Saturday, March 28, 2020

January 2, 2020 – Hilo, Hawaii – Partly Cloudy – 80F

We have finally reached land after four bouncy days at sea.  It is a totally beautiful day here on the Big Island of Hawaii.

We are on an afternoon tour today – “Explore Hilo Town Highlights” - meeting at 12:00 Noon on the pier.

That means a relaxing morning, while a lot of the guests make their way off the ship for morning excursions.

The seas were mostly smooth through the night and I slept pretty well.  I was up in Horizon Court around 7:00 AM just as the sun was coming up.  Today, I got a table in the Solarium – it was warm and not too crowded like the rest of the seating areas.  I had my waffle and fixings, some scrambled eggs, and a biscuit. Again, today, everything was perfect and I was close enough to the coffee to be able have hot cups all morning.

The biggest treat of all, however, was seeing the two volcanoes, Mauna Kea ("White Mountain") and Mauna Loa ("Long Mountain") cloud free just as the sun was rising. I captured both of them in panoramic shots (Mauna Kea is on the right)

and individually, Mauna Kea

and Mauna Loa.

The two huge volcanoes were perfectly lit for photos.  It’s a 50-50 chance that the two mountains are visible here in Hilo as the clouds tend to obscure both of them.

When I was getting Ellen’s breakfast, the buffet was slammed so I made the right call with the solarium.

Later in the morning, I had my usual iced coffee in the Piazza – the sun was bright and the skies were essentially all blue.

At about 11:00 AM, we went back up to Horizon Court and had brunch that would fuel us for our excursion.  I had an omelet with tomatoes, onions, and cheddar cheese plus two biscuits. Ellen had a lox and cheddar cheese omelet.  All the items were very good.

At Noon, we disembarked and waited for our group to assemble.  We were both on the same bus, "White", a minibus that could accommodate about 25-30 people.  There were just two empty seats.  We sat in the middle so I wouldn’t feel all of the road bumps and risk another back injury. Our guide/driver was Kai – originally from Taiwan and now a resident of Hilo (he showed us his green house).

As we left the port area, we could see the ship docked across the bay.

After a drive through Banyan Drive (with the trees named after famous people), which is across the street from the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel (the venue of past great brunches) and past Liliuokalani Park (the largest Japanese Garden outside of Japan).  The Park connects to a small island, Coconut Island

in the bay via a footbridge.  Coconut Island was a refuge island in the Kingdom of Hawaii - if you broke the law but could swim to the island, you would be pardoned of your crimes.

our first stop was the “Big Island Candy Store”

which was just a few minutes from the port. We spent about 20 minutes (all of our stops today were about 20 minutes) tasting one of their cookies and a candy made with macadamia nuts.  The big treat for me was tasting actual 100 percent Kona Coffee – I took two small cups and drank them black.  The coffee ran about $70 per pound and I honestly could not tell what the deal was with the coffee.  It tasted just like the coffee I grind back home.  Still, it’s Kona and a lot of people will pay  for it; the price is more dictated by the cost to produce the coffee than the quality of the final product.

Our next stop involved a brief visit to the Farmer’s Market. We also took the opportunity to buy a couple of bottles of water to take back to the ship (and a diet coke for Ellen).  We met the bus, which had to circle around to pick up late stragglers (they would be late for the next stop as well).

We then climbed the streets of Hilo to Rainbow Falls.  Once again, the rainbow did not appear but the falls are still impressive.  I got the best panorama shot of the falls and the lush vegetation.

From the falls, it was about a 25 minute drive (and a bumpy one at that) to the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Company.  We have been here several times but we finally learned that a Mr. McAdams brought the nut to the islands and the famous nut is named for him.  We spent 20 minutes here tasting the various varieties of nuts – I liked them all except for the Sriracha coated nuts.  The servers were pretty generous with the samples – I also found out that just three macadamia nuts come to 100 calories.  Best of all, we got our escort kits from the store, a tradition we look forward to.

Our final stop was another 25 minutes away but close to the port – a visit to the Black Sand Beach.  There are a series of beach parks along that stretch of Hilo Bay but not that many actual black sand beaches (produced from lava).  It takes a long time to produce black sand and Hawaii is a young island in the chain.  The other islands have long stretches of black sand beaches.  Nevertheless, the black sand beach and surrounding lava heavy beaches were absolutely magnificent.  I took a lot of pictures because I had never seen anything like this.  The next time we are here we might just take a cab or Uber here to spend some time at these beaches.

On the way back to the bus (the walk on the lava was a bit tricky and from there up some grades to the road - not for the mobility challenged), we passed some spectacular vegetation including a banyan tree on a tiny island.

We were caught in some traffic getting back to the port and we were some of the last people to get back.  

The ship started its engines when we got back to our cabin.  The weather also got ugly as the Hawaiian rains came in.

We had dinner in the Michelangelo Dining Room. I didn’t make reservations but we still got a nice table for two against the wall. I had two bowls of gazpacho (delicious), a garden salad with Ranch Dressing, and the Pan Fried Tilapia.  Ellen had the Baked Potato Soup and the Tilapia. The fish was good but needed to be well done.  Next time.  I had the fried pineapple dessert and Ellen had some chocolate mousse thing (she liked the inside and not the mousse coating).  My coffee tasted just like the pricey Kona Coffee I had earlier. Go figure.

We passed on “Motor City” in the Vista Lounge because it is too loud in the small venue – instead we listened to Jan Gulbicki in the Crooners Lounge playing piano favorites and a kind of name that tune and composer.

We had excursions for tomorrow but decided not to accept them because they required a real early start.  We will have a Plan B for tomorrow in Honolulu.

Back in the room now and the seas are smooth.

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