things to do on big island

Snorkeling at Mauna Lani Black Sands Beach

black sands beach

OK, totally on purpose that I did not bring my cellphone to snorkeling at Black Sands Beach. Just do not feel comfortable leaving my phone on the beach, but I don’t know why. For starters, nobody can get into an iPhone unless they have my face or code. Then again, thieves don’t always think or they wouldn’t be thieves. What they see is a beach bag with stuff in it, so they might grab it on the outside hope it’s valuable.

However I have never heard of nor seen anybody swiping a beach bag from a towel on the beach. Also, bringing my phone would mean it might ring, and if it rang, I’d answer it, and if I answered it, I’d be talking about Sacramento real estate on the beach instead of enjoying the view.

The view at Black Sands Beach yesterday included the gorgeous Kohala mountains, rimmed by low lying bungalows at Mauna Lani, brilliant blue skies and choppy seas with whales breaching. Every couple of minutes, numerous whale blow holes gushed vertical waterfalls, followed by the tail slaps. I envisioned the whales doing a handstand on their pectoral fins. Look Ma!

I also learned a few things about snorkeling I did not know, especially since I am basically self taught from my trip to Vanuatu 5 years ago. Like how to clear water from my mask by letting water in, pressing the mask against my forehead and blowing really hard through my nose. My new friend Anita is an excellent snorkeler. That woman can do kayaks, SCUBA, paddle boarding as well as snorkel. She suggested we try out Black Sands Beach, which I would have never found at Mauna Lani if it wasn’t for her.

You probably won’t believe this, but I actually went 5 hours without my cellphone. On purpose. Just conversation, snorkeling at Black Sands Beach and watching the whales. It was a glorious afternoon.

black sands beach

Really enjoyed the ride home to Kona, too. Look at those gleaming cones over the road sign, and the clouds are beautiful. They could be a type of altocumulus. I’m just beginning to study clouds. Aloha!

Elizabeth Weintraub

The Southernmost Winery in America Will Amaze You

southernmost winery in America

Who knew the southernmost winery in America is located on Hawai’i Island, a/k/a Big Island? I didn’t even realize they could even make wine in Hawaii. But when you stop to consider what makes good wine, things such as elevation and coolness and rich soil, coupled with ocean air, it’s not so surprising.

This was part of our Fissure 8 Tours all-day adventure, which ended at the Volcano Winery in Volcano. The artist Keeth, who painted my coveted orchid, used to live in Volcano before he moved back to the Mainland. There are lots of artists and creative types in Volcano.

southernmost winery in America

This was our host for the wine tasting, talking to the photographer who used to work for National Geographic. Volcano Winery works with a lot of tour companies, I guess, but in particular with Kapokohine Tours. You can tell by the type of food they serve. It is the same as the lunch we had while riding ATVs on Big Island.

southernmost winery in America

BBQ chicken and spareribs, corn (with parsley for some reason), cole slaw. At lunch we had sparkling wine or beer, pop and water. But for dinner at the southernmost winery in America, we could choose our wine.

southernmost winery in America

One of my favorites was the Volcano Blush, such a great summer wine, but it works all year round. I also really enjoyed the guava and grape selection. Pinot Noir was OK but I can get Pinot all day long out of Napa. A delightful dessert wine, although, it is so good you could probably drink it anytime, is the Macadamia Nut Honey wine, and at only $20 a bottle, it’s a bargain!

I bought a case of wine, of course. Because my favorite is the Volcano Red. It is bursting with juicy fruits, rounds out the tongue. Grown right here on Big Island at the southernmost winery in America! The Volcano Red is also Volcano Winery’s best selling wine, so no secret there. Try it, you’ll want a case yourself.

That is Loli in the photo drinking wine behind the kapu sign. She insisted I shoot this photo of her, so you can see why I like this woman.

southernmost winery in America

By the time we finished the wine tasting, followed by dinner, we had a short tour before the sun dropped into the sea. The Volcano Winery looks like most other wineries. Roses in bloom. It is the wine that is different and very Hawaiian.

Elizabeth Weintraub

The Steam Vents at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

steam vents

When we entered the steam vents thermal area at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, my friend Loli said it reminded her of Yellowstone National Park. I can see that, but I also feel it is more in line with Lassen National Park. In particular, Bumpass Hell, minus the boiling mud pots.

At the steam vents we encountered many fumaroles, which emit hot gases with a sulfur odor. Not as bad as rotten eggs, though, which is more the norm. When I mentioned it didn’t stink as much as I would expect, the guide said Pele’s breath is sweeter. I wish he would have explained the scientific reason. Science is real, despite what our present administration might spout.

steam vents

When water seeps into the hot volcanic rock, it produces steam. Not much vegetation can survive in such extremely warm temperatures in the ground. This is why you will see a lot of tall grasses and a few plants, but no huge trees at the steam vents.

steam vents

This is the flower of the lehua ohi’a tree. These are prized for garlands and leis, but Rapid O’hia Death is claiming so many trees that Hawaii asks we not pick the flowers. Scientists recently discovered the source of the fungus that’s been killing the ohi’a trees, and it is carried by a certain beetle.

