Exploring The Big Island 2014

On the Big Island of Hawaii  May 5th –  May12th, 2014

We had a fast-paced yet relaxed vacation. Richard researched the available activities and chose one or more for each day. He dovetailed them into our schedule. We were constantly on the go, with intervals of reading and friendly, relaxed group chats around the dinner table.

 Monday – We landed on the Big Island of Hawaii. To my great delight, there was no jet-way ramps. There were simply stairs. Instantly we were enveloped in the warmth and fragrance of Hawaii. The car rental office was just a few steps away. They even had some rental cars parked close by unlike most metropolitan airports. I chose a white car, due to having been raised in Fresno which is a reclaimed desert.

Of course the sun was doing its duty to welcome us. When we drove from the airport out on to the highway I was surprised to see it looked like a desert. Each side of the road was bordered by dry non-native weeds about the size of small tumbleweeds. They were about 6-18 inches high light yellow straw colored weeds.

Looking forward, we drove on and soon we segued into the luxurious greenness that we expected of Hawaii. Wild green trees, bushes, flowers and palms were all around. The blue and green ocean could be seen in the distance.

We drove to the house, still surrounded by green in the neighborhood. It is a suburban house with a sign on the front. Hale Makana.

Before we left, Linda the owner, not our Linda) explained the name of the house. (“Hale Makana” is the name of our house. It means Home that is a Gift Freely Given… we consider our 2nd home a Gift, even though it isn’t “free”!) There’s a “Welcome” binder on the tall bookshelf that gives some more info too.

The neighbors across the street have a quite large plumeria tree covered with groups of pretty white blossoms with orange centers.

The shopping center is just two blocks away and it includes a grocery store. I bought my “starter” Aloha shirt there. We had lunch outside. I ordered fried chicken. I had a choice of two different potato salads and when the young woman told me one of them was “homemade” so I chose that one.

A young but gray-haired gentleman under a large umbrella offered us discounts on various attractions and tickets. All we had to do was sit through a two hour timeshare sales presentation. Of course by now most of us know that two hour sales pitches can turn into four hours and become a pretty high pressure environment so we demurred.

In the store, Richard and Linda purchased some very healthy looking pieces of Ahi Tuna for grilling on the gas-fired grill at the house.

We drove back to explore the house. It is a large two-bedroom house with a lanai off of each of the two bedrooms. The living room has a vaulted ceiling and plenty of chairs, couches, a dining table computers, Direct TV and a sound system. However Richard is good at keeping busy so we really didn’t feel the need for electronics since this was a vacation.

The more we settled in the house it looked better and better in comparison to the condos that we saw most tourists stay in.  On ovne of our trips a friendly visitor complained that it takes him 20 minutes to go from his condo room to his parked his car via the hotel shuttle bus. In contrast, both of our cars are parked right in front of the house and we were close enough to walk the ocean and the bay.

Some of the others went swimming before dinner. There is a large very neat and clean back yard with cyan colored water in the swimming pool. We rested a bit, or read Hawaiian books from the library by the front door. After dinner we sat around the dining room table and had great conversations until late in the evening .  I think we all had a very enjoyable time. I know I did. Dean is really good at keeping the conversation going.

Tuesday – The local birds gently woke us up most every day.

I went out for a drive. I wanted to do a little exploring by car. Whenever there was a fork in the road or an intersection, I chose the  downhill path because I knew it would have to lead to the ocean. I turned in at the first public beach access sign. I ended up at Kahalu’u Bay. I was happy to see a snorkeling gear rental van parked there. They had snorkel fins and masks for rent. I was very surprised and happy to find rented goggles available  with corrective lenses. I drove back to the house and Richard talked to us about various activities that were available.  He said the guidebook rated Kahalu’u Bay A+ and one of the best places to go snorkeling on the island.

All five of us got ready to go snorkeling. Cathy was willing to try snorkeling. At the cove she had to exchange her first set of rented fins for ones with a better fit. Soon she was happily swimming around. We saw many fish close at hand, but of course we were instructed not to touch. I think it was the best snorkel outing of the week. We saw some very bright yellow fish and lots of others, none of which were afraid of us.

The water wasn’t very deep, maybe 3 or 4 feet and in other places I swam over coral in shallow water. It almost felt like I was going to drag my chest on the coral.

There was a beginner’s area. The arms of  the bay were connected by a black lava rock wall that according to the lifeguard was originally built a long time ago by the Hawaiians to make a fish pond. Not having refrigeration, this was how they kept fish fresh ready to harvest as needed.

This line of rocks stopped the waves from disturbing us in our snorkeling area. After two or three hours of exploring under sea, we went back to the house and had homemade sandwiches for lunch and did some more talking.

