Near by to where we rented the house in Hawaii, is an area called Puna. There is lots of volcanic run off in this area and the land is constantly changing. This makes for some really great and interesting beaches and land formations! The guide book left by the owners of the house suggested some really great places in the area and we hit a few of them.
First, we stopped at Ahalanui Park, which was probably a highlight of the trip for me. I love naturally warm pools! While this one was cemented in, it’s right next to the ocean, so waves are splashing in at all times, but the water in the cemented in area is warmer then most because it is volcanically heated naturally!! There are picnic tables, a small beach and a life guard for extra safety! The pool is huge and people bring in all sort of pool toys. The ground is natural too and there are stones and rocks mixed in with the sand and because of that, I would highly recommend Teva’s or sandals like that.
Nearby is a cool little area called Kapoho Tide Pools which we were unfortunately not prepared for. If you like snorkeling, then you gotta hit this place! It’s all rocks, so bring a chair and you gotta bring your own snorkel gear. But the water is so warm, the sea life is amazing!
Our last stop out of the area was Lava Tree State Park which was a great place to stop and take a quick walk. The trees in the park and driving in and out of the area are amazing and so beautiful! Just don’t forget the bug spray in this park as it is fairly dense forest (for Hawaii) and we got pretty bitten for only being there about 30 minutes! The path is well worn and there are plenty of places to sit and meditate and just enjoy the Hawaiian nature.
Hilo is such a cute little town! Unfortunately, I didn’t wonder around during the day and all the stores close up at night. It’s touches like these that remind me so much of New Zealand. All independent stores lined up on one street where only the restaurants are open passed sundown. I even saw a sign on one store that noted that they were actually closed for an hour in the middle of the day for lunch. So quaint!
On our way into town on my last day, we made a pit stop at the Manoa Loa Nut Factory, which was on our way from the house into town. It was a long drive through the nut trees that lined the main road to the headquarters. We got there too late in the day for a tour or to wonder around, but we had a quick run around the gift shop to pick up any type of Moana Loa Nut products, some that I had never seen before. The selection was extensive and also included the usual array of Hawaiian tourist products. I wish we had gotten there earlier so we could have looked around. Best part is they give out free samples!
Since we had a kitchen at the house, we ate all of our meals there. But for my last meal, we went into town. My sister and I read up in our various guide books about places to eat in town, even though we usually don’t pick places based on that. Sometimes the descriptions of places are entertaining in their own right. And the Hilo Bay Café was one of them. One of the descriptions about it was hilarious since it is located in the same strip mall that the local Wal-Mart shares. But once you exit the parking lot and enter the restaurant, you forget where you are. It’s so unlike how things are on the mainland. Anyway, Hilo Bay Café was your typical upscale café. Food is mainly local and my sister and I both got Kona beers (love keeping it local!). It was pretty generic food. Good, but nothing special or anything to write home about. Defiantly can highly recommend for decent food with decent service at a decent price. Plus, you only have to park once if you need to stop in at the Wal-Mart (only the 5th one I have ever been too!).
Moral: I love the Hilo side of the Island. It is so different then the rest of Hawaii (both state and island) and the roughness of it all, totally reminded me of New Zealand. Hilo is a super cute town that totally reminded me of maybe like Wellington or Auckland. Obviously way bigger then most of the towns in New Zealand, but the people are so laid back, the hours are iffy and you do need a car to get around most places as the CBD is larger then one street. It’s touristy, but way less so then Kona. People actually live there and work and their lives don’t circle around tourism, like they do in Kona. Throw in the interesting and always changing weather, along with the greener landscape and I would pick it any day over Kona. If visiting The Big Island, a stop in Hilo is a must.