Hawaii Vacation, Days 7-11

The caldera at Kilauea volcano

We began day seven by visiting the various volcanos, steam vents, and lava fields in Volcano National Park.  We got a late-ish start but got out the door early enough to see all we wanted to see in the park.  Kilauea is the least active it has been for 35+ years, so there were no active lava fields or flowing lava.

Departing our cabin in the morning
Active steam vents

Near the visitor’s center there are a number of active steam vents where hot gasses from the most recent eruption are visible. We took a couple mile hike into the Kilauea caldera.  Until recently this was an active lava lake until last year’s major eruptions.  There are two major types of lava in Hawai’i: ‘a’ā and pāhoehoe. ‘A’ā is rough and chunky, while pāhoehoe is smooth and ropy. They may vary in color from shiny black to dull brown. Both types have the same chemical composition, but pāhoehoe is hotter when it erupts and is more fluid than ‘a’ā.

Candy standing on some pāhoehoe lava in the Kileaua caldera
Walking into the caldera. At this point we were squarely inside the volcano.

After this hike we drove the Chain of Craters road stopping at sites along the way to see different types of lava flows, craters, etc.

Tom and Buck on a road along the Chain of Craters that was covered by a lava flow
Where the lava poured into the water when it was flowing
Are those the Griswolds?

On the way back up the Chain of Craters road to the visitor’s center we stopped at an area with 23,000 petroglyphs engraved into the lava flow.  Since they were engraved in the lava rather than painted on a cave or canyon wall, they were much more visible that normal.

A sample of the many petroglyphs we found

It was a bit disappointing that there were no explanations of what scholars think some of the symbols might mean.

The symbol of the men’s restroom in ancient Hawaii?

After this night of hiking and walking we had dinner in the cafeteria at Kilauea Military Camp, which is much like a military-style mess hall.  The food was good, but no frills.  We then went back to our cabin to watch Moana and have dessert.

We started the next day by walking along the trail past the sulphur vents around the visitor center.  These are similar to the steam vents on the opposite side of the road, but the escaping gasses have more minerals, particularly sulphur, and they stain the rocks bright colors.

The sulphur vents near the visitor’s center

Then we drove the eastern side of the island, stopping to see various overlooks, beaches, and sites along the way.

Candy at rainbow falls
Candy at Rainbow Falls
Standing on a black sand beach that looks more gray in this picture. The black sand beaches are made by lava ground down by the action of the sea over many years.

As we stopped at these beaches — all beaches in Hawaii are public — in most cases we were surprised how few people were on them.

We stopped at an out of the way place for lunch
We had wraps and fresh fruit, most of which had been grown on the property

Then we kept driving.

Our next stop was Akaka Falls state park for a short hike to see several falls.
Akaka falls

These falls were impressive but were only a fifth as tall as Angel Falls in South America.

One of many beaches we stopped to view

Us with the Waipi’o Valley in the background. This is still private land and somewhat sacred to Hawaiians.  We chose not to hike the mile into the valley, as the signs implied that the locals find it disrespectful.

The next morning we bade farewell to our cabin and took a short detour to see the interior of the Volcano House lodge in the national park.

So long cabin!
Volcano House. Of the many national park lodges we’ve seen, this was the least ornate on the outside, but it was nice on the inside and provided a wonderful view of the lava lake prior to last year’s eruption.

Our plan was to drive up the coast (mostly) from Volcano National Park to Kailua-Kona where we were would stay the last two nights in Hawaii.

A lava beach at which we stopped along the drive from Volcano to Kailua-Kona.
Entrance to “the refuge”

Along the way we stopped at a place known as the “refuge.”  The punishment for nearly all crimes in ancient Hawaii seems to have been death.  A marked person could flee, and if he made it to this place and spent some time with the priest here, he could be absolved of his crimes and return home.

The beach on the ali’i (king’s) side of the refuge compound
Sam and Tom engaged in an ancient Hawaiian strategy game that on the face of it looked like Othello
That handsome family again!
Sam made a new friend

We arrived in Kailua-Kona (mostly known just as Kona) in time to check into the Royal Kona Resort and get the lay of the land before our scheduled luau.  We had time to put on our swimsuits and play in the hotel’s private lagoon and then in the pool before showering up for the luau.

An imu in which the pig was cooked for our luau

This was some of the best kalua pork we had on the trip.

The family enjoying bottomless mai tai’s as we waited for the luau to begin
Buck and his trophy wife — or is that Candy and her trophy husband. I never get that right.
There was live entertainment throughout the luau provided by these local musicians.
The weather threatened to rain on us all night, but we didn’t get rain until after the luau ended. In the meantime we were presented by two rainbows.

At the luau we had excellent food and all-you-can-drink mai tais.  Candy drank mai tai’s like a fish.  Depending on who you ask the number was between four and six!

The sunset from the luau at the Royal Kona Resort

The luau lasted until after sunset.

The luau hula dancers presented dances from various Polynesian islands. We had nice, close seats, which game me a chance to really watch the hula dancers’ hands. When they sang songs in English, you could really see how the hand gestures mirrored the lyrics.

As with all luaus, the highlight was the fire guy.

Nighttime hula dancing

The next morning, we slept in and then went to the pool for a couple of hours.

Sam begin dragged into the water
Tom tried a sample of four different types of mai tais. There is controversy over who invented the mai tai, with our hotel’s Don the Beachcomber claiming the title.


Candy sips a mai tai by the pool. With all that fruit, it must be healthy!

This evening we planned to take a tour to Mauna Kea to see the stars.  We have seen the brilliant star fields at Bryce Canyon, and Mauna Kea is supposed to be better.  We met the van at 1430 and got part way up the mountain for an early dinner when the National Weather Service close the road to the observatories due to rain and flash flooding.  We were very disappointed, but we made it back down to our hotel in time to watch the fireworks in the harbor, since it was the 4th of July.

A view of the outside of our hotel

The next day was really a travel day.  Our flight left Kona at 2000, but we got a somewhat late checkout and planned to enjoy the day.  We started at the pool again and then went to visit the Vanillerie.  This is a small farm where the local businessman is trying to make a go of farming vanilla.  After the tour, I have a much greater respect for vanilla.  It is a HARD and LONG process.  This is why you have probably never actually had vanilla, but imitation vanilla which is much more easily harvested from the bark of some type of pine tree.

Entering the Vanillerie for our tour
Inside one of the four greenhouses

At the end of the tour we got a small sample of ice cream made with his real vanilla, and there was a definite taste difference.

One last look at a beach before retrieving our bags from the hotel and heading for the airport
… and as the sun sets gently into the horizon of Kailua-Kona we bid a fond farewell to Hawaii…

The flights home were uneventful but painfully long at the end of a ten-day vacation.  I don’t know when we’ll all be able to take this much time together for a vacation.