Let’s see: we biked to the Pu’ako petroglyphs and kayaked in the bay. We walked the trails north to the Mauna Kea Resort in search of my 43-year-old memories of our stay there, and south to 49 Black Sand Beach. On the road, we visited Kealakekua Bay to see the Captain Cook Monument from afar and Pu’ahonua o Honaunau National Historical Park, AKA Place of Refuge, where you can get a real feel for the life of Hawaiian royalty. The king had the best cove in which only he could land his canoe. Now that’s what I call reserved parking.
A real highlight among the highlights was our trip up to the summit of the dormant volcano Mauna Kea. The only feasible and safe way to get up to the 14,000-foot summit if you are not connected with one of the observatories is by guided tour. We ascended from the “Gold Coast” hotel area at sea level to 9,000 feet in about 90 minutes. To allow us to acclimate to the altitude, we were offered a dinner set up in an abandoned sheep shearing station – from my LA perspective, we could have been behind the scenes on a movie set.
We were issued arctic parkas, climbed back aboard our four-wheel drive vehicle, and rumbled and rattled our way over a gravel road above the clouds for the remaining 5,000 feet to the summit in time to watch the sun set. The sight more amazing to me than the sunset, though, was seeing the collection of telescopes and observatories set among the barren volcanic landscape. I felt I was on top of the world and on the moon at the same time. I could have never imagined seeing such a sight with my own eyes – no, this was not a scene from a movie! A real “bucket list” item.
In the darkness of night – and without light pollution, this would have been true darkness but for the full moon – we descended for a road-side telescope opportunity to see the rings of Saturn and many constellations, and a pit stop at the visitor information station, staffed by young people who surely must have been grad students making a few extra bucks to sell us tourists some science trinkets and tee-shirts. My show of solidarity was to get a magnet in the shape of the Big Island for the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory.
We weren’t without good food here on this side of the island, either: incredibly delicious burgers and parmesan fries at Village Burger in the Parker Ranch area of Waimea (another solid recommendation from the Bradfords – seriously, we owe them some chocolate macadamia nuts or something), memorable sushi at Chef DK Kodama’s restaurant Sansei in Waikoloa (my brother John’s recommendation), bento on our balcony, and our “celebration” sunset dinner at the Mauna Lani’s renowned CanoeHouse. Good thing we were getting all that exercise.
Some omiyage shopping, Sunday in the Kona Second Ward, Tropical Dreams ice cream at the Kona airport, and regrettably we were flying into Honolulu city lights and on our way back to LAX.
Why did it take me 43 years to come back? Action item: come back again. Soon.
P.S. Yes, I actually have a mu’umu’u in my closet, which I got for the closing dinner of the ULI Trustees retreat on the beach at the Grand Wailea on Maui.