The Sockeyed Blog

Ben Johnson's Blog

Arrival on the Big Island

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It is the third day of our trip and I am on the screened lanai of our cottage near the lush north end of the Big Island of Hawaii. Our place is in a ravine next to an ephemeral stream and surrounded by fruit trees – orange, lime, banana, breadfruit – and an avocado tree. It’s as jungle-like a setting as I’ve been since I was in Borneo, albeit about 10 degrees cooler (still warm). Green geckos with ruby highlights and ebony eyes peer down from the ceiling, and the trees echo with bird calls and whirr with the sound of cicadas.

We flew out of the small and functional Bellingham airport on Sunday late afternoon, the cold damp wind chilling us as we walked across the tarmac to the plane alongside dozens of other Canadians fleeing the grey gloom (actually Sunday was a lovely day). The flight, as one hopes it will be, was uneventful, and we were treated to syrupy maitais as we got close to Honolulu..

We stayed a brief night in Honolulu at a Best Western five minutes from the airport. We woke at 4am in order to catch our 5:52am flight to Kona. The short flight was entirely in the dark, but dawn arrived as we waited for our bag in the primarily-outdoor airport. The light illuminated lava fields all around us, and a dry, hot-looking landscape.

We picked up a Mazda 3 from Enterprise Rent-a-car, and I took a few minutes to empty out a burst bag of quinoa from the suitcase before driving south.

This is a car-oriented place. The roads on this part of the Big Island are wide and thick with cars, most of them far larger than ours. Not much, if anything, is walkable, it seems, which is unfortunate in such a climate.

We drove about 20 minutes south to Kailua where we enjoyed a hearty breakfast of eggs, toast, potatoes, Kona coffee, and a tasty half-papaya dressed with lime juice. Our cafe overlooked the water (across a road), and waves rolled in.


Papaya and Kona coffee

We decided that snorkeling was the best objective for the day, so we drove south to Captain Cook, and hiked steadily down about 1000′ over 45 minutes to reach Kealakekua Bay for some fantastic snorkeling. Just off the lava rocks (and an old temple complex) were clear, warm waters with a great collection of tangs, angel fish, parrot fish, ribbon fish, anemones and corals. It was wonderful to be back in the water again, recalling memories of Sipadan and the Gili Islands. It was busy, mostly from people arriving by boat or kayak, but in the water it didn’t feel too bad. At one point, Kristi got a foot cramp and I had to tow her to shore. 

Looking across Kealakekua Bay to where we snorkeled (and Captain Cook died)

Next to the water is a monument to Captain Cook to mark the spot where he was killed by locals after the ill-considered idea to take a chief hostage. The monument, erected in the 1870s by ‘his countrymen’, states that he discovered the Hawaiian Islands. With an attitude like that, I’m sure the Hawaiians felt rather justified in doing him in.

The hike back up to the car was hot, passing through old lava flows under the sun, and Kristi, being almost five months pregnant, had to take is slow. I was fine with that.

Back in the car, I ate a musubi, a roll of sticky rice with a slice of Spam in the middle, wrapped in nori. Tasty.

From there we drove north through the hot, dry Kona coast, with scabby lava flanking the road. We stopped for a few minutes at Hapuna Beach to watch folks get pounded in the surf in the late afternoon sun, and made a point to return later in the trip. 

Hapuna Beach in the late afternoon

Hapuna waves

The landscape changed not long after this with an abrupt transition to lush and humid and green as we rounded the north end of the island. We passed through the towns of Hawi and Kapa’au, and dropped down a narrow asphalt track off the road to our lovely cottage.

We found this place on-line, and fortunately there had been a cancellation in the window we wanted. The fellow who owns it is a carpenter and this is his show-piece, full of beautiful but not ostentatious details. It has an open vaulted ceiling with visible beams, a polished and dyed concrete floors, lots of built-in storage, an open kitchen, and the amazing 200 square foot screened-in porch, or lanai. The cottage sits in a lush ravine among all the trees I mentioned, and pleasant breezes blow through. 

The cottage in its natural setting

The interior at night

It rained hard last night, but we had the the windows open and the skylights cracked so we could hear the waves of heavy rain that came through. Tired from our very long day, we slept like sacks of rocks.

Kristi made a great fruit salad drizzled with lime, all from the property, for breakfast.

At the end of the road about a 10 minute drive from here is the Polulu Valley. We drove out just for a look, since the weather was still a bit patchy, but the deep valley heading inland, and the line of tall sea cliffs heading into the distance was so spectacular that we decided on the spot to hike down to the black sand beach at the head of the valley. It ended up being an easier hike than we imagined; probably only about 20 minutes down. We walked on the beach and sat on a log watching the big breakers roll in. We let the tail ends of the waves lap over our toes. We felt the warm sun and warm breeze on our faces. 

Looking down at the head of the Polulu Valley and along the coast

Happy and with a growing belly

The hike back up was easy after yesterday’s longer slog.

We spent the early afternoon looking around Hawi and Kapa’au, which are pleasant little town with nice old wooden buildings. They are touristy, of course, but nothing like the Kona coast. After a fruit smoothy we returned to the cottage then spent the balance of the after noon just relaxing.

It feels good to be here. Flying five hours for a holiday is indulgent, but there is a richness to the Big Island that is worth experiencing, and I’m excited about the days ahead. I’m already feeling like there might not be enough of them before we have to go.

Our lanai


Written by sockeyed

February 1, 2011 at 22:20

Posted in Travel

Tagged with , , , ,

One Response

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  1. oh yah. i forgot you’re in hawaii. no wonder work is so boring


    February 2, 2011 at 16:36

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