Rick and Danica's May 2001 trip to the Big Island of Hawaii

(Photo: Observatory atop Mauna Kea)

On May 5 of 2001, we boarded a United Airlines flight to Kona, Hawaii from Seattle (via San Francisco). After about nine hours of traveling we arrived at Kona. Our check-in time at the Kona Coast Resort was still about 4 hours away so we were off to get our rental car and find some food.

Before I go much further I should tell you that Rick has been to this island before, about 8 years ago, and we did quite a bit of planning for this trip. Most of the planning in the form of reading a great book: Hawaii - The Big Island Reveled by Andre Doughty & Harriet Friedman. This guide was invaluable to us before and during the trip (referred to as our "Guide" from here on out).

OK, back to our story...

We decided to rent an SUV for this trip. There are quite a few things on the island that you can't get to without 4-wheel drive and we thought it would make the whole trip easier. So, once we had the "car" we were off. The Kona International airport is about 10 miles from our resort. The terrain was different than I had expected. You think of Hawaii and you think of green: Tropical flowers and lush surroundings. Well, I hate to be the one to tell you but Kona is the dry side of the island, with mostly old lava fields and sparse vegetation. Kailua-Kona is the town we were staying outside of and it has almost everything you could want (or not) in a town, multiple grocery stores, malls, fast food (Taco Bell, McDonalds, etc.), shops, restaurants, even a Costco. And believe it or not the Costco came in handy (cheap gasoline and bottled water). So, thanks to our "guide" we already knew what we wanted to do for lunch: Oodles of Noodles! We found it in a strip mall in town and walked right in. The food and service was just as expected. I again will mention that the book ("guide") was right on with all there recommendations on both food and activities. Oodles was great and the menu was varied enough we even went back. From lunch we decided to try to check in early, and at least get our room key. Still having a few hours to go until we could settle in to our new "home" we decided to wander around the town and get our bearings. Through Kona there is a resort row, if you will, call Alii Drive, the Kona Coast Resort is on the south end.

Living Room Dining Area Kitchen Patio view from patio bedroom

Sunday, June 6

Our first full day on the island and we were off to Volcanoes National Park. We decided to go in the morning and have breakfast at Volcano House (tip from our "Guide"). The food was so-so, but we expected that going in...the view, however, made it all worthwhile. The dining area is all windows on one side and looks right over the Kilauea Caldera, which is the largest volcano crater in the park. After breakfast it was off to the visitors center to check out the displays and see if the lava flow was visible that day. Rangers were saying it was 4+ miles beyond the end of Chain of Craters Rd, which is as far as you can drive, due to a lava flow a few years back.

Since it wasn't likely we would be able to see lava close up that day we decided to take our time and check out the sights down Chain of Craters Rd, which is about 20 miles long. Chain of Craters Rd. and Crater Rim Drive are the main roads in the park, with lots to do and see along the way. As our guide suggested, we were planning to spend more than one day in the park and thought we would take one road and its sights at a time. Chain of Craters Rd drives you past multiple craters on your way out to the ocean. There are multiple overlooks and trials off of this road. As you will see with the pictures, this is not a place to forget a camera and film. Also, this is a long drive and you'd be wise to have a fresh tank of gas going in to the park. We did not and decided to fill up before we began our journey. This was a longer detour that we expected, as there is no gasoline in the park, and the small town nearby, called Volcano, is really relaxed. We waited about 10 minutes while one gentleman washed his truck and was changing his oil in the gas pumping area, and another car was using the opposite pumping area as a parking space. By this time we were sure that there were other stations somewhere in the area to went looking for them. If you were wondering it was about a 45 minute detour, so fill up first!

The sights along Chain of Craters Rd are amazing, including a sea arch and where lava "washed out" the old road. At the end of the road is a couple year old lava field. Rick said the last time He was there the road was a bit longer, so this field is less than eight years old. We hiked out quite a ways on the lava trying to catch a glimpse of some molten rock, but had no luck.

Danica at Volcano Natn'l Park Volcano Overlook Volcano Natn'l Park old road covered by Lava old road covered by Lava

With a 2 hour drive back to our Resort we headed out around 4:30. We had dinner in the condo and enjoyed the sunset on our patio. Then ventured out to find something for dessert. This was when we stumbled onto a find our "guide" did not mention. It is either called "Cruis'n Coffee" or "Verna's" depending on where you look, but it is a local fast food place with a drive thru window. And we are partial to their MilkShakes (to be honest that's all we have tried, but we "tried" them a few times during the trip). Yummmy.

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