We just got back from a little vacation on the Big Island. It wasn’t a holiday that I had been particularly looking forward to, since I’d just gone on two other trips this summer (I know, I’m spoiled.) But this turned out to be very relaxing in a low-key way. Unlike rushing around between baseball games, or being elbowed in Chinese subways, this one involved (1) checking out a different beach every day, (2) eating shaved ice : best combination is lychee, guava and passionfruit with a sno-cap (condensed milk) every other day; and (3) wildlife: encountering dolphins and turtles when swimming around the beaches; and seeing electric green geckos with red spots (geckos back in Bangkok came in dull colors like brown or brown.)
This was our second time on the Big Island. My mom has a time-share there; for our honeymoon ten years ago, she gave us a week there. Since then, she’s bugged us to go with her, but our schedules never worked out. This year, the stars aligned! It was actually pretty neat to go back to where we stayed ten years ago, I finally realised the place is really nice, with a lot of landscaping. We could also skip or revisit places as we wished, so we didn’t go to Volcano National Park, but we went to the Aloha Cafe for breakfast!
We ate a lot of Japanese/Hawaiian food for dinner, and with leftover rice from the ‘two-scoop’, I made a lot of fried rice for breakfast. Washed down with POG*, while sitting on the balcony serenaded by mynah birds (not native to Hawaii), it’s the ultimate tropical breakfast experience.
*POG: passionfruit-orange-guava juice. Remember the bottle cap trend from the 90s?
We got pretty tan quickly – people kept asking us which (neighboring) island we were from. I guess it’s somewhat flattering to pass for an islander, instead of being from California. For me, it was partly because I stopped putting on sunscreen. I read somewhere that you should not put on sunscreen when you go snorkeling, because sunscreen kills coral. Instead, I threw on a t-shirt over my swimsuit, which left me with a farmer-john tan and racoon eyes!
There’s lot of economical ways to enjoy yourself in Kona, so long as you’ve got a rental car. (1) Check out the manta-rays at night. Some of the hotels on the waterfront will shine big lights onto the water after dark, which attracts plankton, which in turn attracts manta-rays. The ‘rays are big and have white undersides, which are easy to see as they flap around. (2) The canoe club at Keauhou Bay takes people out to teach them paddling outriggers for free a couple of days a week. You have to be there by 6:30 AM though. And if you like it enough, you can go again at 8:00 AM! (3) The beaches. Simply drive along the highway and take any turnoff signed ‘Shoreline access’. In the northern reaches, you’ll reach a lot of swanky hotels that are on the beach, but are legally bound to permit public access. Usually you’ll have to stop at the security gate to get a free parking pass. The nice thing about these ‘private-run’ public beaches is that they’ll have amenities like flush toilets, freshwater showers and a drinking fountain. Not all the public beaches will have those. (But you are ‘requested to avoid using the beach umbrellas and deck chairs, which are for the exclusive use of hotel guests.’)
The private-run beaches aren’t too crowded either; I guess the hotels don’t advertise them too much! We kept fantasizing about walking up the poolside bar and signing for drinks, so long as we could figure whether the room numbers had three or four digits!
For the most part, most beaches on the west coast of the Big Island are better for snorkeling than swimming, although if you swim out far enough, all the beaches are swimmable, you just have to pay attention to the tides and currents. I got hit so hard by one wave that I got sand in between the two layers of my brand new swimsuit!
And you don’t need a mask and snorkel to snorkel; my mom and I found it more comfortable to ‘snorkel’ with regular swimming goggles. Few have silky white sand, a lot of it is larger-grained, due to the lava.
Coming back to reality was a little tough: having to wear real clothes again, instead of just going about in tank-top, shorts and rubbah slippahs.