Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls

I was singing this song all day today but before that a little bit of catch up.  On Tuesday we spent most of the day with my Dad’s cousin.  He took us on a tour of resort area his house is in and then we went to Waimea to eat lunch at Village Burger (it was delicious!!).  We finally made it back and I went to the Mauna Kea Beach for the remainder of the afternoon.  It was a little overcast and there was a high surf.  They have great beach chairs and towel service.  It also has a beach side bar (no alcoholic drinks on the beach but they do make a killer smoothie you can take back to your chair).

Wednesday came it was time to head to the other side of the island.  We took the scenic route (19) through Waimea where we caught our first look of Mauna Kea – the snow capped mountain on the island.  We had breakfast at the Waimea Coffee Company in the Parker Shops.  It was delicious!  Our first stop was at a little Catholic Church (Our Lady of Lourdes).  It was Ash Wednesday so we thought maybe they would be having a service.  There was a man walking across the parking lot and we asked if he worked there, which he did and he told us the service was at 7:00.  We decided to peek in the church and it was so interesting.  All the walls were painted white with royal blue trim, honoring Mary.  I really liked it.  It turned out the man we talked to was the parish priest and he offered us ashes when he learned we were traveling.  After that we stopped at all the scenic outlooks and our first official stop was at the Waipio Scenic Overlook, just past the church.  You can’t see the famous Waipio Falls from the overlook.  You can see the valley and steep cliffs that form the valley and the river running into the ocean.  There is plenty to be seen from the parking lot but the real view is located down a number of stairs (also the bathrooms are down the stairs) and they are a little steep for anyone with walking problems.

We hopped back in the car and headed to Akaka Falls.  The falls are located in a state park and there is a small fee to enter.  There is a beautiful view of the falls (and facilities) from the parking lot.  There is also a 1/4 mile loop walk that takes you past a second (Kahuna) falls and gets you much closer to Akaka Falls.  It is has a lot of up and down all on paved steps with railings.  I was surprised to read that Akaka Falls is twice the height of Niagara Falls, a place I have been a number of times.  Interesting fact!

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We left Akaka and turned off the main road for the “scenic route”.  Around one of the bends was a little place I think was called Shake it Up.  It served lunch and fresh made smoothies using fruit grown on their own farm.  It was a perfect lunch stop!  Just down the road was the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden where we stopped briefly but continued on due to time constraints.  It should be noted that you might think the “scenic route” was to see the ocean but it was really to drive through this beautiful forest.  Back on the main road and we were almost in Hilo.

In Hilo our first stop was Rainbow Falls.  This is a great stop because the falls are totally  accessible from the parking lot so everyone can see them.   Just down the road are the Boiling Pot falls.  I would not go out of my way to catch them (unless there was a heavy rain and they could live up to their name)  Otherwise, they were kind of blah compared to the other waterfalls we had stopped at.

Finally it was time to head to our final destination – Volcano!  First we found our lodging – the Aloha Crater Lodge.  This is an old house that has been divided into a number of rooms.  It is on a tiny side road and the driveway is a little scary but it is well marked.  Our key was waiting in the door for us.  The room is a good size and has a small kitchen area with basic supplies such as a coffeemaker, microwave and mini fridge.  The owners have stocked the room with fresh fruit and pastries.  There are also a number of other staples.  It’s a bit rustic but a charming room.

After dropping our bags we went straight to the National Park.  A quick stop at the visitor’s center sent us in the right direction.  It was about 5:00 and the visitor center was about to close but they sent us down to the Jaggar Museum where you can view the active volcano.  We joined the ranger talk and got up to speed on the area volcanic activity.  My favorite part was when she was talking about seeing fresh lava flow, she called it the “lava lottery”  Currently there is no fresh lava flow so we did not win the lava lottery.  The ranger herself was very interesting and let us know that being a park ranger had been on her bucket list.  Wonder what else was on her list???  What is going is gases being released in one of the craters and when the sun goes down the gases reflect the hot rocks in the bottom of the crater and the  gases turn red as it get dark so it looks like a giant bubbling pot.  I  loved watching it as the sun set because you could watch the red start near  the bottom of the gas cloud and work its way up as it gets dark.  We learned later that this was the first night this week it was clear enough to see the gas plume so we got lucky with that.

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It was freezing so after the sun set we headed to dinner.  We stopped at Volcano House which is the only hotel (and restaurant) actually in the park.  The restaurant  is a little pricy but the view is totally worth it.  The windows  overlook the crater so  we were able to watch the red gas cloud  as we ate.  The food was good and the views were better!

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