Posted by: M.J. Bolstad | January 1, 2012

Solo in Kona: My Hawaii Adventure Day #4

You can even see the rainbow!

Hau’oli Makahiki Hou!

As I learned yesterday on my volcano tour, this is how you say Happy New Year in Hawaii, and so it seems fitting to use it here.  I will admit, however, that I did have to google it once I got back because I wasn’t sure how to spell it.  It is a very good thing I did, since I would have gotten it dead wrong.

My day four blog is a wee bit delayed, as you will note.  Rather than getting it written at the end of my day, I am currently writing it while sipping coffee in bed, because yesterday was a very long day and it was all I could do to keep myself awake to see the new year in. Writing something coherent about the day’s adventure was beyond my powers.

I got up early in the morning so that I could have breakfast before I was picked up for the volcano and lava combo tour.  I sometimes need a few hours before I can stomach food, and yesterday was one of those days.  Even though the oatmeal I ordered was very good, I couldn’t finish all of it.

Hiking where lava once flowed.

The tour van showed up at my hotel right on time, and I was not the only pickup.  A couple from Memphis was staying at the hotel as well, and we were the last pick up.  The group was intimate, which was pretty great: Memphis’ Sam and Kimmy and I were joining Nerinne from London (though originally Sydney, where she’d just come from her family Christmas); our guide, Aaron; June and Jim from Mississippi; their daughter Cassandra from Houston; and Cassandra’s three boys, Spencer, Carter, and Bennet (who I will note is named for Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet, and I heartily approve).  Bennet and Spencer (unless I have the names mixed up) were 9 year-old twins, and Carter was 7 years old.  I was seated with Cassandra in the next to back row for the first leg of the journey (she would switch with her mom to move up from when the motion sickness got to her), with the three boys behind. They informed me they were playing Lord of the Rings.  Given an active volcano seems a fitting stand in for Mordor, I think they had it right. The boys were pretty rambunctious but mostly well-behaved.  I think Cassandra only threatened to throw them in the volcano once or twice.

Black Sands Beach

We began our day driving up the mountain.  The altitude is such that my ears were actually popping.  We stopped at a place called the Saddle, just to use the rest stop and have a morning snack. We then made our way toward Hilo with a stop first at Rainbow Falls.  We were very, very luck – it often rains in the area, but it was all sunshine so we not only got to see the Falls but the Rainbow.  It was very lovely, though I was sorry it is only a quick stop to look.  There’s a cave underneath and I had secret fantasies of going underneath, but I don’t think you can even do that now, if you ever could.

After a quick stop in Hilo for supplies, we drove up to an orchid garden to have our lunch.  It was in a sort of green house, but not a hot one like I expected.  It smelled just beautiful in there, and there were so many kinds of orchids.  They even give out fallen blossoms and bobby pins, so I pinned a white bloom in my hair.  It fell out somewhere along the way, but it was lovely, and so was having a picnic lunch amongst the flowers.

After lunch, we made our way to Volcano National Park. We spent some time walking in a Lava Tube.  Lava has not flowed there in over 500 hundred years, so there was no danger, of course, but it was very neat to be in it.  We then made our way to another part of the park. In addition to a short hike where we found some Pele’s Hair (slender strands of volcanic glass that are as fine as my own hair and bend in the wind) but not Pele’s Tears (droplets made of the same). The walk overlooks the Halema’uma’u creater at the summit caldera of Kilauea, where the goddess herself is said to reside. Inside a giant crater – bigger even than the mine pits, I think – you can see another crater, and smoke rising. Along the walk there were also steam vents, where the hot openings mean rain water steams up and vents.  You can stand in them and get a free facial.  It’s like hovering in front of the steam of a giant kettle and was very nice.  I will note that in addition to the auntie practice I got with periodic entertaining of three rambunctious boys, Nerinne and I visited a lot, I think in part since we were the two single women travellers, and roughly the same age (though I didn’t quite ask).  So if I have any pictures that turn out of me to put up, thank Nerinne for playing photographer for me!

