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A Drive Around The Big Island, Part 3

When you leave the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, you will be turning to the left to continue your circle the island drive.  Just a few miles down the road, if you turn right at the sign that directs you to the golf course, you will find the Volcano Winery.

I doubt that this little winery will ever make the top 20 of wineries to visit, but its a nice break and the wines are pretty good and better yet, affordable.  If nothing else, you may want to consider a bottle or two as gifts, rather than the anticipated pineapple you might have been considering!

About 30 minutes further along Hwy 19 (aka Mamalahoa Hwy), you will come to Punaluu Beach Park, black sand beach.  Its just a short mile off the highway and odds are excellent that you will also be able to view some Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles sunning themselves on the black sand or feeding in the shallows.

Punaluu Beach State Park, Big Island

Endangered Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle

Its a nice place for a picnic, but make sure you bring lunch with you because you won’t find any food vendors in the area.  If a picnic fits in your timeline, you may want to plan on stopping at Pahala, a small town about 6 miles back towards the Volcanoes National Park, to pick up some sandwiches or something.

Further along Hwy 19, you will come to the town of Naalehu, “The Southernmost Community in the USA, is their claim to fame.  You will also find the Punaluu Bakery…it got its start at Punaluu, but moved to Naalehu years ago.  You may have even seen some of their baked goods, particularly their sweetbreads, in stores around the island.  My favorites are the regular and guava flavored sweetbreads.

About 15 minutes further along and you will come to the turn off that will take you down to the coast at Ka Lae (aka South Point).   Its about 8 miles down and most of it through some pretty barren, windswept grasslands.

You have now reached THE southernmost point of the US!  Next stop…Antarctica!  I have an article located elsewhere on this blog on South Point, so I’ll leave this description brief.  I will mention that Papakolea, the green sand beach is located nearby, requiring a 4.5 mile rd-trp hike to get there, so you want to make sure you’ve planned ahead and brought water, sunscreen, and a hat, if you plan on going.

South Point looking towards the northwest, Big Island

Papakolea (Green Sand) Beach, Big Island, Hawaii

Once back on Hwy 19 and headed back northward, you have about an hour’s drive until you reach Kailua-Kona.  This drive includes some of the twistiest and narrowest roads you have been on so far.  Locals will try to blow-by you as you maintain the 35 mph speed limit, but its much safer to go slow, especially when you’re not familiar with the roads.

There are places to stop and visit along the way as you get closer to Kailua-Kona; coffee outlets, Puuhonua o Honaunau (Place of Refuge), and I’ll be posting another article with more things to see and do in the Kona area in the near future.

As you can see, its a huge mistake to try and make this trip in one-day!  I would encourage you to plan on spending at least a full-day exploring the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park!  There is nothing like it anywhere else in the world!

As a matter of fact, if you only visited ONE PLACE on your entire visit to Hawaii…this should probably be it.  Think about it.  Where else can you see an active volcano/lava flow, lush tropical rainforests, innumerable birds found nowhere else on earth, Hawaiian petroglyphs, and find hiking trails ranging from easy to challenging, all in one locale?

I also strongly suggest you visit my website at www.myhawaiionline.com to learn more about the activities and places to go, as well as find links to several of the more popular ones.

Does It Snow In Hawaii?

In 2010, during one of the cold and snowy stretches that hit the US, 49 out of 50 states had snow on the ground…Hawaii was the exception.  During the winter of 2009-10, Hawaii had virtually no snow to speak of.   With yet another cold and snowy winter on hand, on January 11/12, once again 49 out of 50 states had snow on the ground…Florida was the exception.

I recently saw a question on Yahoo Answers that asked about where one should go to see snow.  Although the asker was open to taking a trip to the mainland to do so, its really not necessary.

With Haleakala on Maui at 10,023′ above sea level, Mauna Loa at 13,679′ and Mauna Kea standing at 13,796′, both on the Big Island;  all three are subject to getting snow during the winter months.  This is especially true in January and February.

