Saturday, January 25

Kona to Hilo

A good night’s sleep, and a quick prep to leave.  All was pretty much packed, so got things into the car, and ready to roll.  We got a little breakfast bowl by the waterfront, then went for a quick stop to the grocery store for drinks/snacks for the drive, and a little cooler for some of our perishables. 

There are several ways to get from Kona, on Hawai’i’s west coast, to Hilo, on the east.  There’s the ‘saddle road’, which takes about 1.45, and there’s the options along either the north or south coast.  Everyone recommended the north coast drive, so that was our heading.

Waimea was our first town, just under an hour from Kona, after endless expansive views of the Pacific coast, and road-bordered black lava.  We were us at around 2,500’ elevation, often in the clouds, surrounded by rolling hills and Mauna Kea in the distance.  Waimea reminded us of a small Colorado town; everything you need, laid back, one-story buildings, farmer’s markets, everyone outside and smiling. 

As we continued north, we saw more and more livestock ranches; lots of head of cattle, some goats, and horses.  The prevalent black lava rock was disappearing, giving way to rich soil and some crops (which we couldn’t identify).

Our next stop was a charming little town of Honoka’a on the island’s north shore.  Imagine a small town in Colorado, Wyoming, or Idaho…this is it.  A few streets along a main strip, lots of people hanging out along shops, diners, galleries, everyone super-friendly.  A shop or two got our attention and brought nice conversation with shopkeepers, then we were off to the Waipio Valley lookout, a few miles down the road.  The lushness of the plant life–just on the side of the road at this lookout–show the stark contrast on this side of the island vs. Kona’s black rock.

A spectacular view of a valley “of the kings,” where early communities were established, King Kamehameha received his name, and important battles were fought along the shore. The black sand beach below, the dramatic cliffs, and the fertile valley floor all just breathtaking.

Waipi’o Valley lookout

We continued our trip to Hilo and stopped by the Akako Falls State Park for a quick view—we’ll come back here to hike, likely tomorrow. 

First glimpse at Akoka Falls

We’d now been on the road for more than four hours with our lengthy and relaxing stops, so thought it best to head into Hilo, just 20’ from Akako Falls, and found Jackie Rey’s Ohana Grille to get us past the hangries. 

Thank you, Jackie Rey

And there in downtown, it seems our AirBnB is just a half-mile away, so we got to our place by 6.  This one definitely a step up.  A condo with significantly more space than we’ve been in our studio apts the past 5 weeks, this is a welcome setup.  We’re near the Akako (and other) falls, about 45’ from Volcano National Park, and just minutes from downtown and the waterfront.  Looking forward to a few days of exploring, then our AOW Scuba course Tues, Wed, and Thurs.