Hawaiian Noir

Murder Calls

In previous posts, I lamented that we had not found the good Hawaiian music we had hoped for. One exception was chancing upon Led Ka’apana’s street side performance. Aside from that, we felt that music venues were non-existent or hard to get to. Granted, we didn’t stay long in Waikiki, which has the most music venues, but we had hoped to find some good ones in Kona. Lava Lava Beach Club has a regular schedule, including Henry Kapono, but getting in might require a wait of up to two hours and they put a time limit on your stay. They don’t take reservations, so it is a crapshoot if you can get in for the performance. Huggo’s is similar. We did get into Huggo’s one evening. The performer that night might be up-and-coming, but wasn’t giving his A performance. The entertainment at the luau we attended was actually superior to most luau entertainment, but a luau is a one-off event. So all-in-all, we’ve been disappointed until Tuesday night.

Tuesday, we scored twice. We decided to have dinner at a Japanese noodle/sushi restaurant that looked good. We were not disappointed. The restaurant is small, and, because of covid, operating at 50% capacity, so the wait was long. It was also understaffed because of covid, so service was slow. We understand that and do not hold it against them. We had a hamachi (yellow fin) sushi roll. Mary Fran had the char siu noodle bowl and I had the tan tan noodle bowl. I added a shoyu egg to mine. The noodles were excellent. If you are in Hilo, go to Moms. The long wait and slow service worked in our favor, because we got out later than we intended, just in time to hear a band starting up at Hilo Town Tavern. Had we gtten out earlier, we might have headed directly home without hearing music. We had tried Hilo Town Tavern before, but they had no performers on that night. On this night, however, the performers were a group who call themselves Kanikapila, which means “Let’s play music.”

The group Kanikapila at Hilo Town Tavern, 7/21/21

We had seats almost at the front. As you can see, there was only one table in front of us. The guys in the band gave their names, but I didn’t recognize them. I recognized most of their songs. They did a great job on them. At one point during the performance, they called a young guy up from the audience to join them. He sang some Lena Machado songs. Lena is a long-time performer who was very popular in the ‘60s and ‘70s. She was great at hitting the high registers and this kid was surprising at hitting them too. Then the guys at thee table in front of us left and the server took it a ay to open the dance floor. First the young kid took the floor and did the hula to Hi’ilawe and a couple of other songs.

Solo dancer at Hilo Town Tavern 7/20/21

When he finished, he invited his kumu hula, his dance teacher, to perform. Finally, three aunties in the audience stepped up to perform. It was exactly the kind of spontaneous fun we had been looking for.

Kumu hula, Hilo Town Tavern, 7/20/21
Aunties, Kumu, and the kid, Hilo Town Tavern 7/20/21

They will be performing there again on Friday night and we will be there.

While Mary Fran was getting a pedicure downtown yesterday, I stopped in at the Ukulele and Guitar store on main street (Kamehameha.) I made an appointment for some lessons with the uke instructor at the store.

Hilo has been rainy and, unlike Texas, cool the past two days. The forecast is for more rain and cool temps all week. That’s fine with us. We don’t need to hit the beach everyday. Just looking at the lush vegetation is enough to remind us how lucky we are to be here. The rain seems to be the remnant of tropical storm, now depression, Felicia that is petering out as it nears the islands. Bye, bye Felicia.

Incredible colors in the sky and water just after sunset last night, Hilo, 7/21/21
Maunakea in the distance shrouded in early morning clouds, 7/21/21

We moved over to the other side of the island Saturday, to a condo in Hilo. It’s not a bad little condo, but, as in previous trips, the condo in Hilo is the most disappointing of all. It’s a comfortable, two-bedroom place, but the furnishings are drab and lacking in imagination. The view is very different than the views in the Kona condos. No dolphins playing in the water. Instead, we look out on a tropical rainforest surrounding a series of tide pools. It’s very pleasant and relaxing. Because Hilo is on the eastern side of the mountains, we don’t get to see sunsets. Instead, get to see Hilo streets at night.

Downtown Hilo, 7/17/21

We wen looking for a place to eat and perhaps hear live music. We found Hilo Town Tavern, in the building with the mural of a woman. It’s a dive bar that we were told might have performers. Unfortunately on that night it didn’t. The burgers were big and delicious and the beer was cold, so what more could you ask. The bar is on Keawe St. which has a string of bars and eateries, so we will be returning to it.