As a matter of fact, most years Mauna Kea receives enough snow that there is a ski club that takes advantage of the snowfall.  I don’t mean to imply its ever going to challenge Aspen as a ski destination since Mauna Kea probably only averages about a foot and a half of snow a year, but they do ski there.

Hawaii had snow on Haleakala, Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea on January 11-12, 2011.  In fact, the weather service issued a winter storm warning for all three areas that day.  As you might imagine, Hawaii doesn’t actually spend a lot of money buying snow removal equipment, so they close the roads down until the snow melts off the roads, which usually only takes a day or two.

However, what that also means is, if you are planning on catching sunrise on Haleakala or visiting the summit of Mauna Kea to observe sunset or stopping at the Onizuka Visitors Center for their nightly star-gazing program during the winter months, you should check the weather reports and make sure the roads are open.

Snow on Mauna Loa as seen from the road to South Point, Big Island.

Inter-Island Competition May Be Evolving

Remember when Hawaiian and Aloha Airlines were the Inter-Island Choices?

Time was that the Hawaiian islands were served by two very competitive airlines; Aloha And Hawaiian Airlines.  A couple of decades ago, Aloha Airlines went out of business, with just Aloha Cargo left to carry the moniker.  In the intervening years, Go Airlines and Island Air have given Hawaiian Airlines a little competition, but Hawaiian Airlines remains the primary inter-island carrier to date.

Fast forward to the next decade and the air carrier picture could look much different.  With the recent purchase of Go Airlines by Lanai’s Larry Ellison, who already owns Island Air, there may be a re-awakening of inter-island competition.  With the addition of new aircraft in the form of fuel-efficient ATR-72’s and new leadership, Island Air could roll out some much needed relief in inter-island airfares.

Hawaiian Airlines recently added ATR-42’s to use in servicing Lanai and Molokai, Island Air’s primary routes.  Remember, Ellison originally purchased Island Air in order to improve air service to his resort island of Lanai.

Will Alaska Air and Southwest Airlines fly Inter-Island?

And, rumors continue about Southwest Airlines interest in the inter-island market since they are already preparing to add Hawaii to its routes.  There has also been talk of Alaska Airlines looking into inter-island flights in addition to the competition they already give Hawaiian Airlines into Hawaii from the west coast.

However all of this shakes out, the real winner at the end of all this jockeying for the inter-island market may just be the consumer, especially island residents who travel between islands for business and pleasure.  Of course, it could also help to boost outer-island tourist numbers as well.  It could mean all the difference in a one-island visit or a multi-island experience to budget conscious travelers.

Care to share your thoughts and insights on this inter-island question?

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Included Attractions
Gate Price
Polynesian Cultural Center $49.95
Makani Catamaran Sail $49.00
USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park $10.00
Sea Life Park $29.99
Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUP) at Ala Moana Beach – NEW! $39.00
Snorkel the North Shore – NEW! $12.00
Oahu Kayaking with Hawaii Beach Time – NEW! $49.00
Battleship Missouri Memorial $22.00
Hanauma Bay Snorkel by Kaimana Tours, LLC $21.95
All of Oahu in One Day Tour $72.00
USS Arizona Memorial – Audio Tour $5.00
Pearl Harbor Historical-City Tour $38.00
AlohaBus Double Decker Tour $30.00
Diamond Head Hike by Kaimana Tours, LLC $15.54
Beach Gear – Pick One by Hawaiians Oceans $30.00
Movie Sites and Ranch Tour at Kualoa Ranch $26.00
Dole Plantation: The Maze $6.00
Dole Plantation Pineapple Express Train Ride and Garden Tour $13.00
Jungle Tour at Kualoa Ranch $26.00
Waimea Valley $15.00
Wet ‘n Wild Hawaii $47.11
Byodo-In Temple $3.00
Iolani Palace $21.75
Hawaiian Style Rentals: Moped and Bike Rentals $31.41
Secret Island Beach at Kualoa Ranch $26.00
Rainforest and Waterfall Adventure $29.00
Pacific Aviation Museum $20.00
Voyaging Catamaran Tour at Kualoa Ranch $26.00
Ancient Fishpond and Garden Tour at Kualoa Ranch $26.00
Bishop Museum $19.95
Hawaii’s Plantation Village $13.00
Honolulu Museum of Art $10.00
Queen Emma Summer Palace $8.00
Honolulu Museum of Art Spalding House $10.00
Makapuu Lighthouse Hike $21.75
Hawaii Childrens Discovery Center $10.00


