Hawaiian extreme: From Kona to Waimea

Hawaii Island (also called the Big Island to make it less confusing) is the youngest of the Hawaiian chain at merely 800,000 years old. It’s also the largest island at 4,028 square miles (divided into seven main regions) and it’s climate contrasts vary to the extremes.

In the week that we were there, we experienced many of these climate changes: daily showers of rain in the Kona region; viewing the Kilauea summit at 3,000-4,000 feet above sea level; cool, misty breezes on the Kohala coast; and, on Friday, the seemingly desert conditions of the North Kohala region.

My Aunt Lynda wanted to visit Parker Ranch and Anna’s Ranch in the upper Kohala Coast and North Kohala regions. She owns cattle and horses with her husband in their northeast Arkansas ranch so these Hawaiian ranches were right up her alley.

The drive there was shocking though since the view was the opposite of what we’d seen so far. Apparently, gohawaii.com says the area gets no more than about five inches of rain per year. We even saw lots of cactus.

Our first stop was Parker Ranch, one of the country’s oldest ranches. It’s 160-years-old and it’s beginning started when John Parker jumped ship in 1809. It’s also the home for 50,000 marines between 1942 and 1945 as they prepared for the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa since the area had similar terrain. Here’s some random pictures of the headquarters.

You could tell which direction the wind blew the most.

The ranch’s history is portrayed artistically at the nearby Parker Ranch Center, which hosts shops and restaurants. “The history of Parker Ranch Paniolo” is a mural series painted by Marcia H. Ray in 2002. It’s “geographically-positioned” — you are viewing the murals in the same direction you would see them outside. The Kamuela artist did a great job and spent several months researching before she even started. She interviewed several working and retired ranch paniolos (the Hawaiian version of cowboys) and their wives to learn the culture and lifestyle as well as people in the Waimea community. The murals are 24 feet wide and 6-and-a-half feet high and are done by oil. The whole process took place over a 2-year period.

My favorite, mostly because of the owl.

I also liked the above sea turtle placed in the center’s entrance for it’s food court. Speaking of food, I recommend eating at the Village Burger, which is known for supporting the island ranchers. It touts itself as having “pasture raised beef, hormone and antibiotic free.” The burgers are amazing!

Our last and briefest stop of the day was at Anna’s Ranch Heritage Center. The ranch was established in 1848. We barely missed the ranch’s closing for the day so we ended up looking around outside before heading back to our townhouse to officially finish packing.

Thought of the day: I want a donkey.

It’s official. I have rethought my original decision to not purchase the above donkey. I am sitting here looking at this adorable stuffed animal and thinking “why did I not get him?”

So, to anyone out there visiting Donkey Balls in Kainaliu, go ahead and purchase the donkey. You won’t regret it like me. Besides, if you do regret the purchase, you can always send it to me! 😉

Coffee and bottles

So, while I sit here wishing I was back in Hawaii, I’ll recap my how I spent Thursday on the Big Island: touring a coffee plantation and shopping.

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So, we planned to head to Parker Ranch in Waimea but somehow we took a wrong turn and went in the exact opposite direction.

Happily unaware of this, we first stopped to tour the Holualoa Kona Coffee Company in Holualoa. It allowed us to take a self-guided tour before meeting back with staff in the area where they package the coffee. It was pretty cool, although I hate coffee. The chocolate covered coffee beans were good though (side note: don’t try these until off the windy road.)

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After the tour, we had to try some of the plantation’s apple bananas which were fabulous.

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Finally, we made it eight miles south of Kona to Kainaliu, home of Donkey Balls. The store sells chocolates, candies, and coffee with coffee-related artifacts thrown about all over the store.

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The aunts had to load up on coffee and other cutesy supplies before we trekked down the road to look around at the town’s other stores where I purchased awesome bottles made locally and saw other items I would have purchased if I could have gotten them home in one location.

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We finally ended our trip with the discovery that, yes, we were traveling very slowly in the wrong direction. Less than 20 miles covered in about three hours. So we wrapped up our trip with a quick stop at Greenwell Farms To purchase coffee bags and headed on back.

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Overnight delay

Well, a first has happened. I am experiencing my first flight delay that will have an air carrier booking me a hotel room for the night.

I was originally scheduled to leave Hawaii at 8:50 p.m. Friday, however, it was delayed until 10:03 p.m. and then 10:30 p.m. because of problems with the plane. Upon it’s arrival and cleaning, we learned there was a shortage of crew to take us to Los Angeles.

