The Big Island of Hawaii (June 30, 2012)

Saturday, June 30, 2012

We expected today to be a crowded day on the Kona area of The Big Island since it was Saturday in a more populous area .

We woke up early to make sure to get a prime spot to go snorkel at Kahaluu Beach Park. Kris had a great time snorkeling, and he got the first burn of the trip. I enjoyed reading on the beach.

The set up at Kahaluu was really nice. They had a huge shaded area with tables and benches as well as the beach. A few vendors were already around, so today was our first shaved ice of trip. I had vanilla and strawberry; Kris had pina colada and watermelon. *Vanilla would be my standard so I had a comparison flavor.

We had lunch at Island Java Lava, a restaurant on a main strip of town with great views.

Kris got his first taste of true Kona Coffee with a Kona Coffee Milkshake.

Next up was a tour at the Mountain Thunder Coffee Organic farm. Mountain Thunder Coffee is a small organic farm in Kona, Hawaii that has won some major coffee awards in the last few years.

They give free coffee tours... and when in Kona...

While waiting for the tour to start, we got to sample some coffee and tea as well as meet some of the animal friends of the farm. (Okay, Kris got to try some coffee. I don't drink it.)

The specialist who lead the tour was a wealth of information. She really knew her stuff. I wish I could remember everything I learned, as it really was fascinating.

Things I remember learning on the tour:

*Coffee is part of the gardenia family and was originally planted for blooms of the trees. It wasn't until livestock started eating the leaves and stayed frisky all night that the farmers started investigating why.

*Coffee beans are ready when they turn red. They really need to be picked by hand or you waste crop.

*They have just recently discovered the cherry skin of the coffee bean is full of antioxidants and is now being used in products (but has been thrown away for decades).

*Caffeine has been found to help heal skin to prevent cancer.

*100% Kona coffee only grown on Kona and must be highest quality. Chances are, if you've seen any kind of blend of coffee that includes Kona coffee it'll include 10% or less and was rejected as being included in the best crop for premium coffees.

*Coffee in competitions is judged at first crack. You can best tell the flavors of a good coffee at a medium roast. If a coffee is brewed as a dark roast, it's likely not very high quality coffee. The darker the roast, the more flaws it is meant to hide.

We tried some chocolate and white chocolate covered coffee beans called peaberrys. We tried some of the antioxidant lotion as well. Unfortunately, coffee is best when consumed within a month of being bagged, so we couldn't really buy it. Kris wouldn't be home to have it. It was a fascinating tour though

While driving to our next location, Kris saw a lava cave by the side of the road. He pulled over so we could explore. I find it pretty fascinating that the Big Island has such diverse landscape in such a relatively small space. We'd been at the beach, left for the rainforest, and were by a desert arid area when we pulled over.

Our next stop was the Waikoloa Petroglyphs (1400-1800 AD). These petroglyphs are a short hike from a really nice outdoor mall shopping complex where we found a field dedicated both to a community of feral cats and a pile of rubber duckies.

Most of the petroglyphs were just a series of circles and lines...

but there were several impressive petroglyphs.

After spending time looking at the petroglyphs, we opted to go to Hapuna Beach for sunset.

We wrapped up the evening by going to the Sheraton for a failed attempt at seeing nighttime manta rays.

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The Big Island of Hawaii (June 29, 2012)

Friday, June 29, 2012

Kris decided to disgust me this morning by frying and consuming 1200 calories worth of SPAM for breakfast. It looks like canned cat food. Why would anyone eat it?

Then we were off for a long journey to the Kona side of the Big Island. We decided to take the long route down to the southernmost point of the United States. Since we were heading that way and the skies were quite clear, we stopped by Volcano National Park to see the Kilauea overlook without the cloud cover. It looked a bit different than the day we hiked it.

For most people, this clearer view is probably more exciting, but I think I liked doing our hike in the fog. We were truly surprised to see the landscape when we got down to the bottom. It added to our experience - although others would likely argue it is more fun when you aren't hiking in the rain.

We also walked through the Thurston lava tube.

I had read that you can often see resting sea turtles as Punalu'u Beach. I was delighted when we stopped to find four sea turtles snoozing on the beach.

We spent a bit of time exploring the black sand beach too. It was a spectacular day.

Hawaii is a pretty dog friendly place. I always enjoyed seeing the puppers hanging around. Dragon was a pretty laid-back pooch.

Kris was pretty full from the SPAM, but I had eaten a normal breakfast and was feeling like sustenance. I saw a sign for the Southernmost Bakery in USA and made Kris pull over.

We drove up to the bakery while a group of old car enthusiasts were there. We spent at least ten minutes walking around looking at the old mint cars.

The Punalu'u Bake Shop wound up being a very tasty and affordable stop. We got burgers on amazingly sweet Hawaiian rolls, and I bought an incredible cinnamon swirl sweet bread with icing for breakfast in the morning.

There was a pretty little garden around the bakery.

Next up...the Southern Point of the USA (also known as Ka Lae).

Technically, you aren't supposed to go to this point (per the rental agreement). I don't understand this, as the road is completely paved. You can't go to Green Sands though. It's a really rough unpaved road and has signs stating you can be fined for off-roading there. A guy spends his whole day there shuttling tourists back and forth for $10 per person. (Pretty sure it's illegal, but it's a pretty brutal hike I hear.)

Luckily our Jeep (above) fared better than this truck below did.

The sand from the green sand beach is gorgeous.

We continued on our way to check into our new AirBnb, the Kalaoa Cottage with decks.

This AirBnb was in a nature preserve area but in a residential area. We saw all sorts of feral kitties and wildlife.

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