One of the reasons we are taking an extended vacation is so that we can enjoy and savor the local culture. When the kids were with us, I regretted that we didn’t have more time to do just that. We were always going here and there to some new sight or beach, which of course was fun, but we didn’t really connect with the locals. Yesterday, Sunday, we spent some time wandering around a huge farmer’s market between Kea’au and Pahoa, the Maku’u market. The market itself covered several acres. It was row upon row of fruit and vegetable sellers, craft sellers, plant sellers, and food vendors. There were Hawaiian, Thai, and Mexican offerings. There were coffee vendors and a guy selling vintage aloha shirts. I had to force myself to stay away from his tent.

Maku’u Farmer’s Market entrance.
Lychee and Rambutan from the Maku’u market

W bought papayas, avocados, bananas, tomatoes, onions, and lychee from a Chinese lady who tossed in some rambutans for free.

It’s easy enough to eat your way across the island. On leaving the market, we passed a stand selling laulau and another selling hulihuli chicken. We stopped for the chicken and bought one whole one we will probably eat all week. The guy was also frying fish, which looked good and smelled even better. i would have bought some, but there was just the two of us. I did buy some lummpia—bananas wrapped in egg roll wrappers and deep fried. They were warm, so we ate them in the car. We stopped at Sack n Save for ahi poke and tako poke.

This stretch of coast doesn’t have much in the way of beaches. Instead, it has beach parks around tide pools among the lava. We have yet to visit the pools, but plan to do so soon.

Tide pools at Keaukaha Beach Park, Hilo. Mauna Kea in background with observatories on the peak.

I walked down the rod and came across some Nene, the Hawai’i state bird.

Nene in Hilo, 7/19,21

We have a tropical forest behind our condo, so the sun rise is hidden by the luxuriant foliage.

Sunrise, Hilo, 7/19/21

It’s been a full week with Anne and Mike. We had our anniversary brunch at Magics near Magic Sands beach. The food was good; the view was better. They had a fancy drink, the Lilikoi Lani that was too sweet for me. The Big Wave Ale is a good fallback when the drinks disappoint.

Mary Fran and Anne at Magics, 7/11/21
Good size crowd at Magic Sands. Moderate waves, 7/11/21

On Monday we toured paniolo country up in Waimea and then headed to Waipi’o Valley and the Hamakua Coast. One thing about a convertible—the front passengers are comfortable but the passengers in back get beat up by the wind. We tried riding with the windows up, which helped a little, but ultimately decided to keep the top up except for some scenic stretches with low speed limits. The other thing we learned is that, at 70 years old, getting out of the car, especially the back seat, can be a challenge. It’s easier to do with the top down, but even so, we are not leaping out of the car like teenagers.

Tex Drive-in in Honoka’a is reputed to be one of the top three places for malasadas on the Big Island. We tried them, but found them disappointing. I think we have been spoiled by Leonard’s Malasadas in Honolulu. We visited Laupahoehoe Point, which we had visited with the kids and then went on to Akaka falls near Honomu. Honomu is a quaint little plantation town that boasts a bakery, an Orthodox church, a Hongwanji Mission, a Roman Catholic church, and a United Church of Christ, all in a two-block stretch of the main street. It’s the kind of town I could move to.

Akaka Falls, 7/12/21

The. next day we spent the morning at Magic Sands, doing boogie boarding and then went to the market for some booze. As might be expected, we bought too much.We still have a lot left over.

Sunset 7/13/21, Kona

Wednesday, we visited Hapuna Beach and then went to a luau at Mai Grille near the Hilton Waikoloa. Most luau’s are held at a beach. This, however, was held at a golf course. At first we were skeptical. It was smaller in venue than other luau’s, a tad more formal (shoes and masks are required.) The dinner was plated instead of buffet style, which also makes for a different atmosphere. The entertainment was great. The musicians were terrific. I talked to them afterwards about ukes and Hawaiian music. The dancers were a delight to see. Thy avoided the schlocky stuff you often see at luau’s where people from the audience are invited on stage to try to hula while everybody makes fun of them. Even the fire dancer was exciting.

