This morning we had an early start. Unfortunately the weather was quite overcast and a little drizzly. After a quick breakfast, we left the ship and once through the terminal found the line for the car rental shuttle bus. We only had maybe a 10 minute wait before the shuttle came to take us to the car depot at the Hilo airport.
Once we received the car (actually a van), we were off to see Rainbow Falls in the town of Hilo. The GPS took us through many back streets where we observed, this side of the Big Island was not as lush as the area around Kona and certainly far more populated.
Rainbow Falls are very easy to access from the road. There is a good sized parking lot alongside the road and an easy walk to the lookout where you have a terrific view of the falls. There is also a set of stairs that lead up to an area located above the waterfall so you can have a wonderful view of the falls from the top. Unfortunately, the rain became heavier while we were on the top so it was a quick visit.
From here we were going to make the drive to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The drive is quite a distance inland and took us approximately 45 minutes to reach the Visitors Centre. Along the way, the road was narrow and windy with occasional (but magnificent) vistas of the ocean at some of the hairpin turns. Fortunately for us it was not raining in this area.
The entrance to the Park is well marked and we easily found the Visitor’s Centre. The park ranger provided us with a detailed map and suggested that we could listen to a series of audio recordings by calling a dedicated phone number provided by the State.
We first drove to the area where the steam vents are located. You park in a lot and then walk towards a flattened area down below what is a portion of land leading to the crater. You can see a lot of steam vents with the smoke billowing from cracks in the earth. It is hard to imagine that we were actually walking on top of where an active volcano resides and amazing how much heat is captured underneath the ground. It was very interesting to see.
We then drove to the observation area of the Halema’uma’u crater. We could see the steam rising from within but unfortunately from this vantage point, the lava level was too low for us to see. Apparently, the levels change regularly but we didn’t catch it on a day where it was visible.
Also within the Park is the Nahuku Thurston Lava Tube where we were able to walk through an incredible rainforest with lush vegetation. The steps up into the forest were numerous but it was a great walk where we saw flowers, trees, vines and so many types of different vegetation, it was hard to take it all in. Eventually we came to the enormous lava tube (600 foot cave) that has a path cut right through it. The walls drip with condensation and vines and moss hang down from the top. It is lit from within with electric lights and in some areas the ceiling is more than 20 feet high. It was an amazing sight – especially when you think that this was originally created by coursing lava dating back 500 years.
After our trek through the forest, we were starting to get hungry. We stopped at a small café in Kurtistown and ordered hamburgers to go. After a short stop we were on our way again to find the Ahalanui County Beach Park to swim in a thermal hot pond. We started off in what seemed like the right direction only to realize after our GPS delivered us to a small village on the coast, that we weren’t in the right spot. A lovely lady at one of the local food stands told us to continue along the coast for another 25 minutes until we came to a stop sign and then proceed another 10 minutes until we saw a park with beaches on our right. We kept going in that direction but seemed like we were driving for a very long time. Along the way we came across a stretch of the road that has trees growing overtop making a canopy that was gorgeous. We got out of the car to take a picture and noticed the sweeping coastline with crashing waves and craggy, black rocks framed by incredible greenery. The sea was so loud we couldn’t even hear each other talking. It was a stunning area that we were so glad we stumbled upon.
Just as we were beginning to give up on finding the hot pond, we finally came to the clearing where the parking lot was located. We went directly into the water and found that it was mostly locals swimming and playing in the huge natural pool. The water was so warm – almost like a bath. We found out the water is fed by an underground thermal spring that keeps the water super warm year round. At the edge of the pond was a natural breakwater of boulders where waves regularly crashed over from the sea. For just a moment you would have the cooler water of the open ocean flood into the pond in a refreshing stream. The local children were having an amazing time sitting up on the breakwater and having the waves push them down into the pond. It was a magical place and we were so glad we didn’t miss it.
After a wonderful swim, we started on our way towards the Hilo airport to drop off the car. Along the way we stopped at several state park beaches in search of sea turtles since someone had told us they were plentiful in these areas. We only saw a couple of turtles that were in the water – unfortunately not up on the sand like we were expecting.
We were now very tight for time but just made it to the car rental depot to catch the last shuttle to the port.
Upon our arrival to the ship, we got ready for dinner (our first formal night) and met our fellow dinner companions to compare notes from the day. The food was terrific while we enjoyed prime rib and stuffed ravioli.
This evening we first took part in the Captain’s reception, followed by trivia and then one of the Headliner’s Craig Dahn, who was a terrific pianist. A very full day but all in all, our adventures in Hilo had made for a really great day.
Continue to Day 4 - click here
Sharing Our Travel Dreams
Sharing our personal experiences onboard and on the road, along with tips and insight for creating memorable vacations.