We were on a quest to see the volcano this trip since on our last trip (our honeymoon) we didn’t. Jack really wanted to see red hot lava and wondered if we would be able to see the center of the Earth. We weren’t even deterred when they told us it would be at least a 3 hour drive from our hotel, no we were ready. We had our highly capable tin can of a car, the 4 door Jeep Wrangler (I know what your thinking, that make 4 door Wranglers. Yes they do and they are all over the island.) It was 4 wheel drive.
Breakfast in the car and we set off around the top of the island. It was a beautiful drive along the coast, where it was much greener. We arrived at Volcano National Park in just over 2 hours, despite a lot of road work on the 1 lane each way “highway.” (Not sure how locals drive, but we didn’t speed.) After stopping at the visitors center we decided to drive as far as we could on Chain of Craters Road. Normally you could drive all the way to the coast and see recent lava flows, but with the new flow that started a week before we arrived and a brush fire, the road was closed at the 6 mile mark.
The end of the line was at a big lava flow from the 1970s. We were able to get out and walk around on the lava. It was hard for Jack to believe that this was once red hot lava.
On the way back we stopped at the Thurston Lava Tube, which was made when a flow came up and the top hardened when it hit the air. The red hot lava then continued to flow through the tube. We walked through a rain forest area to get down to the tube. The park was an interesting mix of rain forest and lava fields.
Then it was on to Kilauea Crater. The road that goes all the way around the crater is closed due to high sulfur dioxide levels. At the Jaggar Museum there was a great view of the crater and the steam being released from the Halema`uma`u crater, (which is a small crater inside Kilauea) which as recently as the 1920s was a lava pool. There were photos of people standing next to it. Now would you really go stand next to a pool of red hot lava, come on don’t you want to become Darth Vader.
Now it was lunch time and we didn’t have much with us, so decided to head back toward Hilo. We wanted to drive back a different way, going through the middle of the island, between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea, banking that the road would have less road work, but we found a 5 mile stretch of unpaved road that they were rebuilding, oh well.
This drive took us right by the turn off to the Mauna Kea Observatory and it was still early enough in the day so what the heck lets try it. The visitors check point was 6 miles up and with big signs saying Stop and check in, treacherous road ahead. You could see the switchbacks of the road on the side of the mountain.
Jim talked to them and immediately determined we weren’t going to the top. There was a long list of people that they recommend not continuing up, including children. Well the top is 13,796 ft. It doesn’t look nearly that high. There was a short walk up to one of the cinder cones that would give us a view of both sides of the island. With Will in the ergo backpack, crying the whole way, we walked up close to the top, it was really windy. Jack was a champ, doing a great job hiking up in the wind. It wasn’t until we got back in the car that we wondered what the elevation was, 9100 ft. WOW!
Our day with the volcanoes was great, even if we didn’t get to see red hot lava.
Friday morning Jim and I got to go golfing again. Jack went back to camp and Jen watched Will again. This time we played up at the Hapuna course, designed by Arnold Palmer. It was a beautiful course that had views of the water on every hole. On the 17th hole we discovered herd of goats, some on my tee box and more down the fairway. (See the video) We finished our round early so we went and had a drink (or 3) at the Hau Tree bar at the Mauna Kea hotel. Will’s birthday was also Friday so we took the boys out to dinner, after a Husky basketball win.
Since Saturday was our last day there we wanted to spend the day at the hotel soaking up every last drop of fun we could. Yaya and Papa came over and had breakfast with us. We decided to start our pool tour at the Kohala Pool to show Yaya and Papa the water slides.
Next we headed over to the Kona pool. That was my favorite pool, even though it was just a touch cold, but much more room. We had a nice lunch poolside under our umbrella as it rained for the first time of our trip. Will and I then took the tram back for his nap and met up with Jim and Jack later. They tried to play the putting course, but it wasn’t staffed the times they tried. So they swam instead.
We met them at dolphin pool to watch them for a while and then went over to the Lagoon. I wanted to swim out to the waterfall with Will and Jack in their floats. As we were on our way some folks let us know that there were sea turtles out there. We could see them surfacing for air. Unfortunately we didn’t have masks, so it wasn’t easy to see them under the water. I tried to take some photos with the underwater camera, but nothing came out that well. We swam and played until dinnertime.
Dinner was at the Lagoon Grill for burgers where we ran into some people from Seattle that we met in the rental car line. We pushed the tables together and chatted for a while. Their son was Jack’s age, so they had fun playing.
Our last morning was a bit somber. No one really wanted to go home, because we had such a great trip. For the flight home people were nice enough to trade seats, so we could all sit together. It made the flight a lot easier. On the flight home Jim and I decided that we need to come to Hawaii every 3-4 years, 11 is just to long to wait.