We set out for South Point bright and early – we didn’t need to set an alarm the whole week we were in Hawaii, waking up with the sunrise (around 6am) each day. I have no idea how we managed that, it never happens at home, but it certainly allowed us to make the most of each day. Anyway, South Point, or Ka Lae, is both the southernmost point of the island, and the southernmost point of the United States. The cliffs are dramatic and beautiful, and it was extremely windy.
Having enjoyed the scenery, we headed back into Na’Alehu so Tom could sample a malasada (Portuguese doughnut) in Punalu’u bakery (apparently the sothernmost bakery in the US).
Breakfast out of the way, it was off to Punalu’u black sand beach. Apparently there are two kinds of black sand – proper black sand, which is formed when molten lava hits the sea and shatters, and the boring erosional sort. Punalu’u is the proper kind, and it felt surprisingly different to regular sand, almost greasy, and it didn’t stick to the skin so much either. Most excitingly, upon arrival, we spotted a green sea turtle snoozing on the beach, and as we were there another two arrived, hauling themselves out of the surf to rest on the sand.
Next stop was our final hotel of the trip, the Volcano Inn. This beautiful b&b is set in lush tropical grounds, and also boasts an open-air hot tub.
Having deposited our things it was time for the main point of the whole trip – Volcano national park. We had already come to terms with the fact that there was no lava flowing anywhere at the time of our visit, but the gently-smoking Kilauea caldera was still a sight to behold.
Over the course of the afternoon we explored various parts of the park. At the sulphur banks you can see clear deposits of chemicals from the volcanic smoke:
… and the steam banks were extremely dramatic in the later afternoon sunshine, as vapour billowed out from fissures in the undergrowth:
The Jagger museum overlook provides the best view of the caldera, and the perfect viewpoint to enjoy the sunset over Kilauea. As the light drops there is an amazing orange glow from the lava reflected off the walls and steam plume, and I watched it for hours.
The chill night air eventually drove us inside (well, me, actually – Tom had long since retreated to the warmth of the museum) for a drink by the fire and then a lovely dinner at Volcano House. As well as excellent food, the restaurant has a view over the caldera, so you can see it glowing in the distance as you eat.