If the hustle and bustle of a big city puts you in a cantankerous mood, you are my kindred spirit. A vacation is getting away from the crowds and decompressing. If you like to see and do, but not feel rushed, the adventures of Hawaii, The Big Island, are just for you.
When we touched down in Hilo, we knew we weren’t in Kansas anymore. Getting off the plane, warm humid air hit us like a brick in the face after being in the subarctic temperatures on the flight. And there was this noise, like a screeching bird, that they had piped in from somewhere. I’m all for ambiance, but this was deafening and annoying. Our rental car attendant giggled when I mentioned the 85 decibel volume of their subtropical Muzak and she said, “Oh, those are invasive frogs from Puerto Rico, and that’s their mating call.” Nothing like worrying about hearing loss while on your great Hawaiian vacation.
We were quickly out of the small airport, away from the horny toads, and arrived at our rented house in Pepeekeo. I chose it for its off-the-beaten-path location. It was a wise decision if for no other reason than it was farther than the airport frogs could hop.
Plan to spend more for food and groceries
I’m a planner. No, I mean, I traveled to Hawaii with a tabbed binder laying out everything – things we would do and see, grocery lists, tickets to events, etc. I also plan my budget, so here is my budget-friendly advice for those considering traveling there. It’s expensive, so only get what you absolutely HAVE to at the grocery store. Milk is about $10 a gallon. The most important thing to have is your morning necessities like coffee, Pop-Tarts, maybe even eggs. Have sandwich fixings and chips in order to take with you for the day. Have plenty of bottled drinks for everyone. As far as dinner goes? Take my advice and go out! You’re going to be tired at the end of the day and cooking on vacation is the last thing you’ll want to do.
Hawaii National Volcano Park
Once you’ve gotten your sandwiches, chips, snacks and all-important drinks packed, you’re ready to head out and explore the island. Our first big event was visiting Hawaii National Volcano Park. Here’s everything you need to know about your big adventure to the alien landscape that is an active volcano. Number one is always check the status of the park before you head out. There are days that it is closed due to toxic gases, fissures, other volcano-y type things. As I write this blog, the majority of the park is closed due to the activity of the volcano.
You start your journey to this park (and I use that word loosely) by driving up the mountain. By the time you get to the top, it will drop 30 degrees or so. Our adventure started at 90 degrees and it was 55 and misting rain by the time we got to the top, which is where the information/gift center is located. We all got long-sleeved shirts at the gift shop. Once you leave this area, there are no more opportunities for food or bathrooms.
Driving down the mountain see you various frozen lava flows, lava tubes, and trees growing out of rocks. It’s an alien landscape that, as far as the eye can see, looks like soft black lace. If you park the car on the side of the road and get out and touch this cooled lava, you will quickly realize that it’s very sharp. Closed-toe shoes and jeans are recommended, because if you fall on it, it will cut you, and there is no emergency room for miles.
Dedication to the Fire Goddess
You will also see shrines or offerings dedicated to the fire goddess, Pele, also known as Pelehonuamea, “She who shapes the sacred land.” This goddess continues to devour the Big Island with molten lava, but creates new land in the process. Hawaiian culture considers it disrespectful and a sacrilege to disturb these hallowed grounds.
As you make your way down the volcano, the air begins to get hotter and so does the ground. You are walking on magma, even if it is a mile or so beneath your feet. Chances are you won’t be able to see any lava, because you simply can’t get close enough. You might see steam as it flows into the ocean, but no glowing goo. The trip ends at a lava wall cliff that overlooks the ocean. It is a beautiful sight to behold.
The Hilo Farmer’s Market
The Hilo Farmer’s Market was more than just farmed food. Wednesday and Saturday are “big” farm days with 200 or so vendors displaying their wares. There are fruits and vegetables that you’ve probably never seen before, but there’s also fresh fish, seafood, honey, jams, jellies, macadamia nuts, soaps, lotions, candles, jewelry, clothing, and pretty much anything you can think of. There’s something for everyone, and I found plenty.
Take Flight around Hawaii, The Big Island, for the Best Views
The ultimate highlight of our trip was taking a chartered jet around the entire island. We used Big Island Air for our ultimate tour. Yes, the airfare costs more than expected, but since we had nine people, we had the whole plane to ourselves. From our vantage point, we saw the crater with lava bubbling around the edges, lush vegetation, breathtaking waterfalls and black frozen lava flows. It’s pretty much everything you can imagine about Hawaii packed into one afternoon. You see 11 of the 13 climates that exist on the planet in about two hours. While you feel less movement in this type of plane than in a helicopter, if you’re like me and tend to get motion sickness, I would suggest eating light beforehand and loading up on your Dramamine before you get on the plane.
If you’re wondering if it’s worth the money, I would say “yes.” This is not about the beach. This is a treat for all the senses. The sights, sounds, tastes, and immersion into the island culture is an experience you will never forget. Aloha, fellow travelers. Maybe Hawaii, The Big Island, should be on your bucket list.