It was time to move on. After 10 days on the “wet” side of the Big Island of Hawaii, lush with its tropical greenery, waterfalls and proximity to the active volcano, we had five days to spend in Kona on the “dry” side. Or as I thought of it, the side with the beaches and water activities.
We took the longer route along the south shore to see some of the sights. As we drove, the landscape changed back and forth between thick greenery and drier brown open land, with some in-between farmland. A visit to Punalu’u black sand beach revealed a beautiful setting with tranquil spots to hang hammocks beneath the palm trees, and lava formations to explore on the shoreline. In contrast, our trip down to the South Point took us through more barren land and a long, unpopulated road. I insisted we walk down to the southernmost point in the US, but other than bragging rights, there was little to see. Rich was far more enthusiastic about a roadside stand we passed.
Continuing up the west side of the island, we had splendid views of the ocean. But the real transformation happened as we neared Kona. We had left behind the quiet environs of the east side and entered the popular center of activity, evidenced by the long stretches of condos intermingled with beaches and parks. Traffic increased as well, as we shared this part of the island with more tourists than we’d seen so far. But it had its payoffs too.
Walking into our condo, I was immediately drawn out onto the deck of our 4th floor unit. The ocean pulsed beneath me as waves crashed on the lava shoreline and a gaggle of surfers floated out in the water awaiting the next big wave. The sun shone down, the palm trees graced the landscape – a picture of perfection! With a quick trip to the grocery store for supplies, we threw together dinner in time to perch on the deck to watch the sunset.
This is the water I had come to see and experience. With our own private viewing spot, we opted for take-out or cooking most nights to enjoy it in unhurried solitude. I spent my breakfast time in the same spot.
I was eager to get in the water and do some snorkeling and kayaking. But Mother Nature had other ideas. High Surf Warnings prevailed throughout our time in Kona, which thrilled the surfers who populated every beach around, and I found highly entertaining. But the big waves precluded more sedate forms of water sport. Even so, the big ocean still dominated our visit.
To date, my attempt to see sea turtles had been unsuccessful. Rich’s research turned up good reports at Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park. After a mile long hike through unshaded terrain we reached the ocean. There we found large tidal pools and three lethargic sea turtles snoozing on the opposite side. We were able to get close without disturbing them. While Rich pursued birds, I ventured over to a nice beach, wishing I’d brought my swim suit as it was one of the few times we found quiet water.
We did manage to go snorkeling one time. I was interested in visiting Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park, which had the added attraction of a good snorkeling spot right across the road. It is commonly known as Two Step for its relatively easy entry into the water. We carefully placed all our goods in the trunk of the car (theft is common at parking spots) and headed down to the beach with only our towels, car keys and snorkeling gear. We secured the keys in a waterproof pouch which Rich slid into the back pocket of his swimsuit, and closed the velcro tab. The two steps were as easy to navigate as advertised, and soon we were flippering through the water and ogling bright yellow fish in enormous schools. The longer we swam, the more we saw – black and white angelfish and larger fish with bright blue spots. We bounced in mild waves and enjoyed the view below, treasuring our time with the local fish.
When it came time to get out, our luck changed. We must have hit a particularly large swell of waves. As we approached shore, the surf threatened to press us against the rocks. Rich got caught in a crevice and the waves thrashed him about before he could gain hold to hoist himself out of the water. Just as I was struggling to approach the shore safely, he shouted out to me – “Molly, the car keys!” I couldn’t see a thing through my goggles, but grasped the reality that the keys had come out of his pocket and were miraculously floating nearby. With a lucky grab I had them in my hand, and managed to climb out during a lull in the waves. That was a rental car disaster narrowly avoided!
On shore I found Rich covered in blood, and loudly explaining to the shocked observers, “It’s not as bad as it looks!” Due to the blood thinners he takes for his heart, a tiny cut on his elbow bled like crazy, and the water spread it all over his arms and legs. As soon as I could get him a towel, he cleaned up quickly and we nervously laughed over the excitement. The tumble took its toll, however, shaking him up and leaving him bruised and sore. It’s a snorkeling adventure we wouldn’t soon forget!
We still made a visit to the historical park afterwards. A very informative video in an outdoor theater gave us background on this place of refuge. In ancient times, any Hawiian who broke the kapu – sacred laws – faced certain death, unless they could reach a spiritual sanctuary. There they sought absolution from a priest in order to return safely to society. Today it still serves as a special place of refuge. Rich chose to rest in one of the tented shelters while I walked the grounds – his own safe haven it seemed, to come to grips with his recent personal misadventure.
On a brighter note, we spent my birthday dinner at Magics Beach Grill, nestled oceanside where the sun made a colorful descent and the surfers persisted until dark. Just as the other side of the island should be.