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Hawaii - The Big Island
Volcano's National Park
The primary focus of our visit to the Big Island was to see the volcano, Mauna Loa, in action. We both hoped to see active lava flow. Our forays into the park were a disappointment in this area. The active lava flow is miles from the end of the road and getting to it requires hiking over hardened flow which is quite difficult and strenuous. The park service recommends against making the trek due to the dangers of slipping and falling on the hardened flow which will lacerate any exposed skin and the danger of parts of the hardend flow breaking away beneath you and dropping into the sea. I made it about half a mile before giving up. After this failed attempt, we decided to take a helicopter tour on which we did see active lava flow as it burnt down trees in its path.
In addition to lava flows and steaming calderas, the park also features petroglyphs carved between 100 to 400 years ago by native Hawaiians in the hardened lava flows.
While visiting Volcano's National Park, we stayed in the nearby town of Volcano. The volcano side of the island of is the wet side. All the Hawaiian islands have a wet side and dry side. The wet is the side Pacific storms hit. The peaks on each of the islands shield the dry side. In the back of the cottage we stayed in, the heavy rainfall provided for some lush tropical flowers. Most of the tropical flowers that tourists assoicate with Hawaii aren't native species. Unfortunately, all these invaders tend to crowd out the native species.
After Volcanos, we headed to to the west (dry side) of the island. The primary town on this side is Kailua Kona. North of Kailua Kona, is Waikoloa where all the big resorts are located. Waikoloa has the white sand beaches that most closely match the tourist vision of Hawaii. However, immediately behind the shore, there are miles and miles of really ugly old lava flows. The flows on this side of island are much older than the ones on the east side of the island and give the landscape a harsh alien look. Looking west though one sees the beaches and the ocean as expected in Hawaii.
Mauna Kea is the largest peak and an ever present sight on the Big Island. It's visible from just about everywhere on the island.
Puukohola Heiau is the site where King Kamehameha I defeated his last rival on the Big Island, on his way to becoming the first ruler of all of the Hawaiian Islands.