In the end of March 2015, my mom and I embarked on our first mother daughter adventure to the island of Hawaii! It was an island that I had never been to, but a place that my mom had been many years before. From challenging some of our fears in the trees of the jungle, to seeing the killer waves at Ka Lae and so many things in between, this trip it one of my fondest and dearest memories with my mom.
Upon arrival at the airport, my lovely grandparents picked us up and presented us with some gorgeous leis that were made of real flowers.
The weather was pleasant, a little hot for my liking (but I am from the PNW…), and it very unexpected and yet so cool that we flew into a lava field! We ended up getting a rental car and headed off to our hotel, the Kona Seaside Hotel.
This hotel is very nice! There are fast elevators if you don’t want to take the stairs, but since my mom and I had Fitbits at the time, it was all stairs for us! The rooms are airy with a nice balcony on the back side that looked over the city. It was a pretty stellar location! It was very close to the main road, only about 30 minutes from the airport and close to a lot of unique dining places. This hotel also had a package deal that allowed you to eat at Splasher’s Grill for breakfast if you ordered off their specialty menu. This was nice because then you didn’t have to eat out for one of your meals (and then spend that money you saved on breakfast on a good morning Mai Tai instead).
From here it was on to explore the city of Kona! This is a very beautiful city, a very touristy city, but still so fun. From the hotel you could go to the beach, access numerous shopping centers, the Saturday market, and many restaurants. Most of the activities that you can do as a tourist here are all within walking distance, which makes exploring fun, and allows you some time to work on that tan (or sunburn in my case!).
Just to the right of the above photo is the beach. It was so nice out that we couldn’t help but go check it out. Beach combing is one of my all time favorite mind soothing activities, and this beach was unbelievable! With so many treasures on the beach in the forms of beach glass, shells, and a multitude of unique aquatic creatures, it was heavenly.
After some adventuring, it was time to spend some quality time with the grandparents, friends, and eat an amazing home cooked meal from my grandparents really good friend Billy. I really enjoyed spending time with them all and hearing Billy’s stories about how much the island has changed over the years. After a night filled with stories and laughs, it was back to the hotel for a night of rest before heading off on our first full day on Hawaii!
Our time in Hawaii wasn’t going to be spent laying on the beach, instead it was going to be spent exploring every corner of the island we could get to in 6 days. This was going to be a busy vacation, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. The morning was spent racking our brains on where we wanted to go, what we wanted to do, and figuring out our time budget. After a lovely breakfast at Splasher’s with smells of the ocean and breakfast wafting though the air (and some pictures with Macaws), it was time for our first adventure: heading to the north end of the island. If you look at the map below, we started off on the west side of the island in Kailua Kona and drove our rental car up to the town of Hawi on the northernmost tip of the island. The following day we would be heading up to Hawi and doing a zip-line adventure, so we wanted to make sure we knew where we were going!
The drive up was nothing less than stunning. You don’t realize the kind of biodiversity this island has until you are driving around it. With Mauna Loa, the active volcano in the center of the island, you are at the mercy of its temper when it comes to the weather. Most of the time it would be sunny in the mornings, and more of an overcast/hazy during the afternoon when Mauna Loa would start smoking. Very eye opening to experience because this is a part of everyday life for islanders and could have catastrophic impacts if it erupted.
On the way up you went though a lava field and to the left of the highway you could see the ocean and the surf crashing on the black rocks and the boats cruising the coastline. To me it seemed as if out of nowhere we arrived in the jungle. Gorgeous foliage, banyan trees, ocean sounds, and birds galore, now we were truly in paradise.
Hawi is a quaint little town. There are actually quite a few little restaurants around here (sadly didn’t have enough time to go to any of them), along with numerous historical sites. From Hawi we headed slightly east and went though the small city of Kapa’au, which mirrored Hawi in many ways including appearance. It is probably because the cities were conjoined in historic times when the islanders were growing sugar in this area.
During this part of the drive once you were east of Kapa’au, you were in residential Hawaii. I personally found this part of the drive the best because I like seeing how the locals live and the places that they like to go. I always think it is nice to see what they see instead of just what the tourists always see. We ended up finding the beautiful Keokea Beach Park mostly by following the signs along the highway. While I wouldn’t recommend swimming in the surf here, it is a great place to have a picnic and enjoy the beautiful cliff-side views of the ocean.
After enjoying the views of the sea, feeling the wind in our hair, and tromping around this beautiful park, we headed back down south to Kona for some dinner and some amazing sunset views!
Day 3 of our Hawaiian adventure was definitely the busiest day we had on the island. We woke up early to catch breakfast and then drive the hour and a half back up to Hawi for zip-line adventure with Kohala Zipline! Now this place was absolutely UNBELIEVABLE! With 9 different zips and 5 sky bridges, this is a zip-lining extravaganza! This is one of the best zips in the world when it comes to design and facilitation. Our guides were incredible, knowledgeable about zip-lining and the local area and foliage, and made everyone comfortable no matter their skill level or fear level. I think it’s safe to say that my mom and I had the time of our lives on our first ever zip-line!
