A surprise garden visit

Our goal for today was to visit Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park, just an hour south of our hotel. We succeeded – and it only took us four hours to get there!

We needed to visit the concierge before we left so that we could convert some of our excess “Club Points” into resort credit, which was a smooth process. We mentioned our plans; he suggested we stop for lunch at Coffee Shack before going on to the park. That sounded like a good idea, and we set forth.

We were almost to the restaurant when I saw a sign out of the corner of my eye: “Garden open today”. We’d discovered the elusive Amy B. H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden! They are still recovering from the pandemic – they’d given up their phone to save money, and the volunteer we talked to described the website as a “work in progress”. Most of the people there were preparing for their “Grow Hawaiian Festival” this weekend, but we did see a few other tourists during the hour we spent walking through the garden.

Their focus is on plants and trees that Hawaiians used; some are now endangered and they’re trying to preserve them. Others are very common (like the noni tree), and they’re trying to preserve the knowledge of how they are used.

There were chickens all over the grounds, presiding over the goings-on.

Some of the plants were beautiful as well as being useful, like the Ū’lei and the hibiscus.

We left the gardens reluctantly and drove another five minutes to the Coffee Shack. It was popular; we had to wait half-an-hour to be seated. Luckily, the view from their deck was stunning, and so was the food. We had the pan-sauteed Ono sandwich and split a lilikoi (passionfruit) cheesecake.

We finally reached Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park about 2:30pm, just in time to join a ranger (who described herself as a lineal descendant of the ancient Hawaiians) talk about how the ancient traditions survive today. She also talked about the sacredness of the place and urged us to treat it appropriately (not everyone does, sadly).

We spent about an hour walking the Royal Grounds and the Pu’uhonua (refuge). You can read a full description on the park’s website; here are some of my favorite photos from our tour.

We began at a scale model of the royal mausoleum, a heiau (temple) just on shore.

There were quite a few carvings of ki’i (Hawaiian gods) throughout the site.

Royalty (ali’i) were the only ones who were allowed to land canoes at the cove here.

But Hawaiians seeking refuge and rehabilitation from kapu (taboo) violations (punishable by death) also came here to the Pu’uhonua.

Legend says that Queen Ka’ahumanu (one of Kamehameha’s wives) swam to the Pu’uhonua after they quarreled and hid beneath this stone.

There were fish ponds on the site – reserved for royalty, of course.

We also got to see some halaus, one of which is used by modern artisans and one of which holds a canoe.

The park asks people not to sunbathe or swim here – but Two-Step Beach is just outside the park boundaries and is very popular!

We left the park and headed back to our hotel by way of Ali’i Drive and Kona. We wanted to have dinner at the Kona Brewery in town, but parking there was impossible, so we let Google steer us to a small local pizzeria, Big Island Pizza right behind Costco. It wasn’t crowded, they made a fine pizza, and I was happy to take the option to accompany it with a tasty beer from Oregon (Deschutes’ Black Butte Porter)!

A Visit to Madame Pele

We visited Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park today; it’s about a two-hour drive from our hotel. Well, more like three hours when you add stops for lunch, gasoline, and other necessities of life, so we got to the Visitor Station about 1:30pm. It was raining with occasional breaks, which would continue throughout our visit to the park.

We waited for the 2pm guided walk to the nearby eruption viewing area; it was led by an intern who mostly talked about birds, but we did get our first view of Kilauea crater.

This part of the crater wasn’t affected by the current eruption, though it had been remade by the eruptions a few years ago; plants were already beginning to re-colonize it.

After the walk, we went to Volcano House to look at their gift shop (much more enticing than the one in the Visitor Center, but we managed to leave empty-handed anyway) and take advantage of the crater view there.

We returned to the car and set out on Crater Rim Drive, westbound. The Kilauea Overlook was our first stop; we enjoyed the warmth of the steam vents and a better view of the crater.

Crater Rim Drive used to go all the way around the crater, but that changed with the 2018 eruptions; we had to turn around and drive the eastern half of the road. We stopped at the Kilauea Ski parking area and walked the trail to the Thurston Lava Tube.

There were lots of holes along the way – we gave them a wide berth.

You can go a few hundred yards into the tube, but we had other plans in mind, so we only saw the first twenty feet.

We’d been told that the best viewing of the current eruption in Halemaʻumaʻu crater was from the Old Crater Rim Road (now a trail), so we drove to the parking lot and took the 3/4-mile walk to the viewing area. We saw nene on the lava field next to the trail; it’s their nesting season and there were signs posted reminding you to keep your distance – nene can get aggressive.

Finally, we reached the viewing area. It was easy to see the plumes of steam from the crater, but we couldn’t see any glowing lava. The photo at the top of the page shows offerings that previous visitors had left for Pele, the volcano goddess – and they seemed to be working, because the eruption had diminished significantly today.

We decided against driving Chain of Craters Road because of the late hour; we headed for our hotel, with a dinner stop at the Dimple Cheek Cafe, where the food was tasty and the portions generous – Diane and I split a salad and an entrée and that filled us up nicely.

