I’m still sorting the massive stock of photos I took on our Hawaii trip to find the perfect ones to share but I’m finally ready to start with images from the first few days. I’ll also be sharing a few tips as we go along for those who might be planning a trip to the Aloha state themselves. So let’s get this trip going! Alaska gave us a beautiful but icy send off, which led into lovely views above the clouds as well.
We enjoyed flying first class, where the food was hot and oh-so yummy while watching movies on the media players they provide. And here’s Tip #1: Don’t rule out first class just because you think it’s expensive. The hubs got a better price on our non-refundable first class tickets than the refundable coach tickets he was searching, even with a small additional cost for trip insurance which made the tickets basically refundable if something were to come up. I’m so proud of how his bargain hunting skills have evolved, especially when it means an upgrade for me!
And the complimentary Mai Tai’s didn’t hurt either! I lost count of how many I had in total, but it was a long flight. 🙂
After several hours in the air we had our first glimpse of Oahu as we approached for landing. Right away I spotted Ko’Olina where we would be meeting with my friend Edgar and his family a few days later to create family portraits and reconnect.
We landed just in time to catch our first Hawaiian sunset. Even from the plane window it was amazing – especially for us Alaskans who are used to minimal sunlight this time of year.
Once off the plane we navigated the airport easily while enjoying some very Hawaiian signage.
A quick shuttle ride took us to the Hale Koa, where we would spend the night before heading back to the airport in the morning to fly to the big island for a few days. We caught a quick dinner at the hotel’s great buffet, where I enjoyed a blue Hawaiian while the hubs tried something else.
On the way back to our room we stopped by to see “Gus”, the massive banyan tree in the Hale Koa courtyard. With the blue lighting it looked like it had been taken straight out of Avatar.
Luckily, because we had arrived later in the evening we received an upgrade on our room and got an ocean view rather than a garden view. Tip #2: Late night check-in can earn you a free upgrade!
The next morning we flew to Kona on the big island, where we were surprised to find a completely open-air airport! You literally step off the plane and head ‘in’ to the gate, which is just a series of coverings that lead to a larger covering for baggage claim. Neither of us had seen anything like it before.
We got our rental car and headed out toward Hilo on Saddle Road. I’d been told that there was a variety of odd wildlife on the big island ranging from donkeys to kangaroos, but all we saw were goats.
The landscape here was vastly different than Oahu, with visible evidence of more recent lava flow activity dotted by scrub brush and an occasional cactus.
The road was pretty foggy as we headed into the mountains, but it soon cleared to an amazing blue sky over miles and miles of desert like landscape.
As we neared Hilo there were strange markings on the road. I thought they looked like fangs and were meant to entice you to slow down on the curves.
They eventually disappeared and we enjoyed the tree lined drive into Hilo.
After passing through Hilo we headed to the Volcano National Park where we would stay at the Kilauea Military Camp. I spotted this amazing stained glass art in the main building as we checked in. It was the first of many we’d see on the property.
We had a cute little one-bedroom bungalow on the edge of the camp. It was just the right size and had loads of charm.
The mini fridge and microwave came in handy for snacks when we stopped in to refresh between exploring different areas of the park over the next few days. The stained glass art continued inside the bungalow with these amazing sconces and lights.
Once settled in to our cabin, we headed out to explore the camp and find some dinner. All of the amenities are located in the center of camp, which was just a short walk down the path from our bungalow. We knew the restaurant was closed for another few hours so we stopped at the lounge where we found a few more large stained glass windows including one with a Nene, Hawaii’s state bird. I later learned that Nene are a variety of goose who long ago migrated to Hawaii and never left which caused them to evolve and become flightless.
Unfortunately, the lounge wasn’t serving either so we headed over to the bowling alley which had a little cantina and ordered a quick fare. We enjoyed our meal outside with the view of these pretty stone row houses. I investigated around them after eating and saw they also had more stained glass windows.
Nearby we spotted this cool ride and some pretty poinsettia plants which were growing like weeds along a building. The hubs had a hard time believing this was the same plant that we buy at a fraction of the size in the stores at Christmas!
We headed back to the cabin to get ready for “After Dark in the Park” at the Visitor’s Center, which we thought was a tour, but turned out to be an interesting presentation on the history of local volcanos as part of national volcano awareness month. Apparently we timed our visit just right!
After the presentation, we went across the street to the Volcano House where we ate tropical flavored ice cream in the dark while watching the Kilauea crater glow in the distance. That’s definitely something most people can’t claim to have done!
Not ready to call it a night, we ventured out to the last viewpoint on the park road to see the glow a little closer. The steam from the crater created vog – volcanic fog that made the flickering glow even more mysterious. We had left the DSLR at the cabin so all we had were our camera phones which just didn’t do the scene justice. So instead we snuggled and listened to Pele rumble in the distance. It was a uniquely romantic experience.
Next I’ll share our second day of adventures at the park, including lava tunnels, steam vents, sulfur beds and arches of volcanic rock along the sea cliff so check back for that soon!