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Story and photos by Larry Turner*
HighOnAdventure.com   December 1, 2012

Paddling in Hawaii
* note: All of my photos are available for print or license purchase by contacting me at: skiturn789@yahoo.com); website: www.larryturnerphotography.com

Had I known more about the Big Island, Hawaii, I would have gone a long time ago. I had plenty of offerings and invitations but I passed them up, oddly, as I thought the island was more like the Oahu/ Honolulu scene. I should have listened to my former sister-in-law who moved there 20 years ago, encouraging me to come and swim with the dolphins. Instead I traveled to the beaches of Mexico—where I once lived—and to other Central American beach countries. I should have passed up one of those trips or one of my many ski trips to Canada and accepted the Big Island invitation.

Things changed over a year ago when my sister and brother-in-law moved from a block away from me—in our hometown—to the Big Island. Rod took over as the maintenance/road/trails supervisor at Volcano National Park. In talking with them and others, I got ‘interested’ in a trip. Lynette, her son Garrett and my son Steen decided to go. Lynette had lived in Oahu for three years and she had traveled to most of the Hawaiian Islands so had a familiarity with this part of the world.

So we went, with stopovers in Maui on both ends of the trip, returning to the mainland less than two weeks ago. These travel words and experiences are fresh; the ink is not dry from the pen of experience.

Arriving in Hawaii   Boogie boarding in Hawaii
Boogie boarding
Hawaii cloudburse   Dragon fruit
Dragon fruit
Hapuna Beach   Hawaii island church
Hapuna Beach
Island church
Veranda   Hawaii Kon church
Islander veranda view
Kona Church
Kon Farmer's Market   Koka room view
Kona farmer's market
Kona room view
Maui   Hawaii room view
Room view
Sailing Kona   Hawaii smile
Sailing Kona


We flew into Kona International Airport on Hawaiian Airlines (www.hawaiianairlines.com). My sister Nancy and Rod surprised us—as they were ‘supposed’ to be working that day—with the proper Hawaiian welcome of fresh lais, just as I had seen in the old movies with the first tourist air flights to the islands. We were ecstatic, overjoyed!

After picking up the rental car, we drove to our accommodations for the next three nights, the Kona Islander (www.konaislanderhotel.com), where we enjoyed a practical, fair-priced room with a small veranda on the third floor overlooking picturesque Kailua Bay. The temperatures were perfect. When making reservations for the Kona Islander, ask for an ocean view.

The hotel location is ideal with the Kona Farmer’s Market (open throughout the week; we picked up fresh papayas for 50 cents each and a variety of other island fruits and vegetables for our small kitchen) a block away, the beautiful Pacific yards away, plenty of eateries and nightclubs along the promenade, and easy walking/biking to small nearby beaches and tourist attractions, including shopping. Whatever recreational sport connected with tropical waters is easily accessed from the Kona Islander. Kona is the sunny side of the island, so take advantage of it when you’re there. We did, including boogie-boarding, swimming and snorkeling at White Sands Beach Park and Hapuna Beach (considered by many as the island’s finest beach).


  Kona Beach
Kona Beach

Mornings come early for the locals and the more ambitious tourists. From our veranda, just after first light, there was a parade of joggers, cyclists, walkers, swimmers in the bay, and paddle boarders. The mornings are perfect for such activities before the afternoon tropical humidity rises. Healthy activities are hard to avoid on the Big Island. This is not a land of couch potatoes!


Near the Islander is Hulihe’s Palace (where Hawaiian royalty vacationed) and Mokuaikaua Church, the first Christian church built in the islands in 1820. Both places are open to the public and well worth visiting, as is the Little Blue Church down Ali Drive. Next to the Little Blue Church is the Ku’emanu Heiau, a church associated with surfing…the only one on the Big Island. In Old Hawaii—that is before modern times and before America took rule of the islands—only chiefs could surf here. Commoners caught surfing this sacred spot were done away with. Interesting, too, in the old days, surfing was done in the nude, possibly leading to the term ‘hanging lose’!


The evening of the day of our arrival, we spent at the luxurious Sheraton Keauho (www.sheratonkona.com ) where Lynette’s first cousin Greg Shirley was performing guitar with his vocal friend Olga at the classy restaurant/bar, Rays on the Bay. It is the only Hawaiian Restaurant built on a lava cliff where you can view giant manta rays at night. The following evening, we had a splendid Hawaiian dinner at Greg and his girlfriend Debra’s Kona home. Debra and Greg served barbecued ono (wahoo) fish along with several other delectables. Ono in Hawaiian means delicious, and indeed it was!

