Volcano National Park
On our second day on the island, we headed off quite early to discover volcano national park. We left the house at about half past six and it was raining. After about an hour and no coffee (we couldn‘t find any along the way), we reached Volcano National Park. Luckily we could still use the Hawaiian National Park card we got on Maui before, so we didn‘t spend extra money on this trip. There used to be a crater rim round trip you could do by car, but at the moment part of it is closed because of the volcanic gas at a certain point. So, you have to drive to one side of the creator, turn around and drive to the other side. We first headed to the active crater nearby. We enjoyed an amazing view there and could even see some lava splashing from afar! Unfortunately, we didn‘t take a picture because it was raining. but probably the rain was the reason why we even could see some lava there. the second time we went to the park we couldn‘t see anything orange at all. So, I guess we were lucky there! On our way back on the crater rim, we stopped to see the steaming floors. The steam is water the evaporates in the ground because of the volcano‘s heat underneath. It‘s impressive how warm this steam is when you stand in its way! Of course, it is also quite humid as it is steam, but still fun to try. After that we took a walk through a small forest with a beautiful view of the crater, leading us to the lava tube nearby. It must also be impressive to walk down into the crater and actually feel the heat on the floor. As it was cloudy and rainy that day we didn‘t go. Instead, we drove down to the shore passing about 10 other craters and enjoying the view over the lava fields. Down there we met a ranger who informed us that the lava wasn‘t flowing anymore at the time and that we could only see a little bit of lava flow when walking over rocky lava fields for about 15 miles (approx. 24 km). We didn‘t know that before and were kind of disappointed that we weren‘t able to see any lava flow. But there are still so many other things to see and do on Big Island. It was when we were already on Kauai though when we really felt stupid and were annoyed with ourselves. Two people, we met at a hostel were telling everyone what they experienced on Big Island and were showing pictures of the lava flow, one of them even poking it with a stick! Oh man! We could have actually seen lava! It was just from another point you would need to go there. You enter from outside the National Park at the Lava Viewing Area on the Puna south coast and walk in there. Annoying, right?! Never the less, we enjoyed our time on Big Island a lot.
The next day it was still raining and there were even flash flood warnings on the radio. They were expecting heavy rain and snow up on Mauna Kea and Mauna Lao. So, we decided to explore Hilo city a little closer. It is a small and a little out fashioned but cute city. We enjoyed strolling through the streets and the farmers market. It is biggest on Wednesday and Saturday and a good opportunity to get a cheap and local lunch or to taste some fruit you don’t know yet (my favorite: Lilikoi aka passion fruit). If you are feeling like fish and chips for lunch head to Mo‘s at 50 Waianuenue Av. – absolutely fresh and tasty! What’s often hard to find for us when we are outside of Europe is a nice cafe to hang around, to enjoy the view or to get some WiFi. Like pretty much everywhere in the United States restaurant are generally there to eat and then leave and not to enjoy the atmosphere. Also in downtown Hilo, there are no restaurants or cafes directly at the beach. After a while, we did find a really nice cafe a little outside of the town center though. It offers a cozy interior, local products, and WiFi. It’s called the Sweet Cane Cafe and guess what, their specialty is sugar cane juice!
Kapoho Pools at Puna coast
Finally, we got one sunny day on Hawaii’s east side and took the chance to go snorkeling in the Kapoho tide pools at the Puna coast. There is a small road that goes from Hawaiian Paradise Park all along the coast to the tide pools and further. It is not a paved road though, so you will need to go slow. But the drive was scenic and definitely more interesting as the main road. The Kapoho tide pools are probably the best place for snorkeling on Big Island. At first, we didn’t even want to go in the water, because it was windy and kind of chilly, but luckily, we still did in the end. I didn’t expect to see that much wildlife in this shallow water. On some parts of these pools, there are even warm streams heated from the nearby volcano! We were told that snorkeling was even better if you go outside the tide pools to the ocean and snorkel there. To do this you should be there in the morning around 8 am for high tide and only go if the sea is not too rough. At low tide, you won’t get out there anymore because of the pool walls sticking out.
Even if it was raining, we enjoyed our time on Big Island’s east side with its working atmosphere a lot. Also, we were curious about the next day though, when we were about to explore the south coast on our way to Kailua-Kona.