1/16-1/21/2018 It has been roughly seven years since we took our last vacation. That one was to Hawaii also but on Maui, courtesy of M's parents. It was a fun trip so this time we decided to visit the Big Island. We found and booked a B&B online - Ka’awa Loa Plantation. There was no single room that was available for the whole stay, so we arranged to move between several. 4 in all, for 5 nights. Worked out fine. It being a short trip we packed a lot into it. Arriving a couple hours early due to being able to hop an earlier connecting flight in Honolulu, we picked up the rentacar and headed north to where I saw some cool waves from the plane.

Good way to start a vacation, especially condsidering we left 40F weather at home, having recently endures ice storms. I really like the contrast of black lava rocks, white coral sands and vegetation.

Also first encounter with 'wildlife' - in this case invasive. Feral cats. Still pretty cool to see. The setting is somehow movie-like.

Checking into the B&B and sitting on the deck after sundown, some indigenous wildlife - lizards. Cleverly adapted to hunt from LED strips that attact bugs.

For first day activities we decided to rent a boat. Yes, an entire boat all to ourselves, for 6 hours. Full freedom to do whatever which is much better than an organized trip. They provide snorkeling gear and GPS coordinates of mooring points where we can tie up. More on that later. The boat is really cool, a center console with a 115hp motor. It cruises.

The swells are up today and finding a calm spot to tie up is a challenge.

Finding and using the tie-up points proves even more of a challenge. A bit of history - in the late 80's the local diving companies were looking for ways to preserve coral agains dragging anchors of dive boats, while still providing access. The solution, endorsed by the state of Hawaii, was a set of submerged buoys, tied to anchoring structures at the bottom. The bouys are between 5-15 feet underwater depending on tide, and the bottom is 30-60 feet down in most of the spots. Jerry Garcia stepped up to pay for them at the time. Finding one is the first step. We failed totally the first time we tried, giving up to go on to Captain Cook Bay to snorkel individually (can't tie up or anchor there, so one person has to stay in the boat).

Heading back up we worked on and refined a method that eventually put us right on top of a buoy. M tried diving to it, and even got the line threaded through, but ran out of air and had to surface. Since the swell was pretty serious here we decided to head north. After a while we located another moorage point in better protected waters, and after several tries I finally tied us to it.

The tide was up by now and even with me fully vertical and flippers underwater the tie-off point was still some 4-5 feet away. I gave up a few times, growing progressively more frustrated, while M worked to keep the boat on the spot in the wind and waves. Then on the final attempt, the buoy still out of reach and me out of breath, I decided to just go the extra effort and get it done. Which I did. You can see the buoy and the lines in the picture below.

We got a couple hours of awesome snorkeling all by ourselves. Quite the experience. On the way back to the harbor we watched a submarine being towed in. Something to do the next time.

Afterwards, a nice sunset and I even spotted the legendary 'green flash'. The sun does turn green in the last 2-3 seconds it's visible. M missed it while looking at a whale.

The second full day we took in the view from the B&B porch, then headed south, to the southern-most point in all of the US.

A stop along the way at a black sand beach with an abandoned resort. There are actually quite a few abandoned things on the island, from buildings to cars. On arrival we parked, then M pointed out a coconut on the ground. I looked up and saw more on the tree. Then remembered that we didn't get CDW insuance on the car. Time to re-park.

The former resort itself is a bit surreal. Complete with a coned-off turtle on the beach.

From there, a treck to the green sand beach, reportedly one of only 4 in the world. The last 4 miles of road are supposedly 'rutted' so we decide to hike. I do make the mistake of not tightening my shoe laces until later, and combined with not wearing socks it's something I will pay for later. Road doesn't look so bad at first.

Then yeah, I guess 'rutted' is a good description.

At the end of the hike, a reward. The beach is pretty amazing.

Standing at the top and looking at the climb down we thought of maybe just heading back now. But then it's a similar thing with diving for the tie-off buoy - we're here, might as well make the final push. Well worth it. Extremely refreshing to take a swim, and a t-shirt soaked in sea water was a great help on the hour-long hike back to the car.

Finishing the day on a white-sand beach just north of the airport, we cover three colors of sand in one day: black, green and white. The beach is among barren lava flow.

A monk seal joins us for this one, as well as some whales off in the distance. First time I saw one breach fully out of the water, coming down with a huge splash. Another sunset, no green flash this time.

Day three started with the breakfast being interrupted by a ballistic missile warning with everyone's cellphones going off. It took a while to sort it out but our basic reaction was - well, there is nothing we can do, nowhere we can hide, so if it's real we might as well go out on a high note, pour more coffee and enjoy the view. More likely though it's an error or a hack of some kind.

After confirming we're not getting nuked today we head north. It takes about 4 hours to drive all the way around the island, so you're never more than 2 hours away from anywhere. A stop at an ancient valley, then a site of a former sugar processing plant. Both were devastated by a tsunami in 1946.

Then we drove through Hilo with a brief stop. On to Volcanoes National park after that.

The volcanic activity is rather low now with only a couple small surface flows remaining from two months ago. Next time we come we'll try to time it better with what the volcano is doing because seeing flowing lava in the flesh is very much on my bucket list. Today this would involve an uncertain 9+ mile hike which due to earlier mentioned shoe condition I'm not up to. So instead we walk through the lava tube, drive down to the sea stopping at a few overlooks, then catch the glow of the lava from the crater after sundown. Still pretty amazing.

The final day was just kicking back and doing a whole lot of nothing. Perfect way to wind up a rare vacation experience. We've really enjoyed the Big Island, I have to say more so than Maui, and we'll be back. Quite a few things on the list still.