Mai Grille Luau dancers, sunset, 7/14/21

Thursday, we toured the volcano and had lunch at Kilauea Lodge in Volcano Village. The lodge is an historic building, having been built in 1938 as a YMCA. It has a huge fireplace made of stones contributed by Lions, Rotary, and Kiwanis clubs from across the US and other countries. Mary Fran and I had not heard of it, so it was really a pleasant surprise. We all had burgers, which were fine. Mike had his first loco moco, We shared a bowl of Portuguese bean soup. The volcano, itself, is an impressive reminder of nature’s force. A crater one thousand six hundred eighty feet deep was blasted out of the caldera in 2019.

On this excursion, we made a stop at Punaluu Black Sand Beach, which is home to green sea turtles who frequently bask on the beach. Sea turtles almost never bask on a beach, except fo a few species of green sea turtles and only in a few locations. Hawai’i is one of those places. Hawksbill turtles can be found in the waters, but never on the beach. Sea turtles are protected and people are required tto keep their distance.

Green sea turtle, Punalu’u Beach, 7/15/21

Most mornings this week, we have seen a pod of Hawaiian spinners in the water off our lanai. We are usually alerted to their presence by guide boats slowing down to observe them. After watching these boats all week, I have decided that there needs to be further restrictions on how close the boats and swimmers can get to them. At present, boats are not allowed to pursue dolphins and swimmers are not allowed to try to catch up to them, but only float above them. From what i see, I think too many boats and swimmers are crossing the line.

One aside, Mary Fran thinks the captain of the boat that took us snorkelig, Captain Sharkey, resembles Gardner McKay who played Adam Troy in Adventures in Paradise.

Sunset last night, 7/15/21. No green flash.
Bad weather at sea, 7/16/21

Anne and Mike left this morning, so it will just be the two of us for the next six weeks.

Today is our fifty-first anniversary. We had planned this trip for our fiftieth, but covid interfered and put the plans on hold.

Sunset, Kona, 7/10/21

Last night’s sunset was very different. There were more clouds than on previous nights, which added greatly to the colors. This morning was clear and bright, but clouds and rain are predicted for today.

Daybreak, tidepool, Kona, 7/11/21

The last two days have been snorkeling days. Friday we visited Kahalu’u Beach where we had gone with Michael. The water was full of yellow tangs, black triggerfish (humuhumu’ele’ele), which is a black, blimp-shaped fish with white or blue lines, almost neon in brightness along its dorsal fins.There was also the other type of triggerfish, the humuhumunukunukuapua’a, which was not as abundant. We had to be careful because the coral was recently spawning. We saw new dollar-sized coral, which the beach volunteer said were probably a year old.

After the snorkel trip we went to the farmer’s market down the road for avocados, tomatoes, bananas, lychee, and papaya. I had forgotten how great locally grown Hawaiian bananas taste. So much better than chiquita bananas. We stopped at Costco and picked up some huge Kaua’i shrimp, which we grilled with shoyu, wine vinegar, lemon juice, and garlic powder. Gas at Costco was fifty cents cheaper per gallon than in Kona.

Yesterday, we took a snorkeling cruise to Keaulekekua Bay. The boat left the harbor at 8:00. There were 23 aboard. We stopped partway to the bay when the captain spotted a pod of dolphins. We tried to get in the water to float near them (we are not allowed to chase of swim with them, be we can float). However, I couldn’t see any. the irony is that we were just offshore from our condo. Had we been sitting on the lanai, we’d have had a better view of them. Th image below was taken from the boat. If you expand it, our condo is in the center.

Kealakekua Bay is where Cook arrived on his third voyage. The legend is that the Hawaiians were celebrating the god Lono and Cook’s arrival with his sailing vessels was seen as an omen and possibly a manifestation of Lono. Other’s think he was simply revered as a great chief. He had already been to Kaua’i and Maui, so he could have already been known. After departing Kealakekua, he ran into a storm, which damaged his ship, so he returned. The Hawaiian’s were suspicious of his reasoning. Then a Hawaiian stole one of his longboats, which they burned (or planned to burn) to retrieve the iron nails. Cook went to take a chief prisoner to hold as hostage for the return of the boat. On the way back to the ship, a British solder killed a Hawaiian. The Hawaiians fought back and Cook was killed in the melee. Some of Cooks remains were returned to the sailors, but some of his bones are supposedly buried above the bay.

