Back to Reality
Is any vacation ever really long enough? I think not. Nevertheless, I am glad to be home.
I had an amazing time in Hawaii, though. I did so much that the trip seems shorter than it was.
The highlight of the trip was a 4.5 hour hike (roundtrip) out to the active lava flows on the south end of the island. We got up at 2:30am and started hiking around 3:30am so we could see the hillside glowing and get out to the coast in time for the sunrise. It was a tough hike out on a practically unmarked "trail" in the dark, especially since we had to keep our flashlights and eyes trained at the ground and it was very hot out near the lava, but well worth it. In the photo above, you can see how close I got to the actual lava: about 5-10 feet from a small cauldera! The steam in the background is where the lava is flowing into the sea.
I'll post more about my visit to Greenwell Farms, where I learned about the coffee making process, had some great coffee, and purchased green Kona beans to roast at home, when I try to roast the beans myself. I also had the best chocolate covered coffee beans I've ever tasted there. My tour guide there picked papaya, avocado and mango fresh off the trees for me - best avocado can remember.
I also saw endangered green sea turtles, took a ride through a century old sugar plantation's irrigation system, hiked through a lava tube and out over a lake of lava, visited several holy/historic temples (heiaus), saw a few waterfalls, went to a luau and tasted poi, took the best horseback ride I've ever had on a vacation and, of course, relaxed!
My favorite meal was the Mahogany Glazed Tofu at Brown's Beach House. The tofu was incredibly creamy. I wish I would have had time to go back and do their veggie tasting menu, but that just means I'll have to take another trip out there. My favorite appetiser was the Hummus and Pita at the Kona Brewing Company, which was great. Their portions are huge, so don't get overambitious in ordering. Their bread is made from spent grain used during the brewing process. I also had some very good pizza at Cafe Pesto. I would definately recommend all three of these places. Heck, I'll recommend the whole island!
The photos, from top to bottom, are: active lava, recently cooled lava, sunning sea turtle, Thurston Lava Tube, Kiluea Iki lava lake, a waterfall in Hilo, a delicious coconut-mango slice (that I will have to attempt to recreate sometime), luau torches, the horse I rode (Lihua), carvings at the Place of Refuge and the sunset, with the island of Maui in the background.