After a week of trials and tribulations, we finally had an absolutely wonderful day on the Big Island! Thanks 100% to KapohoKine Adventures 🙂 One of the things on our must do list was to see lava. And since we couldn’t see it by boat and couldn’t hike to it, that meant driving back to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. We tried to drive ourselves there on 4/2 and ended up experiencing our Worst Day In Hawaii… but that’s a story for another day! This post is about our BEST Day 3 days later on 4/5! We decided to investigate tours that would drive us to Kīlauea, particularly after dark. We talked to the Expedia travel dude located at our resort, and he booked us on this tour:
KapohoKine Adventures picked us up right outside our hotel at 11am and had us back by 10pm. The trip included lunch at a local coffee plantation, visits to a famous painted church, a famous bakery, a black sand beach, a winery for a tasting & dinner, and then into Volcanoes National Park for a hike through the Thurston lava tube [which we did in 2014 and I couldn’t wait to do again] and the Kīlauea crater after dark! 11 hours sounds like a long time, but it was so worth it! The tour guide Mitch was awesome – we learned so much! And most of the 11 other people on the trip were very fun and cool. 3 were from Australia, 2 from New Zealand, and the rest from the US mainland. It was the best day ever! Well maybe not EVER, but close 🙂
I will let the photos do most of the talking.
Coffee plantation lunch [under the big white tent] and a loud, happy rooster and his hen [she’s tucked in behind her man]:
St. Benedict’s Painted Church in Captain Cook, Hawaii:
The church has a graveyard overlooking the sea & very cool gardens!:
Unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures of the walls inside the church [what was I thinking?], so I borrowed these courtesy of Kona123.com – it really was quite amazing!:
Hawaiian nēnē geese:
Punalu’u Bake Shop – the Southernmost Bakery in the US. Known for it’s Portuguese sweet bread. But what I honed in on was the chocolate Bismarks! I’ve never had a Bismark but my mom has always raved about them [photos courtesy of BigIslandNow and DuckysAlwaysHungry]:
I bought and hoovered 2 of them. I could have easily eaten 6. They were heaven. Pure heaven! Sort of like a giant, round eclair or a miniature Boston Cream Pie. Sooooooooo good…
Punalu’u Black Sand Beach. We learned that black sand beaches like Punalu’u are created almost instantaneously by the violent explosion of molton lava entering cool sea water. It’s not actually sand, it’s basalt crystals. So cool! There were green sea turtles harvesting algae off the rocks right at the shoreline which is always a treat to see:
The black sand was so cool! It wasn’t too hot to walk on without shoes which was good, because the grains are bigger and rounder than regular sand and got stuck in my flip flops:
It’s also neat to see the lava formations that make up the rocks along the shore – so swirly:
There are 500 year old petroglyphs carved into rocks near the beach, contained within a walled-off area. This is a pic of the easiest one to see [it’s an upside-down warrior]:
We also saw this cool thing in a tidal pool – I have no idea what it is, or if it was alive, but it looked alive. I didn’t want to pick it up and risk hurting it. We saw other people ooo-ing and ahh-ing over it too. It was about the size of an avocado:
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park! We hiked a 1 mile loop through jungley forest and then through the Thursten Lava Tube. The fiddle heads were the size of pumpkins – it felt so Jurassic:
Dinner was at the Volcano Winery. It has amazing wines made from such things as honey and tea! It was fun to taste 8 of their more popular wines. Dinner was bleh. The BBQ chicken was skinless, dry and rubbery. Gross. I like my BBQ chicken with skin on and smothered in a thick layer of spicy sauce just like my parents make – YUM…
Then as it got dark, Kīlauea crater at night! OMGOMGOMG! The first pic was the first one I took as I ran towards the crater LOL – it’s a bit fuzzy but I love it because it reminds me of how excited I was! That one and the rest in this series were taken with my Nikon D60 digital SLR. I was calm enough to use my mini tripod for the rest:
I took these 2 with my cell phone:
And hubby took pics of me taking pics 🙂
BEST DAY EVER!!!
As an aside, the tour guide told us that ever since tours at the crater started in the mid-1980’s, only 5% of people get to see lava bubbling up above the crater rim! So we were SUPER LUCKY! Usually the level of the lava lake is like 70 feet lower than the night we were there, and you just see a glow. And apparently many times the crater is covered in a thick cloud layer making it nearly impossible to see much of anything. So we were very lucky! 10 hours after I took those photos, on the morning of 4/6, the crater exploded! Crazy!!!
My next post will cover our worst day. Which was still a great day, because Hawaii!!!
We now realize the Island was about to undergo a major eruption, which started 3 days after we left. We were one of the last people to see Kīlauea crater up close. Volcanos National Park is now closed indefinitely. The crater has nearly doubled in size and the museum near the crater was destroyed by earth quakes. We feel very lucky to have seen Pele before she exploded.