I had started thinking towards the end of last year how I wanted to take my daughter on an exciting, memory making adventure. Traveling due to Covid has been a little difficult for the past year, so I had to do my research and plan everything well ahead of time. And for someone who is a more 'fly by the seat of their pants' kind of gal, it was a lot of work!
I knew that I wanted to go for at least a month. Hell, if I had it my way, I'd go indefinitely and come home once I was good and ready to, if that day ever arose. One good thing about traveling for that length of time is that when you book through Airbnb, a lot of hosts discount their homes for up to 50%, which is what we got with our condo. We stayed on the coast of Hilo, only meters off the water. We could walk down to the ocean, see the waves crashing against the rocks and sea turtles swimming in the pools of water, surrounded by palm trees, a lush tropical forest, and birds singing their nighttime songs. We even saw a whale out in the distance spraying water out of his blowhole and jumping into the air while we were relaxing on the lanai; it was a magical sight, to be sure.
The condo itself was pretty perfect as well. We didn't need much, since for the most part it was just the two of us. It had one bedroom, a full kitchen with everything you would need; even a hand mixer for when I made mashed potatoes and gravy from scratch! The bathroom was nice and the whole condo had been renovated only about a year ago. All in all, it was pretty perfect, especially since we got it for half off its normal price.
Prior to getting to the island, we had to get a Covid test within 72 hours of our flight, create a login with the Safe Hawaii site and make sure our negative test results were uploaded to the site. Once we landed in Kona, we were ushered through lines to get our temperatures and to take another Covid test. All of this was fine and I understood the precaution, though where things started to get on my nerves was when we decided to hop over to Maui for a few days to visit a girlfriend and her family. We had to do another Covid test to get to Maui and then ANOTHER to get back to the Big Island. Believe me, I am all for taking precautions, keeping people safe and doing our part, but the Covid tests are getting a little redundant and plain tiring. So if you are traveling to Hawaii, make sure to read all of their safety measures and what you need to adhere to while you're there.
But on to the fun stuff.... Hawaii has so much to offer us mainlanders who don't have the luxury of island life. Within the first few days, we were able to explore a rain forest, check out two waterfalls (one of which we were able to hike around; the other was closed due to Covid), try new fruits we hadn't heard of from the local farmers market, drink from a coconut with a straw, swim amongst the tropical fish in the lava rock covered beaches, eat poke that had been swimming earlier that day and dine with geckos. Hawaii is a magical place, and as we all know, water is my happy place; so I was in heaven! We visited the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where we hiked and saw the Pauahi Crater, Kilauea Caldera, steam vents where the sulfuric acids from within the earths core are escaping, as well as the snow capped peaks of Mauna Kea. I would say this is a must see site for anyone visiting the big island.
We also spent a few days on the other side of the island, staying in both Kona and the Hilton on Waikoloa Beach. While in Kona, we were able to visit the Kona Brewing Company, which was such a treat. Being able to taste the beers in the land in which they were created with foods of the islands was something not many of your friends can say that they have done. Staying at the Hilton in Waikoloa was an amazing treat! There was a salt water lagoon, fed from the ocean that you could swim and snorkel in. There, we were able to see sea turtles, sting rays and endless amounts of tropical fish, the kind that make you think of Finding Nemo. There were close to a dozen pools, and some man made lava tubes that you could swim in and relax in the hot tub. Unfortunately, the real lava tubes at the Volcanoes National Park were closed due to Covid, so we couldn't see those ones. One of the other best parts of the Hilton was the dolphin sanctuary, where there were a number of dolphins swimming, doing tricks and talking amongst themselves. It was soul softening to sit there and watch them; they're poetic creatures, whom bring joy to my heart and make me wish I could abandon life's responsibility so soar through the water with them.
One of the funnest things about the trip was all the wildlife, and the funny places you see it around the island. On any given day while driving down the street, you could see chickens, roosters, goats and pigs. The chickens are quite literally EVERYWHERE! Not just driving, but we saw them while eating at a food truck, while in the Target parking lot, and CROSSING THE ROAD! Why did the chicken cross the road? So he could get to the other side, FOR REAL! My daughter and I were laughing so hard as we had to stop the car in the middle of the road for him to get across. As silly as it is, that was a wonderful moment for us. The national bird of Hawaii is the Nene, which is much like a goose, though we didn't see one. However, we did see Mongoose running about the yard, with it's ferret/weasel like body, along with bright and colorful birds that you only see on the Discovery Channel. But the standout star of the wildlife for me is the sea turtle. They are serene, beautiful and truly majestic creatures. I sat near one while he chewed on underwater snacks, swam next to a couple others in the lagoons, and once, I sat on the lanai and watched as one danced in the pools of lava rocks off the back of the condo. His head and flippers were turning in circles, dancing like a little ballerina, each movement he made drew me in closer, until he swam back down into his underwater home and didn't come back for that day.
As we traveled around the southern tip of island, we came upon the town of Pahoa, which is home to Punalu'u Black Sand Beach. How fun it was to walk amongst the dark, coarseness of the ground to discover what it had hidden. Black sand is much rougher than your typical white sand beaches because it's mixed with bits of basalt from the volcanoes that have erupted nearby. The one downfall of a black sand beach is that you can't see through the water. In all of the beaches we went to, the water was like looking through glass and you could see everything swimming about your feet, but there is a mystery at the black sand beaches to behold. While we were walking up the beach, we were stopped in our tracks by three of my new favorite creatures, the sea turtles. Lazing in the sun and taking a break from their underwater dancing. As the crowd around them grew, two of them opted for the sanctuary the water brings them. We were able to continue watching as their heads bobbed and flippers swung out from time to time, while the third sea turtle could not have cared less about the crowd; he merely continued on with his nap while his buddies swam away.
Though I am discussing traveling to the Big Island, I would be remiss not to talk about my short trip to Maui. Maui is stunningly beautiful with its white sand beaches all around you, lush forestry, and rainbows that are continually making an appearance for your adornment. One morning we went to Ho'okipa Beach, which is now my favorite place on Earth. It had rained that morning, the Maui rainbow was out in full color, the waves were crashing against the rocks and I was standing in the softest white sand I could imagine. I could have lived there, in that spot and in that moment, for the rest of my life and been the happiest girl on the planet. The overwhelming calm and passion that was inside me for that place and time cannot be replaced. Though, as always, something needs our attention and we had to go. While on Maui, we visited the upcountry where we found an adorable little winery and drove the back roads. One afternoon we went to Lahaina where we walked into countless shops and had dinner overlooking the ocean. That night, we saw multiple whales, breaching the surface of the water, spraying water and splashing about. December through March is whale mating season in Hawaii, which is why we got the privilege of seeing them so freely.
Hawaii was such a soul healing experience for me. During our time, we lived more simply than we do at home, in a condo that was a fifth the size of our house, and ate poke and fruit nearly everyday for a month. It was magical. Eye opening. Serene. Heaven on Earth. And where my heart feels its most calm. Though I had to head home, I will be back very soon, and will live here someday.