A short, hour-long flight later, we arrived in Hilo to begin our day of discovery and to visit the world's most active volcano. We met our tour guide who had a very, very long name. He simply told us to call him "John" which in the end, was much easier.
Our first stop was at the beautiful Black Sand Beach. We climbed over lava rocks that created a beautiful scene with the crashing waves as a back drop. It's crazy to think that we were walking where lava flow once hit the ocean, instantly hardening and shattering into tiny fragments we now see as sand; black sand. It was easily one of the highlights of our day. And it was only the first stop!
We continued through Banyan Drive, a tree-lined street full of you guessed it, Banyan trees, that were planted by celebrities. These trees have been able to withstand tsunami's and are each named after their celebrity seeds. Amelia Earhart, Louis Armstrong, and Babe Ruth are just a few names who have planted trees.
Just beyond Banyan Drive were the peaceful Liliuokalani Gardens. We felt zin as we walked through the large Japanese garden beautifully landscaped with footpaths, statues, bridges and ponds.
It was Saturday when we visited the Big Island so our guide, John, was able to throw in a little local flavor into the mix. We got to spend some time at the Hilo Farmers Market where we bought some local screen-printed tees, earrings made of natural Hawaiian Koa wood, and water. Because it was HOT.
Hydrated and ready to go, we visited one the Big Island's most popular spots, Rainbow Falls. We had just as much fun exploring the forest around it where we took in the tropical flowers, ancient mango tree, and massive Banyan trees.
Soon after, we ate lunch, took a quick cat nap and before we knew it, we were entering Hawaii Volcanoes National Park! There was a dramatic weather change on the volcano, dropping to a chilly 60 degrees and bringing in a little rain. It was exciting to see the exotic rainforests, unique rock transformations and ever-changing landscapes while walking amongst an active volcano the entire afternoon.
Our fist hike was towards Crater Rim Drive where we walked on a paved road that was closed to vehicles in 1983 after severe damage from a 6.7 magnitude earthquake. It was amazing to see where the road had broken off but is now being replaced by lush forest.
The trail continued to Kilauea Iki Overlook where we saw our first volcanic crater still smoking with heat. Crazy!!
Sulfer was in the air while we walked along Ha'akulamanu (Sulphur Banks) Trail. Due to underground heat, this area had very few trees, but was full of steaming cracks with colorful mineral deposits. The smell of sulfur isn't the freshest so let's just say we walked fast.
One trail led us to another and we found ourselves on the edge of Kilauea Caldera where we could feel the heat from the Volcanic Steam Vents. It almost felt like we were getting a quick steam bath from the underground freshwater reservoirs as they rose to the surface.
We paid a visit to the Jaggar Museum where we had a great panoramic view of Kilauea Caldera, home of the active underground lava lake, Halema'uma'u Crater, which we would later see lit up that night. We also learned about Pele, the Fire Goddess, and essentially the creator of the Hawaiian islands. According to legend, she lives in the Halema'uma'u Crater. I would like to note that Jeremy now calls me Pele on a daily basis. I wish I were kidding but I'm not.
Next we found ourselves walking through a 500-year-old lava tube. We were once again surrounded by green ferns that led us to the Thurston Lava Tube, which at one point was home to a river of lava that naturally built the solid walls and ceilings. The solidified drips and waves of the once-liquid lava rock clearly showed the molten forces that created the cave. Geeking out over here, guys.
Pu'u Pua'i means "gushing hill" in Hawaiian. Looking closely we could see people walking on the crater. John could see us getting a little jealous and told us we would have our chance to walk on lava.
We got up close and personal with the Lua Manu Crater as we walked directly on the lava flow stopping at the edge of the pit crater. It was crazy to still be able to see the direction and flow of the lava from 1974. The lava rocks were surprisingly light and hollow but we had to be careful of sharp rocks and holes that surrounded us.
The rain started to come in, brining in fog and making it hard to see anything. We took that time to eat dinner and have one more look at the Halema'uma'u Crater with Pele in sight. We were a little worried with the fog that rolled in but sure enough, we got a little glimpse of the lava flow, illuminating the area with a deep orange glow. Hooray! (and so cool!)
We rushed back to the airport and with the day being so long, I really don't remember much after sitting on the airplane and falling asleep.
Our Big Island tour was unforgettable from beginning to end. We got to see beautiful and amazing sites that will stay with us for a very long time. Until next time!