Monday, June 16, 2014

The Big Island - Part II

We've been back in the States for about a week now. It's always weird making the transition back to work when you've been on vacation for several days, but I think I've snapped back to reality. Being on frozens shortly after our return certainly  helped rip me out of any lingering jet lag. I just wanted to share some of our favorites from the rest of our trip: 

Kula Kai Caverns: Located in the southwestern portion of the island, these caves are really a labyrinth of underground lava tubes that extend for approximately 30 miles. We descended into the caves and explored them for 2 hours with our guide Gary, who was so much fun and taught us so much about the history of the area and the native populations who used these caves for water collection, cooking, etc. We marveled at the adaptability of life when we saw ohia tree roots in the caves - truly amazing how living things will find a way to flourish anywhere, even on a desolate lava field! 

Entrance to the caves
Top left: Ohia tree roots, which grow straight through the ground into the cave, subsisting off of damp air 

Crawled through this narrow tunnel! 

Honu (sea turtle) napping on Punaluu beach 

Drive down to South Point 

We learned from our cave tour that the southwestern portion of the island has been very arid since 2008, when the crater floor of Kilauea (the active volcano) collapsed. Previously, the floor had been acting as a sort of filter for volcanic gases, but with its collapse, many more gases were released into the air, eventually affecting precipitation. As a result, this part of the island is actually under drought conditions. With the rolling grasslands and windswept fields, you could easily mistake this for part of the Midwest (until you see the ocean in the distance).

Mare and foal

Peace and quiet on the way to Naalehu
 Waipio Valley: We almost missed the short hike into this valley. We're glad we didn't. On the drive from Kona to Waipio Valley, we drove through Waimea, which is Hawaiian paniolo (cowboy) country. There were lush, green pastures and some very happy looking cows. When we arrived at Waipio valley and hiked down to the valley, we were rewarded with almost complete solitude on a pristine black sand beach surrounded by towering green cliffs. It was marvelous...and for reasons unknown to us, a local dog volunteered himself as our tour guide. He casually strolled a few steps ahead, patiently waiting for us to make the steep descent into the valley. If you're ever visiting the Big Island, do this hike on a weekday, and you'll likely have the place to yourself. It used to be a retreat for Hawaiian royalty, and today is a secluded, quiet farming area (lots of taro). We spotted a wild horse roaming.
Waipio Valley from above
Our guide dog

 We spent a lot of the latter half of our vacation doing water sports -  kayaking to sea caves, and an unforgettable snorkeling tour on a retired Navy Seal vessel, where we snorkeled with manta rays and spotted some dolphins. Seeing manta rays beneath us was surreal....they're so big and look like they're flying lazily underwater. If you're on the Big Island, I would highly recommend Wild Hawaiian Ocean Adventures. All of our snorkeling memories are on our GoPro camera, so I won't be able to share them here.

We spent the last few days of our vacation visiting some of the top beaches in the area. 

We enjoyed this beautiful sunset on our last evening in Hawaii. After that, it was a grueling 10+ hour flight back home. We are so thankful that we were able to take this refreshing trip together. Now we're re-energized and ready to tackle the next years of fellowship! 

Thanks for reading. I hope you've enjoyed some of the beauty we shared! 


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