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.
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.
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.
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.
It was a bit disappointing that there were no explanations of what scholars think some of the symbols might mean.
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.
Then we drove the eastern side of the island, stopping to see various overlooks, beaches, and sites along the way.
As we stopped at these beaches — all beaches in Hawaii are public — in most cases we were surprised how few people were on them.
Then we kept driving.
These falls were impressive but were only a fifth as tall as Angel Falls in South America.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This was some of the best kalua pork we had on the trip.
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 luau lasted until after sunset.
As with all luaus, the highlight was the fire guy.
The next morning, we slept in and then went to the pool for a couple of hours.
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.
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.
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.
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.