Hawaii highlights

Our latest trip took us almost as far away from New York as we could be whilst still remaining in the United States – the Big Island of Hawaii. As with our previous trips, I’ve made some day-by-day notes (online soon..!), and the full photo album is online at this link, but I wanted to share a few general thoughts and pictures here. (And yes, given that we flew out on Thanksgiving – November 26th – I am somewhat behind in posting this, but better late than never, I hope!)

Big Island from the air

Given that maps usually place the Hawaiian islands in a little box somewhere off the coast of California, their actual location came as something of a surprise – I hadn’t previously realised quite how far out into the Pacific they are. They mark the southernmost point of the United States, although are not too much further south than the mainland – South Point is on roughly the same latitude as Mexico City.

Southernmost point of the USA

The Big Island is also pretty small, despite the name, with an area just a little bit less than Yorkshire. Cicumnavigating the island by road can be done in a little less than 300 miles, although we probably drove nearer 500 with our various to-ings and fro-ings. Characterized by a remarkable range of climatic diversity and a mountain, Mauna Loa, which is taller (although not higher) than Mt. Everest, almost any journey features constantly-changing scenery, all sorts of weather, and an impossible number of amazing views.

Wild Ginger Inn, Hilo. View from the lanai towards the Pacifi

We started in Hilo, on the east side of the island, where heavy rains encourage lush jungle, bright flowers and the most incredible banyan trees. Driving up the side of Mauna Kea the landscape changes to high grassland, with black lava deserts tumbling down to the west coast punctuated only by the immaculately-groomed lawns and waving palm trees of the upscale beach resorts.

Lava rocks, palm trees and telescopes

Heading south through Kailua-Kona we found smart houses set in colourful gardens, with glimpses of small sandy beaches visible from the road, whilst in the hills above Kona the microclimate creates enough rain to allow coffee plantations to flourish. The southern coast was all dramatic cliffs and black sand beaches, and more recent lava flows were clearly visible as dark rivers of rock cutting through the older woodland on the flanks of Mauna Loa.

lava and vegetation

And of course there was Kiluea caldera itself. Sadly no lava was flowing, or even visible, but it was still quite spectacular.

Kilauea caldera

Despite managing to cram a surprising amount into our week, it felt much more relaxing than you’d imagine, and factors such as the short distances between attractions, the lack of traffic on the roads, the pleasant (if varying) weather, the generally laid-back attitude of everyone we encountered, and the tasty food we found everywhere all added to this. We enjoyed it enormously, have been busy recommending it to all our friends, and would certainly be happy to go back one day. I also want to credit my parents, as a generous combined Christmas and birthday cash gift from them enabled us to book the trip in the first place – thank you very much indeed!

Waikoloa Beach cocktails

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