Evening 3/Day 4
We arrived in Hawaii after a long flight from NY, plus a connecting flight from Honolulu (birthplace of Obama FYI), collected our rental jeep and were on our (very windy) way to the Fairmont Orchid. Upon arrival we were handed traditional wooden Hawaiian necklaces (I was a tiny bit disappointed they weren't floral Leis) and shown to our room, walking past the pool and beach which I couldn't wait to see in the morning. Our room was lush, and after eating copious amounts of the melt-in-your-mouth chocolate covered macademia nuts that were on offer we went to bed.
The next day we pretty much woke up in paradise. We were staying in the 'gold' section of the hotel, which has it's own breakfast buffet, and the delights on offer included macadamia nut sticky bun french toast, which is every bit as amazing as it sounds. I could pretty much feel the sugar soaking into my pores - fantastic. I then headed to the spa for a massage by the sea (the first time Rich introduced me as his wife was at the spa reception- eep!), which was incredibly relaxing, even if there were a few moments when I was afraid the pleasant breeze was going to not so pleasantly reveal my naked body to the unsuspecting joggers out for a casual morning run. Luckily nothing of the sort occurred, I floated my way back to meet Rich and we decided to have a nice sunbathe and dip in the sea. We were enjoying a nice dip in the sea when Rich suddenly accidentally smashed his foot onto some sharp coral (aptly name ah-ah).The poor love. After leaving a trail of blood all over the beach and path, we located some hotel staff who got a first aider to bandage his foot, telling us that they couldn't stitch it up as there wasn't enough skin left either side! As you can imagine, that scuppered our snorkelling/sunbathing/swimming plans somewhat as he had to keep it dry for at least 24 hours, so we decided to do some exploring instead.
We didn't really know where we were going so we asked the concierge where was a nice place to head to and she suggested we make our way to Kona. Hawaii is a very interesting place weather wise, (according to one leaflet we picked up it has TEN micro climates!) which we found out when driving that afternoon. About 20 minutes away from our hotel, where it was glorious sunshine, and the landscape either side of the road is volcanic ash, we started heading towards the mountains and it was suddenly raining buckets with a backdrop of wall to wall greenery! We saw a sign for a 'scenic point' (there are many of these on the big island) and we came to the Waipio Valley lookout, which to be fair, was pretty scenic. You can go down to the beach usually but due to a Dengue Fever outbreaks, this part was closed - eek! After getting wet and taking pics we got back in the car and travelled to Kona, where we had a coffee and a burrito, as recommended by the hire car leaflet - tbh I've had better! The jet lag was beginning to kick in at this point so we went back to the hotel.
Today was another day of exploring. We travelled towards the east side of the island to visit Akaka Falls, travelling past Jurassic Park-esque rainforest - Rich was convinced that we were going to see a T-Rex stumble out between the trees. Once we got to the area it was pouring with rain, and about a mile walk to see the waterfall. Not having ponchos, we got absolutely soaked on the way, much to the amusements of every other tourist we saw who had the foresight to buy some waterproofs. It was worth it though, as the views were lush. On our way back we stopped off at a small nearby town where I had the overflowing cup of deliciousness pictured above - a vanilla shark shake (contained 0 sharks) at the Hilo Shark Coffee shop. We stayed and looked round the little town and then headed back to the hotel to sip some cocktails and watch the sun go down. If I was the type of person to say 'bliss' that's what I would have written but I'm not.
I don't know if you know but Hawaii is basically made from a volcano and has loads of active volcanoes erupting all over it. With this is mind, we decided to book a helicopter tour over the most active volcano on the island. We travelled to Hilo, stopping off at The Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden en route, where shock horror it was raining again, however this time there were huge free umbrellas to use whilst walking around the gardens. They were lush in the literal sense of the world and full of pretty bright flowers, waterfalls and cute lookouts. From here we made our way to Hilo, a coastal town which has the most rainfall per year than anywhere else in America! We ate lunch and had a look around some shops, although a lot were closed due to it being Sunday, and we bought some cool vintage postcards before setting off to Hilo airport. We checked in for our big helicopter flight, watched the safety video and were all set to board when one of the staff members strolled up to our group and politely informed us we would not be flying today as there was too much cloud cover. We were disappointed but it was kind of funny as it was all so casual - I guess it must happen a lot. Luckily we were able to re book for the Wednesday, so we decided to use the rest of the day to visit the nearby volcano park. By this time we had wised up and bought ponchos, so whilst it was still rainy we were prepared.
At the volcano park we saw some big old volcanoes steaming, hiked (the Americans love to say hike when really it's just a walk) to the rim of a crater, visited the museum/shop and walked (sorry, hiked) through some lava tubes, which are massive snake-y caves created by the aftermath of molten lava. By the time we finished at the park it was dusk and we were well hungry so we stopped off at a Jack in the Box (similar to Burger King) then started on the 2 hour drive back to the hotel. The route on the map was via Mauna Kea, and we were travelling at a height of 13,000 + feet above sea level, which made my sinuses freak out a bit. As we climbed higher and higher, it was getting steadily darker and darker until we were driving in pitch black with barely any cars on the road, and to make things more than a tad unnerving, not only was Rich worried we might run out of petrol but we were in volcano territory and drove past a sign which said 'Fire level: EXTREME'. It's safe to say I was never happier to see civilisation than when we got to a petrol station! And that was Day 6.
View part 3 here :)