If you have to stretch out your Hawaiian vacation money—as most of us do these days—hit the happy hour drink and menu items at such places as Huggo’s ($2 fish tacos that were scrumptious) and Lulu’s ($3 beers from Kona Brewing and other breweries). And by all means, try out the poke (raw fish mixed with seaweed, sesame seed, oil and other seasonings; these were my son’s favorites!).

  Hawaii hiking   Waipio offering   Waipio waterfall  
Lynette hiking
Waipio offering
Waipio waterfall
Hiking the Waipio Valley   Beach walking
Hiking the Waipio Valley
Nancy and Rod
Waipio Valley mouth
Waipio Valley mouth


On the fourth day, we took the Saddle Road between Mauna Loa (13,779 feet) and Mauna Kea (13,796 feet) heading to Hilo and eventually to Volcano where my sis and brother-in-law live. Driving north along the Kona and Kohala Coasts, we briefly stopped to boogie board and snorkel Hapuna Beach one more time. While snorkeling, I came across my second green turtle of the trip; the first I had seen and photographed along the Kailua Bay seawall.

Dress warmly when crossing the Saddle Road. With just my swim trunks on, I got out to photograph some dramatic late light on Mauna Loa at nearly 7,000 feet. The temps had dropped 30 degrees from the coast in less than 50 miles! These two volcanoes that dominate the Big Island landscape can often be seen dressed in white at their upper elevations. I’ll have to come back and snow ski sometime!

The Saddle Road, as are all roads on the Big Island, is built on lava. This is an eerie and beautiful landscape. As we neared Hilo the rains came. It was only when nearing Volcano that they stopped. The Hilo region is the green belt of the Big Island with considerably more rainfall than the Kona side.

Chain of Craters Road   Hawaii coconut grove
Chain of Craters Road
Coconut grove spared by the flow
Rainbow at end of Chain of Craters Road   Halemaum Cater
End of Chain of Craters Road

Halemaumau Crater

Hawaii rainbow   Holei Sea Arch
Hawaii rainbow
Holei Sea Arch
Kilauea evening   Kilauea morning
Kilauea evening
Kilauea morning
  Kilauea stars
Kilauea shoreline
Kilauea stars
Kilauea   Hawaii's last grove of coconuts
Last grove of coconuts
View of the end of Chain of Craters   Volcano National Park
View of the end of Chain of Craters
Volcano National Park
Volcano National Park landscape   Where lava meets the sea
Volcano National Park landscape
Where lava meets the sea
Where lava meets the sea
Where lava meets the sea


Volcano National Park (www.nps.gov/havo.com; www.hvo.wr.usgs.gov.com; www.hawaiipacificparks.org) has the world’s largest and most active volcanoes. Yesterday (November 24, 2012)—we had left Hawaii a week ago—the hot molten lava flow from Puu Oo—a part of Kilauea Volcano—hit the ocean once again (just as it had a year ago). At the moment of this writing a 50 foot waterfall of lava is spewing into the Pacific.

Rod and Nancy live within the Park, a few miles from the Kilauea Caldera and the lively Halemaumau Crater. Fire and fuming gases from the volcano are especially pronounced at night. Several evenings, I went into the park—open 24 hours a day—and photographed the active volcano. It is other-worldly, especially with a lucid night sky.

A person could easily spend a week alone adventuring in the Park. We took the Chain of Craters road to the Holei Sea Arch and hiked to the lone remaining grove of coconut trees, spared by the extensive lava flow. Since 1983, Kilauea’s flows have added 1,000 acres of new land to the Big Island. An eruption of the Kilauea Iki crater in 1959 sent plumes of lava and smoke 1900 feet into the air, lasting 36 days. If you want to live on the edge, this is the place to come. There are many fascinating hiking trails in this dynamic landscape. Extensive information on them can be found at the Park’s Jaggar Museum and the Kilauea Visitor Center.

Hawaii   Hawaii sea turtle
Akaka Falls
Black sand beach sea turtle
City of Refuge tidepools   Black sand beach
City of Refuge tidepools
Black sand beach
Hawaii snorkeling  
Garrett snorkeling
Green sea turtle
Kalapana Market
Hula performance
Kalapana Market
  Coconut lady   Hawaiian singers at Kalapana Market   Kapaluna Market vendors  
Coconut lady
Singers at Kalapana Market
Kalapana Market vendors
Kona Coast   Maui from the air
Kona Coast
Leaving Maui
Local's Hawaii beach   Paddle boarder
Local's beach
Paddle boarder Miki
Hawaii Place of Refuge   Puna Coast pull out
Place of Refuge
Puna coast pull out
  Making poi   Puna Coast   Scenic old road north of Hilo  
Making poi
Puna Coast - Garrett and Steen
Scenic old road north of Hilo
Hawaiian reef fish   Hawaiian reef snorkeling
Reef fish
Reef snorkeling
Hawaiian   Turtle sleeping
Sister Nancy and me
Sleeping turtle
Snoozing turtle   Snorkeling treasures in Hawaii
Snoozing turtle
Snorkeling treasures
Hawaiian snorkeling view   Hawaii snorkeling
Snorkeling view
Snorkeling treasures
Woman surfing
Surfing lady
Surfing north of Hilo   Hawaii - black sands beach
Surfing north of Hilo
The author at black sands beach
Hawaii - underwater treasures   Hawaiian wild goat
Snorkeling treasures
Wild goat


The Big Island is the southern most island in the United States, with South Point—75 miles from Volcano—the southernmost point of the US. From Rod and Nancy’s house, we took day explorations to the east, north and south sides of the island.

