A New World – Hawaii – The Big Island

As many of you know I am currently undergoing a huge amount of Wanderlust and this mainly revolves around a tropical island paradise. There are a number of reasons for this; mainly we are currently experiencing a glimpse of the illusive and mythical British Summer, with temperatures in the high 20 degrees centigrade (yes that is summer here). But also we have not been away in over 8 months, and I know it doesn’t sound like a long time to a lot of people but 8 months for us is unheard of… I am knackered, Megan is knackered – we are very much in need of a holiday!

Whilst researching, my Island Wanderlust jogged a Wandering Memory of our trip to Hawaii in 2013. We were very excited, as essentially in my mind it encapsulated the idyllic Pacific islands with a bit of American capitalism. Therefore we booked to visit 3 islands, Hawaii (The Big Island), Maui and Oahu. We had booked on the premise that we may see Volcanic lava and the choice was cemented by numerous TV shows, showing its dramatic beauty.

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So let’s start with Hawaii (the Big Island), it’s a LONG flight from London 22 hours with the stop over,,, we were booked into the Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa, located in Keauhou Bay. The hotel was pleasant enough, built on old lava flow, and situated right next to the dramatic coastline. The only thing it was missing was a beach! But honestly that wasn’t what this island was about; it’s all about its active volcano Kilauea.

Using our hotel as a base, we could explore this wild, desolate, yet strangely intriguing island. It is true that the majority of the island was wilderness; with huge regions of Lava fields as far as the eye could see. It’s also a common misconception that the Hawaii Islands are small – this island is massive, and at 10,432 km² it’s bigger than some countries! A car is a necessity when exploring.

So, upon arriving we had a few local experiences planned, but really didn’t realise how the long journey from Europe would affect us, we were both very tired. But you don’t come all this way to sit in your hotel, so we forced ourselves to do some activities. Diving and snorkeling with Manta Rays was one that was very highly advertised as “unmissable”! Thinking that the diving around this island would be untouched and magical was a huge error, it was murky, very bland and extremely overpriced. A real shame and huge disappointment as we were so excited about it. Personally I would keep away from the Kona Dive Company too!

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I hate it, when you pay through the nose for something that doesn’t live up to what you have been sold. It’s not only annoying but it’s really disappointing. Unfortunately our positivism was really dampened by this, it may have been coupled with the jet lag, but honestly we found ourselves really upset by it.

To counteract our disappointment we took a trip out-of-town to see the Waipi‘o Valley, which consisted of a long drive through the Lava fields, passing some amazing resorts – with some lovely beaches too. The Valley itself was impressive, with some further dramatic coastline and views. But to spoil all of our fun we were intercepted by Hawaii’s finest for speeding! Could this experience get any worse?… The funniest moment was Megan singing ‘Bad Boys, Bad Boys’ the theme tune to the TV show ‘Cops’ as the officer was approaching the car to chastise me!

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In order to kick-start the rest of the holiday, we decided to go and see Kilauea itself, a 2.5 hour drive away from Kona. This we were excited about – we have seen a lot of Volcanoes in our time, but we have never actually seen Lava! The original idea for the holiday was to go Lava trekking, as Kilauea is so active it’s a possibility to see new lava flow all year round… Well shit out of luck, the new lava flow stopped 2 days before we were scheduled to visit and the tours were all cancelled! Well that was another dream crushed!

We arrived early, so decided to continue to the town of Hilo, to view the other side of the island, again not somewhere we would recommend. It was sold as a Volcano town, which houses a number of dramatic waterfalls – but honestly it was just a small town with very little to offer and the waterfalls were also pretty unimpressive! I couldn’t believe we had come all this way and nothing was going right!

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So onto Kilauea, thank god we went to Kilauea… It was awesome! We started at the Volcanoes cauldron, which steamed and glowed a reddish colour, even in the striking daylight. It wasn’t like the traditional cone-shaped Volcanoes of Central America which was surprising. It’s actually classified as a shield Volcano, as is built on huge Magma fluid chambers, and eruptions usually happen throughout the volcanoes breath. Therefore whilst we were standing at the Cauldron, another part of the fluid magma chamber 5 miles away could be exploding that very moment. This means that the build-up of lava flow is across a huge stretch of space, flattening the volcano out.

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It’s a funny experience, as it doesn’t look that daunting when you at the summit, granted its high but really it just looks like a hole in the ground. Don’t let that fool you, when driving the trails down from the summit into the National Park; you get to witness some of the explosive power of this highly active volcano. There are craters dotted throughout the landscape, where the magma has burst out of the earth and created new lava flows. It amazing – some of these are ginormous and unbelievably hidden away in the landscape.

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There’s also a very cool opportunity to explore an old Lava tube that I thoroughly recommend.

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As you get further down the Volcano and nearer the ocean, the landscape dramatically changes and all you can see for miles and miles is dry hardened Lava. It’s simply captivating, and spreads across the entire slope for as far as the eye can see, literally miles and miles. It’s amazing. What follows is one of the most dramatic scenes; the road ahead is actually impassable as a huge amount of Lava has solidified over the road itself. The imagination runs wild; can you imagine what it was like that fateful day? Seeing that much molten Lava heading towards the road? The ranger on that day must have shit a brick! Anyhow enough of my imagination, it really could run wild if I let it.

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The scene of the Lava flow over the road is dramatic to say the least – it is simply stunning… I don’t think any pictures do it justice it’s just incredible, the force and magnitude of nature. This was only topped off with a visit to the cauldron at dusk, the sky was clear, the stars were out and the glow of the magma chamber underneath us was just mesmorising… It looked like a doorway to the underworld.  I spent so much time trying to photograph it and capture it but nothing would do it the type of justice that our eyes could.

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Overall we would have been thoroughly disappointed with Hawaii Big Island, if it wasn’t for Kilauea… As our quest to see Lava continues, the image of the volcanic cauldron will stay in our minds forever.

We were off to Maui next… In the sheer hope that it would justify the decision to come all this way. That post will be here shortly.


9 thoughts on “A New World – Hawaii – The Big Island

  1. I’ve just read your Hawaii posts (in reverse order) and found the mix of good and bad experience interesting as it’s a place I hope to get to for a few days at some point. Kilauea looks fantastic but sounds like it might be wise to lower expectations about visiting Pearl Harbour which is a shame.

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    1. Ha I think we all have differs perceptions of places. Kileau was by far the most incredible on the big island but 5 days was way too long… Make sure you visit Maui and do the Hana road trip that was incredible… I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on pearl harbour as a non American it just didn’t resonate with me like Berlin auchwitz Cambodia and Hiroshima…

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