So once Steph left, I made a solo day trip to the Big Island.
I am an idiot for not planning better; the Big Island has two airports and I flew into the one that was further away from the main attraction and my main reason for visiting—Volcano National Park. I’d like to say I had a good excuse for such a lack of forethought, but I’m a travel writer for !@#$% sake’s. Hence the only conclusion is that I’m an idiot.
Anyway, at Jamie K.’s suggestion I stopped at Pu’uhonua o Honaunau, an ancient religious ground on my way to Volcano.
In ancient Hawaii (and by “ancient,” I mean about 150 years ago) the punishment for almost every crime was death. And there were a slew of ways to violate the law too; for example, standing in the king’s shadow was forbidden. But if a law breaker could get to Pu’uhonua o Honaunau before being killed, he or she would be pardoned and usually could return to home within a day.
After an hour or so there, I headed back to the car to drive to Volcano. The ride took about three hours and led me just a few miles north of the southern-most point in the United States (no, it’s not Key West). For a long duration of the drive, there was just one radio station, which played traditional Hawaiian tunes, and for about half an hour, even that station didn’t come in well.
Volcano National Park’s rangers know what its main attraction is—lava. Unfortunately one of the first things I saw at the visitor’s center was a sign that said no lava was visible that day. On April 14, however, that changed: Yahoo! news: Kilauea offers rare view of glowing vent. Furthermore, a sizable part of the park was closed when I was there because of high sulfur dioxide levels (the entire park was closed April 8-9 for that reason). Unfortunately, volcanoes don’t always cooperate.
So I drove around Crater Rim Drive for as far as I could, stopping at each overlook to take pictures and enjoy the sweet smell of sulfur.
Afterwards I returned to the visitors center and asked a ranger for the best way to see the volcano in the four hours I had before I had to drive back to the airport in Kona. He recommended hiking the Kilauea Iki Trail, which goes through the craters. It took about four hours and was amazing.
The first part of the trail was all lush greenery.
But at the end of the descent, I was spit out into a volcano seemingly void of life other than fellow hikers.
But upon closer examination, vegetation was making some progress.
After finishing the hike, I got in the car and drove four hours back to the airport in Hilo, exhausted.
The next day I worked until 4 p.m., at which point I put on my new board shorts and water shirt and went surfing. Or tried to. Despite having no problems getting up on my own during my lesson, I got destroyed this time out. After an hour of drinking ocean water, I returned my surf board to the rental place.
I knew the beach where I was surfing was a lot harder than where I’d been the previous week, but as sunset was near, there was only one board rental place open. I had neither the time nor inclination to carry the board half a mile down the street to where I’d have an easier time. In hindsight, bad move.
The day after was our last in Hawaii. More out of obligation than interest, I went to Pearl Harbor (I had a lot of work to do and, if I was going to blow it off—which was clearly the case—I wanted to spend my last day in Hawaii doing something enjoyable or going back to one of my favorite spots).
Maybe it’s because living near DC I drive by the Vietnam Memorial at least once a week (the most effective memorial I’ve ever seen) or maybe it’s that any venue would disappoint after hiking through a volcano, but Pearl Harbor struck me more as just another tourist attraction than a somber memorial to the people killed on December 7, 1941. The most moving part for me was watching three survivors autograph books. That being said, monuments are subjective (they either move you or they don’t), so I wouldn’t discourage anyone from visiting the USS Arizona Memorial and the rest of Pearl Harbor.
I then went to the Bishop Museum, Honolulu’s one-size-fits-all science, art, children’s, and anthropological museum with the Hawaiian sports hall of fame thrown in. If you’re in Hawaii for 45 days, it’s worth a visit. Otherwise, it probably can be skipped.
For our last night there, Margaret and I went to the Halekulani Hotel, which is on the water, and sipped tropical drinks, watching a hula dancer and the sunset.
The next morning we barely made our flight to Los Angeles. Apparently having 45 days to prepare for our return wasn’t enough time.