Kona, BiG iSLAND

Kona, Big Island Hawaii is such an amazing place! Who would have thought that such a “quiet” island would have sooo much to offer!! Initially Ron and I had planned on a Cancun trip as our last “hurrah” before grad school this fall. But instead, due to unavailability we decided to use my parents’ timeshare in Kona. The Kona Reef was convienently located on Alii Drive, which luckily for us, was the “happenin’ strip” and place to be!

some friendly grafitti (not done by us!) made from white beach coral rock

more “grafitti” all along the highway!

Kona Coffee is VERY BIG here as you could imagine!!

volleyball court on Alii Drive, Sunset Plaza

volleyball court at Sunset Plaza, Alii Drive

This trip was different than our previous adventures. With my travel agent cap on, I decided to book all our activities before we even arrived to Hawaii.

Monday: June 30th, 2008

On Monday, we went on a snorkeling excursion with SeaQuest. In all honesty, snorkeling was played out for me because I’ve done it so many times in Mexico (not to mention that I was hardly ever impressed). But this was truly different. For starters, I booked a smaller boat which carried only 12 people, rather than those huge party boats. I know my dad would have LOVED the bumpy ride throughout the open sea!! Additionally, Hawaii’s water clarity and underwater life proved to be more brilliant. This was the first time that I have ever encountered swimming sea turtles on a snorkeling trip! The ride back was also a treat because we witnessed a pod of dolphins that came close to our “raft boat.” It tickled my fancy because the dolphins were hoppin on the waves that our boat’s engines were generating! They looked like they were having fun!

Ron swimming into the coral! weirdo!

the pod of dolphins that came by our boat

Tuesday: July 1st, 2008

On our second day, Ron and I decided to be adventuresome and try something totally new: SCUBA DIVING. After a mini class lecture, we were fitted and on a boat to open sea. The equipment was HEAVY on the boat, but once submerged, it was literally weightless. Initially, I didn’t think I’d like scuba diving. I couldn’t program my brain to breathe orally and the initial descent shot maaaaaajor pressure pain right into my ears. Our instructor, Dean, was AWESOME and extremely patient. He instructed that I continually “pop my ears” for decompression. As for breathing, that would eventually come. He was right, It came alot sooner than i thought!

We did two dives at two different locations (and encountered dolphins again!), each at about a depth of 40 feet for 45 minutes. I could have gone longer but Ron was always first to run out of air! We learned that scuba diving females tend to breathe more efficiently than males. Ron says it’s because males have bigger lungs and body mass and therefore use up more oxygen. Haha!

peep this great picture of merman ron!! He took the one of me below. I have yet to teach him on how to take better pictures… hahaha!

our underwater camera almost couldnt handle the underwater pressure!!

We got done around 2pm, so we did some more Kona exploring!

Here are some pictures from the Farmer’s Market on Alii Drive by our hotel

Hawaiian Shaved Ice, another big thing on Kona. Can you believe this is a MEDIUM size cup?!

just for you mom!

and for you dad!

Wednesday: July 2nd, 2008

On Wednesday, we hiked with a tour group to Volcano National Park in Hilo (the opposite side of the islands). Our huge tour van housed Ron and I, plus two young honeymooners. Due to the small crowd, Matt, our tour guide customized a unique outting for us. It was a great educational experience! We were able to see Kilauea, a volcano that has been erupting since March and producing VOG (volcanic organic gases) throughout the islands. The vog was surely obvious in Kona since the trade winds blew from Hilo to Kona.

Pele, goddess of fire/lava

cute picnic at a rest stop

the ONLY clear skies i’ve seen with no VOG! that mountain in the back is Mauna Loa, another dormant volcano (hawaiian volcanoes are dome shaped). There are 5 volcanoes total on the Big Island.

the erupting volcano of Kilauea.. not the chaotic eruptions you see on TV. Yet enough to cause VOG pollution.

driving to the lava flows!

on what use to be a street!

“Pele’s tears” aka solidified lava droplets, hard to find among the rubble. We didnt find any of “Pele’s hairs” though! There was an exhibit at the visitor’s museum with Pele’s hair. Sorta weird and scary since it looks like real brown hair!

inside a lava tube

the brave hikers!!

doing our part to save the forest!

Poor Ron didnt know he had to pick WEEDS while on vacation!!

ginger plants are considered invasive WEEDS in the hawaiian tropics!!

One of the many craters…. this one is known as “the devil’s throat” it was REALLY DEEP!

what use to be a tree!

Look close Mom! thats where our August birthstone, Peridot comes from!! I didnt dare steal the lava rocks. Legend has it Pele curses those who steal her lava rocks!!

You can sort of see steam from the lava pouring into the ocean out in the distance! we werent allowed to venture that far!

Thursday: July 3rd, 2008

Thursday day we had some time to kill before our Mauna Kea Summit and Stargazing adventure. We decided to hit up a secret black sand beach known only by the locals. We thank Matt, our Kilauea volcano tour guide for sharing this secret!

there was NO obvious road to lead you down there!

