Thursday, March 16, 2017

Saturday/Sunday – January 14, 15, 2017 – Hilo, Hawaii - 78F; Honolulu, Oahu – Mostly Cloudy - 83F

Distance from San Francisco, CA to Hilo, Hawaii: 2005 Nautical Miles (17.9 knots)

Distance from Hilo, Hawaii to Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii: 207 Nautical Miles (16.2 knots)


After four days sailing the Pacific Ocean, Grand Princess has arrived at Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii.  Hilo – we have been here three previous times – is a quaint little town that hasn’t changed much since our first visit.  Hilo has a population 43,260 and is the second rainiest city in the world (127 inches a year).  Hawaii – known as the “Volcano Island” has five volcanoes – Mauna Kea (Elevation: 13,800 feet) is the worlds biggest and tallest volcano and the tallest mountain on earth (the height from sea floor).  Kilauea has been erupting continuously for decades. 

Hilo is cloudy and drizzly when we docked.


Docking in Hilo, Hawaii

Our tour today is in a small van (we are together in this van).  We are going to visit Volcanoes National Park, the Thurston Lava Tube, Rainbow Falls, the Akatsuka Orchid Farm, the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Factory, and have lunch at the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel.

As we started out, the guide pointed out that the trees lining the road were Ohia Trees, which are only found in Hawaii. 



Ohia Trees

The next stop was a viewpoint from which we could see the vast expanse of the Kilauea Caldera.  Most of the caldera is a flat, dark gray-brown color (volcanic soil) but gasses are being emitted from a portion of the caldera.


Kilauea Caldera

Next on the itinerary was Volcanoes National Park.  There is a gift shop there and some facilities.  You can get some great shots of the caldera.  On this day, the prevailing winds were blowing away from the overlook so we could not smell any of the gasses.


Volcanoes National Park

Below are closer looks at the Kilauea Caldera from Volcanoes National Park.  The Halemaumau Crater is spewing volcanic gasses (including sulfur dioxide – precursor to acid rain).  When we first got to the park, the crater was relatively quiet.  Just as we were leaving, it started to get more active – I hustled back from the van to get some last minute shots of the puffs of volcanic gas.



The Crater Finally Putting on a Show

Down the road from Volcanoes National Park are lava fields.  We could not see any of the “lava trees” (where lava infuses a tree).


Lava Flows

Our next destination was The Thurston Lava Tubes.  On the way there, we could see numerous steam vents (a little like Iceland but not as dramatic).  The Lava Tube is a 100 meter long tube formed when lava flows underground.  Once the lava is done moving, the tube cools and is now a hollow structure.  The Park Service has smoothed out rough edges and added some lights to make the tube passable for visitors.


Vegetation Near Thurston Lava Tube



At the Entrance of the Tube

After leaving the National Park, we made a stop at the Akatsuka Orchid Farm.  This was mostly a shopping shopping stopEllen has the orchid behind the correct ear.


From the Orchid Farm the van headed back to Hilo for our lunch break.  Along the way, we passed Lili’uokalani Park.

Lili’uokalani Park is a huge greenspace with lakes and tropical vegetation.  The park, named for the last queen of Hawaii, is a popular spot for locals.  The park is shown in the pictures below.


The Hilo Hawaiian Hotel is our next stop and the place where we will have lunch.  At the entrance is the Babe Ruth Tree, that we saw the last time we were here.


Sultan of Swat Banyan Tree

When we were here last, we were treated to a huge Asian style buffet – I had to have the items explained to me.  This time was different – a minimal offering – two main items (one being a pasta) and salad plus a dessert.  The best thing about the meal was the iced tea.  A big disappointment.  I don’t think anyone was overly pleased with the lunch.

The hotel is next to the Hilo Lagoon.  From the hotel terrace you can get a good look at Grand Princess.


Another favorite site around Hilo is Rainbow Falls.  The name comes from the fact that when the sun is just right, rainbows can be seen in the mist.



Rainbow Falls

Many of the homes in Hilo are “single wall” construction (the electrical is not hidden between two walls).  The windows are attached to outer surface of the house (see house below).


