The Big Island

Loren, Karen, Ashlyn and Bryan joined us on the Big Island of Hawaii. Or I guess technically we joined them; Loren had CE meetings there, so that was the official reason for the trip, but we got there first! We had planned to get to our VRBO rental house the day before the kids got there, but their flight kept getting delayed… The airline said they couldn’t find a required second pilot! Their flight was finally canceled, and rescheduled for the following day. So our kids missed out on one day of their trip, and we had to stay in that big house by ourselves for a couple of nights.

Hawaii is a fantastic place for flowers and birds!

Imaloa Astronomy Center

Our first outing once the kids got there was the Imaloa Astronomy Center. It was interesting, but I feel it is more about the origin of Hawaiian culture (which is certainly interesting) than about stars.

Akaka Falls

We headed across the island to visit OK farms, but had a bit of time and thought we’d squeeze in the Akaka falls before our farm tour started. What we thought would be a quick walk to a waterfall turned out to be an amazing path through beautiful jungle, huge ferns and all sorts of vegetation, and a magnificent waterfall. We jogged through the loop trail, certainly not doing the awesome scenery justice, but we were glad we were able to fit it in.

OK Farms

The farm is not named OK as in “just acceptable,” but rather the initials of the two men who started it. The tour they offer is wonderful… We saw many exotic fruits and nuts, flowers and spices.

Our guide was great fun… on a row of spice trees, she’d get us some leaves to smell or taste and teach us about what spices we were encountering.

We got to pick Macadamia nuts… they are not picked off the tree; you wait until they fall to the ground. Then you peel off a tough outer cover to reveal a very hard nut inside. That goes in the nifty nutcracker, and you find the Macadamia nut meat in the center. A lot of work! OK farms sells them to local companies, who then roast them (with MANY flavors!) or maybe cover them with chocolate. Pretty labor intensive, but really good!

Rambutan is one of the weirdest looking fruits imaginable. You pick up the hairy little thing, then squeeze it between the heels of your palms till the outer cover splits open. Then peel it off, and you have an interesting fruit that tastes kind of like a Lychee. Really very good, and fun too1

We got to open the Macadamia nuts we’d picked earlier, and she also served us Star fruit, Rambutan, and Longan (a lot like Lychee).

Part of the OK Farm tour is this visit to Rainbow Falls. A nice little shelter is where we got to eat the fun fruit while gazing at the falls!

Lava Tubes

Sometimes when hot lava is pouring out of a volcano, the outer edge of the flow is cooled by the air and solidifies, forming a tube or tunnel, with the majority of the lava continuing to flow inside. When the lava flow ceases, an empty tube remains. We toured one in the Volcano National Park – a crazy fascinating natural tunnel!

Green Sand Beach

Wikipedia will tell you there are only 4 Green Sand beaches in the world. One is on Guam, and when our kids lived there we saw that beach, and nobody there thinks it’s green. Cross it off the list. The next two are in Norway and the Galapagos islands. We haven’t seen them, so cannot comment on them. But the last one is almost at the southernmost tip of the Big Island, and reached by a 2.5 mile hike. We felt we had to do it, even if it required over two hours of driving before you started hiking. The area was magnificently beautiful. The dirt on the trail was extremely fine dust, coating your feet with red. Or your cheeks, if you felt like painting yourself as Ashlyn did.

When we finally arrived at the beach, the sun was down far enough that the green sand was all in shade… and didn’t look very green. I’d expected more, like maybe the green of all the grasses along the trail! The views were wonderful, the sunset spectacular, and the sand just a very little green. It was a very long, exhausting walk, with us finishing up in the dark.

At the end of the trail, you climb down a steep path to the beach. We dropped our shoes off at the edge of the sand to explore the beach. When we were ready to leave, Cherryl said her sandals were missing! They were right here! Karen said “Those ARE your sandals!” Cherryl protested they couldn’t be: hers were blue! The trail had altered the color dramatically.

Manta Rays

We had an excursion planned to see Manta Rays. We thought we’d be snorkeling around and see a few rays. They supplied us with wetsuits and snorkel gear (we used our own), and we boarded a nice catamaran. We motored all of eight minutes out to a location just offshore of a nice resort hotel. It turns out that when the resort was built, a few decades ago, the owner decided to put lights out in the water to add to the nighttime ambiance. A little while later he noticed huge Manta Rays in the light. Micro Plankton are attracted to the surface by the light, and the rays are excited to feed on the plankton. So Manta Ray tours were born… several boats are out every night, with large rectangular floats equipped with lights. You float on the surface, arms out straight hanging onto the floats, and foam pool noodles under your ankles so you stay easily on the surface. They warned that we shouldn’t even bend our elbows… they would protrude too far under the surface and would touch the rays, harming the protective coating over their skin. I had no idea how close we’d get to these fascinating creatures, or how HUGE they are! Most have a 12 – 15 foot wingspan! I’m told they can weigh 1,500 pounds!

So we had a few of these long rectangular floats forming a lighted underwater path for the rays. They would “fly” along sedately, a couple of feet below us. Then they would curve upwards, and fly upside down, literally an inch or two below us. They must be the most unique animals in the world – a huge gaping opening in front, with paddle shaped “arms” that they can use to funnel plankton inside. Once inside, the plankton is strained out with things like filters, and channeled into the creature’s mouth, which is no bigger than a quarter!

I chose not to take the GoPro, because I thought there would not be enough light. It was a good decision, but for a different reason. There was not enough room to use it! So I didn’t take pictures of the rays… but here are some off the web to show you what they look like. Imagine this creature with over a twelve foot wingspan!

sea landscape bird people
Photo by Nick Wehrli on
giant manta ray swimming underwater
Photo by Emma Li on

Helicopter Tour of Volcanoes and Hot Lava

Does that title excite you? It sounded exciting to us too! But the tour company called and said they were waiting on a maintenance part, and could we do it the following day? We were glad we’d kept that last day open, so we rescheduled. Thursday, as we drove the almost two hours across the island to the heliport, we were in fog and drizzle a lot of the way. We kept hoping the weather was better over the volcano. When we checked in, they didn’t mention bad weather – they weighed us all, checked our signed waivers, and gave us a comprehensive safety briefing. THEN, they sadly told us that clouds still obscured the volcano, and we could not fly. They were waiting till the last minute to cancel, just in case it would open up. We didn’t want to miss out on the adventure, and they didn’t want to refund our money! But we did, and they did… Below is us trying to look upbeat when told we weren’t going to be flying.

Next week: Sea Kayaking, snorkeling, cliff jumping (!) and Cherryl and I go birding with a private guide! What fun!! Come with us!!

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