Three Days in Paradise

The amazing days in Oahu with the PWOC women continued to linger, but I was overjoyed to return to the Big Island to spend several days with Paul relaxing and exploring this incredible place.  We had a blast discovering new-to-us territories, starting on Monday morning when we drove up to the north point of the island and worked our way down the east coast.  Rugged beauty along that coastline being fashioned by churning, powerful tides and waves filled us with awe at Creator God.  We drove down into Laupahoehoe, where in 1946 a tsunami swept away a play yard full of 21 school children and 3 adults.  The newspaper articles said that had the wave come 15 minutes later, the children would've been in their classroom, which was relatively unscathed by the tsunami.  Since the 2011 March 12 tsunami was very present in our minds, it was a bit eerie to be in a place linked by similar tragedy, so we didn't stay long.  But long enough to have our respect deepened for the power of God as seen in the sea.

Since the east coast of the Big Island is known for waterfalls, and because Paul is a waterfall lover, we visited as many as we could.  :)  All of them were voluminous and gorgeous.  Akaka Falls, Rainbow Falls, Pe'ePe'e Falls, and Wai'ale Falls—we visited them all and were duly impressed with their majesty.  Our hopes to swim in the pools that feed Wai'ale Falls were dashed when we noted how full and raging the flow was in and out of the falls, so wisdom overruled and we settled for taking photos.  After poking around Hilo and admiring their flowers and fresh produce, we continued down the coast to "Champagne Pond"—a natural thermal-fed pool with crystal clear, warmish water.  Lovely.  We drove back at nightfall along the Saddle Road and witnessed a spectacular sunset far from the coastline.  What a great day.

Akaka Falls were gorgeous.

At Wai'ale Falls, we had hoped to swim in the pools above the falls, but didn't want to risk experiencing the falls personally, so we passed.  Lots of rushing water at the top!

At Champagne Pond, we were mesmerized by the clarity of the water,  revealing multi colored lava rock which formed the "pool" bottom.

Tuesday, March 22, we headed south, stopping first at Kealakekua Bay to scout for porpoises, whales, turtles, or anything else marine.  What we saw first, sadly, was the tsunami wreckage of several coves along this coastline.  Thankfully, the evacuation was effective in preserving human life, but some parts of this island were hit pretty hard.  Reconstruction was underway and those who live here acknowledge that it is part of life for coastline dwellers and businesses to take the occasional "bad" with the incredible "good" of living in such places.

Tsunami devastation in this little village by Kealakekua Bay was sobering to see.

We drove on to Honaunau (aka "The City of Refuge"), where we snorkeled at Two Step Beach and saw many turtles and beautifully colorful fish.  The underwater world is breathtakingly beautiful and it was hard to pull away from, but parts south beckoned us, so on we drove.  Our next stop was Honomalino Beach, which we had visited in 2003 when our whole family made our first visit to this wonderfully diverse island.  It is accessible only by starting at Miloli'i Beach Park, but was well worth the 25-minute trek to experience this out of the way, gorgeous black and white sand beach lined with a backdrop of coconut palms.  Arriving at Honomalino this year, we were not prepared for the complete destruction of this once beautiful place, which didn't really survive the forces of the tsunami.  The coconut palms were broken like toothpicks and the beach was all but gone.  The difference was incredible.  We obviously didn't hang out there for long.

The turtle at Honaunau waved at us,  giving us a warm aloha greeting.

The south point of the island is rugged, rugged, rugged.  And "out of the way," so to speak.  But Andrew Doughty's description of the hike to Green Sand Beach in his tour guide Hawaii: The Big Island Revealed  was compelling and Andrew hasn't let us down yet as we've used his guide as a "bible" for exploring the off we set to experience this unique place.  Following a small road 12 miles off the main road, and then hiking 2.5 miles in stiff headwinds, we finally made it.  These photos don't really capture the fury of the ocean, but let's just say we didn't stay down on the beach long with the incoming tide pounding aggressively on the shore.  It was well worth our efforts.  We were sadly mistaken by the notion that the hike back would be "easy" since the wind would be at our backs.  Rather, it was coming at us sideways, with a relentless sandblasting effect as the stiff wind carried sand on its wings.  What a great adventure - and yes, we'd do it again.  :)

Our first glimpse of Green Sand Beach found at the very southern tip of the Big Island.

Paul got right into it . . . while I took photos and hoped he wouldn't be the victim of a rogue wave.

We caught sunset at Honaunau that night after our south point adventure and it was majestic.  Isn't it interesting that the whole world stops to view a sunset?  It's so very captivating.

Another gorgeous sunset viewed from Honaunau.

Our last day of fun in Hawaii was spent exploring Kohalo Beach area, just north of the Kona airport.  While I was in Oahu, Paul had discovered this beautiful place serendipitously.  He was out driving when he stopped to investigate a bunch of trucks parked at the side of the road.  After noticing a dirt path leading to palm trees in the distance, he was in for the adventure.  He sent me a text message with photo Saturday afternoon while at the women's conference which said, "Don't know where I am, but it's beautiful!"  :)  That's my intuitive perceiver!!

So we returned to the place, having identified it in Doughty's book, and we had a great, great day there.  We walked to "Queen's Bath" - a natural pool lined with lava rocks and filled with crystal clear brackish water.  After a brief dip, we continued walking the coastline and eventually arrived at a lagoon in Kiholo Bay.  Absolutely gorgeous, with aquamarine water and abundant turtles, we could've stayed here for days.  We snorkeled, photographed napping turtles, and relaxed on the lava "shoreline" of the bay.  It really doesn't get much better than this.

Paul enjoys the Queen's Bath in Kiholo Bay.

These sea turtles napped undisturbed in the warm sunshine at Kiholo Bay.

Have you ever seen sea turtles snuggling?  :)

We somewhat reluctantly hiked back to our rental car and returned to our dear friend's condo to clean and pack for our 10:45 p.m. flight that night.  How very, very thankful we were for these idyllic days on this island paradise.  We boarded the plane overflowing with gratitude for three of the best days ever . . . feeling refreshed, renewed, and refueled.

Isn't it amazing how the setting sun changes how everything looks?