Tag Archives: astronomy

Hawai’i- the big island

Aloha from Hawaii!
We are currently on the island of Kaua’i (see map here for location). We first arrived in to Oahu– Luca came here a week before me to visit the university of Hawaii and then to observe at the telescope of Mauna Kea volcano.
I arrived into Honolulu by myself, and stayed there overnight. The next morning I decided to hike Diamond Head at sunrise (jetlag meant that getting up at 05:30 for this was easy!). Diamond head is a large crater that overlooks Honolulu, and hiking up the ridge at the edge gives a lovely view over Pearl Harbo(u)r and east Oahu also. 
I flew to the town of Hilo on Hawai’i– Big Island later that day (this can get confusing, the island itself is called Hawai’i and the state/collection of islands is called Hawaii) to meet Luca, and from there we rented a car (one of us is finally 25, woohoo!), ate some mahi and loco moco (a meal usually eaten for breakfast but served all day in most places) and drove up north to the town of Honomu. We stayed in a really nice Airbnb there and were all set to start our tour bright and early the next morning when Luca broke out in a rash, all over his hands, legs and torso. So we headed back to Hilo to the urgent care clinic as we knew there was a Dengue outbreak on Big Island. A few blood tests and $150 later we were sorted (thank god for travel insurance) and we got back on the road. The department of health have been tracking our whereabouts and chasing the blood results but Luca feels absolutely fine so we’re not too worried!!
We finally headed off on our road trip and drove north along the ‘scenic route’ out of Hilo, stopping at a picturesque black sand beach on the way.

We visited the Akaka falls, which are 442 feet tall and in some amazing gardens.


Akaka falls


We also went to the stunning Waipi’o valley, but unfortunately it’s closed due to Dengue fever so our plan to hike down into it wasn’t possible.

Waipi’o Valley


Instead we decided to bring forwards our night snorkel- with manta rays! We drove to the town of Kona on the west coast of Big Island and boarded a huge catamaran. We sailed out of the bay at sunset and saw some whales on the way. When it got nice and dark we put on (shortie) wetsuits and jumped in. It turns out that certain types of plankton are attracted to lights, and these attract manta rays, which attract us… It was a little choppy the night of our dive which made things a bit chilly (as you float half out of the water on the surface). The manta rays were absolutely gigantic and swam in huge spirals, coming right up to the surface of the water where we were. We managed to film a bit of it, as you can see by clicking on this link!
Each manta ray can be identified by the spots on their abdomen, so the guides were able to tell which was which. After 45 minutes in the water we hopped back on board (which had a hot shower!) and headed back to land.
We drove north for a further 1.5 hours to stay in the town of Hawi overnight.
The next morning we drank some Kona coffee and headed to Pololu valley for a mini hike. This is a huge valley only accessible by foot, so we hiked down from the top in for approx 30 minutes. The black sand beach and view up the valley was extremely rewarding – well worth the effort of having to hike back up in the heat! We went in the morning but going in the afternoon/evening is probably a better idea as you will be shaded on the hike down. The sea is rough down there – so don’t expect to be going for a swim! (At least in winter)

Pololu Valley



Pololu Valley

We then drove down to a coffee plantation on the hills of Mauna Kea. Kona coffee is world-renowned for its flavour, and has won many awards. Unfortunately the coffee we tried was watery and too sweet, also much too expensive (which means we won’t be bringing any home this time- sorry mum and dad!). The macadamia nuts are much nicer.

Next stop was a daytime snorkel- on the same catamaran as the night before. We headed south to Kealakekua Bay where there is some readily accessible coral and lots of tropical fish. We snorkelled alongside spinner dolphins and even saw hammerhead sharks!  

That night we travelled south to Punalu’u beach where we had planned to camp. Unfortunately due to a combination of strange drunk old men, no other tents, stray animals, and GIANT cockroaches we decided that it would be a better idea to find a room for the night. We returned to the beach the next morning as we had heard good things about it (during daylight hours). We arrived just in time for sunrise- Punalu’u is a beautiful black sand beach famous for its turtles, and is much nicer during the day! We saw some turtles for ourselves and decided not to hang around too long…  
Next stop on our tour was the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, beside the town of ‘Volcano’. Even though we grumbled about it, it was worth the $15 entrance fee- we hiked the Kilauea cauldron which was just as hot as it sounds… It was a 4+ mile hike down in through the crater of America’s youngest and most active volcano, and then back up the other side. On the way we passed through a ‘lava tube’, walked around geysers, and generally felt like we were on set for Jurassic Park.

That afternoon we returned to Hilo for some fresh ‘poke’- a local dish of raw fish (often chunks of tuna) with seasonings like sesame seeds, avocado, soy sauce, chilli, ginger, and served with rice.  

We then went to Richardson beach park before realising our plan for accommodation for that night had fallen through, and Hilo was really busy… We called a lot of different places and eventually one hostel mentioned that we could camp in their garden, so off we went! It was just before sunset by the time we had pitched our tents, so we decided last minute to drive up to the Mauna Kea observatory for their nightly stargazing events. We arrived just in time for sundown- which meant we had an amazing view of the sunset from just above 3000m. They gave a talk about how the observatory runs and then set up some telescopes so that we could see for ourself why Hawaii is so well known for astronomy!

View of the sunset from Mauna Kea


The next morning we set off for our flight from Big Island to Kaua’i (via Honolulu). We’re writing this update from Kaua’i and our next update will be about the Kalalau trail!

Mahalo for visiting our site!

PS Luca’s test results have just come back and he doesn’t have dengue!