Describing the last leg of our trip is almost bittersweet; I don't really want it to end! Venturing from PART TWO, (Here is PART ONE if you're just catching up), we woke up the next day with our eyes to the west side. I was looking forward to going somewhere I'd never been before; the Pololu Valley. We stopped for a cup of coffee at Buddha's Cup coffee shop which didn't have any regular old cups of coffee, (just foofie barista drinks), so we tried their Kona Gold rum cake instead. Over-priced and very sweet, (yet still tasty), I still couldn't recommend the coffee shop without coffee that only accepts cash and charges you way too much for a piece of cake that must have some crazy expensive rum in it, (maybe that's the reason they call it Kona "Gold" rum cake). They did have this super cool mermaid thing hanging from the ceiling though...
We made it to Pololu Valley and packed Reise into her awesome hiking backpack. It was a fairly steep hike and already warm out, so Dad enjoyed the views and the A/C while we Hattori's made our way down the trail to the beach. Trying to choose one picture of the valley is like trying to eat just one square of a candy bar, (I just can't do it!)... so I'll give you too much nature eye candy. ;)
|We did the tourist thing and swapped family pictures|
with a nice couple.
When we got to the bottom, I was surprised to find that the beach and sea-cliffs were very possibly not even the most beautiful part of the hike... The valley itself with it's calm large fresh waters and low set clouds hanging onto fairytale-like gorgeous green mountains was mesmerizing. I could have stayed there all day and even declared out loud how badly I wish we could make our stand up paddle boards magically appear so that we could explore our way through the water and mountains. Getting a stand up paddle-board down that mountain would prove a ginormous feat, there's no doubt.
|If there's such a place as Heaven, I imagine it might|
look a little bit like this.
|Incase you didn't know, Reise is in charge of these adventures|
and the navigational routes we take. Here she's steering
Jun in the "right" direction by the ears. ;)
Not only was I pleasantly surprised by the valley itself, but once we made it to the beach, the mountain to the left, (the one we'd been hiking down), was a whole different chunk of beauty. Everywhere you looked at the bottom was an intensely gorgeous merging of mountains and water.
|The view to the left, (the mountain we'd come down).|
|Our temporary "We were here" marking.|
The hike back up to the parking lot was hot and sweaty. All three of us were sweaty and HUNGRY. Since there is no rule of what comes first in the Carroll and Hattori families, (dinner or dessert), we got ice cream first at the famed Kohala Coffee Mill which is known for the local "Tropical Dreams" ice cream they serve. It was Reise's first taste of ice cream and her taste buds must have FREAKED OUT because she AHHH'd loudly for more, (to which we had to put our foot down and keep it from her).
After ice cream I made reservations at the Merriman's restaurant in Waimea which boasted excellent reviews. Going to Waimea is like going from dramatic sea cliffs to a Colorado cowboy country in a scenic 30 minute drive up the mountainside. As for Merriman's restaurant, it was definitely the best meal we had the whole trip and they even held our table for us, (ready to go with a highchair and all), after we'd gotten there late due to construction. Merriman's is like fine dining without the price tag, (so it still looks like it lacks in portions but we felt content... WOWed even).
|"I want FOOD, I want FOOD!" Ok, she didn't really say|
that... She just likes smacking tables.
|My incredible ahi with ridiculously good veggies underneath.|
Organic and locally grown salad, white rice, and the Waimea
Brewing Company's wheat beer on tap to wash it all down.
|Jun's Chinese Short Ribs, (I'd say they're "short"!). They were|
SO SO SO good! Alongside local salad, kimchee, and rice.
|Dad's local pork sandwich with roasted potatoes and then I|
ate his kimchee for him. ;) He really loved his meal too!
|"When can I start eating THAT?!"|
We made our way back to the cottage in Captain Cook but had to stop for a diaper change. "Where are the wipes?". After looking high and low and then under the van seat, Jun found the wipes and this rotten bag of tomatoes from the last car's renter...
The next day was our Hilo day, which meant we were traveling half the island to get to the other side. I got to do something I hadn't done before on this day too... Travel Saddle Road which had just been recently paved allowing for much faster travel to Hilo. They call it Saddle Road because you are driving on a mountain between the Big Island's two largest craters/mountains, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, (you're essentially driving in the "saddle"). Again, driving up the mountain we felt we were in the mid-west; open pastures and the mountains as a backdrop.
|Kristina/Sis, I took this picture for you specifically. You|
can have Wyoming and Hawaii all in one! :)
|First stop in Hilo, just like when folks come|
to Hana, is typically a waterfall... Rainbow
Falls to be exact!
|A happy baby all the time! How did we get so lucky?|
|Up and down a path at Rainbow Falls is this gigantic and|
remarkable Banyan tree.
|We're moving in!|
|And there's room for Dad to move in too! :)|
|Just a camera nerd thing here... I rarely ever use my flash,|
but here is the banyan with the flash...
|And here it is without from the exact same position.|
I can't believe my little built in flash could light it up
that much in the first picture!
|If you've never seen a Banyan before, one|
tree can create what looks like a whole
forest of trees because they drop their
roots creating more "trunks".
|Dad and Jun walked the road back... I|
ventured a narrow jungle path I'd spotted.
A co-worker of Jun's is a fan of the Big Island Cookie Company so we said we'd get him a box of cookies while we were there. You can watch the workers hand-dip the shortbread cookies through a glass window. The whole thing felt wrong and "exposed" to me. The chocolate and cookies were good, but not good enough to explain the insane prices. It's a tour bus stop... which explains both the big glass window and the price. On a side note for those who like macadamia nuts, Mauna Loa chocolate covered mac nuts are just as good and less than half the price!
Our last stop near Hilo was the Ahalanui Park and hot springs. This place was a definite trip highlight for all of us, (Reise included as she LOVES the water). The hot springs are volcanically heated up to 90 degrees and it felt AMAZING. It was close to dusk and so it was nearly vacant of people and the air was cool while the springs were nice and hot. The pool butts up to a beautiful ocean scene where the sound of the waves crashing makes it all the more relaxing... I don't think any of us wanted to leave.
Our last full day on island we spent locally in Kona and Captain Cook. We enjoyed more snorkeling at Two Step, more food and beers from the Kona Brewing Company, and a stop at St. Benedict's, (more famously known as "Painted Church"for its inside walls that were painted by Father Everest Gielin in 1927-8).
|Small and unassuming from the outside, the inside paints|
a much bigger picture of this churches color and charm.
|Reise had a lot to look at.|
That concludes our Big Island Adventures. We now have a whole list of things we didn't have time to do and will definitely have to do our next trip there. We had an amazing time and we are SO happy to have had Dad/Granddad with us for our family vacation. Remember to let me know which photos or stories were your favorite. I love hearing from you! :)
Lots and Lots of Aloha,