Jun 11th, 2005, 01:55 PM
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Don't get me wrong, the scenery's great and if you only go to the BI, you might really appreciate it because it's not as green as the other islands. I guess it depends on where else you are going and what you like to do.

Are you sure about the heli prices? Sometime places have teaser prices that are not for the tour anyone would want. I didn't look into it on the BI but I'd be surprised if the heli tour was similar in price to the trailride.

FWIW, I read somewhere that flights are riskier over the volcano because of the heat fluctuations. OTOH, if seeing lava flow is a priority for your husband, the heli tour will be his best bet.

Given the fact that there are tons of places to see pretty scenery and waterfalls but only one place to see the lava, I'd probably lean toward the heli tour.
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Old Jun 13th, 2005, 11:57 PM
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Fabulous trip report mdod!!! What dates were you there in May?

I was planning to do a trip report as well for our May 2005 visit, but after reading yours, there's no point! Even though we did much of the same things you did and share many of the same opinions, I don't think I can write about the many activities as well as you did:

Snorkeling at Honaunau Bay, yummy pork chops at Manago, kayaking Kealakekua Bay, South Point, lava hike, Thai Thai in Volcano Village, grueling lava hike, Kilauea Iki Trail, Napau Crater Trail to top of Pu'u Huluhulu, snorkeling Kapoho Tide Pools, Hawaiian Tropical Botanical Garden, Mauna Kea, etc.

What amazes me is that you did ALL THAT IN JUST 6 DAYS!!! My wife thought it was crazy for us to have done all that in 10 days, and even than you probably enjoyed more beach time than we did.

I also agree that the malasadas at Tex Drive-In were NBD, but their burgers in those delicious buns were ONO. My family enjoyed Manago...good and cheap...and those side dishes were a treat.

But your trip report also has me bummed a bit because I completely missed the many varied corals I've heard about at Kapoho. I skimmed through many a shallow entries from pool to pool in search of them, but found little of interest. So should I have ventured left (from parking area) instead of right? Oh time.

Again, MAHALO for a wonderful, detailed report!!!
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Old Jun 17th, 2005, 07:22 PM
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We were there May 20-30 (Kauai first 4 days) Hm...coral at the Kapaho tidepools. Sounds like we got really lucky. I would guess we slightly to the right side, about halfway toward the ocean. We parked at the small gravel lot to the right of some houses under construction and then walked to the left behind a couple of houses. Then we went toward the ocean past 2-3 pools. The one we first got in was 10-15 feet wide and pretty shallow (probably 3-4 feet) but ran quite a long way parallel to the shore. Not sure how stable the current is, but it was running to the left and we had to go against and through a shallow section only about 2' deep to get to the deep pool (maybe 12'deep and 50 feet across???) that had the coral.

Yep, I doubt many people would want to vacation at our pace but we had so much to see in so little time. We could have NEVER done it if we had the kids with us! At least I lost some weight out of the deal.

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