Aside from the weather. It was pretty rainy the whole time... Womp. But it was still pretty! You can drive around a lot on the Big Island (it's so big!) and there's hardly any traffic (unlike Oahu...), so it was nice just to enjoy the drive!
We got there Thursday night and just checked into our cottage at Volcano National Park. Friday morning, we got up early to start the day! In the morning, we went to Volcano Winery, which was just a 10 minute drive from where we stayed. I love wine, so it was a great little stop. We did the wine tasting and bought a few bottles... They have a really delicious tea-infused wine, a guava wine, and a macadamia nut honey wine. All of them were so unique and yummy, mmm.
That afternoon, we went on a "Star Tour" through the place we stayed.... Let me just tell you all that it's NOT worth your time or money to do that! At least the tour we did wasn't. It started at 2 PM (that should have been our sign...) and they took us to a planetarium in Hilo. It was okay... We saw a movie there and spent some time in their museum, but you don't miss out on anything amazing if you don't go there, in my opinion. Then we drove up to the Visitor's Center at 9000 feet on Mauna Kea. We were served a very bad plate lunch, and left to wander around in the cloudy twilight. It was cold, but I expected that. A while later, it finally got dark, but stayed cloudy. We bought a few things at the gift shop. Eventually, it cleared up enough to see about three stars, and then it was time for us to go because the tour ended at 8 PM. Just when it was clearing up and the visitor's center people dragged out their telescopes. So, if you want to see Mauna Kea, just drive up there yourself. It's not worth the price of the tour, and then you can stay however long you want. If you want to drive all the way to the summit, you are allowed, but you need to have a four-wheel-drive vehicle and check with your rental company. So that's my advice about that.**
|Our breakfast view. Not bad, right?|
When we got to the other side of the island, we took a tour of the Kona brewery. Now in my opinion, if you've toured one brewery you've kind of seen the basics and there's that much else to see... But Kona was actually really cool! They do a lot to make their beer brewing practices super sustainable, like using recycled materials, reusing things, and even using special beer bottles that are 11% lighter to reduce fuel loads. Just hearing about that stuff made the tour worth it. After, we stayed for lunch at their brewery restaurant and the food was so yummy!
After the brewery we went to a coffee plantation called Mountain Thunder, which grows organic coffee. We took a tour, and that was pretty cool too. I learned a lot about coffee! They also had some tasty teas (I'm more of a tea girl, personally.) Oh, and they had cats. So I loved that, because obviously my mission in life is to find cats everywhere I go.
We stopped for a late lunch at a place called the Coffee Shack, which had a really beautiful view. By then, however, it was pouring down rain, so the view was a bit hazy. After that, we drove down to South Point, which is the southernmost point in the United States! (Yes, it's farther south than Key West!) There, we took a long and beautiful drive through cow country until we reached a parking lot where we paid some Hawaiians with four wheel drive to take us in the back of their pickup to the famous Green Sand Beach. I'm not joking. It was a very Hawaii experience. The drive out to the beach was gorgeous, although honestly the sand is NOT that green.
After the beach, we stopped at the southernmost bar in the U.S. for dinner with some friends who were also visiting the Big Island before driving back to Volcano National Park. Before heading to bed for the night, we drove up to the Jaggar Museum lookout to see the glow from the volcano. It was raining, but we still got to see a pretty good glow!
The lava is actually pretty far down, but it sure looked like it was about to erupt, didn't it?
The next day was our flight home, but we had the morning free. We went for a hike called Kilauea Iki, which is in an old crater. It honestly felt like we were hiking on the moon or something. The lava landscape is so cool.
After the hike, we got to see one of the lava tubes (no lava runs through it anymore, thankfully!). It's a basically a big tunnel. It was nice and cool after getting all sweaty hiking!
After that, we just drove up to the airport and came home. It was a short trip, but it was fun! It was so nice to just spend some time together and to have a break from "real life" -- neither one of us wanted to come back!
**If you have been keeping an eye on the news here in Hawaii (and maybe outside of Hawaii?) you might have seen something about Mauna Kea recently. They are building a big telescope, the "Thirty Meter Telescope" (TMT), and a lot of people are upset about it because they feel that it's a threat to sacred Hawaiian land. It's an interesting debate, and certainly not something I'm qualified to speak about, but if you want to know more you should look it up! Apparently it has attracted some celebrity attention, even!