We drove to Seattle on March 7 and we stayed at the Hilton Doubletree Inn overnight - it's very close to the airport and has a free shuttle. We were also able to leave our vehicle there for two weeks for only $60. Very convenient. Our flight on March 8 was uneventful - the food was good - and the rental car was right where it was supposed to be. Our first taste of Hilo was rain!
Our Little Cottage
Larry found our cottage on the internet - wwww.bigislandcottage.com and it was exactly as promised. A beautiful little retreat on the Big Island on the eastern slope of Mauna Loa, still considered an active volcano. The directions to get there seemed a bit complicated but not really. Larry brought along his GPS to assist in getting us there. It was about 6.5 miles from the little town of Pahala along a narrow winding road. There were actually a number of houses up this road as well as some horses, cows, macadamia nuts and rainforest. Oh and chickens running across the road. The gate is locked and has a combination. There was a lock box to the left of the front door with a code - the key stays in the box all the time so you don't have to worry about locking the key inside. The owners live in Bend, Oregon and are a great resource if you get stuck. There is a gardener which we saw once and a housekeeper who makes sure everything is OK to arrive and comes after you leave. The whole place, inside and out, was spotlessly clean.
The garden was beautiful. Lots of flowers of which Maureen took many pictures. We picked fresh limes off the trees for our Mai Tais. We had breakfast on the lanai every morning. The area is so quiet it is beyond peaceful. It was hard to sleep the first couple of nights because it was so quiet. There was no internet and no television so we rented a lot of movies. We rented more movies in 10 days than we have in the last 10 years. We're very caught up with the Oscar nominees! We cooked all our own meals except for a few lunches when we were out.
The cottage runs on propane for the fridge and stove, and solar for power. There is a washer and dryer on site for those having an extended stay. There was everything you needed in the kitchen and fresh bananas hanging on the hook all ready for us. We weren't in the cottage 15 minutes when we felt the 4.5 earthquake that occurred off Hilo!
The little town of Pahala was just off the highway, 50 miles from Hilo and 70 miles from Kona. It was surrounded by sugar cane in the early days but the mill finally shut down in 1996. There are 1500 people living there. After the sugar died down in the 60's they turned to coffee, farming and macadamia nuts. Some of the people drive five hours to the various resorts in order to work. In the "centre" is a video store, cafe, bank and the Mizuna Superette. There is a firehall and a seniors facility. The able-bodied seniors gather around the Superette and watch everyone come and go.
The Kilauea Volcano was approximately 20 miles from us but the "vog" from it greatly affects the surrounding area, coming right up our little valley nearly every day. You can see the damage on the trees and there are a lot of brown edges on the plants in the garden. The crater is spewing great amounts of sulphur dioxide every day and the road around the crater was closed due to the danger. We went down one side as far as we could go (to the Jagger Museum which was very interesting) and also down the other side (where we saw the lava tube). There are many barren, bleak areas on the Island due to all the volcanic activity. The current eruption began in 1983 with its latest explosive event in 2008. The lava was not flowing while we were there - is it building for another?
On another day we drove around the east side of the Island. Part of the road ends at Kalapana which was a small town totally destroyed by the eruption in 1990. This lava almost looked like black liquid. There are many houses built in the lava beds.
We visited Hilo many times - for groceries, for the Wifi service at Borders Books, to see attractions, etc. Most times when returning, we ran into rain and rainbows. The summit near Kilauea is 4024 feet. Between Hilo and there, the temperature sometimes fluctuated by 20 degrees (76 in Hilo, 55 at the summit). Needless to say, for both reasons, rain and temperature, we couldn't put the convertible top down very much!
Hilo is a less-touristy town but is still interesting. We saw the Pacific Tsunami Museum which was very informative and has new information there as well, such as the Indonesian earthquake/tsunami and the recent Chilean one. Very well done. It utilizes volunteers that lived through the 1960 tsunami which wiped out a lot of the town. It was easy to see how a tidal wave could wreak havoc with the town. After 1960, the waterfront was made mainly into a park although there are still a lot of businesses not far from shore. We also visited the Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. It was a free attraction and quite small but still worthwhile. We also went to the Mauna Loa Nut Factory. The factory itself was a bit of a disappointment but a whole cruise ship load of people arrived just as we did so it was a scramble to pick up some chocolate nuts. The plantation itself covers 25,000 acres with 250,000 plants. It processes 35,000,000 raw nuts a year. And they're so yummy!
Hilo has a Wal-Mart, Safeway, large Hilo Hattie, and many other stores. No Costco! There are also some great places to watch really big surf and we actually saw a whale at one place. We drove north of Hilo as far as Pa'aulio. Along the way, we took a four mile scenic route which was very worthwhile. Lots of rainforest and the inevitable narrow, winding road. Here we found the Botanical Garden - there wasn't much signage on the highway so I'm not sure we would have found it. The first thing you get to in the garden is a 500 foot walkway that drops 100 feet! We were able to get a golf cart to take us down and back up, avoiding this difficult area. Very nice garden deep in the forest. The path takes you right down to the water were there was a lot of lava and surf.
Kona has Costco! We went to Kona twice - the first time we didn't find Costco but basically drove around getting the lay of the land. Gas in Kona was $3.89 per gallon and at Costco it was $3.27 per gallon. That's $0.62 per gallon less (amazing). There are a lot of resorts here and higher end stores for the tourists. There were certainly a lot more people - also sunshine! We made many stops along the road to Kona. The first time we had taken our lunch with us and stopped at Miloli'i Beach Park. It used to be a fishing village and is very tiny. There is a local library right down by the beach. It was quite the drive down - winding and narrow - and very barren. We stopped at several beaches, mostly lava or rock, as well as Captain Cook. Kona Coffee is grown on this side of the Island and is very expensive at $34.99 per pound and there are little shops everywhere.
Facts about Hawaii
No snakes! Very few mammals - feral pig, mongoose and rats. Only two native mammals - monk seal and the hoary bat. More than 200 native fish, 10,000 native insects and 1,000 varieties of snails. Several times we saw a mongoose cross the road plus many dead ones on the roads. They were introduced to curb the rat population but since a rat is nocturnal and the mongoose is a daytime animal, it didn't work.
It's not hard to see how we put 1450 miles on our rental car. Thank goodness for unlimited miles! By the 8th day, we couldn't see how we could drive for six more days so Larry was able to change our flight for the 10th day and booked a nice place in Waikiki at the Pacific Beach Hotel right on the water.
Help if you can!
Any flowers that don't have a name under them in the photos, Maureen was unable to find out what they are! If anyone knows any of them, please let us know.