28 November 2015

Lava Tube Exploring

We were able to go exploring in three separate lava tubes.  We killed some time in the Thurston Lava Tube at the Volcano National Park and weren't really impressed.  It was short and very well taken care of so most people would be able to go inside and explore.  It was significantly shorter than I expected, but still fun!

The other two caves we went into were outside of the National Park and are the Kaumana Caves.  These are in Hilo, so if you find yourself on the Big Island these act as a great stop on a day of driving.  We made these a pit stop on our way from Kona back to Hilo to catch our flight back home.  The Kaumana Caves were created in the 1881 lava flow from Mauna Loa, and are almost entirely different than the Thurston Lava Tubes.  You won't find any lights here and if you don't bring a flash light (or two) you won't be able to go far.  Once you descend the stairs you will find a cave on your left and right.  In order to keep exploring in both caves you have to duck and shimmy past a little ledge.  The pass is closer to the front in the cave on the left.  If you only have time to do one, I would suggest the left.  It was easier to walk in, and once you passed the ledge it really opens up.  The Kaumana Caves had roots growing in from above and water dripping down.  It truly was a step back in time.

13 November 2015

Mauna Kea

One of our favorite places on the Big Island was Mauna Kea.   We almost didn't make it but a cut on Nic's foot eliminated our ability to dive so we were able to spend our last evening driving up the mountain!

Mauna Kea is one of two mountains on the Big Island that reach 14,000 feet.  It is one of the few places where you can go from sea level to the 14,000 feet within 2-3 hours.   The temperature difference is a bit mind boggling.  I thankfully brought a pair of pants and jacket but I still wished I had a hat to block the wind from my ears.  The views of sunset made the frigid air worth it.  Being so high and seeing the clouds roll in under us was magical.   If you're interested in learning more about Mauna Kea, click here.

It's suggested that you only drive from the Visitors Center at 9,500 feet to the top of the mountain at 14,000 with a 4 wheel drive car.  Our guide book said it was possible in your regular car and our friends did it so we figured we'd give it a shot.  Well, there is no way in hell I would have been able to drive that car up so I give Nic kudos for getting us up there.  I wasn't raised driving on hills, or off road (neither was Nic) but my sense of adventure is a bit smaller than his.  But as they say, drive it like it's a rental car?  It was so worth it once we made it to the top.

We stopped at the visitors center on the way down for some hot cocoa and star gazing.  The night sky was so clear.  You could see so much detail in the Milky Way and so many stars that we normally don't get to see.  They set up multiple telescopes and have volunteers for point out specific systems and stars with high powered lasers.  There is something romantic about being cuddled up to the one you love and looking up to see so many stars above you.

10 November 2015

Black & Green Sand Beaches

We ventured to a black and green sand beach while on the Big Island. Being from Florida we're used to powder white sand beaches. The sand on Oahu is grainier than we're used to. We spent our honeymoon on a beach with pink sand.  We needed to be able to add that we've seen black and green sand to our list. 

The Black Sand beach we went to was Punalu'u Beach. It was extremely easy to get to and you could tell it was frequented by the tour buses. It was beautiful though. The sand was so grainy. I almost didn't expect it to be pure black (the green and pink sand beaches weren't pure green or pink) so it took me a little by surprise.  They had an area roped off for turtles sunbathing.  Quintessential Hawaii beach experience. 

Unlike Punalu'u, we had to put a bit of effort to get to the green sand beach, Papakōlea.  You can either walk the 2.5 miles each way to get to the beach, or catch a ride with a local.  After some advice from friends we decided to catch a ride and I'm glad we did.  That's a long walk in the hot sun and we just didn't have the time or patience (or a packed lunch) for that to be fun.  While it looks relatively brown in the pictures, the green sand was actually green.  Promise.  It gets its green hue from the breaking down of the olivine crystals found in the cinder cone that surrounds the beach.

08 November 2015

Kīlauea Ika Hike

We had a bit of a problem finding this hike.  It starts by the Kīlauea Iki Overlook parking lot.  When looking at the map from the visitor center, there is a point for Kīlauea Ika and a point for the Kīlauea Overlook.  Naturally I directed us to the overlook where we spent 45 minutes trying to find the trail head.  Needless to say, make sure to look at the map before you tell your husband to start driving. 

We really enjoyed this hike. It wasn't strenuous but you got a lot for the effort you put in.  We went counter clockwise simply because there was an entrance right by our car.  It seemed most people we doing the hike in the opposite direction.  Either way you won't miss out on anything.  You begin and end the hike with a few switchbacks under the cover of trees as you make your way down to the crater floor.  At the beginning there are pamphlets you can take for a $1 donation.  There are numbered markers throughout the hike that are explained in the pamphlet.  If you don't grab one you can find the information online and read it on your phone.  We typically just like looking around, but there was so much information!  The hike has you descend 400 feet to get to the crater floor.  Kīlauea Iki erupted in 1959 sending lava 1900 feet into the air covering the entire crater.  It's awe inspiring to realize where you are walking there was once lava.  You can still see steam vents throughout the crater. 

Once you get on the crater floor you follow the Ahu (stacked rocks).  It was such a clever way to give direction without ruining the environment.  We only did this hike while at the national park and feel like we were able to experience what we wanted.  Completely recommend it!