One post wasn't enough to cover all the things to do and see on the Big Island, and we have a list ready for the next visit of all that we didn't see and do! Let's continue the list with number 6.
6. Kilauea volcano
Hawaii is constantly changing, due to volcanic activity. Nowadays scientists can usually predict an eruption, and residents of the affected area are evacuated; however, homes and belongings are often lost, as in 2018, when an eruption destroyed 700 homes at Leilani Estates. The lava flowed all the way to the ocean.
Kilauea Volcano is still changing on a regular basis. It is located within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. We drove around the island towards the city of Hilo, where we ate an early lunch at Pineapples, an open-air eatery renowned for its cocktail samplers with exotic ingredients, and its fish and chips. Then we drove inland towards the park.
The park is enormous, and one could remain there for days! (There is also a U.S. army site within the park.) We visited three times: once in the afternoon, once at night, and then again in the morning. During the first afternoon, we visited the Halema'uma'u crater (that you can't drive around anymore, because part of the road collapsed), lava fields, the visitor center, and the volcanic steam vents.
We reserved rooms at The Volcano Inn so that we could return to the park at night to see the lava smolder. Unfortunately, on the night we were there - along with many others - there wasn't much to see. However, lifting our eyes to the sky, there were myriads of stars and planets to behold!
The Volcano Inn is outdated, but the rooms include everything a guest could need, including bathrobes for the outdoor hot tub (that we didn't try out). It's not cheap though: $160 for one night, including a light breakfast of coffee, yoghurt-filled papaya and banana bread. Strangely, our room had a ceiling mirror, and as it was right at the entrance, it was rather busy outside, and you had to keep your shades drawn for privacy, You could hear footsteps from upstairs. There is an incredible garden covered in anthurium plants, with both pink and red blooms.
The next morning we returned, as we heard that a lava tunnel had opened. We discovered that early-ish morning is the best time to visit the park in the summer, as it's not so hot, and not crowded, either.
As mentioned in the Volcano Park link above, you can get an annual pass for all US National Parks. One of the perks of being a senior citizen is that $80 snags you a lifetime pass.
7. Planetarium in Hilo: Imiloa Astronomy Center
After the bowels of the earth, we went on to visit the Imiloa Astronomy Center in Hilo. Our most wonderful tour guide (who asked to be known as Iliohale Tours, aka a very good friend) insisted that the first stop would be brunch at Ken's House of Pancakes, a 24-hour diner in operation since 1971.
Hawaiian food in restaurants is often not dietetic. And when you're on vacation, visiting for the first time... bid goodbye to weight-watching! I noticed the Chicken and Waffle on the breakfast menu, and decided to give it a try. Let it be said that although two of us shared a plate, we were so stuffed (fried chicken smothered in syrup over an airy waffle) that we refused to taste a fresh malasada an hour later, much to our tour guide's chagrin, who decided we'd get a zero-star rating! Other popular menu choices are Loco Moco with egg on top, and a mahi mahi dish with rice and pancakes (don't ask!).
With stomachs full, we went to the Astronomy Center, where local kapunas (seniors) can purchase discounted tickets ($12 in 2022). The displays were fascinating, and there are two shows: one about the galaxies and the universe, and another about black holes. My only critique would be that galaxies are often described with Hawaiian names, and you're sometimes left scrambling to figure out what the "usual" name is.
8. Liliukelani Gardens, Hilo
Near the shore in Hilo, there is the wonderful and soothing Liliukelani Gardens park boasting Japanese-style bridges over ponds, and
spectacular banyan trees.
9. Pu'Ukohola Heiau historic monument
Nowadays Hawaii is promoted for "aloha" and a relaxed tropical atmosphere. However, its history was often quite violent and bloody.
10. Holualoa Village and artist colony
After a last farewell to the Mauna Kea beach, with a nene spotting (a bird) and beautiful flowering trees along the way, we had brunch at Holualoa Village and then visited the artist colony, The town has a somewhat hippie vibe, and wild pigs just stroll along the sidewalks! The artist colony's store showcases visual art, blown glass (with live demonstrations) jewelry, and more.
Goodbye Big Island!
The day of our flight out was my birthday, and we went to the Waimea famous Japanese pastry shop, Patisserie Nanako, for some treats before leaving. The shop wasn't even open yet, but there was already a line of people waiting to buy sometimes large quantities of pastries.
And thank you to United Airlines who offered me a birthday card and a free beverage!
Did you know.... that Hawaii Big Island is home to one of the largest cattle ranches in the United States, Parker Ranch, that is also the largest contiguous ranch in the United States? And one of the oldest, founded in 1847?