The Big Island:
Coastline & Historical Exploration

Our third day on the island was spent driving around the coastline, looking at the sites, and letting our sore muscles recover from hiking. We left the volcanoes park to head to the southern end of Hawaii. In doing so, we left the newer lava flows behind and neared the coastline. Here we began to drive through farm and ranchland. As we circled the end of the island and turned west, the land changed to more dry and arid country. Average rainfall in Hilo, on the rainforest side, is 140 inches each year -- while the Kona (western) side has one area where only 10 inches fall (that's desert). This is the Big Island made up of five volcanoes; two over 13,000 feet tall - - none of which are truly dead. The drive around the island is 222 miles.
On the southern end, our first stop was at the bakery in Na'alehu to purchase a loaf of their famous Hawaiian bread. They supply markets all over the islands, and inspired the sweet round loaves of Hawaiian bread sold on the mainland; however, the real thing is a unique treat. The bakery also serves sandwiches, great-smelling chili, pastries, and ice cream. After making our purchases, we drove onward through more ranchland. We made another stop at one of the many macadamia nut groves that surround the road. There we inspected the trees and their bounty. If you've ever eaten macadamia nuts in cookies or ice cream, they probably came from The Big Island. We also saw breadfruit and papaya trees.
Macadamia Nuts and Leaf
Wooden Sculptures
Ancient Game
One of our goals for the day was to visit the three national historic sites on the island. The first site was the Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park, once called the 'place of refuge.' In ancient times if people violated any of the many strict rules of the 'kapu' system such as eating food with a person of the oposite sex, the sentence was usually death. Pu'uhonua was a place of refuge. If the lawbreaker could evade their club or spear-bearing pursuers to reach this location, they could be cleansed by performing rituals dictated by the kahuna pule (priest). Sounds kinda like the 'safe or home' location in a game of tag; however, getting caught off-base here meant curtains. Anyway this park has some recreated buildings and displays of handcrafted outrigger canoes and woven items. The grounds also contain the Great Wall, built in the 1500s - - a massive 1,000 ft. wall, 10 ft. high, 17 ft. thick, and made of cut stones held without mortar.
We spent a lot of our time looking at the tide-pools in the bay area. We spotted brightly colored angel fish and more than a dozen green sea turtles that were feeding. Like the giant Leatherbacks that son Ben was looking after on the western coast of Costa Rica, these turtles are on the endangered list. What a treat to see them in their natural setting. We spent a lot of time scrambling around the lava and sand onshore to shoot pictures of the 'honu' (Hawaiian for turtle). They are especially revered by native Hawaiians and families bring their children (keikis in Hawaiian) here to see them.
We left Pu'uhanau to head on through the west coast town of Kona; this is the tourist side for golf, beach, and the sun. The land became more arid as we neared the NW portion. We spotted a small group of wild goats on the lava beside the road. These are feral, descendants of domestic goats which escaped or were loosed on the islands. There are very few native mammals: a bat species and monk-seals. However many introduced plants and animals have been there for hundreds of years, such as Hawaiian geese, pigs, mongoose, rabbits, bantam chickens, and cats. All roam free and are considered wild to some extent. On our travels we didn't see rabbits or pigs and the only mongoose we spied was roadkill.
We were disappointed to find that the second historic site on our list, Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park, was closed. The gated entrance was locked and 'danger' signs could be found on the other side of the gate. We learned later that the feds are having a debate with the state over an access road off the new highway, so the only way in is to hike a ways from the adjacent boat harbor. You can still get the 'cancellation stamp' at the park service office located in a nearby 'strip mall', but it's not the same as visiting.
Next stop of the day was at Pu'ukohola Heiau National Historic Site. This is the site of two temples (shown below), the latest built by King Kamehameha and his followers in 1790-1791. Thousands of 'volunteer' workers formed a human chain at least twenty miles long to transport rocks to the temple site. Less is known about an older temple, the remains are downhill and believed to be the ruins of an agricultural or war temple of Kamehameha's ancestors.
Akaka Falls

After leaving the historical park, we headed cross country through the northern table ranchlands of the island. Our last stop was a set of falls on the coast just north of Hilo. Akaka Falls is a 420 foot falls. We were surprised to see how many people stopped to view the smaller Kuhuna falls and then returned to their cars, missing the 'main attraction' down the trail.

Along the road to the falls area, we found a beautiful papaya orchard. It was interesting to see how papaya are grown and examine the plant closeup. On the way back to the highway, we stopped for ice cream and a swing through a wood shop in the small town of Akaka.

Our drive ended back in Volcano. We even managed to get to the Volcano Winery before it closed. We selected some interesting and unique honey wine.

We enjoyed eating at a neighborhood Thai restaurant the first night, so we headed back for more great Thai food at the place called Thai Thai.

The following day after another great Hawaiian breakfast, we drove to the airport for our flight to Maui.

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Papaya Grove

Created by Annette Lamb and Larry Johnson, 12/00
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