Punalu’u Black Sands Beach, HI – 1/8/18

Day trip to Punalu’u Black Sands Beach, while 1/3 of the group did the more strenuous hike to one of only 4 green sand beaches in the world.

Wind turbines and not-so-wild life on the road to drop-off for the green sand beach:

Then we were off to Punalu’u, where the black sand is made of crushed basalt from past volcanic floes:

Punalu’u is a frequent resting spot for Honu – the endangered green sea turtles – which like to swim in the coves, or bask on the shore:

The sand is really black, and very hot and uncomfortable barefoot – wear sandals/water shoes! plus plenty of rocks for cairns/buddah beach:

Honu!!! One of them was flapping his flippers – not sure if he was trying to move closer to the water, or to cover his back with black sand:

At the back of the beach is a lovely pond:

more beach and turtles:


Time to head back to pick up the weary hikers from the green sand beach, passing typical (but not to New England) lava stone walls:


Nearby, is South Point Park, the southernmost part of the Big Island, and the United States. There are a few monuments/memorials:


And trails, but couldn’t quite get to the southern point – cliffs, waves, sore feet:


A burial site:

And the other side of one of the memorials:

IMG_1117Just past this “no diving” sign, is a well-known cliff-diving spot – it’s even marked on googlemaps!


There’s also this strange hole/cave in the cliff, where you can hear/see the waves pouring in:


Back to Kona for sunset:




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Akaka Falls, HI – 1/5/18

Akaka Falls State Park is just 11 miles north of Hilo, featuring a .4 mile trail through tropical rainforest with views of 2 waterfalls.

The trail winds through lush vegetation, and includes stairs down to 100′ tall Kahuna Falls:

Kahuna Falls, from a not-great angle:

Continuing on the trail after Kahuna, you pass through banyan forest – or is it just 1 tree?

Akaka Falls – hard to get all 442′ in the photo:

Continuing on the trail, we find more little rivulets:

And back up at the parking lot, an orange (tangerine?) tree:

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Onomea Trail, Big Island, HI 1/5/18

The Onomea Trail was an unexpected delight. It’s just off the Old Mamalohoa Highway, about 10 minutes north of Hilo.

It’s a steep, but not difficult, trail down to Onomea Bay, with gorgeous plants and views along the way.

wild Bird of Paradise flowers


fuzzy piggy-back ride

At the bottom of the trail, you reach the Bay:

We found a broken-open coconut, fallen from one of the palm trees on the shore:

Best snack ever – ocean-salty coconut!

This rocky promontory provided more views:

with tide pools:

Back to the trail which crosses through the middle of the Botanical Gardens. We met the Garden’s security guard, a retiree who sits on a beach chair, reading and listening to music, where the Onomea Trail crosses one of the Garden trails. He seemed eager to chat, and  guided us to some of the plants inside the fenced off Garden that we could see along our trail.:

Past the friendly guard, the trail takes you down some stairs to the spot where the Onomea Stream reaches the ocean:

And views of the Twin Rocks formation:

We were there at low tide, so the point where the river meets the sea was somewhat obscured by the rocky sandbar, but what a beautiful spot.

Family photos!


Final view as we climbed back up the trail to the car:

I’m sure the Botanic Garden is wonderful, but this spot is natural and free!

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Rainbow Falls, Hilo, HI

Rainbow Falls is in a state park in Hilo, with viewing platforms of the 80′ tall falls. The falls get their name from the fact that, on sunny mornings around 10AM, rainbows can be seen in the mist thrown up by the waterfall.

You can climb stone stairs up to a view near/above the top of the falls….


… then hike into the lush woods along the river…

… with banyan trees! Perfect for climbing…


A gecko:


walking along the river above the falls:




Views from another platform:


Between the gorgeous falls, the fun banyan trees and scrambling above the falls, and the easy 5 minute drive from downtown Hilo, Rainbow Falls is a must-see.

And here’s a shop and snack from Hilo:

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Hilo, HI – Liliuokalani Gardens

After a day/evening at Volcanoes National Park, we spent the night in Hilo. This is the view from our Hilo Reeds Bay hotel:


And banyan trees in front, along Banyan Drive:


Also on Banyan Drive is Queen Liliuokalani Gardens, a 24acre park/Japanese garden. In 1907, Queen Liliuokalani, Hawaii’s last reigning monarch, donated the original 5 acres bordering Hilo Bay for a public park. It was dedicated in 1917 as a tribute to Hawaii’s first Japanese immigrants who worked in the sugar cane fields. FYI – she was the last reigning monarch of the Kingdom of Hawaii, thanks to the coup organized by American business interests including Sanford Dole (cousin to the Dole Pineapple Company). Cool fact, she wrote the Hawaiian ballad Aloha Oe in 1878, recorded by Bing Crosby, Elvis, Johnny Cash, Spongebob, etc.

