One of the biggest travel challenges I have is what to do from the time of checkout at the resort, until my marathon redeye flight home to Milwaukee. Do too much, and I'm too exhausted for the overnight flight to relax and sleep . . . go swimming and have no place to shower before getting on the plane . . . do nothing and die of boredom killing the tropical buzz of an otherwise great vacation.
I took careful consideration on what I thought would be a good way to spend our last day on the Big Island. It was especially important so that whatever we did, it wasn't a replay of our earlier touring and that it took enough of our day to leave a little wiggle room in case of unexpected traffic or vehicle issues a long way from the Kona Airport.
So the north shore Kohala Coast was my game plan. We checked out of the timeshare promptly at 10:00am, the latest we could do so. With eating breakfast in the condo, we didn't have to find something on our way out of town (which is often how David and I spend our last day in town before flying out).
About five miles south of the Kona Airport is the Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park, a walking history lesson on life in old Hawaii. Still being developed, this park provides guest with several trails over lava rock pathways including a short 30 minute hike to the beach.
Hwy 19 is an interesting road as you head out of Kailua-Kona and towards the Waikoloa area. Admittedly this was a road already traveled a couple of days, but it was a nice opportunity to check out my Hawaiian graffiti out on the lava flow. Yes, my heart-shaped tribute to David was still there. Hurray!
Continuing north, our first stop would be the Hamakua Macadamia Nut Company in Kawaihae about a couple of miles up Hwy 270 where Hwy 19 bends to the right towards Waimea. While we had visited the Mauna Loa center over near Hilo, it is at Hamakua that I could purchase the mac toffee flavored popcorn that David enjoys.
Kawaihae is a port with large ships and a couple of seaside restaurants and delis. We took a pass on lunch here because I had bigger plans. So we continued on north towards Hawi, Kapa'au and the lookout point at Polohu Valley.
Breezing through Hawi for now, we pushed on to Kapa'au and the photo op in front of the statue honoring the birthplace of King Kamehameha the Great. The moment wasn't lost on Pam so she jumped out to snap a photo or two.
It was also in Kapa'au where the second cheapest gas on the island could be found. At $3.93 to $3.99 in Kailua-Kona, we topped off on our way back through at $3.73. (The cheapest place was over on the opposite side of the island, approaching Hilo at $3.55 to $3.59.)
Continuing on, we took a small detour to check out the surfers at Keokea Beach Park, a nice little state park with a picnic shelter, fresh water shower and a handful of "blue rooms" (porta potties). The surf here is very rough and the beach is not really conducive for swimming. There is a small inlet where the ocean does backwash up into a shallow area where I've seen folks with keiki's (kids) splashing in the water.
After watching (and photographing) the surfers for around 20 minutes, we continued on our trip to the lookout. The skies were clear and ocean blue. It really is a lovely view from high above the valley. The area was still posted by the parks department indicating that the footpath to the black sand beach below was still close after the earthquake back in 2006. There were several couples, however, that took on the challenge and headed down the trail. One little gal was wearing flimsy flip-flops, hardly sturdy shoes for the significant incline.
After time at the Polohu Valley Lookout, we doubled back to Hawi. It was lunch time . . . and we arrived almost perfectly as planned around 1:30pm at the Bamboo Restaurant & Gallery. Having heard and read a lot about this place, it was high on my personal agenda for this trip and it made for the ideal lunch spot for our final day in Hawaii.
While they do serve burgers, chicken and pasta; both Pam and I opted for our final seafood meal. She had the mahi mahi sandwich served on foccacia bread while I had a shrimp dish prepared with light Thai sauce, steamed veggies and rice. It was an outstanding meal, with great service!
From Hawi, we jumped onto the "mountain" route over to Waimea on Hwy 250. Having promised Pam outstanding desert views complete with cactus and vast pastures, we saw mostly forest for the first several miles. As we climbed in altitude, a light rain began to fall on us . . . and the clouds were becoming thicker and thicker the higher we got. By the time we reached the summit at nearly 3,600 ft. we were fully engulfed in the clouds. With visibility at practically zero, we were not surprised when we came upon an accident that looked worse than it was. Thankfully while two cars were in the wrong place, heading in the wrong direction, nobody appeared to be injured.
Once we cleared the summit, we also reached the cactus area of the island, confirming another of the 11 micro-climates that exist on the Big Island. It is too bad that the view was non-existent as ordinarily it is a wonderful sight into the valley and Waimea.
In Waimea, we connected back to Hwy 19 and on to Hwy 190, the road that would go right back into Kailua-Kona. At this point in our week long vacation, there was only one "major" road we had not traversed in our journeys . . . the Waikoloa Road which takes you back down to Hwy 19 near at the Waikoloa area resorts and the A-bay. Elevation is still pretty high here and ordinarily on a clear day you can expect to see beautiful ocean views. Again, too much haze to see much so that was a disappointment as we descended from Hawaii's highlands.
Arriving back on Hwy 19, a left turn (south) would lead us back to the Kona Airport and our return to reality on the mainland. Even with the roughly 150 miles logged on the day, we arrived a tad early for our flight. After killing some time at Hilo Hattie’s (Hawaii’s tourist trap store) back in Kailua-Kona, we then ended our vacation with a 5:00pm arrival at the airport.
The trip was a nice conclusion to our time in Hawaii, allowing us to have plenty of relaxation throughout the day.