Hawaii – the Big Island – was next up after Maui – where Pride of America made two stops – Hilo and Kona. Each island is so different in personality; if Maui is the mad aunt, mercurial, charming, and fascinating to be around – Hawaii, the Big Island, is her long-suffering, down-to-earth husband, strong, rugged and no-nonsense – what you see is what you get!
For me, The Big Island was everything I’d imagined Hawaii (the islands) would be – volcanoes, rain forests with plunging waterfalls, genuine people, turtles swimming in crystal waters next to sun-soaked beaches. For the official Hawaii tourist guide: www.gohawaii.com/en/big-island/
Like the other islands, Hawaii weather is whimsical; it changes with altitude and location – from rain to sun, hotter, then cooler, and everything in between. People treat you like family from the first Aloha. You can indulge in every water activity invented, explore the land on foot or by 4×4, fly over active lava flow of Kilauea, shop, or relax on the beach – Hawaii has it all – except a corporate presence. If you want glam, glitter and fancy cocktails, stick to Honolulu, Oahu.
I enjoyed Hawaii, where I hiked into an old Kilauea crater, wandered rain forests, drank authentic Kona coffee and beer, and befriended some locals. My favorite images…
Hilo, Hawaii – where the ship docked – appeared industrial with nothing obvious to see or do within walking distance. If you’re on Pride of America, book a tour that collects you from the dock or arrange a rental car/explore the island yourself. On holiday, I like locals to do my driving, that way I see more/don’t waste time getting lost! The roads were well maintained but I didn’t notice them to be particularly well sign-posted.
I love volcanoes and chose to book Crater Hike and Akaka Falls tour through the ship; the company they used: http://www.arnottslodge.com/adventure-tours
We headed for Hawaii Volcanoes National Park – here is official website, if you want directions/more information: http://www.nps.gov/havo/index.htm
It was about a 45 minute drive from Hilo to the park. There was visible steam from an active vent, not far from where we began our hike along the Kilauea Iki Trail – something brewed deep beneath our feet!
From the crater rim, we headed down and down and down, 400 feet, glimpsing people, the size of ants, far below on the crater floor, as we moved through thick green forest – not good for anyone with knee issues. Approaching the lava lake, the sounds of birds ceased, there was stillness, broken by the thud of our footsteps and heavy breathing. Among the rocks, tossed there by the violence of the eruption, new life is starting to return in the form of sporadic flowers and plants, where there once existed as only death and destruction. Here are shots from my descent.
From the top, the lava lake looks flat; it’s not – be careful of your step and stay within the piles of rocks that mark the path – maybe a mile long – along the floor of the crater. They said it was a four mile round trip – down, along, and up = felt longer. It was magical to see how the earth/life is made; it matched my awe at exploring Mount Etna, in Sicily, but it was nice not to be choked on sulfur fumes. When you reach the other side, it’s straight up via switchback trail/steps – as opposed to the long graduated meander down.
Allow a few hours, have strong quadriceps/lungs, take your time, wear sturdy shoes/hat, dress in layers, use sun block, watch your step, and bring a camera and water.
Here are some images from inside that 1959 crater…
Across the road was the Thurston Lava Tube – expect bus loads of tourists – as you wander through this 500 year-old hollow chamber. It was a fairly short walk, in almost darkness, with dripping water and the eery sensation of being in the ground, below the forest. Once you exit, enjoy an amble along the even path through this tropical paradise – good for people to experience the rain forest without doing a big hike; you’ll end up back, where you started, at the parking lot.
On our tour, we had a fresh sandwich/chips lunch, which we ate overlooking the active vent by the Jagger Museum. After lunch, we piled back on the bus, made a stop at a macadamia nut farm – good if you need a toilet break/want free samples – which will make you want to buy a bag or two! Delicious on the tongue – horrible for the waistline – especially if you go for the chocolate/coconut covered ones!
Next, we drove up and up, until we found ourselves almost in the clouds at Akaka Falls – you’ll need a wide angle/panoramic shot to capture the full drop of the 442′ waterfall. That rain forest that felt so Jurassic that I expected to see raptors soaring below the expansive canopy of trees. The hike around is less than an hour but involves hills/stairs.
Overnight, the ship cruised around Hawaii to reach the charming town of Kona. We were tendered in; if you choose a ship excursion, you’ll get priority on getting off. I chose a morning tour, so I’d the afternoon to myself.
Kona, Hawaii, is one port you don’t have to book in advance. Once deposited on the pier, you’re walking close to everything – with places to book a tour/rent snorkel gear, enjoy shopping, relax on the beach, browse art galleries, or dine at a family-run restaurant. There is a happy, genuine, old-time Hawaii vibe here – the original Hang Loose…
The tour company used by NCL is: http://www.kapohokine.com/hawaii-adventure-tours.php ranked #1 company on Tripadvisor – but check out the others if you want: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractions-g60583-Activities-c61-Hilo_Island_of_Hawaii_Hawaii.html
My tour was Gold Coast and Cloud Forest – an easy hike after the crater one – which started on a golden beach with black lava rocks and huge turtles. Don’t walk on the slippy, slimy rocks trying to get closer to the turtles – you may fall and break bones – something the locals find amusing, as long as the turtles don’t get hurt!
Next stop was a private estate/forest, where Jon, our knowledgeable tour guide, filled my head with Hawaiian history, culture and botanical knowledge – I just remember how peaceful, secluded and colorful everything was. Last stop of the morning was Thunder Mountain Kona Coffee, where we saw how how coffee was made and sampled their wares; I left with a tin of chocolate covered beans.
After the tour, I headed up the hill, from the pier drop-off point, to the famous Kona Brewing Company – http://konabrewingco.com/blog/pubs/kona-pub-brewery/ – where you can sit outside/inside/at the bar to eat and drink the afternoon away. They have limited edition beers on tap that you can’t get in bottles; I enjoyed a lemongrass beer – very refreshing for the hot, muggy, threatening-to-rain kind of day. It was good enough to hold off until I was on the pier waiting for last tender!
Two more days down, Hawaii is another island I shall be returning to.
Again, I apologize to my subscribers, if you want to see photos, please click on the blue link heading in your email.
For those who want to read my first article on Maui/see images from Road to Hana and Haleakala sunrise – hit this link…http://yvonnemcleod.com/best-moments-on-maui-from-pride-of-america/
If you have enjoyed my Hawaii experience – please share this with anyone you know who loves Hawaii or is planning to visit – especially if they are going to be on Pride of America. Or, if you want to book on Pride of America – see https://www.ncl.com
Aloha and Mahalo – I take my leave with love and thank you….be safe – have fun – venture forth….