After lunch we started driving to Kailua town for a walk. On the way we stopped at a outdoor shopping center. There are a bunch of small open sided booths filled with Hawaiian clothing and more. I picked out the best looking Aloha shirt I have ever seen. It has multiple white plumeria blossoms over field of blue. On the way home on the last day a local women at the airport check-in desk complimented me on my shirt and I said “It’s one of the best.”

There is a free parking lot in Kailua within easy walking distance of the main street. Richard led us along the sea wall to the waterfront beach. This is where the Iron Man swimming marathons start from the small beach,

We continued walking along the past some lazy looking tourists on their couches who looked like they were feeling very smug with their total laziness. We were happy Richard was keeping us active.

We visited an old church that Richard took us to. It contains a 10 ft long model of a 80 ft long ocean going boat used by the missionaries to travel from Europe to Hawaii. Eighty-feet long is a small boat, for ocean travel, but somehow the missionaries were able to cross the ocean from Europe. The Polynesians used even smaller twin hull canoes that were only about 60 foot long on to venture from Tahiti to Hawaii a long time ago, perhaps 1000-3000 years A.D.

Cathy had seen Richard pay $6.50 for a shaved ice and she was determined to get one but at a cheaper price. She found one for $3.50 which she shared a bit with me. It was cool on a typical warm Hawaiian day.

For dinner we had steak, salad and canned beans. There was more good conversation with Dean filling in the gaps whenever things got slow. He always had something interesting to say.

Wednesday – BYou can’t go in to a live volcano Calderon unless you pay $150 to cross private property and then hike for three hours. You can take a van tour of the chain of volcano cauldrons. Cathy and I had prepaid tickets for a Twilight Volcano Adventure van tour. It is scheduled to be a late start so we will end up at the volcano overview at sunset. We could see the glow from the molten lava down in the cauldron.

The late start schedule gave us some extra time in the morning so Cathy and I drove out early to visit a local electrical contractor called PA Harris Electric. They are primarily a solar installer and they are reasonably expensive. The latest inverters are much smaller and they can be used for just one or two panels instead of having to use one large inverter. I think an advantage might be that you can deliver the power to down from the roof the grid using standard AC wiring instead of having to use oversize DC conductors.

We continued on past the airport to the Twilight Volcano Adventure office pickup point. On the way to the saddle road we stopped at two to other hotels to pick up more guests.

Thursday – This was the day that Linda announced with some relative sadness that today is pThursday already which meant we were half way through our trip.

Cathy and I had rented a slightly larger car so we take a total of five us to the Zip & Dip area which is north of Hilo. I was driving and on the way over I told several of my stories Hawaiian life when I lived on Oahu from 1961 to 1968. I was talking with my hands but as far as I know I always kept at least one of them on the steering wheel. Apparently it was pretty entertaining, because a day or two later when I teased  them by saying “Oh I thought of another story!” they said “Oh what is it?” and I said “I was just teasing.”

The zip and dip trip was terrific  we went through about seven different zips. At the end the guides drove us back up the dirt road back up stream where they provided lunch. We went swimming, dove off the rocks, went kayaking and talked with the good-looking young local gentleman guides who spoke perfect English but did not speak Pidgin-English. I guess Pidgin-English is a dying variety of a fun way to talk.

The house is especially nice because it’s in a neighborhood. We felt like a local from day one. We even were on the lookout for strangers driving slowly up the cul-de-sac street.

Richard used the gas fired barbecue to cook some of the most wonderful tuna to go along with baked beans.  This was the best fish that I can ever remember tasting since the same day fresh caught tuna in Alaska.

Friday –

South Point – Cathy and I went off on our own this day. I drove south most of the way to South Point to visit Dr. Perkins, my dentist from earlier days. We took her out to lunch in a local center where there was some local talent singing which somewhat interfered with our conversation. After lunch we walked around the grounds. There were many varieties of trees and bushes. After that we walked out and looked at the little one chair dental office from across the street. Just for fun and feeling lazy we visited the little Ace Hardware store which has now converted to another brand. We don’t know if that’s just in Hawaii or a change coming.

Cathy and I drove back to the house. When we got back there was some confusion about our schedule. They didn’t expect us for dinner so Cathy and I went to the shopping center and got more fish. Unfortunately Richard wasn’t sure where his cell phone was so he didn’t use a timer to cook the fish they were not nearly as perfect as the first night. After dinner, I had fun showing Linda some photographs on my iPhone


Snorkeling in Kahalu’u Bay. The catamaran was writing for us.  I went Snuba Diving (Not Scuba and not snorkeling) guiding along 15 ft under water.  Lunch was some of the most delicious hamburgers I ever tasted due to the fact that the tomatoes were large red ripe and delicious and juicy.  They came from up north.