The bay has the most extensive coral formations we have seen in Hawai’i. The reef is long and el-shaped. Lots of tang, triggerfish, angel fist, parrot fish, and a bunch of other amazingly colorful fishes. We also saw three spotted-eagle rays, which are smaller than manta rays, and which feed on shrimp and crabs. Mary Fran spotted the rays from the boat after we had left the water.

The plan for today is to to have brunch at Magic Sands Grill. Later, Anne and Mike will do the manta ray swim.

Hualalai, morning, 7/8/21

This morrning began so clear that we could see the top of Hualalai which is behind us (East). This picture was just before the sun crested the mountain. On every day since arrival, clouds have shrouded the top of the mountain.

I walked down to Magic Sands where a 14 foot tiger shark was spotted on Tuesday. No sharks today. Not many surfers either because the surf is down a bit. Yesterday, the surf was 10-14 feet on West facing shores, Today it is 3-5 feet.

Magic Sands, 7/8/21

The walk to Magic Sands is about two miles. On the way back, I visited each of the Shoreline Access places. By law, there must be a public shoreline access at specified intervals along the coast. I don’t know the exact distance between them, but there are eight in the two mile stretch between our condo and Magics, which makes them about a quarter mile apart. Some of the access points are at beach parks. They are clear and easy to access. Others are more difficult. All are marked by signs, but some signs are obstructed by vegetation or other features. One is so hidden, the entrance is hard to find even with the sign. The path is narrow and lined on both sides with lush vegetation. There is intermittent sunlight. Unfortunately, I disturbed a homeless man who was sleeping in a little depression beside the path. the path ends at some stone steps that bring you to an area of lava boulders and coral rubble.

Public shoreline access, Kona

Another access ended at a saltwater swimming pool cut into the lava. The pool is filled by wave action. Very Cool! Some of the access points cut across private property. On one, I had to walk down someone’s private driveway until I reached the access point at the end. The folks there were friendly, though. Not so the condo next to ours. There the access goes through the condo property, but you have to go through a security gate The gate is posted to open at 6:00 am, but it didn’t open until 8:00. Bunch off scofflaws.

Saltwater swimming pool dug into lava at end of shoreline access path.

Yesterday’s sunset had some amazing colors. The sky was overcast and we were afraid we might not see any sunset, but it appeared at the last minute and left some gorgeous colors.

Sunset, Kona, 7/7/21
Post-sunset, Kone 7/7/21

Hualalai volcano is younger than Mauna Kea and is the third most active volcano on Hawai’i. It last erupted in 1801 and is expected to erupt again within the next century. Given how unprepared and congested the Kona area is, an eruption would be a major disaster. Hualalai is about 300,000 years old and stands 8,271 feet above sea level.

I walked to the Kona harbor this morning just as Kai Opua Canoe Club was launching their canoes. They launched three six-place outriggers and one twelve place double-hulled canoe. Kai Opua bills itself as the oldest canoe club in the Islands. Twenty men and twelve woman organized the club in 1929, according to the earliest records. The club sponsors teh Queen Lili’uokalani Lon Distance Race on Labor Day and has won numerous championsihps, including the Wahine O Ke Kai 40.1 mile race from Molokai to Oahu three consecutive times. Check out their history here. The other pages on their website are also instructive.

Kai Opua double-hulled canoe passing the heiau at the mouth of Kona Harbor, 7/7/21
Kai Opua preparing to launch on the beach at King Kamehameha Hotel, Kailua-Kona, 7/7/21

On Monday, we visited Hilo for breakfast at Ken’s Pancakes. Ken’s is famous for their Sumos, which are gigantic servings, usually of pancakes, eggs and sausage. Grandson tried a Sumo when they were here last week. He ate what he could and took the rest home. It took him three days to finish it all. By the time we were seated, it was nearly noon, so we had lunch instead. Then we toured downtown Hilo and made a stop at the farmer’s market. A pop-up apparel seller across from the market was selling vintage aloha shirts at $20-$35 di=ollars a piece. Michael and I each bought two. After that we visited some waterfalls in the heart of town. This is Rainbow Falls.

