We made our way out of the house around 9 AM and drove south toward Kona. Our first stop of the day was an hour or so later for coffee – of course. You can’t do a road trip without coffee. This coffee shop had an absolutely gorgeous view of the ocean – I wish I had a photo of it. Looking from the back of the building, the ground below dropped away and you were left with a beautiful view of the land beneath leading to the ocean in the distance.
We continued our trek south and stopped next at the southernmost point on the Big Island. This is also the southernmost point of Hawaii… not to mention the southernmost point in the United States. This area is called (fittingly) South Point – or in Hawaiian, Ka Lae, meaning “the point”. There were many people frolicking at South Point. We walked over to a spot where a group of people were gathered – it seemed to be a point of interest. We found that they were cliff-jumping! And not just off a cliff, more like into a cave in the ground fed by the ocean. It was crazy… one guy asked if we wanted to go. I like to be adventurous, but this looked just downright dangerous to me, so I settled for watching a guy jump instead.
After a brief stop to explore South Point, we hopped back into the car and attempted to locate the road to the world’s only green sand beach. This area was basically a bunch of fields with dirt roads in between and few road signs. We eventually did find the right road, and came to a lot full of parked cars. We had heard that it was tough to drive in to the green sand beach, and figured we might end up hiking at least part of the way, but Stacy had been pretty convinced she could drive it. At this point I should probably mention that the other day when I was telling Rhinehart about our grand plan to head to the Green Sand Beach, he asked me if we were driving in or hiking in. When I told him we were planning on driving, he said that he thought that was a really bad idea. As Stacy and I had both never been to this beach before, we didn’t really know what to expect. We found that there was a group of guys waiting at the end of the paved section of the road in their large 4-wheel drive trucks that would be willing to ferry us back and forth for $15 each. Since we really had no idea which direction to go and were not entirely sure whether our vehicle would make it, we decided to take them up on that.
We hopped into a truck with a guy named Joseph, and boy were we glad we did. The road was rough and not entirely visible. The 3-mile drive would have been do-able as a hike, but I doubt we would have been able to get in the rest of our plans for that day if we had walked. The land was rough and hilly and at points just downright rocky. We were definitely glad to have a local guiding us in. The ride was bumpy, but beautiful.
When the path down to the Green Sand Beach was visible, Joseph found he had a flat tire. He stopped, and we walked the rest of the way, then climbed down.
As I said before, this beach is the only green sand beach in the world. According to my awesome tourist book Hawaii The Big Island Revealed (which I think I have mentioned before… and if I haven’t it is AMAZING), this colour comes from a large deposit of olivine mixed with black sand. Waves rake the back side of an olivine deposit created by an ancient volcanic eruption, and with each wave, particles (or in some cases nuggets!) of sand make their way to the beach. The supply of sand is finite, so people are discouraged from taking any with them when they leave.
It was incredibly windy, but absolutely beautiful. This beach is not one to spend a day at, but it is definitely worth seeing during any trip to the Big Island. Once Joseph had finished fixing his tire, we hopped back into his truck for the ride back to our car, then went on our merry way to our next touristy destination.
Our next stop was a quick one at Punalu’u Black Sand Beach. We stopped long enough for me to take in the sight of a black beach, and to take a few photos.
Our next stop was for lunch – by this time we were both starving! We went to Punalu’u Bake Shop, which is the southernmost bakery in the United States and is famous for its sweetbread. I had a delicious chicken fajita, and a coconut scone for dessert. Mmmmm!
We hopped back into the vehicle and were on the road again. Next stop: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. This park is on the other side of the island from where Waikoloa is, and the landscape on the way there is very different from the barren lava rock on our side.
We arrived at the Park and found it was an absolutely gorgeous day. Stacy had been all ready to be bundled up against the freezing cold (for Hawaii… which is not like real freezing cold for the rest of the world). We walked in to the Visitor Center and found that we had missed the first 10 minutes of the informational video. We made our way into the theatre anyways and watched the remainder of the video – unfortunately missing all the cool volcanic scenes!
After watching the remainder of the video, we came back out and asked the rangers whether they were doing any more tours that day. We found out that one of the rangers was to give a talk just outside in 5 minutes, so we browsed the gift shop and then made our way out to the talk location. The ranger was very informative and wonderfully entertaining. He was able to intersperse his own personal history growing up near the Big Island volcanoes with scientific information, making for one great lecture.
The basic overview of this talk is as follows:
The Big Island has 5 volcanoes: Kohala, Mauna Kea, Hualalai, Mauna Loa, and Kilauea. Kohala is now an extinct volcano, but this section of the island is slowly breaking away from the rest – in many many many hundreds of years, it could be separated from the island of Hawaii. The summit of Mauna Kea is home to many observatories. This site is considered one of the best place in the world to view the stars. However, Mauna Kea is not extinct; it is merely dormant and more than likely will erupt again one day. This day is predicted to be many thousands of years in the future. Hualalai is still active as well, and the Kona International Airport is built on a lava flow that this volcano is responsible for. Mauna Loa is the largest volcano on the face of the Earth. It has erupted at least once in every decade of Hawaiian history but has slowed it’s pace recently, not having erupted since 1984. Lastly, Kilauea was the volcano that we were literally standing on while the ranger was giving this talk. This volcano is one of the most active on Earth, with an eruption running consistently from 1983 until present-day. Two volcanoes on the Big Island of Hawaii are overdue for their predicted eruptions (a little scary). The ranger went on to provide a few personal anecdotes to do with volcanoes – and this definitely made his presentation all the more memorable!
After the talk, Stacy and I went on to explore the park. We found some steam vents and took pictures of smoke coming out of the volcano. We hiked around a little bit and enjoyed the beautiful day.
We also walked through a lava tube. To get to the lava tube entrance, we had to walk through an area that totally resembled a tropical rainforest. The lava tube itself was very cool, but really a bit scary. I’m glad I did that once, but I’m not sure I’m ok with traveling through something like that!
We topped off our visit to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park by heading up to the Jaggar Museum at sunset to view the lava glow.
Once we had soaked in enough of that atmosphere, we went back to the vehicle and headed into Hilo for dinner at Cafe Pesto. We got an absolutely delicious meal, shopped an art gallery, and then looped through Waimea to pick the kids up from Sean’s parents place where they had spent the day. We made it back to Waikoloa late, but it was definitely worth it!
My favourite thing about today was the Green Sand Beach. It was insane to be just in the middle of nowhere, but to have this gorgeous and unique beach in front of you.