Aloha from the Hilton Kailua-Kona, Day One 10/03/14
It won't be easy describing a week in Hawaii, but I'll do my best! Our Hilton Grand Vacations condo was located in Waikoloa Beach Resort, with full access to all resort facilities. A whirlwind week with a lot of sightseeing, fun-in-the-sun, great adventures, random mishaps, and exotic sights.
Hapuna Beach State Park, on the way to Hawi.
The really amazing fact is how little our vacation cost, and we have our good Tallahassee friends, Tom and Diane, to thank for that. They're the ones who signed up for a "free" trip to the Big Island ... as long as they listened to a (long-winded?) sales pitch. Tom and Diane asked us if we wanted to join them, and we replied, "Yes!" The condo was upgraded to two-bedroom, two-bath. And, nope, we didn't have to listen to the sales spiel. (whew!) Our cost was only $115/night! Jimmy and I also lucked out on airline tickets, using credit card points, which brought our flight costs to $100/each round trip! A wonderful week in Hawaii for less than $1,000. I posted a few pictures of the condo on my last blog.
We flew out of Oakland (OAK) on Hawaiian Airlines, with a stop in Honolulu. The Airbus we were on slid thru the skies like a hot knife in butter at 40,000 ft -- 8 miles high! Great 5-hour flight! Then a short half-hour hopper to Kona International on the Big Island. Hawaii time zone is three hours behind Pacific time zone, and Oakland airport is three hours away from Nevada City. Do the math -- if our flight leaves CA at 10 am, what time must we get up? 3:35 am. Long day.... (You know traveling is exhausting, especially after being up close to 24 hours; we crashed shortly after picking up our friends at the airport.)
Free car rental for the week was included. Jimmy and I arrived on island first (Wednesday, 10/2) and picked up this little baby.
If you're wondering, this resort is on the Kona side (leeward) of the Big Island of Hawaii. The "dry" side; receiving maybe 7" of rain a year (like California!). Visible lava is everywhere, jagged, rugged and too sharp to walk on. The 17 miles from Kona airport to our condo is desolate-looking. But as you can see, add some dirt, give it some water, and viola!, a beautiful resort is born!
We enjoyed our Friday morning coffee on the lanai and sort of mapped out a plan for the week. After a visit to the concierge, who gave us a TON o' TIPS on how to "see it all" (that's a joke), we set off north to the small town of Hawi for lunch... and visited several coastal areas on the way. BTW, Hawi is the turn-around point for the Ironman World Championship Triathlon, held this year on Oct 15th. Hawi is the northernmost point of the bicycle leg. We sat with one of the athletes (from Switzerland) for a bit while we enjoyed an ice cream; his expensive, lightweight bike parked next to the bench. Amazing athletes -- we hope to watch some of the triathlon next Saturday.
Common Myna birds are all over.
And so is the cute little Gold dust day gecko.
The restaurant we planned for lunch was closed (something about the kitchen, don't want to know), so we visited a few shops and walked around town a bit. Diane and I wandered toward a huge tree (as big as a Chestnut tree) with fruit on it, which turned out to be a mango. I know that because I asked a local woman, who, in turn, led us to her backyard and the above papaya tree. She asked if we wanted a papaya and then promptly got a long stick and knocked down the big turning-yellow fruit just next to the golden one (above). OK! I carried that heavy sucker while in town (like cradling a baby), brought it to the condo, and when finally ripe on Wednesday morning, we cut it open. Everybody tasted it; nobody liked it. Meanwhile, lunch that Friday was at a small outdoor cafe.
We continued driving to the breathtaking Pololu Valley Lookout, end of the road on the northeastern coast. The afternoon heat (and knee issues) kept us from hiking the steep 2.5 mile round-trip trail to the black sand beach below. No matter. This is worth seeing!
One of many fragrant ginger varieties growing wild.
We stopped at two historical sites on our return. Pu'ukohola Heiau was most impressive! We noticed the unique flat lava site from the road and couldn't figure out what it might be. This National Historic Site is the great temple of King Kamehameha, built stone-by-stone between 1790-1791.
"It is said that thousands and thousands of men labored for nearly a year to construct this heiau. Through the stories that have been passed down generation to generation, we believe the builders brought these rocks from the distant Pololu Valley. Forming a human chain nearly 25 miles long, the laborers handed the water-worn lava rocks one person to another up and over Kohala Mountain to this site. Without the use of mortar, cement or other bonding materials, these skilled laborers placed these rocks in exact locations in order to meet specific building specifications."
While my three companions rested in the shade of a tree, I hiked the half mile sacred site loop trail, simply awed by its sheer size, and blown away by such an overwhelming feat.
We continued on, electing to eat dinner at the Kings Land food court (eating out is expensive here, but people gotta eat). Lucky us to catch an entertainment show at the food court presented by a local dance school. We watched the girls and boys do authentic island dances for a long time. Their smiles were beautiful, and their dancing was perfect.
We'd been on the go most of the day -- our first full day on the Big Island -- and everyone had a grand time! I have many more pictures of our day, but this gives a general idea. Still catching up from traveling, we elected to skip dominoes and said, "good night!"
Tomorrow? Tom and Diane island-hop to Oahu to visit the Pearl Harbor Museum, as well as other venues. Jimmy and me? O boy -- we go snorekling!