The secret road that had no signs whatsoever indicating that it led to a beautiful beach

Ron leaving his own grafitti

That night, we used the same volcanic tour company to climb and visit the Mauna Kea, an inactive volcano that currently houses the world’s largest observatory for optical, infrared, and submillimeter astronomy. The dormant volcanic mountain is considered to be the tallest mountain in the world (even taller than Mt. Everest!) since most of Mauna Kea is below sea level. If measured below sea level, Mauna Kea would top out at over 33,000 feet compared to Mount Everest which stands at just over 29,000 feet. Our climb was to the very top (which from sea level is 13,796 feet) where the world famous observatories were stationed. The air was much thinner so everyone was cautioned to move slowly and take deep breaths due to lack of oxygen. Before our ascent however, we had a hot picnic dinner at an abandoned sheep farm. How romantically freaky right?! haha!

We also met Mr and Mrs Santa Claus!!! NO LIE!!!!

Mr and Mrs Santa Claus on a tropical Hawaiian vacation!!

I told you it was Santa !!!!!


The company provided us with parkas due to the cold climate at the top. Parkas?! In Hawaii?! Heck Yah! Although Santa had jokes and commented that it was much colder in the North Pole! HAHA! He even said his sleigh was faster than our tour van! hehe! We made our way to the very top of Mauna Kea just as the sun began to set. This produced a spectacular array of colors which illuminated the sky. It was definitely a breathtaking site to behold. Afterwards we ventured down a couple thousand feet to do some star gazing and telescope scoping which again, was a treat in itself. Ron and I felt like we were in a planetarium. The night sky was so clear, it looked fake! But man, it was so cold up there! Unfortunately, my camera was unable to capture the night sky.

pretty gnarly!! i was told this was the earth’s shadow behind the mountain! (notice how the bottom layer of color is darker than the other layers as opposed to the other pictures)

Friday: 4th of July, 2008

For July 4th, they closed Alii Drive in the evening for the 4th of July parade. We however, decided to celebrate at a Luau. I’ve been to two different luau’s in Oahu, and I’d have to say that this Luau at Kona Villiage is by far the best one! The food was superb and authentic, and the performances were entertaining and not too drawn out.

our dinner (aka lechon) from the imu

Ron grrrrruuuubbbin!

our “fireworks”

At the luau, we met a couple who had gone snorkeling with the Manta Rays the night before. We had heard about this excursion, but were skeptical about swimming in the dark sea with these giant creatures. However, all the reviews had said that this activity was a MUST DO in the Big Island; and it was intriguing to hear about a first hand experience. To be honest, I was scared of the giant manta rays, and even moreso about NIGHT snorkeling (since they’re nocturnal feeders) in the DARK. Needless to say, I called the Big Island Divers right before our luau dinner to book the Manta activity the following night.

Saturday: July 5th, 2008

It was an experience I’ll never forget!! Six different boats full of snorkelers and scuba divers were present to partake in this spectacle. Each boat was color coded, and each snorkeler/scuba diver had a matching glow stick attached to his/her gear. Each person was also equipped with a flashlight. The scuba divers were instructed to perch on the sea floor (about 30 feet down) and shine their flash lights up, while the snorklers floated on top and shined their flashlights down. Since Ron and I weren’t scuba certified, we had to snorkel. As a floater on top, the sea floor and clear hawaiian waters lit up like a concert stage!. Our flashlights had a dual purpose; to witness the peaceful giants and to lure in their food (Plankton and baby shrimp, aka Manta Ray food, which were attracted to the lights). The whole time you were in the water, you forgot that you were swimming in the dark open sea!

this image was taken from the Big Island Divers website. I wanted ya’ll too see how BIG the mantas were and also what i meant when i said that “the sea floor lit up like a concert stage” It was sooooo COOL!!

this manta is doing a 360, and going belly up and around to feed on baby shrimp and plankton. they got sooo close!! we were told all the mantas were named based on their belly markings, which were similar to fingerprints.

Manta Rays eat by swimming in 360 degrees (going belly up and around). They got sooooooooo close to us, it was crazy! You could hear other snorkelers squealing of joy (and probably even fear). It literally looked like a ballet was being performed by the mantas. All in all, we attracted 15 manta rays. The only downfall about being a snorkeler was the TRAFFIC on top. There were so many overly excited snorklers who were squealing, kicking, and blinding me with their flash lights! Ron and I now vow to achieve scuba certification and return to Kona to do this activity underwater!

Sunday: July 6th, 2008

Sunday was our last day in Kona and we decided to take on the road for the last remaining hours! We hit up last minute “must see spots” before heading to the outdoor airport of Kona. Our flight was 935pm (a red eye) with arrival to LAX at 535am.

this cute coffee shack on the hillside


view from the coffee shack’s table and seating area

Here are some images from the Painted Church aka St. Benedict’s Catholic Church

Now some images from the “Place of Refuge” where ancient Hawaiians sought Sanctuary from the law

i love this warning sign… lol

Now for the very last stop…

the outdoor airport was a new thing for me! good thing our flight was at night! imagine having to wait outdoors for our flight!

according to Ron, “It’s Wilson!” from the movie, Castaway

We arrived home at LAX at around 520 am. Hungry, we stopped by a Jack In a Box at La Mirada. PFFT! I know it aint as good as the REAL STUFF!!!

This was an ammaaaaazzzzing trip and Ron and I plan on going back one day!!

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