Headed to Hilo

May 24, 2016 – We definitely enjoyed our time in Waimea.  The area is beautiful and quiet, and had great food – just what we were looking for. We stopped by our go-to coffee shop for a final bagel and coffee breakfast before heading towards the rainy (read: lush but humid) side of the island. Our food schedule was a bit off since we didn’t find any restaurants before we got to the falls.  Instead we stopped at a little store and got passionfruit cookies and sweet bread coated in butter and sugar.  The butter was probably overkill, but we ate it all.

Yep, we still like the convertible.
Yep, we still like the convertible.

Louisa wanted to try to see a waterfall she saw on the map, so we took a detour up a narrow road that passed through rainforest before opening up to farmland.  The falls are on private property, so we couldn’t see them, but we did get a great view of the ocean on the drive back to the main road.

There is some good rainforest habitat near Hilo.
There is some good rainforest habitat near Hilo.

First up was Akaka Falls.  If you park outside the park (literally an extra 20 foot walk) you save a few dollars on parking; completely worth it.  This was the first time we saw the feral kitty population, there were two mamas and 6 babies playing by a piece of plastic pipe.  They seemed happy.  The walk along the pathway is fairly short, but there’s a nice view of the falls that Louisa tried to drive to previously, as well as Akaka Falls. You can also get up close and personal with the tropical vegetation which overhangs the paved walkway.

There are also many waterfalls near Hilo.
There are also many waterfalls near Hilo.

On the drive towards Hilo we passed a little stand where a woman was using a machete to chop the tops off young coconuts.  We tried the fresh coconut milk and the pulp (both very good), lychee, and an apple banana with was smaller and a bit firmer and tarter than a normal banana.  Louisa also got to pet the kitty who was waiting to finish the rest of the milk left in the bottom of the coconut.

Rainforest = Bright Colored Plants
Rainforest = Bright Colored Plants

After being in small towns for a few days we weren’t quite ready to hunt for a parking space, but we eventually found street parking near our destination, Moon and Turtle.  We got there just before the end of lunch, and enjoyed a Mai Tai, a mint/cucumber/coconut drink, and two entrees.  The menu changes daily, and today they had both fried rice and a wonderful udon noodle dish.

Come for the flowers, stay for the great coastline.
Come for the flowers, stay for the great coastline.

After lunch we took a detour to Moonstruck Patisserie.  The coffee is wonderful, as are all the desserts (we eventually chose the cheesecake and a pear tart). If you need to kill a bit of time before dinner, parking near the water and watching the outrigger canoes head out is our recommendation.

Colorful birds like this aren't this easily-spotted on the mainland.
Colorful birds like this aren’t this easily-spotted on the mainland.

We had dinner reservations at Sombat’s, a lovely little spot in a strip mall on the southern end of Hilo.  We’d recommend reservations, as the space is small and fills quickly.  The Thai iced tea was quite good, as were the spring rolls, pad see ew, and curry.  We recommend finishing the meal with the fried apple banana rolls.

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.