Thursday, July 21, 2011

Hawaii, June 2011

Finally the blog entry for our recent vacation to Hawaii for David’s 40th.  Since our return both of us have been so busy with work this is the first opportunity I have had to sort the photos and write up the post.

We used transit to get to the airport, very easy now with the Canada Line connecting from Waterfront Station where the Seabus terminates.  Most of the Canada Line is underground, rising above the surface around Marine Drive before the last leg approaching the airport.


Our ‘cheap’ flights weren’t the most direct so we departed Vancouver via San Francisco.  It was a beautiful day in Northern California so we were afforded excellent views of the city and bay as we approached.


Downtown San Francisco and the Bay Bridge.


Golden Gate Bridge


We flew close in over Downtown.


San Francisco airport has two parallel runways which can be used simultaneously, so while we were coming in to land we were joined by a Virgin America flight right next to us.

IMG_4600 We change planes at San Francisco, board our Kona, HI bound flight and take off again, this time with good views over Lake Merced Park and the urban area beyond.

IMG_4601Hawaii is situated so much further South than home that it was already starting to get dark by our arrival time of 7pm.  We collected our rental car and with the great help of GPS navigation on my new iPhone found our house easily, about 40 minutes south of Kona.

The property we had rented was a plantation house situated on a working coffee plantation overlooking Kealakekua Bay, just North of the town Captain Cook.

It was set on a vast acreage and ‘neighbouring’ farms were some distance away.  The front of the house.


This is the back of the house with the private pool and gorgeous lush gardens.


The long winding driveway leading down to the house.


Views from the veranda along the coastline of Kealakekua Bay.



From the house and gardens there were good views of the coffee plantation all around. 


On the back of the house was a giant veranda which connected to the living/dining/kitchen Great Room through a wall of sliding doors which retracted back into wall of the house to completely open the inside up to the outside.  On the patio was an outdoor kitchen with drinks fridge and BBQ plus sofas, arm chairs, breakfast table and large dining table for proper alfresco living.


Inside was an excellent kitchen with all mod-cons !


The living area had retractable doors to both the patio at the back and the private front garden.  We were a little concerned that the house didn’t have air conditioning but opening the doors at front and back brought a beautiful breeze up from the coast and through the house and we discovered you didn’t need air conditioning at all.


Open to the front garden was lovely and private too.


Hidden inside the custom cabinetry on the living room wall a 65” TV to make the most of an evening movie.


The master bedroom enjoyed the sea views


The huge en-suite was more than sufficient


But the real treat was the lovely outdoor shower right off those sliding doors in the en-suite.  Due to the even temperature in Hawaii throughout the year it is nearly always warm and so it is not unusual to find a private walled shower, outside of the main house.  It helps keep the moisture out of the house and you get to shower surrounded by all the beautiful flowers and trees.

IMG_4874 As it was something of a working holiday for me there was very usefully a full office with wifi, computers, printers etc.


Finally a guest bedroom with full ensuite completed the accommodation.


Due to the rural nature of the location it was beautifully peaceful and quiet, just the chirping of birds during the day and the cicadas during the evenings.

Panorama of the location.

David already posted images of the colourful plants and flowers growing in the garden, but there were also a good selection of critters keeping us company including a number of geckos.


Lots of wild turkeys



They would usually walk around the perimeter of the house early in the morning, you knew it was time to get up when you heard the rustling of foraging turkeys outside the bedroom window.

Plenty of grasshoppers.


Birds included lots of common cardinals


Saffron finches


And yellow billed cardinals


Other regular visitors that were cute from a tourists perspective but undoubtedly a nuisance to residents are the wild pigs that wander freely, eating whatever they can find.



Finally in the ‘less cute and too many of them’ category……red caterpillars which we have read could grow to an enormous 6” but thankfully we only saw small 1” or 1.5” beasties.


We spent a good amount of time relaxing at the house, webcamming with family back in the UK and for David to turn 40 being away from it all and most certainly not at work seemed like a good thing.

David’s birthday started with a cooked breakfast and mimosas (or bucks fizz) which we shared with family while talking on skype.


Lunch was delicious seared ahi tuna, salad and fresh bread that we had picked up after breakfast.  Oh, and champagne to wash it down.



While evening dinner was Davids other simple favourite, surf & turf with chateauneuf-du-pape.  Who needs restaurants when we eat this well at home ?


