A Travellerspoint blog


Revisiting "The Big Island"

80 °F

Last night we set sail from Maui, bound southward for the Big Island again, this time on the west (dry) side, to the Kona-Kahlui area. The Hilo area on the east side, where we were docked on Monday, is one of the wettest places on earth. In contrast, Kona is dry, dry, dry. Few beaches in Kona, just lots of black lava coast getting pounded relentlessly by high surf. As the land rises up away from the coast, it becomes perfect for growing coffee. You've heard of Kona coffee I assume?

While the Robinsons toured Hawaii's largest cattle ranch (Parker Ranch) today, Cindy and Steve took a zodiac boat tour of the coast. For those of you unfamiliar with zodiac boats, they are large, inflatable craft powered by big outboard motors, capable of delivering high speed and thrilling rides as the passengers sit on the side, hanging on for dear life!
We've all been seeing lots of humpback whales this week, and today we got up-close looks, as our zodiac captain maneuvered close (but not too close) to the giant mammals. A mother with a newborn alongside her. The captain says the calf we saw today couldn't have been more than a few days old.

Finally, after a high-speed ride (upwards of 40 mph) of 15 miles or so, we reached our destination - a protected bay perfect for snorkeling. This bay is also quite historic - it was here that the famous English explorer and discoverer Captain James Cook was killed by Hawaiian warriors. A monument was later erected by the British to commemorate the spot and the event.
It's easy to see why snorkeling enjoys such popularity in warm-weather destinations like Hawaii, the Caribbean, Florida, etc. It's dead simple to do, and the underwater views are astonishing. All you do is float and watch the little fishies below, swimming among the coral. Ominous-looking sea urchins are everywhere also. No warnings are needed about not touching these fellows!

The ride back was fun. The captain stopped often to point out various features along the coast, including a lava rock formation that the ancients believe was the face of the goddess Pele. See the "eyes?" (old lava tubes in which molten lava once flowed).
The trip was exhilirating but tiring. Cindy and I will probably take the night "off", sitting in the room and reading, enjoying the sound of the water through our open balcony door as we knife along to our next destination, Kauai, the "Garden Isle".

Posted by swendl 21:04 Archived in USA Comments (5)


Maui - Day Two

Day Two in Maui. What a gorgeous island this is. Stunning views around every curve, fragrant and colorful flowers along every roadway - a heavenly place.

We didn't sail until this evening, so we rented a car and drove to the other side of Maui with the Robinson's, heading to the Kaanapali resort area. After World War II this area was virtually deserted, but because of its sunny locale and long stretches of golden beaches, it was only a matter of time before the tourists came.

We rented a convertible, of course. Maui probably has the highest percentage of convertibles of anywhere in the world. It's the only way to see the island!
After stocking up on beach supplies at the local Star Grocery, we looked for a beach, finally settling on a delightful piece of sand north of Black Rock. We pitched our beach chairs, laid out our towels, slathered on the sunscreen, and enjoyed several hours of perfect beach life. Donna and Wayne had fun in the surf, and took a nice stroll along the sand. The sun cooperated completely. It was idyllic in every way, the way Hawaii is supposed to be.

Failed to make the correct turn on the drive back to the ship, and Cindy left her purse in the rental car, necessitating a shuttle ride back to the airport to fetch it, but otherwise, no worries. In fact, we dodged a bullet - an accident on the highway we had just travelled resulted in the closing of that road, which may strand any fellow cruisers who left Kaanapali after we did.

Tonight is "dress-up night" on the ship, so we'll cooperate and spiff up a bit. A comedian performs at 7:30, and a 70s music show follows. Last night was a 50s / 60s sock hop. Karaoke every night as well - Steve even gave it a whirl!

For now, however, we're relaxing on our balcony, drinking coffee (or beer, depending on your gender), scanning the open ocean for whales.