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Akatsuka Orchid Gardens, Volcano, Hawaii

Akatsuka Orchid Gardens

If you are a flower lover and especially if you are an orchid lover, you will want to plan a stop at the Akatsuka Orchid Gardens in Volcano, Hawaii…that’s the Big Island of Hawaii.  And, yes, there is a town called Volcano, which as the name implies is situated adjacent to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

The weather in this area is almost ideal for growing orchids and anthuriums.   As a matter of fact, in nearby Mountain View, they grow a lot of anthuriums since they love the damp, cool weather that envelopes this part of the island.  I have an aunt who used to live there and  2/3rds of her yard was fern tree shaded and filled with anthuriums of every shape, size and color imaginable.  Of course, that also meant it was also heavily infested by mosquitoes…they also love those damp conditions.

The Akatsuka Orchid Gardens is located on Hwy 19, the main around-the-island highway, between Mountain View and Volcano.  If you’re lucky, your stop will not coincide with one of the many tour buses that stop here daily.  You will find everything from the common orchids to some species that are endangered, from tiny quarter sized flowers to hand-sized blooms, and all the expertise to help give you tips on how to raise your own back home.

Akatsuka Orchid Gardens

The view that greets you upon entering the Akatsuka Orchid Gardens

Akatsuka Orchid GardensOrchid at Akatsuka Orchid Farm

Akatsuka Orchid Gardens

More of the beautiful orchids on display

 

 

 

 

 

Bring with you or Ship them home

You can select the orchid plants that you want and they will either pack it for you to take with you on your plane ride home or they will ship it back to you, whichever you prefer. All of their plants are pre-inspected by the Hawaii Agricultural Department and certified pest free so that you can get them pass the Agricultural inspection at the airport. (I think the exceptions to that include Arizona, which does not permit orchids to be imported into the state.)

You can also go to the Akatsuka Orchid Gardens website and order online, if a trip to the Big Island is not in your immediate future.  You will also find tips on growing orchids there.

Discarded Fishing Nets help Hawaii attain its Energy Goal

Transforming Discarded Nets Into Energy

Everyone and anyone who has ever taken a walk along Hawaii’s beautiful shorelines has come across discarded fishing nets washed up by the tides.  What many don’t realize is that the vast majority of these nets originate thousands of miles from Hawaii!

Until fairly recently, they have just been an eye sore and environmental hazard, but now, they are being transformed into electricity that helps to power Honolulu’s energy needs.  While they may not make up much of the fuel burned daily, it is a smart, clean way to help rid the islands of this problem.

CNN recently filed this video report on the problem and solution.  Click on the link to view it.

CNN Report on Transforming discarded fishing nets into energy.

70% Renewable Energy Goal by 2030

You may or may not be aware that Hawaii has established an admirable and aggressive state-wide goal of 70% of its energy needs coming from renewable sources by the year 2030.  As the CNN video reported, the burning of trash provides up to 10% of the state’s energy needs.

Obviously, wind and solar energy will also be a big part of the solution to meeting this goal.  Bio-mass burning has also been providing energy for quite some time now, including the burning of sugar cane baggasse (the plant material left over once the sugar is extracted) on Maui.

HC&S has been burning bagasse for decades to generate  electricity.   HC&S burns 500,000 tons of bagasse a year, which produces energy equivalent to 500,000 barrels of oil.  This not only provides for all of their energy needs, but also provides 7-8% of all the power used on Maui, which is distributed by Maui Electric.  That not only provides energy, but also helps to keep the litter problem under control as well.

