Sun., July 4: Ate a leisurely breakfast and left by 9:30 to go north to Wai’alea Beach Park aka Beach 69 (p. 78 in Snorkel Hawaii book) first stopping at the Puako General Store for some light lunch items to put in our cooler. We originally had planned to go to the Turtle Independence Day at the Mauna Lani but decided that our snorkel time was limited, so we should take the opportunity to snorkel instead of stay on the shore with a crowd. Beach 69 has plenty of parking, nice bathroom and outdoor shower facilities and nice trees for shade (and I didn’t find any thorns, though I was on the lookout!) The snorkeling was good (turtle sighting!!), but after a while the wind picked up and made swells of 1-2 feet, so we decided to get out, eat lunch and laze about under the trees. We were glad that we had chosen to snorkel in the morning since the wind would have made it difficult to snorkel this afternoon. Headed south about 2:30 and checked out another snorkel place for tomorrow from the book, Honokohau Harbor (p. 130.) It did not appear to be a snorkel place with shallow water and the locals picniking there confirmed. Pleasant, though. Walking back to the car we met an “angel” in the form of a Brit walking to the beach to fish. My chatty husband mentioned something about snorkeling and he told us to go to the other side of the harbor (which the book made sound not so good—p. 132, ‘Alula Cove) so we decided to check it out. A woman was sitting by her car staring out at the water and chatting with her revealed the reason for staring—spinner dolphins! They were amazing, but so very hard to photograph, even with the “burst” setting! Another “angel” who had just finished a dive at the site told us how wonderful the place was and a great tip—when wondering the best way to get across the piles of lava to get to the entry point, “follow the sand” left by the people who have gone before. Once we were alerted to this, the “path” virtually lit up with the sand pointing the way to go. We left resolving to get up early and go snorkeling here in the morning before breakfast. We arrived in our room to find a fruit and cheese plate and a bottle of wine that were sent by our lovely children for our 40th. We sat on the lanai and enjoyed the view and the gift. Then it poured rain and we watched the poor people who had set up the 4th of July BBQ and live music scrambling to get their things under cover. We enjoyed the patterns that the rain made on the water. We then were pretty full but needed a bit of dinner, so went down to the terrace bar at our hotel for some bar food. Since the hotel was having the BBQ, they only had 3 things on the menu, so we ordered the hummus plate (it came with vegetables, too) and one fish and chips (delicious!) plus some froufrou drinks. Fun! We saw two turtles “basking” in the rain and an eel and various small fish since the terrace is built over the tidepool. After the sun set, we drove to the Sheraton down the road to see the manta rays, but it was pouring rain and I guess the mantas weren’t interested that night since only one or two small ones showed up. No boats either since it was Sunday, we learned. We chatted with two women who had gone to the Turtle Independence Day event and they said it was very moving with hula dancers. They had come late and the Mauna Lani lot was full, but the resort had provided a shuttle from an adjacent resort.
Monday, July 5: Up and out of the hotel’s gate at 7:03 headed to ‘Alula Cove and in the water by 7:45. It was sunny and AWESOME!! Schools of fish with several yellow trumpets, huge many armed purple-gray seastars, 2 huge turtles, and even a white tip shark. It was the most memorable snorkel of the trip. We made it back to the hotel for the breakfast and then headed south to the Place of Refuge by 10:15. We read about each place listed in the brochure and really enjoyed the peaceful and historic setting. We found our way next door to Two Step where there were loads of people, but we got a great parking place anyway! We changed in the car—the only restrooms were portapotties-- and suited up. We asked some people about the entry, but the boat ramp was just sitting there with no boat traffic at all, so we just walked in! The coral here was amazing. We were sorry that the sky was overcast because I think it must be just out of this world with some sunshine. Some nice fish, too, but the coral is the best with shelves, canyons, and lovely bommies everywhere. There was a bit of a problem with the fresh water blurring our vision in places, but it was fine in deeper areas. Afterwards, we stopped at Kalama’s for a late “plate lunch” and a laulau “burger” (pork steamed 8 hours in a leaf) and were too full to have any shaved ice, which we were told was the best. Next time. . . . . We then went to Greenwell coffee farm for tasting and tour. Jennifer was our guide and was just wonderful. We don’t even drink coffee and we found it facinating. After a quick stop at the hotel (it was sure conveniently located for what we wanted to do!) to finish up the cheese, fruit and wine, we were on a mission to get me a bathing suit. We tried CJ’s discount swimwear, but they were closed, so we tried the shops at Kona Inn Shopping Village (although the concierge at the hotel had recommended Ross!) The only shop we could find selling women’s suits had the only crabby person on the Big Island working there plus the suits cost over $100, so we gave up and just poked around the other shops. We found Honu Hut with only turtle things—I was in heaven—and a place that had the exact tee shirt my husband was looking for, both places with the nicest salespeople on the Big Island. We then went to Splasher’s for dinner and both got the ono plate, but it was a bit overcooked and ordinary and my husband took one sip of the mai tai and got a beer instead. Nice location, though. Back to the hotel to pack.
Tuesday, July 6: Having learned that early morning snorkels are good, we decided to go for one more at Kahalu’u before leaving on the 1:00 flight back to Seattle. We were in the water at a bit after 7 and had the place almost to ourselves. Said goodbye to the fishes and the area and had a last breakfast at the hotel. Packed up and headed out to the airport, picking up sandwiches for the trip at the Keauhou KTA deli. Returning the car took no time (we had allowed half an hour) so we were at the airport with loads of time. It was probably a good thing, though, because I think the car place and the airport can get quite crowded at certain times. We scored on the way home—I got a whole row to myself and my husband only had one person in his (we had two aisle seats.) I virtuously offered a seat in my row to a woman with a broken arm, but when she declined, I lay down and took a nice nap. We both enjoyed our time on the Big Island so much. I had so much help with the planning from the people here that made our trip so much more enjoyable. Thanks to everyone, and I hope this trip report helps others have a great time as well.