So, now I am experiencing the below:

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Yep, a long line to find out our hotel details and new flight schedules. The rumor is our new flight will be at 1 p.m. Saturday.

Honestly, I am not too upset. I have my Aunts Cindy and Lynda flying with me so I have company. Plus, one more night/day in Hawaii which I don’t have to pay for (thank goodness). As long as I get to work by 8 a.m. Monday, I am a happy traveler.

A pearl of a day

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100 feet deep. I did my first – and probably last – trip in the submarine Atlantis Wednesday. We mostly stayed around 40-70 feet deep looking at various fish and coral before going to 100 feet.

Personally, it was my least favorite activity. It was $105 and I don’t think it was any where near being worthy of that cost. Maybe half. It was just too crowded and the fish we saw we’ve seen scuba diving.

The water was choppy, and at times, I thought we would capsize in the boat that took us to and from the submarine. I was glad to get back on dry land.

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Afterwards, Aunt Lynda and I picked an oyster for a jewelry store employee to open and check for pearls. I got a decent sized black pearl while she got twin black pearls.

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I ended up turning my pearl into a necklace while Aunt Lynda decided on earrings. The pearls were mounted and we were given instructions not to wear them for 24 hours – a hard thing to accomplish. I love my necklace.

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Finally, we had to end our shopping to head home. Aunt Jo’s conference for International Interpreters Association kicked off yesterday with a luau that night and we all got to attend. More on that later.

Swimming with dolphins

About 100 dolphins surrounded us this morning as we snorkeled along the coast.

Karl and Jessica with Coral Reef Adventures took us out to see what marine life we could find, swim with dolphins as well as snorkel.

It didn’t take us long to find the first pod of spinner dolphins. The pod was “camping,” or swimming around the same area, and two were even mating.

The pod was close to the entrance of the Honokohau Marina and Small Boat Harbor so we set off to find a pod further out to swim with.

Our next discovery was a pod of spotted dolphins, which included a baby. They swam alongside our boat for a while before drifting off. However, Karl said the spotted dolphins do not like swimming with humans so we set off once more.

Karl and Jessica had trouble finding pods to swim with today – a rare event – but we eventually found an area a little further than usual.

I was a little worried about swimming in the ocean since I’m not the best of swimmers. However, I was fine after that initial swim (well we snorkeled with the dolphins really) and as long as I had some one close by.

Karl apparently even complimented me (according to my aunts) saying that I was swimming like a fish and doing a good job. Not sure about the swim part but I will never turn down a compliment.

It was amazing being in the water with the dolphins and having them all around you. I took tons of pictures and was especially excited to see another baby dolphin.

Between the three swims, Jessica had drinks, snacks, fruits and sandwiches for us. The pineapple was especially good as well as the brownies the captain’s wife made us.

Our time out with Coral Reefs Adventures was great although the four hours went by quick. I wouldn’t mind going out with the group again in February to see whales in the future.

We decided to stay a little longer at the harbor and have lunch at Bite Me Fish Market Bar and Grill. The restaurant serves the fish they catch daily in the Hawaiian waters. Today’s catch was swordfish.

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An order of fish dip (above) started us off. I’m not a big fan of fish, but I still enjoyed the food. I had to try a sangria and the super delicious fish melt sandwich, which was too much to eat. I had to take home leftovers. The sandwich had the fish of the day – swordfish – grilled, crumbled and mixed with mayo and than flat grilled with onion, tomato, and melted cheddar cheese and served on rye.

It’s now only 3:13 p.m and we have decided to take the afternoon off to rest and shop.

Beach day

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A beach day was needed after Sunday’s travels. We went the opposite way this time and checked out the white sanded beaches along the way.

We stopped at Mauna Lea to snorkel and boogie board. We were there for hours.

Later, we stopped to check out tons of beaches including Hapuna Beach, which had more cats in one area than I have ever seen. Some of the cats blended in with the lava rock.

Our last stop was Waikoloa beach-one of my favorite places. It was in Anaeho’omalu Bay and is the home of the Waikoloa Canoe Club.11

We took the night easy stopping along the way home to watch the sunset.

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This morning we are at the Harbor for a Four hour boat ride to sightsee, swim with dolphins and snorkel. More later.

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