The lehua o’hia tree is simply amazing. It grows on lava, often as the first vegetation, and it can turn lava rock into soil. The soil allows other types of vegetation to grow. When the air turns bad due to vog, the o’hia tree can hold its breath until the vog clears, up to a week. The lehua o’hia tree is truly a tree of survival and the birther of life.

Everybody repeats the same Hawaiian story about how the o’hia tree came to be. Legend has it that O’hia was a very attractive man, and Pele, the goddess of fire and volcanoes, took one look and became infatuated with O’hia. She tried her best to lure him away, but O’hia was in love with Lehua. So Pele turned O’hia into a tree and Lehua into the flower. Today the tree is known as the Lehua O’hia. Lehua means the flower AND the tree.

steam vents

Here is the first view after rounding the bend at the steam vents in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. There is a walkway, raised decking, that circles through the thermal area, like many visitors paths at national parks. It’s about a 3/4 mile hike to traverse.

One of the stories guides like to tell about the steam vents is that they are not caused by ground water creeping into volcanic rock but instead is Pele’s breath. They will do a trick such as light a piece of paper on fire and hold it over the steam vent. Suddenly, the steam emissions dramatically increase. See? They will exclaim, it is the goddess of fire responding in excitement.

It is science. I can’t tell you the exact physics of why this happens, but I do know it is scientific in origin.

steam vents

Like the flowers I found at Fissure 8 tours in Leilani Estates, this is the same wild orchid. I see it referred to in other places as a purple orchid. Amazing, how something so beautifully shaped and fragile appearing can survive in the harshest of environments.

There is so much to see and do in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park that even a week is not enough time to spend here.

Elizabeth Weintraub

Photos of Flowers and Ferns at Akaka Falls in Honomu

Akaka Falls in Honumu

 

After we finished ziplining on Big Island, Vika asked to visit Akaka Falls in Honomu. This is one of the best known waterfalls on Big Island, although we have so many waterfalls. Vika and exclusive buyer’s agent Josh Amolsch discovered this glorious state park in Hawaii was closed when they had stayed at our Hawaii house last October. It had also been about 10 years since I’d been to the Akaka Falls. The park was near our Botantical World Adventure, so we made a point to visit before heading back to Kona.

After we paid our $5 to park, which included admission, we began the trek into this lush paradise. Akaka Falls is 422 feet high, and the word means split or to crack in Hawaiian. My eyes were not so much on the path as on the beautiful flowers and ferns growing like crazy in the park.  Plus, when I heard a bird sing, I mimicked the sound through a whistle, and soon I found myself conversing with the birds.

It drizzled a bit but intermittently the sun peeked out. I snapped quite a few photos at Akaka Falls, so I hope you enjoy this effort below. After all, I shall be returning to Sacramento on Thursday.  Back to the reality of Sacramento real estate. Only a few more blogs from Hawaii to go.

 

Akaka Falls

 

Akaka Falls

 

Akaka Falls

 

Akaka Falls

 

Akaka Falls

 

Akaka Falls

 

Akaka Falls

 

Akaka Falls

 

Elizabeth Weintraub

Happy Labor Day from the Big Island of Hawaii

big island of hawaii

My husband left the Big Island of Hawaii yesterday to return to our cats in Sacramento. When he rebooked his flight due to the then pressing Hurricane Lane, he could not get a return flight on Labor Day so he had to leave on Sunday. However, that still leaves our exclusive buyer’s agent Josh Amolsch and the beautiful and entertaining Vika at our house with me. And a few more days of vacation before I return to Sacramento real estate and they move on to the island of Kauai.

You would not believe the energy of these two. Of course, they are about half my age but so what. We had a blast yesterday. After dropping Adam at the airport, we decided to thoroughly enjoy what the Big Island of Hawaii has to offer. Starting with a drive past the Coffee Shack in Captain Cook (which is still for sale) on our way to go snorkeling at Two-Step Beach.

Yesterday I had a new experience at Two-Step Beach. I encountered a giant manta ray while snorkeling, sort of snuck up behind him. He wasn’t swimming very fast so I sauntered along behind. The manta ray began to pick up speed and rose toward the surface, so I swam faster and harder. Almost swam right over him. He was enormous. I could almost reach out and touch his back. Incredible.

Those giant manta rays look like a creature from outer space, with horns on the front, a gray and white body, and a long straight tail. First time I ever came across a manta ray while in the water. Also spotted your usual assortment of parrot fish, needle-nose fish and tangs.

On the way back to Kona, we stopped at Huggos for a mai tai and fish tacos. Followed by renting boogie boards and headed to White Sands Beach. Josh gave me his board, tied it to my wrist and I rode that sucker all the way to shore and up the sandy beach. When we got back to our house, I discovered sand in every crevice, nook and cranny. Well worth it. And I left my cell at the house.

Today, we plan to go ziplining in Hilo at the Botanical Gardens. Happy Labor Day from the Big Island of Hawaii!

Elizabeth Weintraub

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