After leaving Buddha’s Cup, I headed slowly back toward Kailua-Kona along the meandering, higher-elevation State Highway 180. I pulled into the small town of Holualoa, where I got a great view of the ocean from a couple thousand feet up. I had never seen the ocean from so high up before, but such views are commonplace in Hawaii and I saw many more of them on my trip.
I also stumbled across a very neat Japanese cemetery:
I wandered around the village, stuck my head in a clothes shop, and thought about buying another Hawaiian shirt (but didn’t after looking at the price tags). I was looking for a bakery that was supposed to be extremely good (Sundog Bread), but I came to find out that it was a pop-up tent that was only open from 2-5 on Wednesdays and Fridays. (In general, I found places in Hawaii to have hours very different than I was used to.) It was a Wednesday, at about 1 pm, so I only had an hour. Should I wait?
Now here’s where I wish the rest of the afternoon had gone differently. I decided I didn’t have time to wait, because I wanted to walk around the cloud forest at higher elevation (here) and still get back down to Kona in time to see Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park before it closed (all cars have to be out of the parking lot by 4 pm… again, unusual hours). So, I moved on.
I wound my way up the side of Hualalai to the Makahi Street Trailhead. It was a different world up there at 3500+ feet, cool and misty. But whether because of recent specific rain or just general permanent wetness, the trail was extremely muddy, so much so that I didn’t go very far on it because I didn’t feel like trashing my shoes, and I definitely didn’t want to wipe out and ruin my clothes.
So, I headed back down the mountain to the coast at Kona. I pulled into Kaloko-Honokohau NHP expecting to have to pay admission, but it was apparently free. Most of the park is on an ancient lava flow, which was certainly novel for me, although I did a lot more of it later on the trip.
There are trails leading to old building sites and fishing ponds, but the truth is… there’s just not that much to see here. Walking on a lava flow is hot (the black rock absorbs a ton of solar radiation), and one of the main trails along the beach is underwater at high tide. I literally had to take my socks and shoes off and make a dash for it when the waves receded! All in all, this was one of the biggest disappointments of the trip and while it was free, it just didn’t seem worth the time I spent there. I wish I had hung around Holualoa and waited for the bakery to open.
I did see lots of noni, a bizarre fruit I had never seen or even heard of before arriving in Hawaii. It has a vaguely Lovecraftian, squishy, gelatinous look and a putrid aroma. It supposedly tastes like blue cheese, which I love, but you couldn’t pay me to try one. Apparently it was used for medicinal purposes by the ancient Hawaiians.
After leaving the park, I still had plenty of time to kill before my dinner reservation at 7:30, so I changed into a swimsuit and went and splashed around at the beach a little bit. I’m a poor swimmer, and hadn’t swum in years, but I knew I would be swimming the next morning, so I at least wanted to get a little bit of practice beforehand. It was fun, but the Pacific Ocean is colder than I expected, even in the tropics!
Dinner at Jackie Rey’s Ohana Grill was delicious and one of the true treats of the trip. I got a Kalua Pork Quesadilla appetizer (might not sound like anything special, but anything kalua is fantastic), a Seafood Trio entrée, and some truly out-of-this-world mud pie gelato for dessert. I also got a Mai Tai, which was a bit bitter for my taste, and a piña colada, which put a big smile on my face. I rolled back to my AirBnb and went to bed early (I had woken up at 3:30, after all), excited about the adventures that awaited me tomorrow!