Wow look at me being productive tonight! Must be thanks to the massive mason jar of coffee I chugged when I got home from work. I am going to continue with my adventures on the Big Island! I woke up from the hostel, did an early check out (which literally just meant I gave them my key the night before) and was out and about at 7 AM. I filled my rental car up with gas and headed on my way. The gameplan was to head to Hilo, on the other side of the island, where I would stay the night and be much closer to where the Hawaii Environmental Education Conference was. By the way, this conference was the entire reason that I was on the Big Island in the first place (shout out to work for paying for airfare, rental car, and housing during the conference). The first stop of the day was to Waipio Valley. This was located in the Hamakua district of the Big Island. Here is the description of the valley that I stole from the internet: The valley floor at sea level is almost 2,000 ft (610 m) below the surrounding terrain. A steep road leads down into the valley from a lookout point located on the top of the southern wall of the valley. The road gains 800 vertical feet (243.84 m) in 0.6 miles (0.9 km) at a 25% average grade, with steeper grades in sections. This is a paved public road but it is open only to 4 wheel drive vehicles. It is the steepest road of its length in the United States. The shore line in the valley is a black sand beach, popular with surfers. A few taro farms are located in the valley. Several large waterfalls fall into the valley to feed the river which flows from the foot of the largest falls at the back of the valley out to the ocean.
So now you know: fun fact it is the steepest grade road in the US! No wonder my legs hurt the next day! The walk down wasn’t actually too bad. I couldn’t help but run in some stretches of the road because it was so steep! I was there early enough that by the time I got all the way down to the black sand beach, there was no one there! Just the view alone down there makes the hile worth it. Also, the vibes down there in the valley were so peaceful and serene, I would love to spend a few nights down there. Here are some photos from the hike down.
Once I got to the bottom I took a few moments to try to figure out my next move. The security worker at the top of the valley advised me that the waterfall in the back was only accessible through private property to the trail was closed, but said I could get a nice view from far away. Well I decided that wasn’t worth my time, and I decided to explore. I remembered a Kupu friend tell me she visited a waterfall that entered the sea near Waipio, so I decided to scale some rocks and check out the coastline, if anything, I knew I would have a good view of the beach.
I continued along, being well aware that if I noticed that the tide was rising I would need to get out of there ASAP. I know it might not be the smartest idea to wander in unfamiliar places alone, but as soon as negative thoughts popped into my head I came across the unforgettable view of seeing this incredible waterfall enter the ocean. I actually shrieked outloud I was so stoked to see this, and I ungracefully ran to the base of the falls and cried of happiness. Not sure why I am so emotional but this was just an unexpected little miracle in the middle of no where that I had to myself. It was such a powerful moment. it is hard for me to even describe its beauty, so I will just show you the photos because they are stunning!
Pretty spectacular am I right! I had a hard time debating if I wanted to even post about this because it was that special. But I don’t think too many people read this so I am not worried about giving away any secrets. I spent a pretty long time admiring the view here, and eventually headed back to the black sand beach. I started walking on the dirt road back towards where the steep trail is to the top. I saw a jeep coming and quickly asked them if they had space in their car to drive me to the top. Fortunately for me they were super kind and understanding, and let me ride up to the top with them. The jeep ride was pretty exhilarating, it almost felt like we were going to topple down the hill because it was so darn steep (even though I knew that wouldn’t happen). These kind strangers saved me so much time and energy, walking back up to the top really would have been awful. I am sure I could have done it, but I had already walked a few miles I didn’t feel the need to walk back up!
The rest of my day wasn’t planned out, but I just went with the flow and started driving towards Hilo. I stopped at a bunch of scenic lookouts and followed some short trails that overlooked the sea. Below are some quick road side sights that I stopped by.
My next stop was Akaka Falls, a 422 foot high falls on a very short and beautiful trail. It amazes me that you can see these incredible waterfalls just steps away from your car. I wish it took a little more adventure to see them, but it is great how accessible these views are, all families could do this short walk to the overlook. The parking here costs $5, but is free to those with a Hawaii ID.
I continued on my way, and my guidebook suggested I grabbed I bite to eat at “What’s Shakin'” where I had an amazingly fresh fruit smoothie, straight from the farm. It was delicious. I also got to make friends with some cute cows that were next to the restaurant. After this quick snack I continued along to the scenic highway called the Pepeekeo Scenic Drive (the smoothis place was actually on this road anyway). This four mile stretch of road has a ton of pullovers and photo ops. I hear the botanical garden is worth a visit, but I decided to skip that for next time. I took some more photos of little waterfalls and gorgeous lush beaches.
I made it to Hilo, and decided I could pack a few more things into my already crazy fun/busy day. I first went to Rainbow Falls because I knew that was super close to my hostel, and the view is spectacular. Check it out, this waterfall is 80 ft tall (seems taller) and is super beautiful. The best part is there is a quick .4 mile trail with epic views, or you can just walk two seconds from your car to see it too!
After this quick stop I headed to a lava tube I had heard of, called Kaumana Caves. Now this is part of a 25-mile lava tube, so it is safe to say you could do a lot of exploring in here. I was solo, with my flashlight, but as soon as I got deep enough in there that I could no longer see the light of day, I got a bit freaked out. I kept on thinking about how terrifying it would be if someone snuck up and scared me in there. It would definitely been fun to explore this cave system, but I recommend a buddy for this one. Unless you are a lot braver than I am!
by about 4 PM where I checked into my hostel, the Hilo Bay Hostel, which I had stayed in before when I was in Hilo a few months ago for the NOAA educators workshop I presented at for work. I really like this hostel, its quaint, quiet, and clean. I am pretty sure this hostel was about $30/night. I got a quick bite to eat at my fave Hilo restaurant, Conscious Culture Cafe. Such good food! They even had vegan gelato, which of course is what I ordered. After my snack I headed back into my room to practice my presentation I would be giving at the conference in two days. But as soon as I sat down two lovely girls came into my room and chatted about their plans to see sunset at Mauna Kea. I was exhausted and determined to finally practice my presentation, but of course was easily convinced to join their adventure because I had never been to Mauna Kea.
We quickly showered, threw on layers of the warmest clothes we had, grabbed some hostel blankets, and left Hilo by about 5:30. We had absolutely no idea where we were going, the maps told us it was 10 minutes away, which was straight up wrong. After about an hour in the car, we finally made it to Mauna Kea. Unfortunately we were too late to make it to the top (we would have needed to hitch hike because you need four-wheel drive) but it all worked out and we did a quick little hike to the top of a small hill, where we had a perfect sunset view. The elevation here was about 9,000 ft above sea level, and I could definitely feel that as I was walking up the hill! Here are my friends from my hostel and I enjoying the amazing views!
After sunset we were lucky enough to be at the Mauna Kea observatory for a star observing night! They had some astronomers talking about constellations and talking about the research being conducted at the site. We had to wait until about 9 PM, so we cuddled together (I forgot to mention it was like 60/50ish degrees aka freezing!). We also got some hot cocoa and coffee while we waited. The talk was super informative and made me think about how freaking huge our galaxy is. I try not to think about it too much because it overwhelms me to think about how tiny we are and how huge everything else is, but it was good that it got me to think about that. It really made me realize how small my problems are in the big scheme of things. Anyways, its currently almost 11 PM as I write this (wayyy past my bedtime) so I will end things here. Thanks for reading!