Lua pele – The Big Island

Our annual vacation to Hawaii usually involves hanging out on Oahu for three weeks. This year however, we decided to venture a little farther afield and we took a 4 day trip to the Big Island. It was an expensive little jaunt, but totally worth it in the end.

There are basically two places to stay on the Big Island. Kona or Hilo. Everyone we asked that had been there told us to stay in Kona, so instead of doing a little of our own research, we just took the advice we were given and booked a hotel in Kona. Then we started reading. We found out that this trip was now going to involve a lot of driving. Nothing is close to Kona. Hilo – where most of the waterfalls are, and all the good botanical stuff is a 2 hour drive. Volcano National Park is a 3 hour drive. We did not want to waste hours in the car with two kids on this vacation and were so mad at ourselves for booking our stay without doing our own research. Kona was great, but we wasted so much time driving, I kind of wish we had found someplace in Hilo (but I understand there aren’t a lot of choices in Hilo which is why everyone stays in Kona).

We had three things planned for this trip. Of course the Volcano. This was the biggie. It was the thing everyone was looking most forward to. THere was non stop chatter about the volcano and lava and smoke and whatever else you can think of that has anything to do with a volcano for weeks leading up to this trip. And let me tell you, Volcano National Park did not disappoint.

Elephant Tree

Elephant Tree

I had to take a picture of this tree. It was right outside the entrance to the Thurston Lava Tube. I thought it looked like an elephant.

Thurston Lava Tube

Thurston Lava Tube

I’m still not sure how lava tubes are formed. Clearly at some point there was lava flowing through this sucker. It was pretty massive. Impressive that so much “earth” could have flown through there at one time.

Devastation Trail

Devastation Trail

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Prior to the 1958 eruption of Kiluea Iki this area was a rainforest. After the eruption and subsequent lava flow this is what is left. It’s unbelievable how much destruction there is from an eruption.

Trees swallowed by Lava

Trees swallowed by Lava

It took us a while to figure out what these were. The structures covered in lava are trees that did not burn quickly enough when the molten lava hit them. The lava just surrounded them and hardened and this is what was left.

sounded very ominous

sounded very ominous

This sign is what greeted us at the end of the Crater Rim Drive. THere is a five-mile hike across very rocky lava fields to the ocean where the lava is still flowing and creating new land. At one point there was a housing development in this area that was completely devastated just a few years ago by new lava flow. In just a few years the lava has created approx 64 sq miles of new land. Crazy!

Road to No Where

Road to No Where

Road Closed

Road Closed

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Halemaumau Crater

Halemaumau Crater

This crater is currently still active and can be viewed from a number of vantage points. It just looks like a big smoking hole during the day, which in and of itself is neat, but it is really awesome at night.

Halemaumau Crater  by Night

Halemaumau Crater by Night

After the day we had at the National Park we decided to take it a little easier. We drove to Hilo and toured some waterfalls, went on a few nice hikes and saw some really unique flowers and some of the most beautiful orchids at the Botanical Gardens

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Rainbow Falls

Rainbow Falls

Apparently if you arrive at Rainbow falls on a sunny day, and there has been substantial rainfall, you will see a spectacular rainbow forming in the spray.  Clearly we were not there on a sunny day, nor after a period of heavy rain (although the nigh before I could have sworn the whole island was going to be flooded based on the amount of rain that came down)

Akaka Falls

Akaka Falls

Our last day on the Big Island we did what my kids would probably say was the highlight of the entire trip. We visited a Seahorse farm. I have to admit it was pretty darn awesome (expensive but awesome). The farm breeds seahorses for retail sales so that they do not have to be removed from their natural habitats in the ocean. It was a fascinating little out-of-the-way place to visit. And we got to hold a seahorse

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