Posted by swendl 19:14 Comments (3)


Sunset Above The Clouds

Some things are better left shown than described. We climbed to nearly 10,000 feet (in a tour bus, of course), high above the clouds, to witness the setting sun. It was spectacular desolation up there, the air thin, desert-like, quiet as a tomb. Our chatty tour group gradually fell silent as the sun neared its setting. We realized we were watching something very special.

Posted by swendl 01:00 Comments (2)


Island of Love - Day One

Maui is known as the "Valley Isle", since it is shaped like two adjacent fists with a connecting piece of land (the "valley"). It is the Hawaii destination of choice for many, combining the raw beauty of Hawaii without the big-city hassles of Oahu.

We could tell we reached port at 8 this morning, as we were still in bed (lazy-bones!) and the gentle rocking of the ship had ceased.
The Robinsons were off on a whale-watching excursion this afternoon. Maui is perhaps the best island to see the humpback whales, who swim annually from their home in cold Alaskan waters to breed and nurse their young in this area. Smart choice if you ask me. The whales are often visible to the sharp-eyed cruiser - we look for the tell-tale puff of vapor (from their blowhole), or the slap of a tail fin on the water, or, if you're REALLY lucky, a full breach view where they rise halfway out of the water in very grand fashion (we haven't seen that yet, darn it).

Our excursion doesn't leave until 3:30 this afternoon. We'll be travelling to the top of the Haleakala mountain in Maui, an extinct volcano which towers 11,000 feet above the island. We'll be on the sunset-watching tour. Supposedly, watching the sunrise or sunset while on Maui is another must-do. Hopefully we'll get some good pictures there, if the weather cooperates. We'll dress warmly - despite being located in Hawaii, the elevation means it could get down around freezing! (Iowa doesn't sound so bad now). In the picture below, look for the faint ground line above the clouds. That's the summit of Haleakala.

We spent our day relaxing on the sun deck, as we FINALLY have plenty of sun and warmth. Toasted ourselves all over, then moved to the shade, summoning drinks when needed, or taking a cool-off dip in the nearby pool. I know it sounds very stressful, but someone's gotta do it...
Before heading back to the room we grabbed a bite at the poolside buffet, and had some warm strudel (with ice cream) for dessert. Mmmmm....

Our room steward always does a fine job making up the room, including twisting a towel into creative and interesting shapes. Today, a snake!

Posted by swendl 16:40 Comments (1)


Awesome nature on display

semi-overcast 73 °F

Although you don't go on a cruise to get educated, sometimes it just happens. We took an organized tour of the Volcanoes National Park near Hilo today, and it was just amazing.

We were atop Kiluea Volcano, high enough in elevation to cause the ears to pop. The weather was misty and cool, which, I understand, are standard conditions up there. In fact, it was so shrouded that we couldn't see the top of nearby Mauna Kea, the huge mountain next door. We learned about lava tubes, how volcanism created the islands, and how scientists keep a very sharp eye on these very active geologic fault lines. But the steam fields were REALLY cool. Stand next to one of those babies and the temps immediately rise 50 degrees, your glasses fog over immediately, and any wrinkles in your clothes are gone! We ended the tour at the Kiluea Caldera, a huge crater, two miles across, with a sub-crater inside spewing noxious gases, the mythical home of Pele, goddess of fire. I guess some native Hawaiians who practice the old religion still come up here to offer sacrifices to appease the goddess.
(No, that is not Pele, that's Cindy)
The capper was around 9:45 this evening, as we approached an area of the island where molten lava is flowing into the sea. I couldn't take a photo that did it justice - you had to see it to appreciate it. An orange glow marked the spot where lava and sea met, creating a gigantic steam cloud visible for miles. All passengers were glued to the rail, watching this amazing sight pass by. All ship lights were turned off for awhile to help make the effect more striking. Had the ships engines not been throbbing, I'm sure we could have heard the sizzle!magma.jpg
And we get a full moon to complete the effect. Pretty cool stuff.

A very awe-inspiring day.

Posted by swendl 00:41 Archived in USA Comments (2)

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