Day 22: Big Island Style

Mike has done a lot of traveling to the neighbor islands for work, but today marked my first jaunt to another locale in the archipelago. We got up obscenely early and hopped on a plane to the Big Island–at least we got to watch the sunrise in the air!


We picked up our rental car and arrived at our Airbnb sometime around seven in the morning, fully intending to drop off our bags and go explore. But we talked ourselves out of leaving anything because we needed most of our stuff for our adventure. This was the first of many times I’m sure we annoyed our host, but he hid his annoyance well.

At our host’s recommendation we ate breakfast at Pine Tree Cafe. Mike had the loco moco and I had the corned beef hash and everything was delicious. We also sampled some 100 percent Kona coffee, and it was goooood–I even drank it hot, which I never do.

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park was our first stop of the day. When we arrived we talked to a ranger to try to get a feel for the best route to take to see some lava flow. She tried to get us to hike out to some center where there’s steam coming out of a hole in the ground, but it was in the opposite direction of the lava flow so we skipped that stop.

Y’all, the hike out to see the lava flow was no joke. It was probably about 8.5 miles round trip and it is like walking on a cast-iron skillet on an open flame for four hours. All the old, hardened lava is black, which radiates crazy amounts of heat. There are no trees or really any forms of shade; it’s just a wide open trail that gets full Hawaii sun exposure.

See that little puff of steam way, way in the distance? That’s where we hiked… from where I stood to take this picture.

The first three miles of the hike were gravel, which got a little old after a while because it was loose and made it hard to get a good pace, which we both wanted to do because after about the first mile of flat, black nothingness–you get in a hurry to get to the good stuff. About a half mile beyond the three-mile mark we noticed a lot of folks were walking out onto the hardened lava, so we followed suit. Lava rock is nothing to trifle with. It crunches like glass under your feet and if you fall on it, it will slice you to ribbons. Fortunately neither of us fell as we wandered, but the lava was super uneven and there were big faults in it that we could easily have fallen into.

That thin line of string isn’t keeping anyone out.

We ended up ducking under the rope to go into the Nope Zone, which is inadvisable because the earth is hot enough there that it can shift and sinkholes can be a thing, but we saw a large crowd gathered to watch the lava flow and figured YOLOHA.

It didn’t photograph well, but you could see the hot lava coming down the side of the cliff and there were huge puffs of steam every time a wave would crash into the lava on the shore. We chatted with some other folks before the vog (volcanic fog) got to be too much to bear. The hike back seemed even longer than the hike out, probably because it was now hotter and we were pretty wiped from our early flight and hike out.

We ventured into Hilo for dinner at Hilo Burger Joint. It had a nice selection of beer and some pretty stellar burgers to boot. The downside to not being close to our Airbnb is that we were still in our sweaty hiking gear, but Mike and I did manage to wipe all the volcano dust off of ourselves in the restroom at the burger place.

On the way out of Hilo we hit up Two Ladies Kitchen for some mochi because that’s literally the only place in Hawaii you can buy their mochi. I have never had mochi before this trip, but I’m pretty confident when I say Two Ladies’ mochi is probably the best I’ll ever get my hands on unless we travel to Japan.The strawberry, tsumami (not a typo), and peach were delicious. My absolute favorite is still the Okinawan sweet potato mochi, though. It may have changed my life.

Give me all the mochi.

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