Rainbow Falls, Hilo, HI, 7/5/21

Tuesday, we made another visit to Hapuna Beach. The sky was so clear, Maui was visible with Haleakala rising above the clouds.

Hapuna Beach, Haleakala in the distance, 7/6/21

It was Michael’s last day, so we visited Lava Lava Beach Club for late lunch. Here’s Michael at the big kiawe tree at the entrance to Lava Lava.

Michael, Lava Lava, 7/6/21

While at Lava Lava we learned that Henry Kapono will be performing on Friday at 7:30. Lava Lava takes no reservations. Their wait time for a table can be as long as two hours and they have a two-hour time limit. All of which makes it hard to plan to hear Kapono. Even if we got in, we could be so far away, behind people who don’t know who he is and who don’t appreciate him, that we might not enjoy the performance. However, we talked to the server who pointed out that the beach borders the club, which is open air, and the stage is close to the water. He said the best think is to bring our own chairs and just sit on the beach. We will see if Anne and Mike are interested.

Michael’s flight was supposed to leave at 9:05 last night, but because of mechanical problems and other delays, they didn’t get off until 12:30. He arrived in Houston at 10:30 this morning 3:30 pm CDT.

Last night’s sunset was gorgeous, of course, with spectacular colors.

Kona, 7/6/21
Kona, 7/6/21

Kona, Hawaii, 7/3/21

Once again the sunset last night was spectacular. As long as these marvelous sunsets continue, I will keep posting them.

Yesterday we visited Kahalu’u Beach Park. This park is about a mile from our condo, near Keahou. When we first arrived in Kona two weeks ago, the park wasn’t open. The reason, we learned, is that coral were spawning and they did not want swimmers and surfers disturbing the young coral.

The beach here is salt and pepper sand, composed of lava sand and coral rubble. Getting into the water is a little treacherous. You walk in through a channel in front of the lifeguard stand that takes you over slippery rocks. Actually, getting out is harder than getting in. Once in however, there are thousands of reef fish. In the first twenty minutes, I saw hundreds of yellow tang, some convict tang, some humuhumunukunukuapua’a (reef trigger fish), parrot fish, angel fish, raccoon angel fish, moorish idols, and a whole bunch of others I couldn’t identify. Michael spotted a turtle. There are also sea urchins hiding in the cracks. A lot of different kinds of coral. The water is shallow and the bay protectted by a reef.

A group of volunteer protectors of the bay greet you and explain what you can see. They also tell you how to avoid harming the coral, mostly by not standing in certain places in the bay, particularly, the coral formations and rocks out beyond some bouys that mark the entrance channel, and by wearing reef safe sunscreen. They caution against using reef-friendly sunscreen, as some of the products are billed, because these do not protect the reef. I won’t name the reef friendlies because it is easy to figure out that they are the big names in sunscreen and suntanning. Instead, the reef-safe sunscreens are the mineral-based ones such as Raw Elements and All Good. Do I think these will save the coral? Not by themselves. I think reef safe sunscreens are a necessary, but not sufficient, measure to protect coral. We clearly need to do what we can to end carbon emissions. Warming oceans contribute as much or more to coral death as oxybenzone and other pollutants.

The warming climate is obvious in the heat wave in the Northwest, the wildfires in California, and the increasingly intense hurricanes. Even in Hawaii, the global warming is evident. We have not had a day here in more than two weeks, in which the temperature has not reached the mid- to upper-eighties. That was unheard of when we lived here in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Perhaps a day or two a year would reach the mid-eighties. Most days were in the seventies. I remember one day when the temperature at Honolulu airport reached 89 in August, and everyone was aghast. it made the local news because it was a record high. I think we have reached that at least twice on this trip.

