The Big Island, the newest in the volcanic chain, is very different from Maui, Oahu, and Kauai. It seems like half of the island is covered in hardened volcanic lava. The western Kona area is drier and filled with the swanky resorts, while the eastern and wetter Hilo side boasts lush rain forest landscape and the world’s most active volcano. We decided to split our time and spent a seven nights in a gorgeous condo (Kolea at Waikoloa Beach Resort, see our amazing view above) overlooking the “A-Bay” and another 2 nights in the Volcano Village area to explore the world’s most active volcano (Big N had visions of sticking a stick in the flowing lava, but the lava wasn’t cooperating the day we visited).
I can’t say we did much our first week except relax by the beach, take a few hikes, eat, and drive around visiting the sleepy sites. Griffin quickly got into the mode, though traveling with an 18 month old is challenging to say the least. We spent most of our time keeping the baby entertained with toys and snacks so he wouldn’t disturb neighboring guests sipping their hard earned mai tais. But we made do. Griffin loved being in the water, finding seashells, and watching the napping turtles on the beach. He even caught a few waves on the boogie board, and learned to say “Aloha” to every passerby.
One evening we hired a reputable baby sitter to watch Griffin so mom and dad could enjoy some alone time with a romantic oceanfront sunset dinner. (If you’re going to the Big Island, I highly recommend Canoe House at the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Pahu I’a restaurant at the Four Seasons, which serves fresh tuna poke made tableside).
One of my absolute favorite things to do while traveling is to visit outdoor food markets. It gives this foodie a chance to check out local offerings and once in a while to try something I’ve never seen before. The farmers’ market at Kailua Village near Kona didn’t disappoint. With a condo we took advantage of our fully stocked kitchen and outdoor barbecue to cook up local grass fed Hawaii beef and fresh caught ono during the evening, and in the morning we ate local fruits purchased at the market, coconut pancakes, and sipped on locally grown Kona coffee (we toured the Greenwell Coffee farm to see how coffee is grown and picked up fresh roasted beans there, yum). At the market I found mini bananas, mangoes, eggplant, and rambutans (similar to lychee), all of which I’ve had before but they were much better of course in Hawaii. And I tried two fruits I had never seen before: mountain apples, which are pear shaped but deep red, with spongy white semi-sweet flesh, and star apples, which look like a cross between a black plum and a ripe passion fruit, and have sweet purpley-white flesh on the inside. If you cut them horizontally the fruit inside resembles a six pointed star. These were creamy, juicy, and deliciously sweet, and I thought about violating customs laws to sneak a few on our flight back (I thought better of it later on, those customs officials are intimidating).
On our journey to Hilo we off-roaded in our Jeep for 2 hours to get to the secluded Green Sand Beach (it gets its name because it has ground up peridot mixed with the volcanic lava, very cool place), and ended up at Volcano Village Lodge- a five bungalow B&B in the middle of the jungle. I highly recommend a stay there if you’re visiting the volcano. We explored the Volcano Area (smoke, glow at night, lots of views), thought about sacrificing Griffin on a couple of his particularly squealy moments, and then came home.
A very satisfying vacation. Now all I need is one more Vegas fix (sans Griffin), and I’ll be content to stay the homebody once Kidney Bean is born.