This was a great first experience on a zip-line. Even with her fear of heights, my mom was put at ease by our guides, the equipment, and the overall experience. I would recommend this tour to anyone, no matter their skill or comfort level because they can and will accommodate your needs and make your experience the best it can possibly be.
You would have thought that after this amazing time in the jungle canopy that we would have had enough adventure for one day, but that was not the case! We still had one more adventure planned, and that was swimming with manta rays with Seaside Paradise Incorporated! After driving back to Kona and grabbing a bite to eat, we headed off to get fitted for out wet-suits and our manta ray experience. After being fitted, we headed down the marina to wait for our ship, the Hōkūhele.
We met the most interesting woman while waiting for the boat to dock. She was from Great Britain and was traveling alone by choice. She was doing a lot of her own adventuring and accompanied us on the tour. What an inspiration! Once on board we only traveled a short distance from the marina and watched the sunset.
We had to wait for the cloak of darkness before we could get in the water and see the manta rays. This was because the manta rays need to be drawn in. The place that we went to snorkel with them has been used for decades, and was actually found by accident. Lights from a hotel near the water’s edge light the area, and also the water. This draws plankton and other microorganisms to the surface, and towards the light. When these microorganisms come into the light, they are then visible by the manta rays, which then come into the bay and feed on them. These gentle creatures aren’t going to harm you, they are only going to feed around you, which is a little scary seeing as some of them can have a wingspan of 8 feet or more!
Once darkness has fallen, the fun begins. All participants are given a safety brief and then instructed to put on their wet suits, given a snorkel mask to adjust, and tell you to grab a noodle. They then assemble a large floating apparatus dubbed “the manta flotation device” in the water. The device is a giant floating metal circle, which you grab onto with you arms and then face down with your snorkel. The noodle that you grabbed is then placed under you ankles and you spend the next 45 minutes with you body face down in the water. Lights are then beamed off the boats to start attracting the rays. Once they start spotting rays, they tell you and let the show begin!
The rays are so much bigger than I expected, even with reading about how big they are. They also have superb sensory abilities that allow them to feed within INCHES of your face. It was MAGICAL. Below is some footage off of their website, I didn’t have an underwater camera, but this gives you a better idea of what to expect should you do this excursion for yourself!
If you couldn’t guess by the photo above, Day 4 was for exploring Kona and going Parasailing! Originally, mom was nervous to go, seeing as we going up as far as they would let us go: 1,200 feet, but once in the air, it was shocking just how peaceful being up that high really was. We went through the company UFO Parasailing and they ROCKED it. Our guides were knowledgeable, fun, safe, and helped us reach the sky, literally! It actually took us going twice to get to the full 1,200 feet because wind conditions the first day weren’t as perfect as our captain would have liked. They were very accommodating of this with us though, allowing us to receive a full refund, and also go out the first thing the next morning!
Our time in Hawaii was rapidly coming to an end, so on Day 5 it was time to head south! We had a rental car, so heading that direction wasn’t too difficult. The road was windy, and the speed limits slow, but we made our way towards the southernmost point of the United States: Kalae. Before we got there however, there was a stop that we NEEDED to make.
We had been doing some research on black sand beaches, and on the way to south point, we found the one we had been looking for: Punalu’u Black Sand Beach. The beach was easily reached from the road, and it was just as amazing as we thought it would be. The black beach stretched before us like something out of a fairy-tale movie. The clear blue water coming into the beach, crashing on the black rocks and sand. About 100 feet or so from the shore of the beach, was a giant pond, filled to the brim with lily pads and flowers, a wooden bridge leading you away from the beach, into the mini jungle.
From there, we headed to our final Hawaiian destination, South Point, Ka Lae! The drive turned from a lava field, to grasslands. The wind blew, hard. From the highway you could see the waves growing in size and velocity. By the time we made it to the south end of the island, the wind must have been blowing 50+ mph. It was a probably a 10 mile long country road, followed by a small section of dirt road, easily navigated by our rental car.
After passing the sign for South Point, the road ends and we found ourselves on the edge of a giant volcanic rock looking out across the South Pacific Ocean. One of the first things we saw were fishermen, fishing in a way that I had never seen before. They had long, ocean poles, and to them, they had hooked plastic bags to their line, and the wind would pull their lines hundreds of yards out into the ocean. After talking to one of the fishermen, he told us they were fishing for Mahi Mahi and other kinds of fish you would eat. At about that moment, this guy got a fish on! It took only a few minutes for him to real the fish in, and it was a barracuda! Mom and I thought this was pretty cool, seeing as we hadn’t seen one before, but the fishermen was disgusted, and told us he would later use the fish for bait. I snapped a picture of the fish in his cooler after he brought it in.
We spent some more time walking around the area, gazing across the ocean, contemplating what was the closest land mass to us. The wind was unforgettable along with the swells on the black sand and coast. It’s going to be something that I will never ever forget.