Catamaran Trip – We went snorkeling and then Snuba diving with excellent hamburgers as mentioned above.

After the all morning catamaran trip which included two water slides and snorkeling we returned to the house and I was ready to call it a day, but Richard correctly and rightfully insisted that Dean and I go see the Manta Ray via kayak. Cathy opted out, but Richard was right, it was an excellent. I guess you call it a show, it was two bright lights shining down from the surfboard. The lights cause the plankton to come up in the manta rays swim  up to eat the plankton.

I knew I had my glasses on but I had forgotten I had my hearing aids on. Joann the guide said she had a place where my glasses would be safe while I was using the diving mask. It turned out to be her large mouthed water bottle. Apparently it was her drinking water because she pored it out. The mouth of the jar was large enough to fit my glasses. I was able to put both my glasses and my hearing aids in there. If they got into the saltwater the hearing aids didn’t seem to suffer. I rinsed them out with freshwater when I got back to the house and they are still good.

Joann tied our kayaks to hers using some nylon straps. Our kayak and her kayak were banging back and forth so I made a suggestion for a way to make a better securing harness. Near the end of our viewing it started raining and unlike the pleasantly warm ocean, the rain was quite cold.

Sunday – The Refuge – We all drove south to Honaunau State Park. Richard, Linda & Dean went snorkel diving while Cathy and I took the audio tour of the refuge. It’s nicely set up where you use your cell phone to call a local phone number and press the special number that you see on a little sign post. You get to hear all kind of interesting stuff.

On the road back we stopped at a little road side restaurant – a very small place. I had a hamburger while the others had fish and chips. As usual I walked around and went exploring. I walked out back and  looked out over the back railing. I saw a paved road that looked small enough to be interesting. After getting directions from the proprietress I drove a little bit north and turned right and went into a local residential area that was quite interesting. We were going the wrong direction to head back, but we all  enjoyed looking at the big homes and little houses and chickens and flowers and trees.

When we got back to the house it was almost time to go to for a  Mother’s Day sermon at the UU Church. Following the service we walked through the church gardens down the hill. Finally we noticed the church lady standing at the entrance where the gate is and it looked like she wanted to get going so we left so she could lock up.

Later back at the house the others were busy so I took the car out and drove over to the Sheraton Hotel. That road took me to the other side of the small harbor that I had seen from the other side when we went out on the catamaran.

Monday – Fly Home – After a leisurely breakfast we were off to Costco to fill up the car with gas and return it. When we checked in, I got a compliment about my very local/professional looking Hawaiian shirt. We departed at 2:45 on Alaska Airlines. It was a 5 hour flight. I rented one of those portable movie players but it crashed twice and I lost my place in the movie but it did make the time pass.

When we got back to San Francisco, I thought we could cool off from the constant nice warm weather but guess what – There was a heat wave in San Francisco, so it was more of the same but still it was a welcome return to home and California.

We caught this Super Shuttle and the driver let us know we were going to have to go to Berkeley and Montclair on the way to S.F. It turns out Montclair is way up in the Berkeley hills with the most twisty narrow streets that I’ve seen in a long time in the US. It seemed like it took forever to drop off the person and finally head back to the city. Welcome home.

Notes to the owner of the house – We feel so lucky and honored that your church group auctioned off a one week visit for five of us.

Here are some links to places we saw.

Kailua Village

Twilight Volcano Tour

Manta Rey Viewing

Zip & Dip

Snuba Diving

Ignore the leftover extra text below ————


I picked up a couple of plumeria blossoms from under the tree across the street. This made us feel even more welcome.

It gave us a good chance to visit Hilo after the swimming.


  • Add sectiona for:
  • Ace Hardware
  • Kayak ties
  • Hilo Farmers market


One thought on “Exploring The Big Island 2014”

  1. Mahalo for sharing your trip back to Big Island, I’m smelling my plumerias from my tree, as I’m reading. I’m going for swim at Makaha. I read some stories and made some quick comment as you instructed me to do. Pidgin, as oppose to standard English, “why you no like da kine?” “Maybe you come back and come my house.” I take you, “ovah dea and down da road to one nice beach to make da kine eyes at da surf’in kine wahine.” “Bettah you bring cam’rah, so you can show your Ohana, whea you wen go.” I couldn’t resist! Now you know what I go through everyday! Work, meetings, protesting, texting, reading, paddling practice, ohana, friends, houseless, exercise, store, au au, moe moe, pa’ina and much more, ugh! Makaha Beach…..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.