Exploring the Big Island, Hawaii
The last island we went to was the Big Island. We had a ton of adventures, but didn’t bring our cameras along with us everywhere because it was raining so much! We had a blast anyways and looking back, we really packed a lot of stuff in—from surfing to helicopter rides to 4 Wheeling. Rainy days meant booking spur of the moment massages, shopping trips, and visiting the Volcano Winery. Looking back, we didn’t let the weather stop us from enjoying the island.
Learning All About Kona Coffee
One of the areas we were most interested to explore on the Big Island was Kona, which is world famous for their coffee. We were excited to try the delicious coffee from this region, but we soon found out to get true Kona coffee you have to watch out for the suspicious “Kona Blend” coffees. Coffee makers try to trick consumers with the cheaper “Kona Blend” coffee beans, which is not a blend of different Kona beans. In fact, by definition, Kona Blend coffees only have 10% of true Kona beans, the other 90% of the beans are a cheaper variety. This is why Kona blends are way less expensive than the true 100% Kona coffee beans. I think the worse thing about these blends are you don’t really taste the Kona beans, it’s just cheap coffee with a few Kona beans thrown in so coffee makers can raise the price and entice consumers with the “Kona” label. If you are looking for 100% Kona coffee, look for “100% Kona Coffee” certification, which Hawaii’s state laws require for a bag of Kona coffee to be considered authentic.
We learned all about coffee growing and Kona coffee specifically while taking a tour of the Hula Daddy coffee farm. The tour covered not only the history of Hula Daddy, but also how coffee is grown in their orchard to how different flavors are achieved in the roasting room. The farm was started in 2002 by a couple who left their corporate jobs in California to try and grow the best coffee. They compare their coffee farm in Kona to a vineyard in Napa Valley—their goal in not mass quantities of coffee, but the best quality of coffee. They enter cupping competitions and strive to obtain the finest Kona coffee possible. They had us taste the coffee fruit in the orchard as they explained how they grew the coffee plants. We then went into the roasting room where the roastmaster Laura explained the roasting and cupping process. We were amazed how many different flavor profiles she could pick out. We got to sample 3 different coffees, and Bryan and I still talk about how their coffee is our favorite that we’ve ever had.
Riding a Helicopter Over Kilauea Volcano
You can’t help but become fascinated with volcanoes while in Hawaii because they are what makes up the islands! We decided to take a helicopter ride with Blue Hawaiian for a chance to see some lava action! We also are thankful we had our honeymoon when we did—6 months later Kilauea would erupt! Our pilot had Bryan and I share the front seat, which meant a nice panoramic view.
Visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Bryan and I had to get some hiking in, so we visited Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to check out the Kilauea Volcano. We started at the Volcano House and grabbed a map and planned out our hike. We began by walking along Waldron Ledge where you can sometimes see steam vents if rain has recently fallen. We then followed the Crater Rim Trail which turned out to be the old roadway along the Crater Rim which is slowly being taken over by nature. About 2 miles into the trail, we took a side trip to go through Thurston Lava Tube, a 600-foot long lava tube which was created from a river of lava. The outside of the river solidified into a tube, while the inside stayed hot and protected from the outside air. When the lava stopped flowing, the tube remained. It is estimated that the tube took about 1 year to cool down to a temperature safe to touch! After walking through the tube, we hiked down into the Kilauea Iki Crater, created from 1959 lava flows of the Kilauea volcano. The crater was cracked and had a few steam vents. The path was marked by stacks of lava rocks. The ground felt almost like those rubber gym floors, you get a bounce in your step while walking on them. Afterwards we hiked back up to the Volcano House where our car was parked. We drove to some very active steam vents where the sulfur smell was strong! We finally drove to the Jaggar Museum to learn about the history of the Kilauea Volcano and more about volcanoes in general. It was there we learned during the day fresh lava is almost indistinguishable from old cooled off lava. The orange color we’re used to seeing is only visible at night. We then went outside to the lookout of the Kilauea Caldera and the Halema’uma’u Crater. We didn’t see much—just a bunch of steam, but we can only imagine what it must have looked like 6 months later!
Learning to Surf in Kona
Bryan did an amazing job planning our honeymoon. My only request was to take a surfing lesson at some point during our trip because I had always wanted to try it out. It happened to be raining hard the day before our surf lesson, so the water was a bit murky and rough the day after. We met our instructor, and he told us there would be a strong rip current today, so we would have to swim harder than usual. He then fitted us with surf boards and gave us a quick lesson on popping up. We then ventured out into a pocket of ocean that was lined with rocks, so you have to jump off your surf board before getting to shore! We swam out and he guided us through a few small waves. Bryan picked it up right away, and before the lesson was over he was catching waves on his own and popping right up! I caught a few waves, but fear of smashing into rocks got the better of me. The instructor was very dedicated—at one point he set me up for a wave and pushed me off, yelling “Pop up!” but fear got the better of me, and I decided I was just going to ride this one out boogie board style. All of a sudden I hear, “Pop up!!!” right next to me—the instructor caught the wave and was riding right next to me! He was determined that I was going to stand up on the board on this particular wave. Surprised by this, I immediately got up and rode for a few seconds before falling off.
Another time, I attempted to stand but somehow ended in a sitting position with my legs straight out in front of me, but I was facing backwards staring right at the wave I had caught. I rode like this for a few seconds wondering how I had ended up in this position before jumping off.
Meanwhile, Bryan is catching larger waves, his former years of experience in skateboarding and snowboarding guiding him into surfing. In fact, the instructor pushed Bryan into catching a large wave, which he later told Bryan he was thinking “I’ll push him into this one and see what happens,” and Bryan ended up catching it and successfully riding it! You could here the instructor yelling, “That was so gnarly!! I can’t believe you caught that! It usually takes guys years to catch a wave like that!” After an hour and a half of riding waves in and swimming against the rip current, we were worn out, so we made our way back to shore. We really enjoyed our lesson, and Bryan continued his surfing in Panama and Costa Rica (check out our Puerto Viejo post for surfing vids). I have decided to stick to boogie boarding.
4 Wheeling in the Waipio Valley
The Waipio valley is famed for its lush landscape, beautiful overlook views, and cultural heritage. This valley was once home to the kings of Hawaii long ago. The draw to settle here came from the fertile valley floor and the protection provided by the surrounding cliffs from attack. This once very populated valley is now home to only a very few descendants allowed to live in the valley only if they cultivate taro plants, following in their ancestors footsteps.
The valley is only accessible via a terrifying narrow and windy road that snakes down the cliffs. There was no way we were going to drive this road as most said it required a 4-wheel-drive vehicle and a whole lot of luck! We decided to take in the views from the rim of the valley on ATV’s. On the morning of our ride there was a slow but constant drizzle from the dark clouds overhead so we knew we were in for a muddy ride. Dodging the puddles only lasted for a few minutes before plowing through the puddles became our new favorite game. We stopped about halfway at a small waterfall and basin where several of our group jumped in the freezing water. Sadly when we got to our viewpoint we didn’t get to see any of the valley because of the low cloud cover, but we had a ball getting there on the ATV’s! We learned on the way back that most of the forest we were riding through is not native to the island. These eucalyptus trees were planted here years ago when somebody had the bright idea of planting the trees before getting the permits to build the paper mill!
That’s it for our honeymoon! We were sad to leave…we had even started looking up property prices on Kauai because we loved our time there so much. Have you ever visited a new city in which you could see yourself living? Oh, has anyone actually ever moved to their dream city? Let us know in the comments!