We slept in Wednesday morning – Jill got her usual beauty rest, and I was up late the night before as they’d turned on the wireless internet and I was sucking up all the bandwidth, uploading pictures, streaming Daily Show and Colbert Report, blogging and surfing. But 11AM was a good time to get going. We stopped in at Discovery Antiques in Kealakekua to shop, and we also stopped right after mile marker 106 at Big Jake’s Island BBQ. The fellow behind the counter wasn’t in a hurry, but neither were we, we got it boxed for later. We continued down the road and around the southern tip of the island, stopping in Na’alehu at the Punalu’u Bake Shop for their nice public restrooms, which proved to be a crucial catch by Jill, as the restrooms at the Punalu’u Beach Park weren’t that nice. It didn’t really matter, as we were there for the sea turtles sunning themselves on the black sand, and they didn’t disappoint.
After we hung out with them, we ate our pulled pork and brisket sandwiches (we split ’em) and agreed there was a reason they’re acclaimed as the best on the island. From there we hopped back in the car, climbing 4000 feet and ending up in the town of Volcano. We went to check in at the Volcano Inn, made easy because I’d prepaid by check (the only way they roll). We drove to our cottage, rested for a bit, then got on the road. We hung a right in Kea’au, then took 130 to the bitter end (where lava flowed over the road). The park rangers had us park, then we walked over nearly a mile of lava to the viewing area close to where the biggest lava tube was flowing into the sea. We waited about an hour for darkness to fall, then sat back and enjoyed the show. We mostly saw the smoke where the lava boiled when it hit the sea colored by the reflection of the lava, with occasional spurts of lava (which drew oohs and awws from the crowd).
After a while, we headed back with flashlights, picking our way through the lava. We traced our path back, coming back to Volcano around 8:30. I’d frozen sausage and turkey sandwiches the night before and tossed them in the fridge when we got to our room, and I heated them up in the microwave and we enjoyed them in front of our rainforest view with some fruit and chips.
Thursday we were up early, checked out and got on our way to Hilo. We had to stop for gas, I pumped and Jill went in search of breakfast. She got herself a granola bar, and me a breakfast package of longanisa sausage, a scrambled egg and rice wrapped in seaweed. It wasn’t bad, but the seaweed gave the whole thing a fishy flavor, not what I’m looking for in a breakfast and definitely not before I’m going to be airborne. I only ate half. We got to Hilo Airport, parked and checked in at Blue Hawaiian Helicopters. We took a seat in the lounge, watched a safety presentation, then went out to the tarmac. Soon we were in the helicopter, ready for our first ride. It was an easy trip, over to the active volcano, down over the vents, then circling around the lava going into the sea. We were back at the airport in no time, a lot easier than any airplane flight (now someone’s talking about helicopter lessons).
We made a quick stop at Hilo Bay Books before heading up along the coast. We made a turn down a scenic route towards Onomea Bay and went down far enough to see the bay. On the way back, we stopped at Hawaiian Artifacts where Jill found a great deal on peridot earrings and a wood hair stick. Once headed north again, we looked for the legendary What’s Shakin’ smoothie shack, but they were closed (looked like for good). We stopped at Akaka Falls to check out what’s said to be the best waterfall on the island.
Since we were hungry, we stopped in the nearby town of Honomu at the Woodshop Gallery and Cafe for lunch. Jill had the Thai Curry Chicken and I had the Mango Chicken and we both had tropical iced teas, both very tasty. We continued heading north, getting off the main road at Honoka’a to go to the Waipi’o Valley Overlook. That done, we returned to the main road. We had dinner reservations at 6PM in Waimea, but it was only 4 when we passed through, so we continued on to the Kohala coast and headed north for a while, catching whales blowing out to sea. We turned around before we got to the northmost point and headed back down to Kawaihae Bay, where we read for a bit next to the bay before changing and heading back to Waimea.
We had dinner at Merriman’s, mentioned as one of the best restaurants. Jill had a salad and the shrimp, while I had the lamb with a side of spinach. Both were excellent, and the lamb was some of the best I’ve had. Jill had a the pumpkin cake and I had the chèvre tart, both pretty good. After dinner, we headed back to the condo, dashed into the hot tub for a couple minuted, then went back, did laundry and started packing. I’ll be up late tonight, but we’ve got a red-eye out tomorrow.