A beautiful day on the Big Island…
The Big Island of Hawaii, while not as populated at Oahu, is the most volcanically active. Mauna Loa, a shield volcano, is the largest active volcano in the world. The lava it produces makes a long and concerted route to the sea and takes some homes and highways along with it. The lava flow is slow and people have plenty of time to evacuate. Mauna Kea is not active and is the home of the Observatory Complex. Mount Kilauea is also an active volcano that abuts Mauna Loa. It has been erupting for decades producing mostly gasses (some toxic) and also contributes lava flows that alter the island. The ship will be docked in Hilo Town.
Ellen and I are on tour today - “City Drive and Volcanoes National Park”. The other times we have been to Hilo, we have not been able to get to the National Park (once due to the US Government Shutdown). Our tour guide is a woman originally from Alabama so she injects some Southern charm into her narrations. And even though this is a standard tour bus, our guide is also our driver. Really.
We are in the last bus so there are plenty of seats to stretch out.
Departing the Port
Our first destination will be “Volcanoes National Park” and the Jagger Museum. Kilauea is only about 4000 feet in altitude and it is difficult to know that you are on a volcano since the sides of the mountain are covered in heavy vegetation. One of the ways you can tell is the presence of steam vents visible from the road (a little like Iceland but the vents are much smaller).
Steam Vents Enroute to Kilauea
As we made our way to the National Park, I was trying to get a shot of Mauna Loa. The other two times we were in Hilo, Mauna Loa has been shrouded in a heavy cloud cover. Today, she is clear of the clouds so I take shots from the moving bus. Not much peak since this is a shield volcano but this may be the best I can do.
The Great Mauna Loa Volcano
Mauna Kea is also visible for short periods of time. There is snow on that peak and the domes of the Observatory are also visible but I could not get a shot from the bus.
Just before arriving at the Park Entrance, we pass by the Kilauea Military Camp (below). The camp, located within the National Park, is a Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) facility serving US Soldiers (active, reserve, and National Guard) and DOD employees. There are several types of cottages in the camp. During the war, the camp served as a detention center and POW camp.
Kilauea Military Camp
Our bus stopped at the Jagger Museum (Volcano Museum) which allows views of the entire Kilauea Caldera (some four miles across). But the real star is the Halema’uma’u Crater, which today is cooperating by emitting steam and gasses. There is no smell of sulfur dioxide at our location. (Note: the apostrophes in the name of the crater are actually Okinas, a letter in the Hawaiian alphabet).
Three above – Halema’uma’u Crater
The bus left the Museum and headed for another spot that gave us a different view of the Kilauea Caldera. As we walked to the viewpoint, we passed by several steam vents – again no sulfur dioxide but lots of steam.
The other view point was a distance away from the active crater but did give us a sense of the scope of the Kilauea Caldera.
As we headed to our next destination, the guide pointed out that a hill visible from the bus was made of volcanic ash that had been ejected from the volcano and fell back to the ground. I had some trouble believing that since an ash cloud would be expected to cover an area uniformly. The mound itself, was, nevertheless, interesting.
Volcanic Ash Mound
Our next stop was a lava field that at one time originated at Kilauea. Now cooled it consisted of sheets of rock. The guide said it was as slippery as marble but I didn’t find that to be the case. It was different in appearance from the lava we had seen in both South America and Iceland. That could be due to the fact that the lava on the Hawaiian Volcanoes is very hot and not as viscous as other lava.
Some of the trees that had been singed along their root line had most likely toppled and now lay on their sides bleached and barren.
Above three – Lava Field and Trees
Our next stop was the Thurston Lava Tube, which sits on the end of the Kilauea Caldera. Lava Tubes are left over when lava finishes flowing from the volcano to the sea. This tube originally ran all the way to the Pacific Ocean. Only part of the tube is accessible to the public. These tubes crisscross the island of Hawaii and make it difficult to build large structures since the tubes are structurally unstable. Not a issue on Hawaii since the big island has a seven story limit restriction on buildings (there are some Grandfathered Hotels).
While the tube has lighting and a walking surface, overhanging lava remnants can still be hazardous.
Entrance to the Thurston Lava Tube
Vegetation Near the Tube Entrance
Inside the Lava Tube
Finished with our tour of the Volcanoes National Park, the bus heads to our next stop – a quasi shopping stop at the Akatsuka Orchid Factory. Lot of orchids for sale and also orchids to put in your hair –the location of the orchid is important in that it sends a message: “left” – spoken for; “right” – available; two orchids – spoken for but looking to trade up (Alabama humor).
Ain’t She Cute"?
The next portion of the tour is a mini tour of Hilo Town – there isn’t much to the town (we have walked it in the past) but the bus did take us to the statue of King Kamehameha I (below).
We also drove by the beautiful beach area which also gave us a good look at the Star Princess.
After passing several hotels – some of which looked like they could use some work – we stopped at our lunch venue – The Hilo Hawaiian Hotel and the Queen’s Court Restaurant. Since this was Sunday, we would be able to take advantage of the Sunday Brunch (for customers this cost was $33 per person) which, according to the hostess, had lots of veggie type items available.
Hilo Hawaiian Hotel Lunch Venue (that’s Ellen in the bottom picture)
The lunch consisted of a huge buffet – even though it was a Sunday Brunch, there were very few breakfast type items (French Toast and some kind of eggs). Instead, I tried the green salad (some odd dressings) and some of the specialty salads (the one I really liked was the macaroni salad), and Asian noodles (with a soy based sauce). I went back for seconds for these items. I also tried a sample of the various desserts. There wasn’t a lot to eat for us but just enough to call it lunch. The iced tea was good and the service was very good.
After lunch, I stepped out on the restaurant balcony and got some fantastic pictures of the lagoon and bay.
Above – View from the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel
At one time, celebrities came to the islands and planted the Banyan Trees now found everywhere in Hawaii. As we entered the hotel area, a tree planted by Amelia Earhart was pointed out (no pic). However, in front of the hotel was a tree planted by Babe Ruth in 1930 (three years after the 60 homer year). I did walk out and get a picture of that.
The Babe Plants Another
Our final stop after finishing lunch was a brief visit to Rainbow Falls – the falls (about 90 feet) have no rainbows attached to it but the name comes from an old Hawaiian Legend.
After the long tour and the late lunch, we ate a bit of dinner in the Horizon Court.
The Princess Singers and Dancers put on a little show in the Piazza commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Cruise Line.
50th Anniversary Tribute
While we had very nice weather on our tour, as the day progressed, the island clouded over making the sail away less than spectacular.
Hilo Sail Away
Tomorrow – Honolulu, Hawaii