We finally made it to Waipi'o Valley. Just continue up 19 north out of Hilo and follow the signs. This is probably one of the most beautiful spots on our whole trip. The view from the scenic overlook is just enough to make you never want to leave. This offers the quintessential photo for everyone's Hawai'i scrapbook.
This valley is held in high regards spiritually by the natives. They believe that the mana of their ancestors can be felt here. It is also here that King Kamehameha hid as a child to avoid assasination by the king.
There is another road you can access from this point...Waipi'o Valley Road. We didn't head down it, mainly because the 4-wheel drive vehicles were too rough riding while my hand was all pinned together. You need three tings to take this road:
1. A 4 wheel drive vehicle
2. Alot of experience driving steep roads in a 4 wheel drive vehicles
3. Alot of balls
This road has an incredible 45 degree down grade for 900 feet. The inexperienced will burn out their brakes.
There are many tour options that can get you into the valley more easily, including horseback.
The Mauna Loa lava flow of 1881 flowed towards Hilo in this lava tube. It is said that Princess Ruth slept the night in front of the lava flow and asked Pele to spare Hilo, and upon wakening found the lava had stopped. The lava tube that was left is about 25 miles long, and about the 4 mile marker on Kaumana Drive (just off Waianuenue Avenue) there is a small opening, where a hole in the lava tube, exposed to the rainforest Hilo weather, created a micro rainforest opening. Signs at the entrance warn that the cave extnds miles and does lead into private properties. We descended the stairs, and at the bottom are openings to two different caves. The one on the right is a larger opening, and was easier (and safer) for me to walk into shortly. Gordie ventured in just a liitle further, but after the accident, we had shipped all our hiking stuff and flashlights home. I would have loved to explore. The cave on the left has a low overhang, but caverns out on the other side.
Bring your flashlights, waterproof hiking boots and have fun!
Just past the 7 mile marker on 19 north of Hilo, there is a turn off for a "scenic" road. This really is a great side trip. It's only 4 miles long, but it twists and turns through lush tropical jungles, and leads you past the Hawai'i Tropical Botanical Jungle. We didn't stop at this site, but I here it is well worth the $15 entrance fee. A little past the gardens, the road takes you to the edge of Onomea Bay. The view here was magical. We had to stop and gaze out for a while.
The road takes you right back up to 19. I highly recommend this diversion.
Driving into Hilo, it's impossible to miss the exapnsive park along the bay. We learned later that the bayfront used to be a busy Japanese town that got washed out by both the tsunamies of 1946 and 1960. After those two devastingly expensive cleanups, it was decided this area would be best used as a park.
There is a statue of King Kamehameha in this park that is like the one on Oahu by the palace. Another interesting piece here is a clock on the side of Kamehameha Street is stopped at the exact time of the 1960 tsunami...1:04 am.
Just after the 14 mile marker on 19 north of Hilo, there is a small park, where the water from Akaka Falls flows out to the ocean. We took the short trip into the park, which is below the highway we just came off of. The bridge the highway was on was part of a railroad bridge that was greatly damaged in the tsunami of 1946.
There is a small waterfall and swimming hole in this park. The beach itself is too hazardous to swim in, but the force of the fresh water stream emptying into the ocean made some impressive surfing conditions. We watched a surfer here for a while. Brave soul. The waves were only 100 yards or so from the rocks of the beach.
This is a nice spot to spend time, there are facilities for a nice picnic. We were there mid-week, and is was pretty empty, though I hear weekends it is busy.
Further north on 19, just past the 27 mile marker, there is a road the leads to Laupahoehoe Point. We didn't take the trip down this road, but this is the spot most remembered for the 1946 tsunami that killed 21 schoolchildren and 3 teachers. Just washed them out to sea. After that, they moved the town further upstream...
The views from this point are of dramatic cliffs and the surf pounded against the jagged rocks. There is a memorial to those that died at the bottom.