It was a long day but well worth the trip; I wish we’d been able to see the lava glowing, but I guess that’s why there’s a webcam!

Plans, meet reality

The day dawned bright and sunny.

We took a short walk around the property and enjoyed the frangipani we encountered along the way.

I wanted to visit a coffee farm and Diane wanted to visit a botanical garden, and it looked like we were in luck – there were two very near each other in South Kona, and both were named “Greenwell” (Greenwell Farms) and the Amy B. H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden.

We got in the car and turned on the “Big Island Driving Guide” app I’d just bought (a companion to the guidebook we’d bought yesterday) so it could tell us about the things we were seeing along the way. We learned about lava, lava tubes, beaches and much more. Then it suggested we consider making a brief visit to the Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park and we did.

After a brief stop at the park store, we set out on the Ala Mauka Makai trail, a short, easy one-mile trail that would take us to the ocean.

We stopped at the petrograph loop.

When we got to the ocean, the honu (green sea turtles) were resting near the shoreline.

We explored the area around the Aiopio Fish Trap (no longer in use except by swimmers).

Two hours after we’d arrived, we finally got back into our car to continue on our journey.

I’d found the Greenwell garden in an article on Love Big Island and I realized it didn’t give the hours of operation, so I opened the garden’s website. I couldn’t find hours of operation there, either! And when I tried to call them, the number had been disconnected. Oops.

Fortunately, there was another Kona garden listed in the article, the Sadie Seymour Botanical Gardens and it was right on our way, so we drove there instead. It wasn’t the best time to see the gardens, but there were enough flowers to make us happy, like this yellow hibiscus.

Then it was off to Greenwood Farms – we got there just after the last tour of the day had started, but we were able to join it in progress. They’ve been growing coffee for more than a century. They don’t just have coffee trees, though; I liked this orchid that was growing near the entrance to the coffee field.

They are one of the biggest coffee farms in Kona; they buy from other farmers in the area, too. Not all of the coffee cherries they buy (or grow, for that matter) meet their standards; the rejects go into a cart for disposal (there is a coffee boring beetle which is causing problems).

Our guide opened a cherry and showed us the actual beans inside – there should have been two, but this particular cherry had three; it would have been filtered out during processing.

They grow other fruit on the farm, too, like white pineapples and apple bananas.

They are responding to the coffee beetle by grafting – here are some coffee plants that they’ve grafted onto a resistant rootstock, much as Old World grapevines were saved by grafting them onto New World rootstock.

The tour ended with a tasting, of course, and I left with twelve ounces of pure Kona coffee to grind and brew at home.

And then it was back to the hotel, where I had to battle the TV to force it to let me use my Fire Stick…but that’s a story for another time.

Early to Rise

Our Lyft driver arrived right on time this morning, and we were ready for him. I was pleased and surprised that he had the local classical radio station playing!

We had breakfast at “The Club at SJC”, then boarded our flight and were served second breakfast.

We arrived in Honolulu nearly an hour early (the captain said we had an unusually strong tailwind), which gave us more than enough time to wander around. There’s a replica of Senator Daniel Inouye’s office in the airport; we paid our respects.

A couple of hours later, it was finally time for the quick flight to Kona; I was surprised to find so much of the airport there outside!

We stopped at the Kekaha Kai State Beach to get our first good look at lava – cold lava, to be sure, but definitely a lot of it. This area only has a’a lava (the pointy kind).

According to the map, this area was hit by a big lava flow in 1801. It’s been re-colonized by plants, and even some cattle roam the area.

I guess we could have hiked down to the ocean, but we skipped it and drove to our hotel, Marriott’s Waikoloa Ocean Club. The view from our room is pretty good, though you can’t see much beach.

The lunch options at the Honolulu Airport were unappealing (and we had had two breakfasts!), so we were hungry by the time we’d unpacked. We walked down the beach to the Lava Lava Beach Club for an early dinner (the better to be seated without having to wait!). I had the Macadamia Nut Arare Crusted Fish of the Day (mahi-mahi) and Diane had Somen Ahi. Somehow, we had room left for dessert, so we split a Kona Coffee Cheesecake, too.

According to “Hawaii the Big Island Revealed“, the Lava Lava Beach Club rates an “Ono with qualifiers” because “it’s not the food you’ll remember, it’s the dreamy setting”. I agree; the food was good, but the setting was great. It was especially nice after they lit the tiki torches at the beachside tables.

We finished dinner and walked back to the hotel, enjoying the last few minutes of sunset.

Early to Bed

We’re off to Hawaii tomorrow morning. We’ve booked a Lyft for a 5am pickup, so I want to finish up early tonight.

Yesterday, I claimed we’d done our packing; I spoke too soon.

We decided that we’d like to try to do a MaunaKea stargazing trip, which meant bringing warmer and bulkier clothing along. Which meant having to use a larger suitcase. Which meant repacking. Which gave us the opportunity to bring along a few more things. :-)

I’m going to quit before I have any more bright ideas.