Big Island, Hawaii

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Big Island, Hawaii–the island that keeps getting bigger– has just been crowned my favorite island in the Hawaiian chain. I was there for 5 days for work with a quite a bit of down time to play. And it helps when there is someone in the group who also likes to explore the amazing sites the island has to offer. I’ve been there once about 12 years ago, and have nearly no recollection of it. Thus in my mind, the Big Island was boring. Boy, was I in for a surprise!

The first day on tour, we were done by 10:30 a.m., so the choice was either go back to our rooms to sleep, or head out to play. It was a very voggy day (vog=volcanic smog; click here for explanation) and I have allergic reactions to vog, but I opted to play, of course.

We were on Kona (northwest) side of the island so our first stop was Kiholo Bay–Mile Marker #82 off Highway 19. To get to the water, you have to hike from the highway down a 20-minute path to the ocean. The rocky beach epitomizes the best character of this island–ruggedness.


Along the beach, in search of the famed Queen’s Bath, an underground lava tube filled with icy fresh water, we first came by the Bali House.


A house built by the owner of the Paul Mitchell company for which all materials were imported from Bali (talk about eco-friendly!) and laborers were grossly underpaid (a whopping $1.50 a day for two years). It is nonetheless a gorgeous house.

Keep walking, we encountered Mr. sea turtle sun (or vog) bathing.


Twenty minutes of fantastic distractions later, we finally ended our treasure hunt–Queen’s Bath.




That glistening, icy, fresh water! I respectfully (as instructed) frolicked in that well of crystal clear water until my jaw started shaking from the decrease in body temperature. Had I more insulation (i.e., body fat), I would have stayed in there much longer.

More gorgeous views from this side of the island




The next three days of our trip were spent on Hilo side of the island, that is the northeastern part of this ever-expanding rock. We visited Champagne Pond, the eastern most tip of the island where the “virgin” air from the Pacific is used as standard against which air quality all around the globe is compared. The pond itself is naturally heated by lava rocks beneath. My immediate reaction to the warm water was not so favorable because it was reminiscent of going to the community swimming pool in which tepid water only comes from one source–that kid who just swam away from you. But I grew to love the relaxing temperature of the pond, and treading from rock to rock, you can find spots that have more heat radiating from below.

We then hit Kehena Beach, a famed black sand, nudist beach filled with hippies and their dogs.




Lastly, LAVA!


If this photo is of Santa Barbara, it would have a much different mood to it. The white smoke, however, indicates that it is no longer burning. This is the site of the Big Island expansion–live lava flowing into the ocean from the great Kilauea Volcano, forming more cliffs and eventually ‘land’. There is no surface lava flow at this moment. And we were only allowed to view the flowing lava (not actually visible) from about a mile plus out.


My task now is to track surface lava. When and if it happens, I am hopping over so I can, hopefully, be up close to it. I can’t even imagine what that would feel like or how close one can really get to it.

I love the robustness of this island. It is like none others.