Tuesday morning we arrived in Hilo on the big island of Hawaii. We woke early and got our showers and breakfast and headed out for the day. I had booked today’s trip for us before we left home. It was a trip to Richardson Beach, Rainbow Falls and the Volcano National Park with some other stops along the way.
The boat doors opened around 9:00 a.m. and it was a mass exodus to get off the boat. We were to meet our tour at 9:15 a.m. for a 9:30 a.m. start. I found our meeting point right away and we were soon gathered up on a bus; however, we were only on the bus for about five minutes as we soon got dropped off at a van with a man named Phil who was to be our guide for the day.
The day started with just three of us and Phil. Our first stop was Richardson Beach which is a black sand beach. It was a really lovely spot and Phil explained to us the history of the area and what types of animals and fish and coral could be found there. It was a spot that is used for snorkeling, diving, surfing and swimming. Also, on occasion, seals and sea turtles will beach there for some sun. At these times, the area is quarantined off so that no one will bother the wildlife.
After we left Richardson Beach, we drove along a road that had Banton trees along the sides. The trees were planted by various celebrities such as Richard Nixon, Babe Ruth and Cecil B. DeMille. The road led up to a Japanese garden which was another stop for us. The garden is very large and is often used in movies, according to Phil. While we were at the garden, we had two other couples join us on the tour. They were also from the cruise ship, but had booked their trip after getting off the boat whereas we had booked in advance.
Our next stop was Rainbow Falls which was a large waterfall. I’m not really sure why it’s called rainbow falls and to be honest it wasn’t much more spectacular than any of the other waterfalls we have seen on our journeys, but it was still nice. I suppose I should have looked for a sign describing the area; but, alas, I did not.
We then made our way to a tasty spot called Big Island Candies. Here they had mostly cookies and a few candies which Phil told us not to purchase because they would be cheaper at a spot later on in the day. It was a nice stop, however, and we were able to sample lots of cookies and some Kona coffee. You could see the assembly line of workers through glass and they were all busy boxing up cookies.
An orchid flower garden was our next stop and I cannot remember the name of it, nor am I going to attempt to spell it out. I do know it started with an A. Here we ladies got orchids to pin in our hair. Did you know if you are taken you are to pin the flower above your left ear and if you are looking for someone then you are to pin it above your right ear. I, obviously, pinned mine on the right.
The next stop of the day was Volcano National Park. We actually made four stops in the park. The first was at an overlook of the lava flow and it also provided a distant view of the active smoldering volcano. The second stop was of a lava tube. This was a 14-16 foot cave/tunnel made of solidified lava. It was nice and cool in the cave and it was very interesting to walk through.
We then stopped at a spot where there was steam coming out of the ground. These two spots which are side by side do not give off a sulfuric smell typical of volcanoes. The steam, however, is from the volcano and is 100-125 degrees Fahrenheit. We were able to stand beside it and feel the steam which was like being in a sauna. Oddly enough, when Phil revved the engine of the van, the steam rose up higher and thicker. It was rather bizarre and interesting.
Our final stop in the park was close to the active steaming volcano which we had seen from a distance. This time we were about a mile away from the steam rising up from the ground. There was also a museum there which showed different kinds of lava rock and how lava is studied, etc.
When we left the park, we went to the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Farm where I had some Chocolate Macadamia Nut and Kona Coffee Ice Cream, both of which were good. I bought some chocolate covered Macadamia Nuts as well. This was our last stop of the day and Phil dropped us all off at the ship after this stop.
I would be amiss if I didn’t mention one other thing. One of the gentlemen that was on the tour with us was not only a survivor of the Holocaust, but also an American WWII veteran. He escaped Nazi Germany and came to the US and became a soldier. His parents and only sibling, a sister, all died at Auschwitz. His father had made a menorah and hidden diamonds in the bottom of it. The menorah was shipped to a storage building in Belgium to keep it out of the hands of the Nazis. The storage building was bombed, but his aunts dug through the ash and rubble and found it and shipped it to him. Once he received it, he discovered the diamonds inside and this was how he got his start after his service in the military ended. He was an amazing man and we all feel lucky to have met Mr. Norbert Freidman, a member of the Greatest Generation.