The Gardens are beautiful, with bridges, walkways over water, stone urns, and views across the bay to snowcapped Mauna Kea.


Mauna Kea rises above Hilo Bay



High water flooded out some of the walkways


Mauna Kea, above the gate



Stone pagoda





lots of cats hiding in the gardens


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Volcanoes National Park Afternoon

We drove the 18mile long Chain of Craters Road, originally built in 1928, then rebuilt, rerouted, rebuilt multiple times as lava flows inundated the roadway. There are stops  along the road at a series of craters – large pits where the surface ground collapsed into the gap left by a lava eruption or magma chamber. Here’s Loa Manu crater:

Huge sections of the road look like burned moonscapes, where old, solid lava leaves a jagged black surface:

But life… finds a way:


Stopped for the short hike to see the Mauna Ulu eruption fissure, explained in the trail-guide:

“In the pre-dawn morning of May 24, 1969, residents and visitors were jarred awake by window-rattling earthquakes. A large fissure had opened up in a quiet forest along Chain of Craters Road. Soon red-hot lava burst forth to announce the start of a new eruption, the birth of Mauna Ulu (growing mountain). In the five short years of this eruption, roads, cultural sites, and coastal grasslands were burned and buried in the lava’s relentless flow to the sea. A succession of flows transformed vast forests into an eerie landscape of desolate lava fields. Today Mauna Ulu looms over this surreal landscape, where lava trees stand after the surrounding flows drained away.”

Hard to believe this vast black landscape was ever a forest. Note the Lava Trees, stands of lava that formed around trees which soon died, leaving just the hardened lava in the trees’ shape:

This is a photo from the trail guide, showing a lava fountain in 1970. Some of the fountains reached 1770′, more that 500′ taller than the Empire State Building!Screenshot-2018-1-28 Mauna Ulu Eruption Guide - mauna_ulu_trail_guide pdf

Lava flows have increased the Park’s size by hundreds of acres. When we were there, the lava flow had moved so that it’s no longer visible flowing into the ocean -and about a 10 mile round trip hike to see the movement over land.

Drove further to the Kealokolu Overlook where you can see the blackened landscape, and new land, above the ocean:


At the bottom of Chain of Craters Road is the overlook to the Holei Sea Arch, formed when some of the hardened lava eroded faster than other sections. The arch is under 100 years old, and will fully erode as other arches form:



Back on up the road to hike to the Pu’u Loa Petroglyphs, “a very sacred and religious place for many of the people of Hawaiʻi , used ritually for over 500 years. It is the largest petroglyph field in the State of Hawaiʻi. Puʻu Loa is geologically dated between 1200-1450A.D.  There are more then 23,000 petroglyph images, mostly “pukas” (cupules), about 85% of the total, in which a portion of the umbilical cord of a newborn was placed to ensure long life. Motifs of circles, other geometric designs, as well as cryptic designs of human representations know as anthropomorphisms, canoe sails, and even feathered cape motifs.”  Pu’u Loa means “Hill of Long Life.

The nearly-mile-long hike over lava rock feels longer – sturdy shoes recommended. You then reach a short boardwalk that circumnavigates the bulk of the petroglyphs:


Love the wrinkle/ripple patterns in the lava, as well as the human-made designs:

Next stop – Thurston Lava Tube, formed when the lava on the outer edges of a red hot river of lava cooled before the inner lava did. Discovered in 1913 by newspaper publisher Lorrin Thurston.You get a nice hike through tropical forest before reaching the lava tube:


Final stop, up at the Jagger Museum as sun sets to see the glow from the caldera. Arrive early to get a parking space – as we left, the line of traffic to be allowed to drive up the Museum was crazy


Off to the town of Volcano, outside the Park, for some Thai food:


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Hawaii Volcanoes National Park – January 2018

Volcanoes National Park is about a 2-hour drive from Kona, but what a drive!


We stopped at Punalu’u Bake Shop for a snack and devoured some malasadas – a variety of sugar-covered filled donuts, with orange guava, purple taro, and yellow lilikoi:IMG_0877


You can see the huge Kilauea caldera, and the steaming Halema‘uma‘u crater in the center, from the deck at the Volcano House lodge.

We headed off to hike the short ‘Iliahi trail which leads through dense lush forest, then comes out on the rim of the caldera, and leads to the Steam Vent trail, where volcanic steam seeps out of cracks in the ground:

Steam Vents lead to Sulfur Banks trail, where you can see and smell the yellow sulfur deposits:

It’s kind of amazing that with all the steam and volcanic fumes, there are flowers and greenery:


Yellow sulphur on the hills and rocks:IMG_0903IMG_0904IMG_0905

Followed by picnic lunch near the visitor center:


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