Hawai’i, a résumé
Well, well, well.
Looking back with a couple of days distance I must say that Hawai’i was underwhelming. It was nice, no doubt about that, bur I certainly won’t be going there again and I think there are better places with less hassle and rules and regulations in the world. But anyway, let’s try to wrap it up in a post.
Flying into Hilo is niiiiice. On a clear day. You get beautiful views of valleys, forests, waterfalls, kinda like a very short scenic flight (provided you have a window seat on the right side of the plane). Domestic flights in HI are relatively easy going: our baggage arrived always very quickly and the car rental companies are just across the exit door from baggage claim. I had pre-booked our cars through NKT Travel and everything worked perfect – we got a good price, good, reliable car, no worries at all, so I can definitely recommend them. You don’t really need a 4WD (unless you have a very specific use case planned). We rented a „mid-size“ car which translates into an AWD SUV, which was probably overkill already. On Maui and Kauai, we were upgraded to a 4WD Jeep, but we didn’t need the 4WD. Sure, some roads are rough, some are not paved, but nothing that cannot be navigated by a decent normal car in good condition. I’ve seen (and driven) a lot worse in Oz and NZ. 😉
Volcano Village is small and quiet, the plan was to stay there to be close to the volcano and get an early start on some hiking trails. There’s lots of accommodation, most of them contain „volcano“ and „inn“, but we stayed at the „Volcano Inn“. Extremely good value for the money, corner room recommended. The rooms even have de-humanizers, which is of course very appealing to Germans and certainly ups the Hitler rating.
Surprisingly, although it’s such a small place, there’s also decent food to be had, we dined twice at „Thai Thai“ and found it to be very good, authentic, and affordable Thai cuisine. For breakfast, we went to the Lava Rock Cafe, nothing extraordinary, but decent, honest food, nice pancakes.
The National Park itself was a bit underwhelming unfortunately. Half of it was actually closed of. They claim because of SO2 levels, but I don’t buy it. Come on, I’ve been to places where there was much more SO2 in the air and I’m still very much alive. First example of American Angst here, they’re just chickening out, afraid of lawsuits … . Sad, sad, sad. That being said, it’s still a nice place, although having seen volcanic landscapes in NZ it was nothing new, I’d prefer Tongariro or the Taupo/Rotorua region over this. There are also some hiking trails in the rainforest but they were closed too, this time the county was shitting their pants. American Angst 2, Live free or die 0. So all in all, it was a typical American tourist thing: drive there, take a pic, and move on. All the off-the-beaten-track things were closed. (Well, for some you could book a guided tour for gazillions of dollars, fuck you very much.)
So after two and a half days we drove to the other side. And noticed another thing: Although we were in the low season, it was really hard to find decent accommodation, the few hostels and b&bs were nearly always fully booked. So not too much improvisation possible. We drove over to Captain Cook Village, a few k south from Kailua and a few hundred meters (or feet?) above sea level. On the way, a few miles south of Captain Cook, there is a fruit stand on the right/mountain side of the Highway that does excellent smoothies. Highly recommended. In CCV, we stayed at the Manago Hotel, which turned out to be one of the best places we stayed at. No TV, no AC, no frills, but clean, simple rooms, nice people, and a balcony with ocean view for just a few dollars. Next to the hotel is a little shop selling handmade potato chips and cookies, which were yummy. For breakfast, we went to the Coffee Shack, they do a very good breakfast, very good baked goods as well in a beautiful Location, verandah overlooking the ocean and with lots of geckos. So, yes, you won’t starve to death and there’s good accommodation out there, but that’s about it. All the rest is either VERBOTEN or VERBOTEN or a golf course. Other places for good food in the Kailua area: Ultimate Burger, they do good veggie burgers as well and the service was really good. Kona Pub & Brewery, decent salads and pizzas.
Since it is illegal in the US not to spend at least 100 USD a day (they actually send you to Gitmo if you „underspend“ on your holiday, did you know that) we were forced to book a submarine tour (with Atlantis Submarines) to avoid being visited by the Fun Police. It was interesting – I had been on lots of Subs before of course during my SEAL days, but the Reisebegleitung had not so it was cool to get some underwater views without having to learn how to dive and all that. What pissed me off though was the fact that they tried to sell us a photo of the two of us (before boarding) for 40$$$! What the fuck? And they had the audacity to ask for tips even though the trip cost more than 100$. Fuck that.