Our final stop was at the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Factory.  The cool thing here is the ability to taste all kinds of Mac Nuts.  We didn’t but anything but the tasting process was fun and delicious.

From there, we headed back to the ship.  A long but interesting tour.

The weather turned dreary for the sail away.  Mauna Kea was obscured by the clouds.


Showtime tonight featured “The Modern Gentlemen”.  According to their bio, this group backed up Frankie Valli after he left the Four Seasons.  They were an entertaining act especially with their Four Season medley.  Three of the singers were from California and the fourth from Toledo.


The Modern Gentlemen

Honolulu – population 905,000. Tour – is located on the east coast of Oahu. 

The ship is docked at Pier 2 and not at Aloha Tower, so we can’t really walk to Chinatown or the City Center as easily.  Aloha Tower and the city make for fine photos from the deck.


We are on tour today “Diamond Head and Oahu’s East Coast”.  Our guide is Sage.  I thought she was a Naturalist but she is training to be an acupuncturist. 

The bus took us through Honolulu, past Waikiki Beach and the Hotel Area, and through some very posh neighborhoods.  Our first stop was Diamond Head State Monument – Diamond is the iconic peak seen from Honolulu and usually appears in any photo of Waikiki Beach.  Diamond Head’s name does not come from its shape but rather from the fact that early sailors found what they thought were diamonds on the peak – the crystals turned out to be be faux (actually calcite).

You can drive into the caldera of this extinct volcano – in the caldera, the park looks like a huge green space.


Diamond Head

Our next stop was the super scenic photo stop at Hanauma Bay, a fantastic beach tucked away in a beautiful cove. 



Hanauma Bay

Our next stop was the Halona Blowhole.  Some of the other blowholes cooperated with a spout but this one refused to cooperate (some gurgling but no spray) so all I got was a “dormant” picture.


Stage Fright – Halona Blowhole

Just up the road from blowhole was Sandy Beach Park, a beach so dangerous (rip tides) that it is constantly under red flag conditions.  From a vantage point above the beach, we waited patiently for some whales to appear but, just like the blowhole, nothing.


Sandy Beach Park


Captain, We Don’t Have Whales

From the beach road, the bus headed inland to a Heiah.  A Heiah is a religious site built with thousands of stones that have been brought to this site from tens of mile away.  The stones may have been arranged in a structure originally but now they just form a pile of stones.  Still the number of stones is impressive.  There are other things at the Heiah site that Sage pointed out.


Heiah and Vegetation


Ellen at the Heiah

Sage showed us an example of the Kekui Nut, that is used to make the necklaces you see in the islands,


Sage Pointed out Kekui Nuts


What’s Inside the Kekui Nut

The Noni Fruit is purported to be a cure for all sorts of ailments – inflammation, pain, etc.  Sometimes, you can get it in a juice in health food stores.  Sage explained how the natives used the plant as an alternative medicine.


Sage Explaining the Noni Fruit

There was a patch of plants growing in a little pond.  Sage explained that this was the Tarot plant, that supplies the root that is made into the Hawaiian staple, Poi.


Tarot Patch

One final note of interest.  As we were leaving the Heiah, I noticed a peculiar tree.  Worth a picture.


Our final stop was the Nuuanu Pali Overlook.  The structure was formed when the side of a massive volcano collapsed into the sea.  What was left now was a valley and a terrific view of the ocean in the distance.  Also visible below was a golf course and a few buildings.


They aren’t very visible in the picture below but some people have climbed up to the top point of the overlook.  Gave me the chills just to see them there.  I think that climbing up there is not permitted.


Crazy People at the Summit

Best thing is that we got out picture taken together at this beautiful spot.


Pali Overlook

As we took the coast road back to Honolulu, we passed the Makapuu Beach Park, which featured a stone island in the waters.  


Makapuu Beach Park Stone Island

Showtime tonight brings back the tradition of featuring the Olana Hula School Hula Girls.  The girls age out but are replaced by another troupe.  The woman who runs the school provides the musical and vocal accompaniment (along with her two brothers).  Her daughters are in the show as dancers.


The Hula Girls Do their Thing

Tired after a long, but wonderful, day of touring, we are in our room early.

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