Pele the goddess of fire & volcanoes is said to have creating 5 volcanoes: Kohala, Mauna Kea, Hualalai, Mauna Loa, and Kilauea, these make up the ‘Big Island’ of Hawaii. All are pretty visible from the plane as well as the islands size. It dwarfs the other islands, but also has a powerful character, one I had to explore.
I flew into Hilo, it was dark, wet & gloomy but felt enchanting. I found the Hilo Bay Hostel to crash at for a few days & rented a car again, this time a Pontiac without any working speed dials. The hostel is great though its pretty inconspicuous but once you walk up the main steps its pretty grand, although there does seem to be a lot of pointless rules its worth staying at. The next day i woke up early to perform what became a my morning ritual of running to coconut island park, its worth a stop & a great spot for yoga, its peaceful & has an awesome views of the bay. I grabbed some strawberry Papayas from the local farmers market & set off in the Pontiac to Puna & Kalapana on the south east side of the island. A friend back in Honolulu had told me about Uncle Roberts market, from what i’d been told i had to go check it out, good food, cultured music & the ‘Kawa-Kawa’ juice had me hooked on tracking it down.
On my way to Uncle Roberts I stopped to grab a coconut from a guy parked on the lava fields. My first real taste of the volcanoes. I sat talking to this man named “Mickey The Fruit Guy” he was interesting & had some great stories to tell, so i chilled out with him for some time. He then turned his attention to me. He began to tell me how he felt i was like the tree’s of the forest, he said he could feel i was an “old ancient soul”. The comment really stuck with me as this was now the 3rd time during my Hawaiian adventure someone had used the words “old soul” when describing me. In such a spiritual environment it meant a lot to me. I said goodbye to my new friend Mickey & carried on to the market. Id tell you to get there early, mainly for parking but also to explore the surrounding lava fields, star gazing sanctuary & the black sand beach, its a short walk & worth every step. I think between 7 & 8pm is a good time to head into the market. Walk around try samples of home cooked food, listen to the band, dance & 100% go to the Awa bar to the left as you face the market. Its usually full of people getting high, but by all means go inside, maybe join in & grab yourself a ‘Kawa’ juice. The juice is made from a plant & is meant to make you feel mellow & groovy. However it makes you feel just soak up the atmosphere & immerse yourself in their hippie culture.
Whilst your staying in Hilo you should visit the Rainbow Falls. Although i arrived at a point when there was zero sunshine thus zero rainbow, still waterfalls are always great to be in the presence of. I had to change my beloved Pontiac for a smaller car as now there were no lights either. Once I had taken care of this I headed to the Volcano National Park, somewhere I had been dying to get to since I left home.
Nothing can really prepare you for the enormity of the Halema‘uma‘u crater, its like a scene from star wars, you almost feel like you shouldn’t be there. At night you can see the glow of Pelehonuamea (Pele) from miles away. The noise of the lava can be heard from the Jagger museum. This was by far the best part of the national park it really took my breathe away, i had to sit in silence just to try & comprehend what i was seeing. Once you’ve visited this spot you can drive/ hike around the park to loads of other cool spots: steam vents, sulphur banks, loads of lookouts, a pretty earie hike called the Devastation Trail & the Lava Tube. This is when things got weird…like Pele had plans for me.
I had been exploring the park by myself so had been marching past the tour groups. Although when i marched into the Lava Tube I heard “thats him, thats the guy!” I looked around & the tour leaders of this group were two guys, Malcolm & Kit who i’d met on the North Shore of Oahu 2 weeks earlier. It was great to see them & they invited me to join their tour down to the lava flow. I took the offer & met them down by the entrance to the lava flow. When you make it there you’ll see a bunch of bike rental spots. The ride to where the lava flows into the sea is about 4 miles, so just pay the $20 & hire a bike, its just more fun. Its pretty desolate across those lava fields & best to go late afternoon. But a site you can’t forget, its a place where you can watch land being formed! It is possible to take a boat tour which will get you closer than the bike though but its $£$£.
Myself, Malcolm & Kit had noticed a guide hiking across the lava fields to where a huge lava flow was glowing in the distance. It looked far & somewhat unsafe so of course we ventured on. The 3 of us hiked, stumbled & climbed our way over the formations for 45 minutes dodging glowing cracks in the rock & softer, fresher lava just to reach the main event. When we made it there was 6 of us in total admiring the beautiful danger unfold in front of us. As a celebration we decided to light a cigar using a stick, i once again found myself sitting in silence, humbled. I can’t recommend taking the risk across the lava fields unless your confident in your ability, but if you are or your fearless don’t second guess it, just Go! We left in darkness with head torches, although the real light came from beneath us through the cracks in the rock, a couple cut knees later we made it back. I didn’t see Malcolm & Kit again but thats ok, i guess we shared an adventure not many get to experience, so incase you read this…Thanks. Hawaii Outdoor Guides is the company they were working for, maybe check them out if your not confident exploring alone.
Manta Rays in Kona.
It had now been around 2 weeks since i’d had a real surf session, i could feel i needed to get back into the ocean & my last mission on the Big island was to swim with Manta-Rays. For this i had to drive over the mountains to Kona on the west side of the island. I spent the day surfing at Kamoa point, then in the evening drove to the harbour for around 5pm. Make sure you book your Manta trip as i think it gets busy, theres a load of companies you can use, i booked through hawaiidiscount.com.
I love wildlife, but the anticipation of seeing one of these beasts had me a little anxious. The guide had told us a bunch of facts on our cruise to the spot including the fact that one of the Mantas was named ‘Big Bertha’ & was 16ft wide…even though they won’t cause any deliberate harm to humans 16ft of anything living is pretty scary at first sight. The boat takes you to a bay with a well lit hotel on top of the cliffs. Before the tours began hostel workers would notice the Mantas grazing the surface of the water near the hotel, this is because the lights of the hotel attract the plankton to the surface, the Mantas then feed on them.Due to this effect you have to throw on a wetsuit & snorkel then jump in & hold onto a surfboard with ultraviolet lights underneath it.
You are staring straight down into the depths waiting for these giants to show. My first sighting was when a Manta at least 6ft wide gliding beneath me about 3ft from my body. It was alien like, a huge mouth to scoop up the plankton but with a peaceful, harmless ora, so gentle but so big. When they feed they loop upside down to get as close to the surface as possible, it was at this point that one of the Mantas wings tapped my goggles, thats how close they get! An unworldly experience for sure, i felt like i was on another planet.
I was dying for some constant surf again & the winter swells were approaching, i already knew id be back on the North Shore of Oahu soon, so i booked a flight back over from Hilo, phoned a farm i had visited in Oahu, found they had a WWOOFing spot open & took it, things had just happily fallen into place. My last day was spent cooking feeding turtles at Onekahakaha beach park, visiting Kole Kole beach park & Akaka falls. For me it was time to leave the Big Island even though there is so much more stuff to explore, I had spent a lot of time by myself on the big island, but it was great I was content with my ‘old spirit’.
If your looking for a run down & pretty comprehensive list of what you could be doing in Hawaii go visit RV Lifestyles Blog:
The list is very diverse & whether your an intrepid explorer or just looking to cruise the islands there’s something here for you. Much Aloha!