Day 1-5 : Big Island

We decided to hit the Big Island first on our little Hawaii whirlwind tour. We flew into Kona where I convinced (begged) Bri to rent a Jeep (for old time sake)... so we could relive our youthful days of Colorado life - it was 100% worth it. On the island you can pretty much drive anywhere you want as long as it isn't posted. There is a spider web network of off-road trails all over the Island that lead through the lava fields and down to the water. You can pick one of many to guarantee a secluded Hawaii experience.

Settling in at the Good ole' Kona Marriott. Thank you points!
Exploring a lava field just south of Kona.
There are so many off-road trails you can take to secluded beaches on BLM land. Make sure you have a 4x4....
....Finding me presents. I'll call him Schmoo.
One of the many Lava fields you can drive or hike through.
A tube cave in the lava fields just south of Kona.


Our private little cove. We were both amazed and surprised that every place we went on the Big Island - we were completely alone.
Queue the Rainbow....

Every day on the island was awesome and the same. Get up, snorkel in the lagoon, drive someplace new, explore,  eat, drink some tequila, go to bed, rinse, repeat.

Great little farm stands along the way.
The Scooby Do gang must be vacationing here.
The question is - why WOULDN'T you buy these?
A cute little "keep it honest" egg and veg stand.
Time for a hike - we'll see how this goes.

A lot if our travel time is dedicated to food. Poki, obviously - but we didn't expect to find donkey balls. Naturally when you see a sign like this - you stop.  They weren't the donkey balls you or we are expecting, but delicious little balls of sweet love covered in chocolate. Malt, mint, cookie dough....goat balls, flakey balls, frosted balls, blue balls, weird yellow monkey balls, classic balls and our favorite: Salty balls (the dark ones preferably).  All the balls.  Honestly - they could have been real donkey balls and if they are covered in chocolate they may be worth a try. Feel free to make this a drinking game using the word balls.

We took another hike. Our note taking was shit on this trip, so we have no idea what any of these hikes are called and certainly can't tell you where to find them. Sorry - you are on your own for most of these. Enjoy the pics though.


A nice little view on our hike. We don't remember where exactly this was....
Hiking somewhere on the big Island
Another lonely beach

After a couple of days on the here we heard about the largest partially sheltered bay on the Island and were told that snorkeling there is a must-do.  If you plan it right you can have one of the most popular snorkeling bays to yourself for a good 1-2 hours.  Forgo the tour boat,  go early and hike down the Kaawaloa trail to the Kaawaloa Flat (Cpt. Cook Monument). If you arrive before 10/11am you will surely be alone.

Headed down the Kaawaloa trail to the bay. Along the way we picked up a local dog pal (Lailani) who walked the half hour trail with us - waited while we snorkeled for 2 hours and walked us back. Its just what she does.
10 am. Just one small boat and us.
This guy....
More of the Kaawaloa trail...
And its noon.... watch out for the ever-feared tourist fish.

We took another day to explore the south and eastern side of the Island especially to see two beaches in particular. The black and green sand beaches of Hawaii.  Papakolea Beach (or green sand beach) is one of only four in the world. The others being in Guam, the Galapagos Islands, and Norway.  Black sand beach is a popular with sea turtles so we were hoping to see some chillin out' on the beach. Punalu'u Beach (or black sand beach) is made of basalt and brought to you by the Volcanoes of Hawaii. It is a favorite spot for tourists and seat turtles alike.

Our last day was left for the Volcano National Park. We drove through the center of Hawaii to get there which was a cool change of scenery. There are ranches and farms and a huge landscape you wouldn't expect to see.


The road to Green sand beach.
Located at the base of an old cinder cone lies Green sand (Papakolea) beach in the Kau district.
Taking a snooze on black sand beach. Like Brian after a Nutella bender.
Roadside voodoo
Volcano National Park. Kilauea in the dark....
Green sand beach from the cliffs above.
The sea turtles of Black Sand beach heard we were coming.
On the road to all things Volcano
Roadside voodoo - getting Brady Bunch vibes here.... (for those born before 1980)

Saving the best for last, on our last night we booked a night dive (snorkel) with giant mantas. Hind sight  - we should have done a dive... but lessons learned.  You get into a boat. Wait until it's dark. Slip into the black water. Blast on a bright blue light at the bottom of the ocean. And wait for the plankton and giant mantas to swarm the lights.

Hawaii is the only place on the world you can do this. It happened by accident actually. An injured and very old manta lost one of her mouth fins (due to an accident) and had a hard time eating plankton with only one lip-flipper. A nearby marina restaurant had a bright light on the dock that lit up the water attracting loads and loads of plankton. Miss smarty pants Manta noticed  -  and the plankton was so thick she only needed one lip-flipper to load up like County Kitchen buffet. Word spread on Manta street and the rest is history. A lot of the money goes to Manta protection and care. It is honestly one of the coolest things we have ever done!



The Cowles pre-Manta dive. Obviously pretty excited.
Crazy huuuuge Mantas. Some get 16' across. You cab see the scale if you look at the divers on the ground.
What it looks like on the surface. Float structures and lights on the ocean floor.
On the top the mantas will belly roll literally inches from your face. So so amazing!

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