Waipi’o and Pololu Valleys

May 23, 2016 – Another morning, another coffee and bagel breakfast.  Tony stuck with his classic egg and bacon sandwich with avocado, while Louisa tried sea salt and coconut butter, as well as local lettuce, tomato, and onion, on a parmesan bagel.  It was fantastic, as were the espresso drinks.

You get a great view of the valley from the overlook.
You get a great view of the valley from the overlook.

After breakfast we headed to the Waipi’o Valley lookout.  It was another gorgeous day, though a tad humid.  We got to the overlook around 9am and found a parking spot on the side of the road.  The trek is 3 miles down to the beach, though we didn’t go that far.  Four wheel drive vehicles (mostly jeeps) drive down the road as well, so walkers should watch out for them.

The falls are visible after a short walk through the valley.
The falls are visible after a short walk through the valley.

Once we got to the bottom of the hill we weren’t sure which way to go. Tony had a hunch left would be good; right took us towards the water. Left wound up taking us farther into the valley, with a view of the gorgeous Hi’ilawe Falls and past beautiful flowers. There were also a few old hippies sitting in plastic folding chairs next to rusted out cars, drinking can after can of beer.

It's ok, we didn't need to go any further.
It’s ok, we didn’t need to go any further.

The hike back out of the valley was slow and hot.  We passed an Australian couple hiking down; he said to his partner “See, she [Louisa] doesn’t regret hiking down this.” “Nope, it’s worth it [just ignore how hot and humid it is].”  Let’s just say that the seat coolers in the car were very much appreciated after the hike. Our destination was Sushi Rock.  We got the sampler platter again, and this time had the Hoki Poki, an ahi and apple roll, an Italian inspired roll with parmesan, fish, and greens, and one other equally good roll.

We actually make it down to Pololu Valley this time.
We actually make it down to Pololu Valley this time.

After lunch we drove the 20 minutes or so down the road to Pololu Valley.  The hike down isn’t bad in dry weather, and the beach and view up the valley are beautiful.  There’s also a little county park nearby that has a pretty view of the water and a variety of red-headed birds hopping around.

Mountain overlooks provide great views of clouds.
Mountain overlooks provide great views of storm clouds.

We had dinner at Village Burger in Waimea.  Yes, they’re in a food court, but the food is fantastic.  We split the truffle fries and each of us got a burger.  Tony had the wagyu beef burger with avocado, onions and toppings, and Louisa had the local beef burger with avocado, egg, and veggies.  Both were good, but the wagyu had better flavor.

Hiking (part of) Mauna Kea

May 22, 2016 – After breakfast on the deck we headed towards Saddle Road and Mauna Kea.  The road going to the top is four wheel drive only, which means we parked at the visitor center, filled out the appropriate wavers (side note – this trail really isn’t that tough to follow, so not sure what that’s about…), geared up and headed out.  The visitor center starts at 9000′, and the first few miles of the hike are close to a 20% grade.  With sand.  The cool part was we were eventually above the clouds, and also had a great view of Mauna Loa.

The beginning part of the hike is fairly sandy, increasing the difficulty.
The beginning part of the hike is fairly sandy, increasing the difficulty.

Mauna Kea is huge.  So huge that you forget you’re hiking on an dormant volcano, at least until you see random cinder cones scattered around the mountain.  After 3.5 miles we called it quits.  We were hiking for time rather than distance, so we gave ourselves 4 hours up and 2 hours to get back down.  We found some sun-warmed rocks and ate lunch around 12:30 before starting the trek back.   We ran into some swirling rain and walked through some clouds, but made it down without any trouble (and fortunately without any full-blown rain storm).

View from the hike make you feel like you're on top of the world.
View from the hike make you feel like you’re on top of the world.

After relaxing at the B&B for a bit we set off in search of food and wound up at Underground Pizza.  We tried the garlic bread with cheese (very good) and a pizza.  The pizza crust was a tad bit overdone on the bottom, but it was good for holding all the toppings – we got pesto, garlic, sausage, and mushrooms.  Overall it was good NY style pizza, maybe a 3.5/5.

North Hawaii Sites

May 21, 2016 – We started our day with great espresso drinks and bagels (and avocado) at the Waimea Coffee Company.  They don’t have a ton of tables, but we had no problem finding a spot to eat outside.  Tony enjoyed an everything bagel with egg, cheese, bacon, and avocado, while Louisa had an everything bagel with cream cheese, veggies and pesto.  The pesto was also very good.

We started the drive with a rainbow.
We started the drive with a rainbow.

Today was a driving day, exploring a few different sites in north Hawaii.  First up was Puukohola Heiau, about 20 minutes from out lodging.  Yes, we drove there with the convertible top down, the weather was perfect.  The heiau is still very important to native Hawaiians, and only people there for religious ceremonies can enter the ruins.  The rest of us can walk pretty close to them though, and also follow the short trail towards the water.  Historians think the protected cove used to be the site of an older town/center of power, but nothing remains of it now.

