These days just keep getting better and better…we’ve had some great moments and tours, but as far as full days go, this was my favourite by far.
After seeing so many waterfalls during the helicopter ride, I wanted to see them up close. So we headed across the island, to Hilo, through the middle of the island, on Saddle Road. We love driving along the coast, but Saddle Road is the fastest highway and also the only one with four lanes. With such a long ride we stopped midway, just at the base on Mauna Kea, to do a little hike around a small hill used in the past by goats and ranchers, it’s unusual in that it’s a mini forest surrounded by lava!
We arrived in Hilo and went north about 20 minutes to see the most accessible waterfall nearby. It was a little disappointing that most of the hiking trails around the falls were closed so we couldn’t get very close (nor could we hike, which is another thing I wanted to do today).
So we regrouped near the parking lot, where we met two couples from Jersey who overheard us talking about hiking and told us to head to Volcano Park. Since we had seen in from the air, we didn’t think of heading there to hike over barren lava by foot, but the group from Jersey assured us most of the hike was in lush forests until you get to the crater. They also convinced us by saying we should go see the lava lake at night, since it had unusually high activity right now.
We were convinced, but headed into Hilo for a bite to eat, where our server told us that there was a great snorkeling spot nearby at Richardson’s Beach. Today seemed to be the day for no plans turning into ad hoc plans, so we headed to Richardson’s Beach for some of the best coral gardens (and fish) we’d seen yet…and just as we were about to get out of the water…a turtle!!! Right at the edge of the beach, in knee deep water, was a sea turtle hanging out in the surf eating the algae off the lava. We hung out and watched the show for a while before making our way back to the car and heading to Volcano National Park.
We arrived at Volcano National Park just as the sun was setting and headed straight for the lava tube area – a 150m cave that lava, when active, will spurt through – there are several on the island! Then, as it was getting dark, Chris and I hiked down the 1.5 mile switchback trail to the volcano crater floor. It was pretty dark by the time we got to the floor, so our photos aren’t great, but it was fun nonetheless. At one point Chris and I were walking with a little distance between us when I suddenly heard a ‘f*ck’….he had taken off his hat, and without realizing that his sunglasses were on top of his head, lost them down a crater crack. We’re warned not to venture down the cracks in the crater, but they were visible to us and I thought I could fit down to grab them, so I did:)
After roaming around the crater floor we drove to the lookout area in the park, to witness the volcano activity by night – the most activity it has seen in a long time, apparently – by the light of the full moon. Hard to get great photos, but a spectacle to see, especially through binoculars, to see the lava lake of red hot molten bubbling up easily over 10-20 feet high in the air. Incredible.