Top 12: Hawaii Pt. 3/3

My list of the top 12 activities I enjoyed the most continues down with my top four favorite activities:

4. The Catholic faith
I attempted to attend mass at St. Peter’s of the Sea Catholic Church, located just down the road from my townhouse in Kailua Kona. However, I ended up going a bit further down the road to St. Michael the Archangel Church.

The parish is known as the “The Church in the Tent” since their church was torn down because of age deterioration and damage from a 2006 earthquake. They are presently working to rebuild it, which once built, will resemble the former building that stood on the site for more than 150 years. It’s the first mass I’ve attended where the pastor competed with a nearby rooster for my attention. The pastor’s sermon won, which says how great of a job he did.

However, my interaction with the local Catholics didn’t end here. Another neat feature was the Painted Church in Captain Cook, an active parish whose church was erected in 1899. It’s absolutely gorgeous with funds raised through visitor donations and the sale of handcrafts, such as rosaries made out of wood native to the island.

I attend mass at Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Arkansas so I was also excited to find a similarly-named church in Hawaii.

3. Beaches

The Big Island’s beaches were probably bumped up to the No. 3 position simply because I was finally able to see not one, but two sea turtles resting on a beach. I absolutely love turtles. The island’s beaches are made up of four different types of sand: Ili Ili (beach pebbles); green (Olivine Crystals); black (ground lava); and white (crushed shells, corals). I experienced all but the green sands — which I now truly regret.

2. Hawaii Volcano National Parks

Who doesn’t want to see an active volcano? While there, I saw the Thurston Lava Tube, the Steaming Bluff Overlook, steam vents as well as Halema’uma’u Crater (where lava boiled for 100 years in this crater within a crater). I hate that I didn’t get to the see the live lava flow — I now wish I had completed the hike there or taken a helicopter over.

1.  Coral Reef Adventures
I loved our morning boat ride that had us swimming in 300-foot deep water with spinner dolphins. I am not a great swimmer so the initial plunge into the ocean freaked me out until my aunts joined me (I was one of the first off the boat). It took several tries to find pods of dolphins to swim with — we first discovered a floating white bottle and a coconut — but when we did find the dolphins it was absolutely amazing.

Top 12: Hawaii Pt. 2/3

My list of the top 12 activities I enjoyed the most continues down from No. 8 to No.5.

8. Underwater
I’m not a big water person so I’m surprised at how much I enjoyed snorkeling. It was fun and, each time I went out, I was excited to see what new fish I would discover. My pictures are of fish, but I also saw a turtle and possibly a manta ray.

7. Scenery
The landscape was gorgeous whether you were in the air or on the ground.

6. Farmer’s Market
I love farmer’s markets so we had to visit the local ones while in Kona. We ended up purchasing a ton of fresh produce and hand-crafted items as well as listened to local musicians. My favorite find was a small vial of perfume that my aunt bought me. She said she knew I wouldn’t even though I loved it (she was correct).

5. Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park
I didn’t spend enough time here: I wanted to snorkel and kayak here. It’s the home of the Captain Cook Monument and is 12 miles south of Kailua-Kona. The park is also a marine life conservation district that’s pretty much perfect looking as well as great for snorkeling, scuba diving and kayaking. While there, we saw dolphins, crabs and a man carving wood. I also fell in love with the place.

Top 12: Hawaii Pt. 1/3

Spinner dolphins. Swimming with these fabulous guys was probably the best activity I did on the big island of Hawaii. I’ve meant to publish this last Hawaii post for a while, but here goes my top 12 activities I enjoyed the most:

12. Manta Rays
My grandmother (GiGi) and I spent an evening dining out at the Sheridan so we could view their gardens and eventually watch the manta rays feed after dark.

11. Luau
It wasn’t a traditional luau, but a Hawaii teacher who travels internationally to teach students to dance traditional Hawaiian steps. The sole guy (last picture in this section) was the instructor.

10. Coffee Plantation
You have to visit a coffee plantation while in Kona and we chose Holualoa Kona Coffee Company, which offers a self-guided tour. I was interesting and the chocolate covered coffee balls were yummy. It was interesting to learn that they roast 600-900 pounds of beans per day, up to 40 pounds of beans per roast. I also enjoyed the stop because of the chickens hanging around and because we got to try sweet bananas — so good!

9. Parker Ranch/Anna’s Ranch
It was interesting to see the ranching side of the island. My aunt and uncle raise cattle so I traveled with her to tour two ranches: Parker Ranch and Anna’s Ranch. Both are pretty cool  just for the history alone although the views are nice as well. The drive was split between pastures filled with cows and goats. Some parts allow open grazing. Parker Ranch is also the site of Camp Tarawa from 1943 to 1945 where the 2nd and 5th Marine Divisions actually trained. The 5th Marine Division trained for the 1945 Battle of Iwo Jima there since the terrain was similar.

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.