Not “hello” this time. Goodbye. How one word can have both meanings of two distinctly opposite words, I’ll never understand. To make matters more confusing, it can also mean “love and affection”, “presence of life”, and who knows what else. It’s like Hawaiians needed one word to just dump every wordless definition in to. Whatever.
Aloha the island of Hawaii!
Hello this time.
Woke up early, checked out of the hotel, returned the rental car, then meandered my way to the airport. The inter-island terminal wasn’t very big, so my options for breakfast were limited to Burger King and Starbucks. So bacon, egg, and cheese croissanwich, it was. I’ve had better meals.
The flight was a quick and easy one from Oahu to Hawaii. It was about 45 minutes from wheels up to wheels down. Since cruising altitude was only 19,000 feet and I was sitting on the left side of the plane, I got a good view of all of the islands in between: Molokai, Lanai, Maui, and Kahoolawe. I flew into Kona on the Western side of the state since that’s where most of the hotels and my plans were. The cool thing about the airport is that it’s entirely open air.
My rental car in Hawaii was a Ford Focus hatchback. I feel like this is karma catching up to me for mocking the Nissan Altima. For all of the flash this vacation and the pictures are providing, my choice of rental car certainly isn’t holding up its end of the deal.
Since it was only 8:00am by the time I picked up the car, I jumped straight into the sights and sounds. This island has the majority of the national parks, so I set out to start collecting stamps in my national parks passport. I headed south to visit Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park. I’m not usually a big “visit this recreated place” national park kinda guy, as I feel recreated buildings, structures, etc make it feel cheaper than if it were preserved or left as-is. But this place was pretty neat.
The area served two main purposes: part of the land was home to one of the local royal chiefs (ali’l) and separated by a wall was a place of refuge (pu’uhonua). Just about any “crime” was punishable by death, including looking at the chief or casting your shadow onto his property. Also, whoever caught you committing the crime was in charge of killing you. The only catch was that if you could get away and make it to the pu’uhonua, you were safe and given a second chance. The pu’uhonua was surrounded by the chief’s land, so most were inaccessible by foot, since being on their land was a crime. You had to swim to get to them. If you drowned on your way, that was just nature’s way of handling the law for you.
The half mile walking tour was a good way to start my stay on the big island. It was self-guided, laid back, and gorgeous. I also ran into a couple from Western Canada and we chatted about my 50th state visited and their love of Nascar (they recognized my accent and loved that I live in North Carolina). They were on the big island for 8 nights then going to Kauai for 8 nights. I listened to a ranger speak on the history of the site – of the thirty-something, it’s the only pu’uhonua site remaining in the world – then swung by the gift shop on the way out to get my passport book stamped.
From there, I retraced my steps north up the coast to Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park. It’s where land managers (konohiki) divided up plots of land (ahupua’a) from the Hualalai mountain (mauka) to the sea (makai) for families and communities. The park itself preserves two coastal sections. But it was just a large field of lava rock located on the coast, surrounded by industrial parks and the major coastal highway, with a lot of trails through the park.
I took the Ala Mauka Makai trail for 0.7 miles from the visitor center to the ocean. Then the Ala Kahakai trail 1.2 miles on the shore, passed the Aimakapa fishpond, to the Kaloko fishpond. From here, I cut back towards the highway on the Ala Nui Kaloka trail for 0.6 miles. Then picked up the Mamalahoa trail for 0.8 miles back to the visitor center. With the exception of the 1.2 miles on the beach, it was 2.1 miles through lava rock with temperatures in the high 80s. So just a little toasty!
The stretch on the beach was amazing though. The water was stunning. The breeze was blowing. Sea turtles were everywhere! You’re supposed to stay away from them but it’s easy to accidentally sneak up on them hiding in the rocks. I was about 15 feet away from the guy in the 7th picture below before I saw him.
The original plan was to try and hit Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Site to the north too. But by this time, I had been up since 4am local time, flown to another island, spent the day in the sun at two parks, and walked over 4 miles. So I tapped out for the day and checked in to my hotel.
After getting settled, I went to get recommendations for dinner. My hotel’s in a district of town where a cruise liner docks, so its full of shops, restaurants, and other tourist activities. So I wanted something a little more local and authentic than flashy. Without hesitation, the lady told me Umeke’s and handed me a menu. It was very poke (raw fish served over slaw with rice) heavy, which I was skeptical of but everyone has been telling me to try it.
I’m Hawaii, why the hell not? Right?
A quick glance on TripAdvisor also had it as the 2nd best restaurant (of 242) in Kailua-Kona. So I walked over and clearly had the “deer in headlights” look because the lady instantly started asking questions about what I liked or had tried before. She gave me samples to take for a test run. The first, a cream avocado poke, wasn’t my style. The second, an oil-based poke, was getting closer. The third, a soy-based teriyaki poke, sold me. Add in a side of macaroni salad and two scoops of rice, and I headed back to my room a happy camper. It was amazing! The poke had a weird texture but the taste was great. Whatever they sprinkle on the rice was delicious.
Another full belly, another day down!