Wind power has been the focus in recent years and with each new wind farm proposed, there comes the protests from local residents and environmentalists, who are at odds with their goal of conserving natural resources and intruding upon local plants, wildlife, and cultural sites.  That problem is not unique to Hawaii.

Everybody supports the idea of wind and solar energy providing renewable energy, but just as universally, just about everyone wants it generated somewhere other than in their neighborhood.  (Likewise, nobody likes the traffic and pollution all that traffic generates, but support of the mass transit rail system has been opposed since the idea first surfaced over a decade ago.)

What cost are we willing to pay for progress towards a cleaner environment?

 

A Drive Around The Big Island, Part 1

Looking at a map, its easy to think that you can make a leisurely day trip, driving around the Big Island of Hawaii, on Hwy’s 11 and 19 that circles the island.  You would be badly mistaken in attempting to do so, unless simply driving is your goal.

Since most visitors to the island base their stay in the Kona area on the western shores, let’s start our drive from there.  You have 3 options open to you.  You can head north and drive along the coast on Hwy 19 until it turns inland towards Waimea (sometimes referred to as Kamuela).  You could head south along Hwy 19 (aka Mamalahoa Hwy)  or you could take the Saddle Road between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, ending in Hilo.

If you were to head north on Hwy 19 (aka Queen Kaahumanu Hwy) and then continued along the shore, rather than heading inland towards Waimea, you would arrive shortly at the Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historical Park.  This is the largest heiau in the state and they are working hard on restoring it.

A few miles further along and you will come to Kawaihae Harbor.  It is a commercial port and not much there, although they do have a small strip center that houses some of the work of local artisans.

You could continue on Hwy 270 to the northern tip of the island at Upolu Point, near the birthplace of King Kamehameha the Great,  just short of the town of Hawi.  Hawi is often mentioned as the site of the original King Kamehameha statue., although it is actually located in the town of Kapaau, just beyond Hawi.  And, while you’re in the area, the first zip-line on the island of Hawaii operates out of Hawi, Big Island Eco Adventures.

Original King Kamehameha Statue, Kapaau, Big Island

From Hawi, you would take Hwy 270 over the Kohala Mountains and arrive in Waimea and back on Hwy 19.  Waimea makes a great spot to stop for lunch…you can stop at McDonald’s or one of the other familiar fast food restaurants or treat yourself to something more local.

Give the Hawaiian Style Cafe a try, located at 64-1290 Kawaihae Rd (aka Hwy 19).  They are a locally owned and operated casual, local food eatery.  While it will never grab a A+ rating from the Chamber of Commerce for appearance or from Fodor’s for cleanliness or taste, they do have large portions, which is what most of the locals are attracted by, including a monster version of loco-moco.  Caution:  they close by 1:30 pm, sometimes earlier, if they run out of food for the day.

If you arrive too late or prefer quality rather than just quantity, drive down another mile and give Huli Sue’s a try.  It will cost you a bit more than Hawaiian Style Cafe, but the food is excellent.  The canning jar drink glasses are a nice touch to this cozy atmosphere…kind of like a scaled down version of Cracker Barrel.

After you’ve had your lunch, continue another 15 minutes or so along Hwy 19 and you’ll come to Honokaa, home of the Hawaiian Holiday Macadamia Nut Company.  To be honest, I have not visited their factory, but that doesn’t take away from my enjoying their candies.

Another half-hour towards Hilo, you will come to the turn off for Akaka Falls, about 2 miles off the highway.   When you arrive at the parking lot, you will have a half-hour hike ahead of you on a paved trail that takes you by giant bamboo and ferns on the way to the viewing area, across from the falls.  (I suggest you take your valuables with you, as there have been break-ins there.)

Part of the walkway to Akaka Falls

Akaka Fallls, Big Island

Twenty minutes or so after leaving Akaka Falls will find you arriving in Hilo.   This is kind of the half-way point of your drive around the island.  Its also a good place to fill up your gas tank as the gas here is about 15-20 cents a gallon cheaper than it is in the Kona area.

