Hawaii Vacation #1

I recently returned from a weeklong vacation on the Big Island of Hawaii to celebrate surviving acute myeloid leukemia. The day I learned of my diagnosis, I told my wife that when I got better, we’d go to Hawaii. She thought I was joking at the time (or perhaps delusional) but I showed her! We made it happen, and had an amazing trip.

My trip report will be coming in a series. This is Part 1, the general summary. Why is this coming as a series? It’s taking a long time to put this together is why. We took about 2,000 photos while we were there and I’ve gotta sort through them to choose the ones I want to use.

My first order of business was to select the best of the best photos we could print for our families, hang on our walls, and that sort of thing. It was a pretty time-consuming effort because I sometimes had hundreds of photos of the same subject with different angles, zoom levels, and camera settings.

Since this is a general summary post, I’ll give a basic rundown of our trip.

Day 1: We arrived at about 2pm on Wednesday, so this is our “Day 1”. We didn’t do a lot except travel and recover from the traveling. Our flight out of Dallas, TX left EARLY and we arrived in LA for a 3hr layover before we finished our journey to Kona International Airport. It’s a neat little airport. You exit the plane directly onto the tarmac and the airport itself is entirely open air. It’s a bit noisy because of that, but the ocean breezes are nice. We took showers immediately after getting our hotel room at the Waikoloa Beach Marriott. We had Mai Tais at the hotel bar ($16 each, and they were that good), and our meal was at the hotel’s luau that night.

Waikoloa Beach Marriott

Day 2: On Thursday, we visited Mountain Thunder Coffee Plantation and tasted the most delicious coffee in the world. YUM! Before this, I thought I just didn’t like coffee. I learned that I only like good coffee after tasting some of their best stuff. I even enjoyed eating their chocolate covered coffee beans. How good is that?! For dinner, we visited the Kona Brewing Company for pizza and beer. Their pies are right tasty and they make a fine brew or a few. I got the sampler. I’ll talk about the beers I got in my more detailed post, but I enjoyed them all. We also stopped by Kiholo Bay to take a few pictures.

Day 3: We had an afternoon appointment for a photo tour, so we spent the morning on the beach by our hotel. We saw sea turtles, did a little snorkeling, and just relaxed for a few hours. We hired Robert Frutos, a local photographer to take us to some great photo spots and help us to improve our photography skills. We visited some great spots and got some outstanding photos we wouldn’t have been able to take otherwise.

Day 4: Mountain biking! We found a local (gmats from mtbr.com) to show us around the Kaloko Trails. We met up just around lunchtime and enjoyed a few hours out on the lush slopes of Hualalai. The trails alternated between sweet, flowy downhills and brutal fireroad climbs, but it was all amazing. We rented our bikes from Bike Works Kona and they set us up right. They even cut a seatpost with a hacksaw to help my wife get a comfortable fit.

Day 5: On Sunday, we drove to Mauna Kea to see the observatories and watch the sunset from the top of the mountain. It was stellar! We also happened to be there during some great celestial events, too. We got to see the full moon rise opposite the setting sun on the peak in addition to Venus, Mars, and Saturn at the visitor center lower on the slopes. The temps dropped precipitously right when the sun set. Great day!

Day 6: Volcanoes National Park! This was our long driving day, since we had to cross the island. But we had a good time. Both Halema`uma`u Crater (inside Kilauea Caldera) and Pu`u O`o are active right now and giving a show. We went to the Jaggar Museum to see Halema`uma`u during the day, and then drove to Kalapana to see the flows from Pu`u O`o. Neither disappointed in the slightest.

And this wouldn’t be The GPS Geek without a map, would it? Here’s a summary map of the places we visited.

Don’t worry, there are more maps (and more photos) where that came from.

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