We couldn't enter the main part of the site, but walking around the grounds was fair game.
We couldn’t enter the main part of the site, but walking around the grounds was fair game.

Instead of going right back to the car we kept walking through a little park, apparently people can just set up their campsites wherever they want.  A handful of people were enjoying the gorgeous weekend by the little beach.  That beach was perfect – beautiful water, white sand, shade, and a foot rinse station.

The one advantage of an island is ample coastline.
The one advantage of an island is ample coastline.

Along Rt 270 we found a random beach with white and black volcanic rock, so we stopped to take a few photos and admire the turquoise water before continuing on to Lapakahi State Historical Park.  It’s the site of an old settlement, with old building foundations and a beautiful view.  Also, flies.  Lots and lots of flies.

See, here's more.
See, here’s more.

By now it was raining, so we stopped at Kohala Coffee Mill in Hawi for a coconut macaroon, a mocha and a cafe au lait.  By then the rain had stopped, so we headed over to the Pololu Valley Overlook.  We found a parking spot, got our hiking shoes on, and almost immediately realized that the trail was going to be a little too slick for us.

The slick trail kept us from the valley, but we came back a few days later.
The slick trail kept us from the valley, but we came back a few days later.

Instead we drove back into town to get lunch at Sushi Rock.  We were hungry and everything looked good, so we got ahi nigiri and the Waimea platter.  The ahi was fabulous,  with a dab of wasabi underneath the fish.  The platter was a chef’s choice selection of four rolls, including spicy tuna, mahi, the hokey pokey with ahi poke, shrimp, cucumber, lime aioli, and cilantro, and unagi.

You will find some birds here that aren't present on the mainland.
You will find some birds here that aren’t present on the mainland.

After lunch we parked by the airport a few minutes away and walked to within site of the Mo’okini Heiau.  There is a road, but it’s really best for four wheel drive vehicles.  By then we were ready to head back through the hills, taking a shortcut to Waimea. Our destination for dinner was at Luna’s, a very nice Italian restaurant with fantastic home made pasta and good garlic bread.

Big Island Arrival – Kona and Waimea

May 20, 2016 – Our flight to the Big Island (Kona), via CA, left at 7am Friday morning.  That gave us time to get breakfast at Einstein’s Bagels in Boise, and a (much better) coffee fueled breakfast from Peet’s Coffee in San Francisco.  Peet’s has a new iced drink with sweetened condensed milk and coconut flavoring; it’s excellent, particularly when you’re not fully awake.

We were feeling pretty good after some coffee treats at the airport.
We were feeling pretty good after some coffee treats at the airport.

Our flight to Kona was uneventful, with the biggest surprise for us being how close we flew to Maui.  Despite all our research, we didn’t realize how close the islands were to each other. Kona’s airport is open air, and it was 85ish and rather humid when we landed.  Tony went to go get our rental car while Louisa waited for the luggage.  Somehow Tony got a mustang convertible, our luggage showed up slightly damp from the humidity, and we headed into the construction zone in search of food.  With the traffic we had some time to admire the lava field to our left, the view of the ocean, and the gorgeous flowering shrubs.

More cars need to have seat coolers.
More cars need to have seat coolers.

Lunch was at Umeke’s Bowls and Rolls.  The sushi was really good, although we weren’t a fan of the chirashi bowl (the shrimp and rice were good, as was the ahi, but the other fish was quite fishy; however, it did give us a chance to try various types of seaweed and flavored tofu).

There is no shortage of colorful flowers on the island.
There is no shortage of colorful flowers on the island.

After lunch we drove another half mile down the road to the marina and the trail to Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park.  We parked at the marina to save a mile round trip walk through the shadeless lava field.  This also meant we were only a short walk from a beautiful beach and a reconstructed fish drying lean-to.  We saw the foundations of old buildings, a petroglyph, cardinals, and heard other birds.  After a bit of being outside though we decided to see if it was cooler up north, and headed to our B&B in Waimea.  Overall we preferred Waimea, although we enjoyed north Kona.  Waimea was a bit smaller and quieter, in the hills, was cooler, and had great views.

The ocean can be helpful for getting accustomed to the high heat and humidity.
The ocean can be helpful for getting accustomed to the high heat and humidity.

For dinner we tried to go to Big Island Brewhaus.  Maybe doing this on Friday night wasn’t a great idea, since it was both very crowded and very loud.  The classic beers are good, but the orange chocolate stout is really sweet (too sweet for our tastes).  The food was good however, particularly the fish sticks and the burgers and fries.  We got the food to go and ate it on the porch overlooking the town and out towards Mauna Loa.

We had a great spot for dinner on the porch.
We had a great spot for dinner on the porch.

We were surprised how windy the town got as soon as the sun went down.  By morning some of the flowers had lost their petals, and an orange and a few avocados fell.