I’ll continue with this drive in Part 2 and Part 3.

Onizuka Visitor Center on the Slopes of Mauna Kea

Mauna Kea Onizuka Visitor Center

Located at the 9200′ point on the slopes of 13,803′ Mauna Kea, the Onizuka Visitor Information Station makes for a great spot to acclimate to the altitude.  Altitude sickness is a real possibility for those who continue on to the summit and it is suggested that anyone planning on doing so, spend at least a half hour at the visitor center.

Caution: It is recommended that anyone who has gone scuba diving in the previous 24-hrs do not visit the Onizuka Visitor Center or go to the summit, as the bends is a real, potential hazard.  For a list of additional health hazards and precautions to take, visit www.ifa.hawaii.edu/info/vis/visiting-mauna-kea/health-and-safety-advisories.html.

On our recent visit to the Big Island, this was one of the few things on our “to-do list” that we haven’t done before.  The much maligned, but much improved Saddle-Road that runs between Hilo and Waimea (Kamuela) makes the drive from Hilo a pleasant one, even though your vehicle may do a lot of down-shifting as you go from near sea-level to over 9000′ in just over an hour.  [The drive takes about twice as long if you’re driving from the Kailua-Kona area.]  Once placed on the “do not go” list of car rental companies, it is no longer an obstacle.

The view alone would make taking this drive along the Saddle Road worthwhile, as you get a unique perspective of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea from the valley (the “Saddle”) that is formed between them.  I would suggest leaving early enough to allow for at least a two-hour drive, if you’re leaving out of the Kailua-Kona area, to get to the Onizuka Visitor Center.  If you plan to go to the summit, allow a half hour acclimation period there, then another 15-20 minutes for the drive to the summit.

Then, on your way back down, stopping for the star-gazing program.  You’ll easily spend half an hour to a full hour gazing through the various telescopes that they have set up on the patio.

View of Mauna Kea from the Saddle Road

View of Mauna Kea from the Saddle Road

 

 

 

 

 

Looking back at the Onizuka Visitor Center

Looking back at the Onizuka Visitor Center

 

We got a late start and a longer stop at the Akatsuka Orchid Gardens than anticipated, so we did not get to do the summit on this visit…gives us something to look forward to on a future visit.  We got to the visitor center with 15 minutes till sunset and we did manage to climb a small hill nearby, which many do to get a beautiful view of the sun going down.  [Note: It gets dark and cold fairly quickly once the sun goes down, so a flashlight would be a good idea.]

Sunset from hill near the Visitor Center

Sunset from hill near the Onizuka Visitor Center

Love this shot of my kids and I on Mauna Kea

Love this shot of my kids and me on Mauna Kea

 

Randy at sunset on Mauna Kea

Me, at sunset on Mauna Kea

Nightly Star-Gazing Program

Temperatures dropped from the 50’sF to the mid- 40’sF and the breeze picked up after dark, as well.  There is a nightly star-gazing program hosted by volunteers who man telescopes on the patio of the Onizuka Visitor Center.  We got great looks at the moon and a crash course in constellation location and identification.  It is a very informative and entertaining presentation, although it is helpful if you are somewhat familiar with constellations to begin with.

It should be noted that the breeze naturally accelerates after sunset, so dress accordingly as you will definitely feel the wind-chill affect!  There isn’t a lot of refreshments available to keep you warm…i.e. no coffee!  They do have a pot of hot water and will sell you some instant hot cocoa mix for a dollar inside.  It helps raise funds to keep this operation going, not to mention give you something warm in your belly!

If you plan on visiting and seeing Mauna Kea up-close, allow for a stop at the Onizuka Visitors Center and it is always a good idea to get the latest weather update and check on road conditions.  Simply call, (808) 935-6268 for a recorded message on current conditions.

For more information on Mauna Kea, here are a few books to consider:

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