A Day on the Big Island

On October 24, 2021, Vicki, Eric, and I took a day trip to the Big Island. We took off early from Honolulu and flew to Hilo where we rented a car. Vicki and I had been to Hawaii in 1980, and part of that trip, we spent three days on the island of Hawaii, so this was our first glimpse of the Big Island in over forty years. What I remembered most vividly from the earlier visit were the Akaka Falls State Park and the Volcanoes National Park, so I really wanted to see these places again.

Akaka Falls State Park

Except for the falls itself, I would not have recognized the place. Today, the path seems far better maintained and there are handrails in most sections. It is a very easy walk, and where the path would get too steep to move comfortably, there are steps. In 1980, to travel light, I had left my Minolta SLR at home on Long Island; the only camera I had with me was a Minolta Hi-Matic AF point-and-shoot loaded with slide film. I took a few rolls of Kodachrome back then, and recently, I scanned a few slides of that collection. All in all, the Akaka Falls State Park was even more gorgeous than I remembered it.


The falls seen from the park entrance

The falls seen from the park entrance


The vegetation in the park is lush and dense

The vegetation in the park is lush and dense


Venturing further down, visitors find little brooks

Venturing further down, visitors find little brooks


In this rainforest-like environment, plants thrive

In this rainforest-like environment, plants thrive


Very healthy-looking ferns

Very healthy-looking ferns


The path is well-maintained and features a guard-rail

The path is well-maintained and features a guard-rail


Our first good look of the Akaka Falls

Our first good look of the Akaka Falls

I mentioned above that the falls were the only thing I would have remembered from my last visit; here is a slide taken in December of 1980 and scanneed some forty years later. Can you see why the waterfall looked so familiar to me?


From a few points, one can see the bottom

From a few points, one can see the bottom


The view from the top of the park

The view from the top of the park


The vegetation reminds us that we are in a subtropical climate

The vegetation reminds us that we are in a subtropical climate


Gorgeous flowers beg to be photographed

Gorgeous flowers beg to be photographed


Tiny "waterfalls" near the bottom of the park

Tiny "waterfalls" near the bottom of the park

Along Old Mamalahoa Highway: The Scenic Bypass

To get to the Akaka Falls State Park from Hilo one drives along route 19, otherwise known as the Hawaii Belt Road. After a few miles, Eric took us off the main route and onto the Old Mamalahoa Highway, a scenic and curvy road that follows the coastline around Onomea Bay. There are some gorgeous views along the way but very few places where one can safely stop, so we took the bypass coming from and returning to Hilo. This allowed me to take a few pictures, a couple of which are shown below.


It's hard to imagine what might have happened to this church!

It's hard to imagine what might have happened to this church!


The view from Old Mamalahoa Highway onto  Onomea Bay

The view from Old Mamalahoa Highway onto Onomea Bay


Onomea Bay through the trees

Onomea Bay through the trees


Hawaiian picture postcard

Hawaiian picture postcard

Volcanoes National Park

The park is huge! It covers a surface of over 300,400 ares (over 1,300 square kilometers), There are two active volcanoes in the park: Kīlauea and Mauna Loa. Over the years, eruptions have frequently caused parts of the park and the main road to be covered with lava; when I was here in 1980, I remember that areas covered with sheets of congealed lava were still warm to the touch. This year, we did not see any lava flows, but in several places, we could observe smoke coming out of the ground. It would be fascinating to witness (and photograph!) actual lava flows, but I suppose it would be a bit scary as well. Even without any obvious volcanic activity, it is impossible to go through this park without thinking of the volcanoes because traces of their activity is visible wherever one looks. This is a fascinating place that bears witness to the power of nature and the frailty of humans.


Landscape off Crater Rim Drive

Landscape off Crater Rim Drive


Steaming Bluff near the steam vents parking area

Steaming Bluff near the steam vents parking area


Inside the Thurston Lava Tube

Inside the Thurston Lava Tube


Exiting the lava tube

Exiting the lava tube


Volcanoes National Park landscape

Volcanoes National Park landscape


Volcanoes National Park landscape

Volcanoes National Park landscape


When lava cools and solidifies, we are left with igneous rock

When lava cools and solidifies, we are left with igneous rock


Sometimes, the solidified lava creates sheets of rock

Sometimes, the solidified lava creates sheets of rock


As early as one year after a lava flow, the first plants, usually ferns, appear

As early as one year after a lava flow, the first plants, usually ferns, appear


Other plants soon follow, but the vegetation remains close to the ground

Other plants soon follow, but the vegetation remains close to the ground


Often, lava flows end when they reach the sea

Often, lava flows end when they reach the sea


The seashore near the Chain of Craters Road Turnaround

The seashore near the Chain of Craters Road Turnaround


Focusing in on the Hōlei Sea Arch

Focusing in on the Hōlei Sea Arch


Little by little, life is coming back...

Little by little, life is coming back...


...but years after a lava flow, the landscape is still pretty barren.

...but years after a lava flow, the landscape is still pretty barren.


Taking the Chain of Craters Road back to civilization, Hilo, and the airport for our flight back to Honolulu

Taking the Chain of Craters Road back to civilization, Hilo, and the airport for our flight back to Honolulu

The photos on this page were taken on October 24, 2021.





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