Pele's home in the Caldera, by day

After the steam vents (and there were lots!) we went to the Jaggar Museum, where you can take an even closer look at the smoking home of Pele, as well as see some volcano facts and samples of things like different volcanic rock, particularly the two kinds of flow rocks, A’a and Pahoehoe. A’a is the kind that is rough and jagged, while Pahoehoe is smooth, like polished stone or glass.  There were also Pele’s Tears on display, and some very neat mythological artwork.

After the museum, we drove up to Puna Girl Farms for dinner.  Puna Girl Farms is a macadamia nut farm, and there were tons of things to sample.  Honey roasted macadamia nuts.  Chocolate covered. Raw ones.  Salted ones.  So many delicious things, including spreads and even macademia nut honey, which was so sweet I almost couldn’t stand it.  There was also fresh fruit, so I got to eat pineapple and papaya and starfruit and passionfruit. I even got to eat an apple banana, pulled off a hanging bunch, which was very good and just the kind of sweet I like my banana.  A sign in the washroom indicated there are hundreds of types of bananas, and I think something like 30 grow on the island.  I think only the one kind ships well, which is why I won’t find apple banana at home.  It’s a shame, really.  I liked them very much.

After a dinner of coleslaw, roasted potatoes, corn, and barbecued chicken, we made our way to the black sand beach. Some of it was actually buried by a lava flow not that long ago (I think twenty years), so it is rocky and molten, though there is still the black sand.  It is very interesting.  It looks almost like crumbled asphalt, but doesn’t feel like it is stick with tar.  We spent some time looking at the waves crash on the ocean and into the black cliffs.  It was both beautiful and powerful, and explaining that something could be both scary and beautiful to Bennet somehow segued into my re-telling the story of Snow White, since he didn’t know who Angelina Jolie was when I offered her as an example and the Wicked Queen in Snow While was both “fair” and terrifying both.  (I’m going to knock this auntie thing out of the park!)

By night, Pele's home in the Caldera glows with fire.

After the black sand beach, we stopped at a cafe for ice cream since the boys were clamouring for it after it had been brought up.  Despite my filling dinner and excessive consumption of macadamia nuts, I indulged in a small cup of coconut ice cream.  Very delicious and light.  It had gone dark by then, so we made our way to another stop, where we could hike up a little ways to see, in the distance, and only if we were lucky, the flow of lava flowing. We were extremely fortunate the whole day it seemed – it rained on us only while we were driving, and we did see the lava flowing.  It is very far away, of course, since in addition to the whole “lava is hot and will kill you if you fall in it” thing, there is also the “toxic gases released” thing to contend with.  After watching the river of fire shift its glow in the distance for a little while, we went back to the van, where our guide took us on a bonus stop as a New Year’s gift to us. We went back to Volcanoes National Park and the museum stop, where we could now see Pele’s home glowing bright in the crater.  It was very cool.

After that, it was a drive back to Kona, a solid two hours.  Now, I got picked up at 9 in the morning, and got dropped off just before 11 o’clock at night, so you can imagine that I was very tired.  With only an hour to the New Year, I took a little walk to see if I could find somewhere on the beach or something to go.  People were in the bars and on the streets, children setting off fireworks on the road, which was littered with ash.  I couldn’t find anywhere that worked for me, so I went back to the hotel, where I found a secluded spot on a chair overlooking the ocean.  It was very peaceful – so peaceful, in fact, that I realised I was going to fall asleep and miss the New Year altogether.  So instead of letting the ocean and the stars lull me to sleep in a chair outside, I went back to my hotel, poured myself a glass of sparkling wine from the tiny bottle I’d purchase in the morning (and got IDed for, yay!), fired up my laptop and decided to continue the tradition of starting my new year the way I wanted to spend it – writing, sipping champagne, on the ocean, and having an adventure.  A good way to close the year for sure, and to begin anew.

And now I’m going to sign off and truly begin.  Aloha and Happy New Year!

Edited to add a link for the lovely macadamia nut farm:


  1. hi! I’ve been looking for blog posts about Puna to feature on our site. I like the tidbit about the farm visit in your entry! If you’re interested, you can drop me a line at Brenda (at) Dwellable (.com)

    thanks and Happy New Year!

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