Waipio Valley on the north end was a day always to be remembered. All of us— including Rod and Nancy—drove to Hilo and on to Waipio after Nancy’s Sunday Farmer’s Market in Volcano (she sells gourmet cheese spreads and baked goods there in addition to other nearby markets). Hilo is a beautiful and fascinating city with a wonderful waterfront. We stopped and purchased Portuguese pastries and strolled in the Japanese gardens.

The drive up the coast on the Hawaii Belt Road was mesmerizing with perpetual views of the deep, blue Pacific. Steen and I set up chairs in the back of the pickup and enjoyed the drive under blue, warm skies. Entering the 25% steep grade into verdant Waipio, we stood up, transfixed by the lushness of this rainforest which once was the valley of Hawaiian kings. Now, few people live in the valley that once had thousands of inhabitants. The Waipio waterfalls are spectacular. If you do not wish to hike to the falls, you can call 808-775-1007 and arrange to go in by horseback via the Waipio Ridge Stables.

We had a picnic at the black sand beach where the Waipio River empties into the sea.

The following day, we went to Punaluu Beach (Black Sand Beach) south of the Park. I snorkeled some, but decided to beach it when the undertow became too strong. This beach is famous for the Hawaiian green turtle. I photographed several that had beached themselves to rest in the sun.

The day after, we traveled north of Hilo to a local’s beach across the road from a Japanese Cemetery. On a small sand spit we set up near where a small fresh water stream empties into the mighty Pacific. There were lots of surfers, boogie-boarders and the best paddle-boarders that I’ve ever seen challenging the breaking waves. Late in the day we drove the Onomea Scenic Road which led us past the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden. We made our way to 442 foot Akaka Falls but darkness was setting in and it was too late to hike to the base of the falls. Another trip.

After a day of rest, we headed to the Puna Region to snorkel near Champagne Ponds. The tide pools afforded the best snorkeling of the journey. Afterwards, we traveled along the tree-canopied Highway 137 to the village of Kalapana which has a Wednesday Farmer’s Market that is extraordinary (Nancy is a regular vendor there) and includes music, a variety of food, drink, crafts and produce. We listened to live Hawaiian music under a warm November rain. I met the native Hawaiian family that owns the market property and also the property to access the current lava flow. I made arrangements to hike in on my next trip to the Big Island.

The 1990 Kilauea eruption and flows devastated the old fishing village of Kalapana, destroying most of the town, and their way of life, the old Hawaiian way of life. At the market, we parked on top of that flow. At the nearby beach, at night, one can see the steam and the glow of the flowing magma.

Hawaii Hilton evening
  Steen Turner and Larry Turner
Hilton evening
Steen and I


Our last night on the Big Island was spent at the Hilton Waikoloa Village Resort, the largest, as such, in the Hawaiian Islands. I took a separate vehicle, solo, leaving later and exploring en route to this resort north of Kona. I took Highway 11 south and then north along the Kona Coast stopping at Moalula Cloud Rest Coffee to taste coffee and crack my own macadamia nuts. I snorkeled at ‘Two Step’ (Keoneele Cove) next to Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park (formerly called ‘city of refuge’). I had the tide pools and picnic area in the Park all to myself. It is a beautiful setting with swaying coconut trees and a captivating view of the coast looking south. North of this area is where Captain Cook was killed by the Hawaiians in 1779.

I arrived at the Hilton just in time for a lingering and lovely Hawaii sunset. The Hilton is like the Disneyland of Hawaii, complete with a rail system that takes you to your room and boats that course through the man-made waterways, leading one to restaurants, art galleries and many other amenities of a five-star hotel. We had Peking duck and other dishes for dinner and it was wonderful. But my mind was still back at the Kalapana Market with the gentle rain and the Hawaiians playing their ukuleles and singing Hawaiian—with an occasional country and western—song. I was on the Puna coast and the quieter drive from Volcano, past South Point and north to Captain Cook. I was in the back of the pickup with my son on a carefree day, heading somewhere that I’d never been. Big Island. I’ll be back.

Recommended Reading: Hawaii The Big Island Revealed (www.wizardpub.com).

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