We visited the Sack n’ Save in Kona, which claims to have Hawaii’s best poke. Judging from the line at the poke counter, a lot of people agree. We picked up a half pound each of tako (octopus) poke and Hawaiian spicy ahi (tuna) poke. Mary Fran doesn’t care much for tako, so there was more for me. This tako was mixed with kimchee. Of all the things there are to like about Hawaii, poke is at the top. I am not a fan of poke bowls, which have become popular on the mainland (we even have two in College Station as well as at the sushi counter in HEB.) You don’t get much poke n the bowls. They pad it with rice, lettuce, edamame, and avocado. I don’t have any objection to any of those, but what i really want is the poke. You haven’t truly experienced poke until you have sampled all of the varieties in Hawaii.

We also picked up some teriyaki pork to grill. These were thin slices of pork marinated in teriyaki sauce. It was so good served with rice and salad.

Breakfast this morning was papaya and apple bananas from the farmer’s market down the road. We also had avocado from Waipi’o valley, cooked with scrambled eggs.

Speaking of eating, today’s news reported that Joey “Jaws” Chestnut won the Nathan’s hotdog eating contest for the 14th time with a record breaking 78 dogs in ten minutes. Wow. The same news story also said that last year’s women’s champ skipped this year because she is pregnant. Her husband is also a competitive eater who finished high in today’s contest. So many jokes to be made about the marriage of two champion eaters.

Daybreak, Kona, Hawaii, 7/4/21, Independence Day

Hi’ilawe, Waipi’o Valley, Hawai’i, 7/1/2021

We visited Waipi’o Valley, Thursday. Waipi’o is on the Hamakua Coast near Honokaa. The valley is reachable by a steep, narrow, twisting road which only 4WD vehicles can negotiate. We went with a shuttle tour. Guidebooks recount horror stories of people who have foolishly attempted the road on their own.We visited it earlier when the kids were still here, but went only as far as the lookout. Checkout the post from 6/26. Waipi’o Valley extends about seven miles back from the coast. It was formerly populated by Hawaiian royalty and chiefs. Sometime early in the monarhy, Hawaiian commoners moved in and built fish ponds and taro farms. It sustained a sizable population until the tsunami of April 1, 1946 wiped out most of the farms and dwellings. No lives were lost, but few people returned to the valley Now about 40 people live there, mostly farming taro and raising fruits and vegetables. A herd of wild horses make their home in the valley. They are descendants of survivors of the tsunami. At the back of the valley is one of the largest, most powerful waterfalls in Hawai’i, Hi’ilawe. which drops about 1,450 feet into the valley into Lalakea Stream, and eventually into the ocean. Much of the water of Lalakea is diverted for irrigation.

Hi’ilawe i immortalized in a classic Hawaiian song of the same name. It has long been one of my favorites. It’s a standard of the slack key genre and has been performed by nearly every great Hawaiian slack guitarist. Here is Gabby Pahinui’s version.

And here is the first verse with English translation below.

Kümaka ka ‘ikena iä Hi’lawe

Ka papa lohi mai a’o Maukele

Pakele mai au i ka nui manu

Hauwala’au nei puni Waipi’o

All eyes are on Hiÿilawe

And the sparkling lowlands of Maukele

I escape all the birds

Chattering everywhere in Waipi’o

Wild Waipi’o Valley mare and foal.

Sunset last night at Kona:

Kona Sunset 7/1/21
Sunset reflected in a tide pool, Ali’i Villas, Kona, Hawaii, 7/1/21
Daybreak 6/30/21 outside Ali’i Villas, Kona, HI

The kids left on Monday and we changed condos.We are now in Ali’i Villas. This is a gorgeous condo, just down the road from the previous one. Since there are only three of us now, we did not need all the room of the other one. This condo is right on the water instead of across the street. Because of the rocks here, swimming is not as accessible, but the view is spectacular.

Yesterday, we toured the Kohala area on the north end of the Big Island. Kohala is where Kamehameha was born. There is a statue of him in front of the civic center. The statue has a long history. It was commissioned for the 100th anniversary of Cook’s arrival in the islands. After casting in Germany, it was transported to Hawai’i, but on the way, the ship carrying it sunk and the statue feared lost. The Hawai’i government used the insurance money to commission a new statue, not knowing that the first one had been found by fishermen. It was eventually returned to Hawai’i, but by tht time the new one arrived and was placed in front of the Judiciary in Honolulu. The first one was then placed in Kohala. You can read the details here:

Statue of Kamehamha, Kohala, Hawaii

The weather was so clear, we could see Haleakala on Maui from the road to Kohala. We left Kohala and stopped at Keokea Beach. To get to the beach, you take a narrow windy road with a steep grade. The beach, itself, is not that great for swimming, but the cliffs surrounding it and the waves breaking on the rocks make for some stunning views. While we were there, a pair of local spear fishermen emerged from the water, each wit a stringer of large groupers, parrot fist, and some others we couldn’t identify.