Aside from relaxing at the house we did head out on a few of the days to explore the West side of the island.

Kona is the largest town on the West coast of Hawaii and about 40 minutes north of our rental house.  Most of the sights of Kona are found along Alii Drive, the oceanside road that runs through town.

This is Hulihe’e Palace.  Built by Governor Kuakini in 1838 it served as King Kalakaua’s palace during the 1880’s and is one of only three royal palaces within the US (all three in Hawaii).


Hulihe’e Palace backs right onto the ocean, the seawall in the foreground of the photo below.


Across the road from the palace is Moku’aikaua Church which was built in 1836.  The original church constructed on this site in 1820 was the first Christian church to be built in Hawaii.

IMG_4614 From the pier there are good views back towards the town of Kona, even though it’s a pretty cloudy day.


This thatched building is Ahu’ena Heiau a temple on Kamakahonu which is a religious site King Kamehameha spent many years residing at.


Some impressive old trees line the side of Alii Dr – possibly banyan trees ?


Watch your head, falling coconuts can be a real hazard !

IMG_4625 The local market was being held including an amazing flower stand where the colours were so vivid and the flower heads so bright you could hardly believe they were all real.


More views of waterfront Alii Drive in Kona.  This part of town was hit by the tsunami that followed the March 2011 Japan earthquake, google Kona tsunami and there’s plenty of video footage of waves crashing over the seawall and into the businesses along this section of town.  Thankfully, no long-lasting damage was done and only a few sections of seawall were still under repair.


On another day of our vacation we drove out to Volcanoes National Park which is situated on the South side of the island, about 2hrs drive from the house.

The drive to the park was initially lush and green before opening up as moorland with views down to the coastline.


Evidence as you drive of lava flows from the past – some not so historic including a huge lava field from the 1950’s which destroyed several towns & villages.


This roadsign is up there with Tsunami Evacuation Route as a sign you don’t see in Oxfordshire !


Once in the park we drove along the Kilauea Crater Rim Road to get views of the crater.  Noxious gasses were spewing out so part of the road was closed where the wind was blowing the gasses across. 


Me with steam rising from the ground around me.


More steaming grass verges

IMG_4764 Views from near the Hawaii Volcano Observatory where volcanic activity is monitored.


David at the Kilauea overlook.


Further around the crater rim road there are lava tubes.  Lava tubes are formed when the rush of molten lava underground changes direction or stops and the outer edges of the lava set forming a long thin cave.



Some of the prickly native flora


Giant eruptions in the 1980’s saw huge new lava fields created.  The devastation trail takes us onto the field and a clear line is visible where plants & trees remained untouched.

IMG_4787 IMG_4789

Video from the devastation trail.


A smaller crater was formed by Kilauea Iki and is sufficiently dormant that it is considered safe to walk across.


The floor of the crater.


Big Island Hawaii is not renowned for it’s beaches although it does have some pretty impressive ones.  This didn’t bother us much a we really wanted the house and pool and don’t spend much time at the beach.  We intended to visit one to get a foot or two in the Pacific. However, we discovered that to get to the good beaches without driving all the way to the North of the island you needed a 4x4, which we had not rented.  So, we had to make do with the ones that were more easily accessible.


These beaches tended to be surrounded by development, rather than the rural ones where you needed the 4x4 to get there.


The sea was beautiful, like a warm bath !


The coastline north of Kona was much more baron than the lush green coastline south of the town.




On another day we visited Pu’uhonua o Honaunau which was a historic site – formerly a place of refuge for island residents who were to be persecuted for breaking the strict moral code of the Hawaiians.



A stone board used as a traditional Hawaiian game.



IMG_4898 IMG_4899

We also saw a sea turtle here.




More views around the park.

IMG_4915 After visiting the park we passed the Painted Church – an old village church which had been painstakingly painted throughout inside.




IMG_4943 Much of the remaining time was spent relaxing at the house, enjoying the location and pool and reading.  David in the pool.



A one week vacation passes so quickly so it was soon time to head home.  Kona airport is a funny little airport, being all open-air and only partially covered by a roof.  Built in the style of little tikki huts.


I take the last chance to check emails before we board.


Our plane awaits and we have an uneventful overnight flight home.


A lovely week away and we certainly now have a taste for Hawaii and we wish to explore much more of this beautiful state.

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