Alright, I know that Thanksgiving was more than a week ago, but I’ve still got more incredible photos to show you all! [I totally apologize for being a little M.I.A. lately, but there’s tons going on right now with Ben’s family visiting, finals, and taking on new responsibilities at work.]
So, where was I?
We woke up Sunday morning to rain (totally not surprised), but as soon as we were all ready to go, the skies were blue and the sun was shining. We first set out to find the Naha stone, something that I never would have known about had it not been for my hubby’s incredible love for history.
This historic stone sits outside the Hilo Public Library (…yes, really). And it is HEAVY. Even when you put your legs into it.
We did a few good squats and then declared the stone un-budge-able [yeah, I make up my own words sometimes]. Once we were back in the car, my brother said he wanted to take us to one of his favorite places on Hawai‘i island, Onomea.
My brother, Darren, moved from Maui to Hawai‘i about five years ago. When he first moved there, he spent most of his time at Onomea because it reminded him of Maui’s east side—of home. He says he would make the 20 minute drive North every day to sit on the rocks by the ocean. The first time I visited him there, he took me to this special spot and I loved it. It was meaningful to go back with more ‘ohana.
One of the most amazing things about Hawai’i island is just how much BIGGER everything is there. Sure, Maui has a dense rain forest, but it’s nothing like Hilo. The crowded trees extend upward to the skies and outward as far as the eye can see. The bays, the waves, and even the ocean seems bigger there.
But I digress. We parked at the Tropical Botanical Garden, planning to pay a few bucks and head in (we figured it would be comparable to our incredible Tropical Gardens of Maui experience). However, the fee to get in was $15 per person (with no Kama’aina rate). The man at the gate was very rude, and—surprise surprise—not from Hawai‘i. We said ‘no thanks’ and my brother told us we could walk about 10 feet up the road to public property.
[The crabby dude at the gate gave us a really hard time and even made us move our car. I do NOT recommend going to this place. I actually hesitated putting up the following photo because I don’t want to give them any publicity, but I think it’s important to let you all know where not to go, too.]
[Lame. Never ever ever go to that place!]
Instead, walk ten feet up the road and go here:
The Donkey Trail has everything the Tropical Gardens have (my bro confirmed that for us), save for a few signs telling you what certain plants are. The ten-to-fifteen minute stroll downhill alongside a river to the ocean is beautiful, serene, and lush.
Once you get to the bottom, you walk out onto a peninsula in the middle of Onomea Bay. The bay itself is vast, surrounded by huge trees, the shores embrace the ebbs and flows of massive waves. It is absolutely gorgeous.
To the right of the peninsula, a freezing brackish pool transitions the fresh water from the mountains into the Pacific. We took a few moments to soak up the beauty (which is so immense that photos truly don’t do it any justice), and then we headed back up the donkey trail.
Next, we drove a few minutes down the road to my brother’s place of solace—a spot on a stream that flows through a lava tube and under a bridge.
[Disclaimer: My parents are polar opposites–for years Darren and I couldn’t believe they were actually together at one point in their lives. Mom’s always been cautious with us around water because she claims that she doesn’t know how to swim (she used to paddle canoe and go to the beach all the time in high school – we’re pretty sure she knows), while Dad’s been the one to climb all the kids up to waterfalls and tell us that the only way down is to jump. We’ve grown up in the ocean and the streams diving, prawning, and playing. Needless to say, Darren and I are super comfortable in the water.]
You can imagine my disappointment when I realized that I forgot to put my swimsuit on before leaving the house! As I stood aside, my brother teased me by doing backflips into the water from the boulder we stood on.
Darren told our best friend/brother Zak that he could jump off the bridge, so they did that, too…
I was super bummed that I couldn’t go swimming. But when Zak said he was going through the lava tube, I knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. I hiked up my pants and figured that the worst that could happen would be a soggy Haley. I set off barefoot, scaling the walls in the dark and–although it was really challenging and there were a few times I truly doubted my body’s capabilities–I made it through both ways without getting wet! Ben, on the other hand, gave in when the scaling got tricky and walked through the water.
[Looking back through the lava tube from the other side]
[What we found ahead.]
After worrying so much about school and work, I really needed that adventure. I needed to prove to myself that I can do things that seem impossible. And that, sometimes walking into complete darkness with an open heart and trust in myself is necessary. In the end (even if I were to have fallen into the water), the lessons are always worth the risk.
When we emerged from the lava tube, I was beaming with joy. My true adventurous roots had been exposed! What next?!
Zak really wanted to check out Akaka Falls, one of the highest waterfalls on island, so off we went!
[One of the biggest banyan trees I’ve ever seen!]
We all had so much fun walking the trail that led us through the forest and over a stream to two waterfalls.
Nature + ‘Ohana = Pure Bliss!
Once we got back to the car, Ben and Zak decided to head to Wailoa Park to play disc golf (frisbee golf) while Mom, Darren, and I went to a family function. Those things went until it was dark and the day ended with another lovely (fish) dinner.
Ben took some phenomenal photos of the park, though, so I’ll end with those:
Our short and sweet trip to Hawai‘i island was perfect! I am so grateful for the adventures, good times, and unforgettable memories!
Up next: a recipe to celebrate Chanukah! Stay tuned!
When’s the last time you went on a grand adventure with your loved ones? What was your most memorable vacation?