In 1946 and again in 1960 Hilo was hit with destructive tsunamis. While they pale in comparison to the recent one in Indonesia, they had a big impact on the city, taking many lives and causing almost total destruction of parts of the city. They are well documented in this museum which is housed in a former bank building - one of the few downtown which survived. The old bank vault is now the room where you view their video about the tsunamis. I was interested to learn that "tsunami" is a Japanese word meaning "big wave in the harbor." Apt enough!
The poster shown in the photo is of a picture taken on the main street the day the 1946 tsunami hit. The local folk had identified everyone except the man in the foreground until very recently when he, George Wong now living on the US East Coast, saw a tv special on tsunamis and heard they wanted to know who he was. He called and they were delighted to hear his story.
We were met by a volunteer (Donna Saike who is also VP of the Board of Directors) who gave us a good introduction to the history of these events. She is retired and is the former principal of the local highschool so had a great deal of personal experience to share. I later saw a book of pictures done by school children given in honor of her. I think she was on duty the day George Wong called to identify himself.
There is a wealth of information here about the causes of tsunamis and the current efforts in tracking and warning systems.
This lava tube formed about 350-500 years ago. Such tubes result from the lava flow solidifying on the outside while molten lava still flows through the interior. This one came from an eruption of the Ai-laau shield on the east side of Kilauea's summit. Lava from this vent buried the entire north flank of Kilauea, all the way to the ocean. The 20-minute walk at Thurston Lava Tube will give you a close-up look at a Hawaiian rainforest and the lava tube. Be careful, the trail can be slippery when wet.
For a unique experience, go see the black sand beach and watch the green turtles basking.
The turtles feed on the algae that flourishes in the brackish waters. Then they come up on the beach to rest.
This could also be a shopping tip as the orchids and other flowers here are for sale. In fact it is a retail business, but our visit was just for admiring. We did not buy anything - how do you get a blooming orchid through airport security? You can also purchase items on line at their website.
Buying or not, it is worth a little time just to see the magnificent variety of bright and colorful orchids. There are some which are almost unbelieveable. One, called "Volcano Queen" does in fact look like an active volcano crater with its red flowers centered with bright yellow and bordered by bright white. Appropriate for their location in Volcano near Kilauea.
Two of the most active volcanoes in the world lie within its boundaries.
Hawaii Volcanos National Park is located 45 minute drive from Hilo.
For the past 20 yrs, the erupting Kilauea volcano has been the #1 attraction on the Big Island.
The park is open 24 hrs a day, seven days a week.
The cost per vehicle is $10 which includes all passengers.
It is an easy drive on a good paved road.
If you plan to visit the park, bring a waterproof jacket, a hat, sunglasses, hiking shoes, a torch/flashlight, and bottled water.
Be sure to arrive with a full tank of gas as there is no where to buy gas within the park.
This park has rocky tidepools along the coast. Beautiful blooming trees and a great place for a swim. We liked to go there standing on the rocks looking for the Green sea turtles.
The turtles feed in the shallow coastal waters around all the Hawaiian islands.
Akatsuka Orchid Gardens is located on the way to see the volcanoes.
If you’re planning a trip to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, stop by to see their display room. They are open 7 days a week, from 8:30 a.m.- 5:00 p.m. The building has easy access and is wheel chair accessible.
If you love orchids then you will love looking around their show room.
You can also send orchids back home to your family and friends.
That way they won't be so upset about you getting to go to Hawaii and they didn't.
I used to hate when my parents forced me to go here with them. It was tiring spending a couple of hours haggling with Filipino immigrants over stuff you can buy in the store!! As a kid, you wonder why come here when the store is nicer? This place can be quite crowded.
The truth is, things are way cheaper here and you can find things not normally sold in stores. Many things are imported from Asia. There is also food sold in kiosks. It can be compared to an Arabic souq.
There is a very scenic drive about 7 miles north of Hilo. On the highway it is posted Scenic Drive.
The narrow 2 lane road has many turns and it is best to go here on a sunny dry day. It gets slick when wet.
There are several places where you can stop and look around, take some pictures, and just enjoy the tropical foliage.
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