Monday, June 8, 2009

The Big Island of Hawaii

If you want to see volcanoes, star gaze on one of the highest mountains in the world, or snorkel in beautiful waters under sunny skies, the Big Island is a place you must visit at least once in your lifetime.

I visited the Big Island once when I had first graduated from high school. My family and I went on a bus tour around Hilo for a day. Bus tours are great for those who have limited amounts of time and would like to see as many places as possible. It is also great for those who would rather relax and enjoy the scenery instead of driving through unfamiliar areas. However, for those with more time, there's nothing like exploring the Big Island by car!

During Memorial Day weekend, my husband and I decided to go on an adventure. We flew to the Big Island for three days and stayed at the Kona Seaside, a great budget hotel. It was close to many shops and restaurants and a five minute walk to the ocean.

My husband and I are the type of people who love to explore. As soon as we arrived on the Big Island, we found our hotel and dropped off our bags. We immediately headed out the door as soon as we could. One of the first places we visited was "South Point," considered the southernmost tip of the United States.

Upon approaching South Point, there were towering windmills with cattle and horses roaming the area. The road to South Point can be a bit rocky because it's on a narrow, dirt road. However, the view is worth the drive.

The view at South Point is incredible. It is amazingly beautiful here and quite relaxing too.

It took us forever to leave South Point, but my husband and I were on a mission. We were determined to see the volcanoes! It took us nearly 2 hours to get to Volcano National Park, but it was totally worth it! We were a bit worried the park would close, but fortunately we learned that it stays open all night; only the information center and museum closes in the evening.

Upon entering the park, there was a sign about volcanic gases, which made my heart race. I couldn't wait to enter the park! At the same time, I was a little nervous about getting ill from the vog. Luckily, however, I was not affected by it. For individuals who may be sensitive however, it is best to leave the area for cleaner air. In some areas, it may make you want to cough and it can affect pregnant women or those with cardiac or respitory conditions.

Before reaching Jaggar Museum, you may notice steam coming from the ground. It is pretty cool to see.

At Jaggar Museum, one can look into Kilauea Crater, one of Hawaii's active volcanoes. It is a truly amazing place to visit!

At the information center and at Jaggar Museum, you may notice the maps, art, and other items of interest. There is also a gift shop.

I found "Pele's Hair" to be the most interesting. Does it not look like real hair? You would be amazed by seeing "Pele's Hair" in person. It's incredible!

After the information center and the museum closed, we decided to continue exploring the park.
One of our main interests was the Thurston Lava Tube. It was amazing to walk inside of the tube, especially when we went to the second half of it. You definitely need to bring a flashlight! At the end of the second tube, we turned our flashlights off and it was so dark, you couldn't even see your own arm in front of you. Absolutely nothing. In fact, there's nothing for your eyes to adjust to! It can be a bit calaustraphobic in the lava tube, but it's definitely worth entering! It's also completely safe. There are no bats or other hidden creatures lurking in the lava tube. The first tube is also lighted and it's an easy walk.

After visiting the Thurston Lava Tube, we decided to continue on our journey. Eventually, the sun began to set and we were able to capture some wonderful photos.

My favorite photo of all, my pride and joy, is of the lava! I could not believe that my camera could capture the red glow of the lava, which we would've only been able to see during the evening. It was incredible! If I could have only gotten closer, it would've been nice. We tried desperately to get closer, but as it became darker, my camera did not want to cooperate. I was still more than happy to have captured even a glimpse of the lava. Next time I visit the Big Island, I definitely want to go on a lava tour, where you can get up close via a boat.

After seeing as much as we possibly could at Volcano National Park, we decided to hit the road and head back home. The following day, we were once again refreshed and ready for our next journey to Mauna Kea, the world's tallest mountain when measured from its base.

It took nearly two hours from Kona to get to Mauna Kea. At 9,000 feet, there is an information center, where one must acclimate before heading to the summit. It is recommended that those who plan to go to the summit rest for at least 30 minutes, although one is encouraged to take even more time to acclimate in order to have a much more pleasant experience. We waited nearly two hours before heading to the summit.

Please remember to bring cold weather gear, a pair of sunglasses with UV protection, water, and sunscreen! It's important if you want to protect yourself from the sun or cold weather. Although we visited during the summer, it was freezing at the summit! In fact, I was able to see some snow!
When driving up to the 9,000 feet level, watch out for the fog and the "invisbile cows." At the 9,000 level, make sure you stop at the information center to acclimate! If you get bored, you can always tour the mini garden there and see the silver sword - a rare plant species.

After acclimating for at least 30 minutes, head up to the summit at your own risk. It helps to have four wheel drive and take your time heading up and down the mountain! If you are lucky, you'll still be able to see snow during the summer. I rarely get to see snow, so it was so awesome to actually see snow again!

After reaching the summit, there's nothing more beautiful than being above the clouds! The summit on Mauna Kea is approximately 13, 700 feet.

There are multi-million research institutes (space observatories) a top Mauna Kea and it's incredible to see.

Many people visit Mauna Kea to see the sunset and to also star gaze. The sun set at 7:02 p.m. At around 8:30 p.m., billions of stars appeared throughout the pitch black sky.
My husband was in awe. I also gazed in amazement at the stars, as I had never seen so many in my life! We both had the chance to see quite a few shooting stars too! It was such a once in a lifetime experience to be at Mauna Kea. After leaving the summit 3 hours later, we headed to the information center where there was star gazing and telescopes!

Although my husband and I only spent three days in the Big Island, it was one of our most memorable trips ever. There's so much to see and do on the Big Island! In fact, three days definitely isn't enough time, but what we did experience will definitely last a lifetime.

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