Keokea Beach Park, North Kohala, Hawaii

From Keokea, it was a short distance t the end of the road on the other side of Waipi’o valley.

Pololu, Big Island, Kohala Forest Preservve

This is the head of the Pololu Trail that takes you to the beach. After reading the warnings about so many ways to die, we decided not to take the trail. We did see other folks, however. One woman was carrying an infant who could not have been more than a few weeks old. I hope they all survived.

Pololu trail

Our last stop befoe coming home was Spencer Park—a beautiful spot near a sacred area. The park, like Hapuna Beach Park, is well-maintained with showers, tables, and ADA accessible paths. I imagine beaches are really hard to negotiate for the handicapped, but both Hapuna and Spencer how thatsomebody gave some thought to the problems.

Kiawe tree at Spencer Beach Park, Big Island

Last night’s sunset from our lanai was another great spectacle.

Sunset, Kona, Hawaii, 6/29/21

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Sunrise coloring the clouds over La’aloa cove, Kona, 6/27/21

To everyone reading this. If you visit the Big Island, you MUST do a snorkel adventure with manta rays. We did it last night. It was the second time for Mary Fran and I, first for the rest of the family. We took the tour with Bite Me Dive Tours, captains Lena and Rory, first mate Will. The Skipper and Gilligan they weren’t, but they did a great job and were fun and informative. We left Kona harbor at 6:00, 3 crew and 18 passengers aboard the fishing boat. A half hour later we arrived at Eel Garden Cove at the westernmost point of the Big Island. We donned wet suit tops, masks, and snorkels, got some last minute instructions from the boat crew and then went into the water. It was a few minutes before sunset.

The basic idea of the manta ray snorkel is that the mantas feed on plankton. Plankton is attracted to light. So, the crew put surfboards into the water with bright lights affixed to them. the surfboards had PVC pipe rails on which we all hung, nine or ten to a board. We had two boards for our boat an two for the company’s sister boat. There were three or four other dive boats at the same spot, so ten or twelve boards were in the water. All circled up to maximize the light shining into the water. We floated for awhile with heads down in the water seeing no mantas. Then a lone manta appeared near the bottom. Shortly after, another appeared. Not until we’d been in the water 20 to 25 minutes did the show really begin. Huge mantas, 15 foot wingspans and more, flew up to the lights, doing barrel rolls, and hoovering up plankton. Their gaping mouths seemed large enough to swallow a person as they aimed for the light. They came so close you could touch then, although nobody did. One ray did strike my son with his harmless tail. The show lasted about five or ten minutes and then we returned to the boat for the return. They are beautiful, graceful creatures and their performance will fill you with awe.

Sunset from the dive boat, manta ray adventure, 6/26/21

Today we visited a snorkel spot near Pu’uhonua o Honaunau (Place of refuge, Honaunau.) The snorkel spot is called Two Step because there are two lava steps into the water. Once in the water, you find coral formation after coral formation, each teeming with tangs, parrot fish, trigger fish, and a whole bunch I can’t name. A pod of dolphins makes the cove home. My son, who chanced upon them while swimming above, said there were ten, including two babies. I saw at least four surface several times.

We followed that with a tour of Pu’uhonua. a national park. Pu’uohonua was a place where people who were ill could seek healing from the gods, where people running from chiefs or kings could seek refuge and forgiveness for crimes, and where warriors would go to recover after battle. The place is filled with ancient heiau’s (sacred sights), stone platforms, and walls, plus replicas of buildings and carvings.

Pu’uohonua o Honaunau

The cover image of this blog was taken at Pu’uohonua o Honaunau.

On the way back we stopped at a fresh seafood stand beside the road and picked up some mahi mahi fillets to grill tonight and some lau lau to celebrate the last night in Hawai’i of the kids and grandkids, who leave tomorrow.

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