The day started out at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. We were there bright and early at 7am - which meant that it was freezing cold. We were some 3000 feet above sea level therefore it was 50 degrees and super windy! Doc & I were not dressed properly - but we dealt with it. The park is accessible by car via the two main roads - Crater Rim Drive and Chain of Craters Road. Visitors are able to stop along the way at various portions to explore the trails. Our first stop was Jagger Museum to view the main crater Halema'uma'u. Second stop was the Kilauea overlook where we were able to see the Kilauea Caldera as well as the Halema'uma'u crater. Then we went on the trail for the steam vents, steaming bluff, and sulphur banks. It reminded of of earth science and organic chemistry class. The sulphur banks were amazing to witness but at the same time it smelled like rotten eggs! Amazingly there was some orchid flowers along the trail - which was unexpected. After the trail we drove to the Thurston Lava Tubes - several hundred years ago a river of red lava rushed through the tubes. It was pretty neat to be able to walk through it!
After viewing all the stops off Crater Rim Driver we headed down Chain of Craters Road. This road descends 3700 feet in 20 miles! At the top of the road the temperature was 61 degrees and when we reached the bottom it was 83 degrees! The drive down was breathtaking. You were able to see all the past lava flows throughout the drive. Once you reach the bottom there is a certain point where the road is closed because of lava flow in 2003. At the bottom you get to sea level where the water is extremely rough! I got a little to close to the edge to take some pictures and honestly I was scared. The waves are pretty intense.
The drive up was horrific. It was a cross between the Millennium Force & Mantis roller coaster rides at Cedar Point. Honestly I don't know how we made it out of that valley alive and managed to keep the car in one piece!!
After our little adventure we decided to stop at a candy shop for a sugar rush. The shop owner, Corey, was such a sweetheart and gave us a brief history about her family and the store. Her grandfather was from the Philippines and her grandmother was a Hawaiian native. They used to live in the Valley and grow Taro. She grew up in Honokaa and her dream was to have a candy store. She had all these amazing candies - a mix of old school candy, mainstream candy, and local Hawaiian candy. She also had this stuff that she made called Crack Seed - no she did not sell drugs. Crack seed is a popular local snack in Hawaii. It comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, and flavors. It is also known as Li Hing Mui or See Mui - it is basically a variety of dehydrated and preserved fruits. Doc & I fell in love! Once you start eating it you can't stop - hence the name!
Doc read reviews of people raving about the ice cream at Hilo Homemade Ice Cream Cafe. Since I am a major ice cream lover we headed there for a taste. It is a little mom & pop shop but the ice cream is divine!!! They have all these amazing local flavors that I have never tasted anywhere else! They had a dragon fruit flavor that was bright purple color and apparently it was the natural color! No food coloring or fake stuff added! All natural and tasty!! Doc ordered the Kona Coffee and Salted Caramel Mac Nut which was delicious! I wish I could go back every day for ice cream there!
My sole mission on the Big Island was to see black sand. Waipio was a bust because we never made it to the beach. Therefore I googled to find the best black sand beach on the Big Island and that was Punaluu Black Sand Beach. After our ice cream we headed to Punaluu to see some black sand. It was 60 miles completely out of the way but that didn't stop me. Doc was a little peeved but when we got there she said it was totally worth it! We were very lucky because in addition to the black sand we got to see green sea turtles on the beach! Double win! Even though they had a giant sign that said it's prohibited to take black sand from the beach - that didn't stop us. I wanted a little souvenir for myself so yes I took some sand. I do it on all my travels to the beach - I always bring some sand back home - it's my thing.
After the beach we drove back to the Volcanoes National Park to see the crater at dusk. It was an amazing view! Pictures don't do it justice - it was by far the coolest thing to witness!
After our pit stop at the park we zoomed back into town to grab some dinner before heading to the airport. We ordered food to go from Hilo Bay Cafe - it was highly recommended on Yelp & Zagat. We ordered the Warm Garlic Shrimp Salad & the Ahi Poke. Both were delicious! It was our first Poke eating experience but it definitely won't be the last!
It was a wonderful day and I'm ecstatic that we had a chance to go to the Big Island and see what it had to offer! I can't wait to come back next week to the Big Island with my Mama & Lil Bro when they visit!