Our second part included driving south. Our first stop was Manuka State Park. Although we didn’t do the entire trail, we found the park to be clean and a nice place to explore. We continued on and stopped at the bakery in Na’alehu and Punalu’u black sand beach. The bakery was clean and nice, a bit too touristy for our tastes but it was a pleasant stop. We also got some nice pictures at the beach—and yes, the turtles showed up! ( We debated on driving to South Point, but decided against it to save time.)
Our bed and breakfast was in Kalapana, so we had to drive through VNP. We planned an entire day in VNP but decided to do the visitor center and Jagger museum on Friday afternoon so we would have more time for bicycling and exploring the park on the full, “allotted” day. We had a late lunch at Kalapana Village Cafe and checked into the Ma’ulele Lodge. This small bed and breakfast has a black sand beach right in front of their property. We were awestruck as we ate breakfast and watched the waves crashing into the coastline. Their beach is high up and too dangerous to swim, but what an amazing view—all to ourselves! ( see our review for more details of this memorable stay)
We spent the next 2 days exploring the lower Puna region with our 4x4 jeep and the bicycles. The lush rainforest and raw beauty of the area begged to be experienced by all of our senses. It is a perfect area for bikes, jeeps, convertibles, motorcycles, or a leisurely walk. We went to Isaac Hale, Ahalanui, and MaKenzie Park, (spelling?). We also went out to see the lighthouse and 4 wheeled it to take a dip in the Champagne Pond. (we think that is where we were!) Give yourself a treat and get out to see, hear, and smell this beautiful section of the Big Island.
On Sunday, we enjoyed a huge breakfast on the lanai, took a few more pictures of that amazing view and said our goodbyes. We had another great local experience stopping at the Sunday Farmer’s Market in Pahoa. There was food, music, lots of veggies, fruits, crafts. This farmer’s market is great! We then drove up to VNP and explored on bicycles as well as hiking the Kilauea Iki trail. (We had a 1 night rental at Kilauea Military Camp. ) This proved ideal for 2 reasons. We were in the park late for the crater glow and first thing in the morning we went through the Thurston Lava Tube. Imagine our surprise when we were the ONLY two people in the lava tube. (Apparently 8am is considered “off hours”.) No kidding, exploring the lava tube without a crowd was AWESOME. ( fyi--it is open 24hours a day)
Our next stop was bicycling the 4 mile Onomea scenic route and lunch at What’s Shak’n. Again, experiencing the scenery “open air” was a highlight for us. I would encourage people to get out of their car and take time to enjoy the journey—the view is free! From here, we popped up to Akaka Falls and walked the trail. We got some great pictures of the waterfall and enjoyed the easy, paved hike.
Our one GPS goof-up was here and we got a bit lost. After about a 30 minute “diversion” we found our way to Saddle Road. The bike shop thought it might be a neat downhill ride on Mauna Loa road. It was! This is a deserted road; we saw one car the entire time. Also, there is little but lava to look at so probably not worth the drive if you are just in a car.
Next, part 3, we are back in Kona to check into our final bed and breakfast and return the jeep, bicycles, and pick up a Harley. So far, Hawaii is everything we thought it would be. Our plan to meet new people, meander around the island and enjoy the bicycles is proving to be a great experience! Trip Advisor was an invaluable resource in assisting our plan see the “real” Hawaii.