So if you ask me, you can bypass the whole fucking westside of Big Island. Maybe ok for a drive through (or drive by? *g*), but that’s it. You can come back when you’re 85 so you won’t stand out anymore. I reckon they do offer burial services with cocktails on the golf course if you pay extra. We drove North to the very North end of the island where it’s a lot less touristy and much nicer, over to Waipi’o (well actually Honoka’a) where we’d managed to find accommodation in a very nice B&B, the Waipi’o Wayside Inn. Very good breakfast, very clean, very comfortable, very calm, with a beautiful garden. I still can’t believe that they actually have a bad review on tripadvisor because some sissy fucker couldn’t sleep because of the frogs at night. Well, why don’t you fucking stay in fucking Los Angeles and listen to the sound of planes, cars, and sirens all night. Fuck you. Anyway, very nice B&B! And close to Waipi’o Valley, which is probably the last man standing, hats off to the locals for having resisted the Resort building drive so far! So, there is a steep road going down and everybody tells you you need a 4WD but that’s bullshit. If it’s dry and you have a decent, well-maintained car, AND know how to drive, then no problem. If you don’t know how drive, you should not be driving a 4WD anyway. But the point is not to drive down there in the first place – you should walk. And then walk along the beach, and up the next ridge, and get beautiful view of the next valley. And then back up. Wonderful landscape, relatively quiet, and decent hiking. Like.
We then backtracked to Hilo the next day. We had trouble finding accommodation because of the Merry Monarch Festival, so we ended up in a B&B a few miles out of town, up the hill. Beautiful garden, nice setting, clean and comfortable, but somehow lacking love, passion, and all that. And it didn’t help that the smoke from the main house drifted into our room all the time … . Breakfast wasn’t a burner either, so I’m afraid I can’t really recommend Malia’s Birdsong B&B. Sorry.
One of the things I definitely wanted to see was Lava up close. Not too many spots on earth where you can do that and live. Since the „Walking to the Lava“ plan had been jeopardized by the county’s and national park’s American Angst coupled with their ever present willingness to assist local in ripping off People by offering extremely silly guided tours I had to find another way: boat. More specifically: Lava Ocean Tours. And for a change and to my very pleasant surprise, that proved to be money well spent. They got us within arms length of the Lava and hovered there for a couple of minutes, allowing us to witness this incredible spectacle. I had never seen anything like it before, amazing. This is a must see, for sure. And the boat ride itself was great fun as well, but not recommended for people with a bad back or prone to motion sickness. 🙂 Yee-ha. It was good to be out in the ocean again, after years of being assigned to counterterrorism in Arabia or North Africa it felt good to be out of the desert for a change. We took the sunset cruise, which is great because you still have daylight on the way in to admire the coast etc. and then it’s getting darker and darker to provide a beautiful backdrop for the lava flowing ínto the ocean. Be sure to bring a raincoat, you will get drenched with seawater, no matter where you sit. If you bring a camera, wipe it clean and dry afterwards to remove both the salt water and the sulphuric residue afterwards.
Another thing I had been looking forward to was hiking through the beautiful rainforest on the slopes of Kilauea, but that turned out to be VERBOTEN again. Fuck you fuck you fuck you.
Btw, best food around Hilo? What’s Shakin! It’s a small roadside shack, a few miles North of Hilo, but well worth the drive, believe me. Incredible shakes and smoothies and cookies, and very, very good sandwiches and burgers! In Hilo, we also had lunch at the Hilo Bay Cafe, but I can’t recommend it, bland, meaningless, nothing special. Not bad, but not good and certainly not good enough for the price … .
That’s it for the Big Island. Short resumé: 4 days are enough, go see Kilauea, Waipi’o Valley, and the lava flow. Drop Napalm on Kona/Kohala and fuck them. All the stuff you read about waterfalls? Forget it, 99% are on private land or they find some other ways to try and rip you off.
Coming up next: Maui and Kauai, which I liked much better.