Unsurprisingly, we woke up at 3am thanks to the six hour time difference. We checked our work emails and called home (as it was already 9am back east). We gathered some things together (as we would not be back for many hours) and left the Hilton around 5am. We made the long walk to the parking lot in quiet and darkness.
We drove over to Hilo using the Saddle Road which was completed in 2013 to provide a more direct route from the Northern side of the island to Hilo and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Before that, tourists had to drive around past Kona past the west and south coast of the island.
The drive started in darkness, but sunrise was early, and we were soon driving through the mist past Mauna Kea. We reached Hilo before 7am and stopped at Ken’s House of Pancakes for a fantastic breakfast and coffee to fuel and wake us up.
After breakfast, we drove over to the National Park entrance. We first did a circuit around the park road, stopping at the steam vents and some overlooks.
Then we parked near the Thurston Lava Tube and did the short hike through the tube itself.
Now it was time for the main event: The Kilauea Iki trail hike. The hike started out descending toward the Kilauea crater, went directly across the equator and back up into the forest. It was an amazing hike and my wife was a good sport to complete it with me. This was really my biggest reason to come to the Big Island – to hike across a volcanic crater.
After the hike, we drove down the Chain of Craters Road to see the Holei Sea Arch (well, I ran down to see it, she stayed in the car after that hike).
We decided to drive back the long way via Kona so we could see the southern and western part of the Big Island. There were some great views, but we were too exhausted to stop anywhere to get out and look more closely. We tried to stop at the famous Punalu’u Bake Shop but the line was way too long. We did stop for poke along the highway, and I’m not sure if was because we were starving, but I remember it being very good.
We drove all the way around past Kona, the airport and some nice resorts before reaching the Hilton around 4pm. By the time we hiked back to our room, my wife did not want to go out again. I went over to Island Gourmet Market in the Queens Marketplace and bought some things to eat in our room for dinner (more poke, tropical fruit and beer – all the Hawaiian food groups). We sat out on the balcony exhausted and enjoyed our feast.
That night, I met up with Ben Komenkul, who happened to be staying at the hotel with his daughter. Ben is a well-known points and miles guru (Ben’s Big Deal) and we discussed our respective upcoming travels.
Next up: Beach and Manta Rays.