The Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden (mouthful) describes itself as “A Garden in a Valley on the Ocean” (another mouthful), but it is a stunning collection of plants, trees, and flowers north of Hilo.
Akaka Falls State Park is 30 minutes north of Hilo, and it’s well worth a trip to view it. There’s a short loop trail through beautiful vegetation to reach a great viewing point, but the 442-foot waterfall is also viewable from the parking lot. Akaka Falls is twice as high as Niagara Falls if that helps give it perspective. The coolest bit of info I learned about the falls is that there is a type of goby fish, ‘o’opu ‘alamo’o, that spawns in streams above the waterfall and matures in the sea. The fish have a suction disk on their bellies which allows them to climb up the rocks behind the waterfall to reach the stream to spawn. Yes, these small fish climb a 442-foot waterfall! Absolutely insane. Take that, salmon.
In addition to the Liliuokalani Gardens, there are several more spots around Hilo worth visiting. The Wailuku River (awesome translation: wai means fresh water and luku means destruction, so this is the River of Destruction) is 28 miles long and runs from the eastern slope of Mauna Kea into the Hilo Bay. One section of the river, the Boiling Pots, is a series of small falls and pools. Despite the many warnings, we saw several people swimming and playing in the area, some with very small children.
One afternoon, we took a drive along the southeast coast on 137, starting at Isaac Hale Park and ending at Kaimu Beach Park, where the newest lava fields start. There was an ice cream truck in the parking lot at Isaac Hale, and Domingos and I had a nice chat with the man running it, who happened to be from Weymouth (we were wearing Pats and Celtics shirts).
Lili’uokalani Park and Gardens is located southeast of downtown Hilo right on the waterfront. Most of the park consists of Edo-style Japanese gardens, which were built between 1917-1919. The park also has a small island, Moku ola (which has the nickname Coconut Island, despite “moku ola” translating as “island of life”). Moku ola is connected by a footbridge to the main part of the park. Lili’uokalani Gardens, named for Queen Lili’uokalani, was built as a tribute to Hawaii’s first Japanese immigrants who worked on the island’s sugar cane fields. It is the largest ornamental Japanese garden outside of Japan.
To celebrate Tracy’s birthday in style, I convinced everyone that we should take a helicopter tour of the island. We used Blue Hawaiian Helicopter Company, which operates out of Hilo, and signed up for the “Circle of Fire Plus Waterfalls” tour. This was a fabulous 50-minute tour which took us over the lava fields, active volcano activity, a gorgeous view of Hilo Bay, and ended with a flight over a couple of waterfalls.
I really wanted to tour a coffee farm while in Hawaii, and even though most of them are located on the Kona side of the island, I found a small farm in Mountain View, not far from our airbnb. Hilo Coffee Mill is just 24 acres, a small family farm owned and operated by 3 older women, none of whom had a background in farming before starting their operation. They’re a small-batch custom roaster with a focus on recycling, resource awareness, and sustainable practices. We signed up for a tour through their website (tours cost $20, but if you’re on the fence about it I will say that I thought it was worth every penny of that!), and saw that they also operate a small farmers’ market on Saturday mornings, which happened to be the morning we’d signed up for a tour. We decided to go early and get breakfast and coffee there before starting the tour. The market was very, very small – it’s still quite new – but they had several different stalls with goodies to try. We bought coffee drinks inside the farm’s store, and then Domingos and I tried some fabulous wontons a woman was frying up – her business is called Any Kine Wontons, and she offers a huge array of intriguing flavors (and I hate that this is the only photo I have of her! She was very lovely but I caught her in an awkward expression here). Continue reading “Hilo Coffee Mill”
We took a full day to drive around Volcanoes National Park, and I’d love to go back some day and spend longer hiking and exploring the park. We started out at the Visitors’ Center, which was extremely crowded. I was nervous that the whole park would be jam-packed, but for the most part it wasn’t bad at all.
The airbnb that I booked for us turned out to be absolutely perfect. It was located on Leilani Estates in the Puna district near the town of Pahoa. The hosts Robert & Konrad were very helpful and friendly, and checked in on us several times to make sure we had everything we needed. The house was stocked with every amenity you could think of – fresh eggs, bread, half & half, and chocolates waiting for us in the fridge; lots of fresh fruit in a bowl on the table with an open invitation to pick anything we’d like from the garden and fruit trees on the property; a juicer for fresh-squeezed orange juice; a blender for smoothies; a Keurig machine with a huge supply of K cups, as well as a drip coffee maker and French press; a fancy telescope to use out on the deck; an abundance of clean, white linens as well as beach towels for our use; snorkel equipment and headlamps; a high-efficiency washer & dryer; earplugs in case the frogs were too loud at night; and probably a bunch of other things I’ve already forgotten or didn’t use. Continue reading “Pahoa Airbnb”
On our first full day in Pahoa, we visited the nearby Lava Tree State Monument, a small park that has a 0.7-mile paved loop path through a forest of lava tree molds.