Looking for Lava

While I’ve been to Oahu and Maui numerous times — and consider Kauai my happy place — Hawaii has been a bit of a mystery to me.

We took an early winter vacation to the Big Island, going on long (and admittedly painful) hikes, looking for lava, staying in cottages at small bed & breakfast retreats, and eating shave ice wherever we went (which is possibly the most important thing about vacationing in Hawaii).

Our nine-day trip began on the Kona Coast, where we stayed on a plantation in Captain Cook. After our time on the island’s west coast, we drove down — through South Point and Green Sand Beach — and east to Volcanoes National Park. After spending a few days hiking and lava-viewing around Volcano, we passed through Hilo and went around the island, eventually arriving on the Kohala Coast, where we spent our final two nights at a posh resort on the only white sand beach we saw.

Sadly, the weather didn’t cooperate and it rained for much of the week, but that ultimately wasn’t too bad, as the cooler temperatures made our hikes more bearable.

Here are some photos from the week, taken with my beat-up iPhone 5s. The quality of these images is poor, and these days I’m not really enthusiastic about taking pictures (kind of how I’m apathetic about writing). But I hope they give you an idea of my time on Hawaii — as well as the island’s varied and distinct landscape.


The view from the lanai of the main house at Ka'awa Loa Plantation in Captain Cook.
The view from the lanai of the main house at Ka’awa Loa Plantation in Captain Cook.
The cottage at Ka'awa Loa Plantation: home for the first four nights on the Kona coast.
The cottage at Ka’awa Loa Plantation: home for the first four nights on the Kona coast.
With Dazzle, the plantation's friendly resident cat.
With Dazzle, the plantation’s friendly resident cat.
Trees at Pu`uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park on a rainy day.
Trees at Pu`uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park on a rainy day.
A palm tree at Pu`uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park.
A palm tree at Pu`uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park.
Pu`uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park.
A boat on display at Pu`uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park.
The living room of the main house at Ka'awa Loa Plantation.
The living room of the main house at Ka’awa Loa Plantation.
Outdoor shower at Ka'awa Loa Plantation, a few steps from the hot tub.
Outdoor shower at Ka’awa Loa Plantation, a few steps from the hot tub.
The leafy interior of one of the outdoor showers.
The leafy interior of one of the outdoor showers.
Papakōlea Green Sand Beach, one of four green sand beaches in the world. Stopped here during our drive from Captain Cook to Volcano.
Papakōlea Green Sand Beach, one of four green sand beaches in the world. Stopped here during our drive from Captain Cook to Volcano.
Another shot at Papakōlea Green Sand Beach.
Another perspective from Papakōlea Green Sand Beach.
Papakōlea Green Sand Beach is the southernmost point in the United States. Feels a bit like the end of the world.
Papakōlea Green Sand Beach is the southernmost point in the United States. Feels a bit like the end of the world.
A quick stop at Punaluʻu Black Sand Beach, before arriving at Volcano.
A quick stop at Punaluʻu Black Sand Beach, before arriving at Volcano.
While exploring Volcanoes National Park, we stayed at Lotus Garden Cottages B&B for a few nights, in the rainforest of Volcano.
While exploring Volcanoes National Park, we stayed at Lotus Garden Cottages B&B for a few nights, in the rainforest of Volcano.
The exterior of Hula Moon Cottage.
The exterior of Hula Moon Cottage.
Pre-volcano breakfast at Lotus Garden Cottages.
Pre-volcano breakfast at Lotus Garden Cottages.
Exploring Volcanoes National Park and walking on hardened lava flows.
Exploring Volcanoes National Park and walking on hardened lava flows.
The path to Pu‘u Loa, the site of ancient petroglyphs carved into lava rock.
The path to Pu‘u Loa, the site of ancient petroglyphs carved into lava rock.
The petroglyphs at Pu‘u Loa (or, volcanic emoji).
The petroglyphs at Pu‘u Loa (or, volcanic emoji).
The landscape of Volcanoes National Park, somewhere along Chain of Craters Road.
The landscape of Volcanoes National Park, somewhere along Chain of Craters Road.
Primary lava rule: don't annoy the goddess Pele.
Primary lava rule: don’t annoy the goddess Pele.
View at dusk at the Kalapana Flow area, where lava is flowing into the sea.
View at dusk at the Kalapana Flow area, where lava is flowing into the sea.
After our time in Volcanoes National Park, we drove through Hilo to Umauna Falls, where we ziplined over falls and swimming holes.
After our time in Volcanoes National Park, we drove through Hilo to Umauna Falls, where we ziplined over falls and swimming holes.
A shot on the grounds of Umauna Falls.
A flower on the grounds of Umauna Falls.
It was rainy and overcast most of our trip -- we finally saw the sun on the day we left, on a beach along the Kohala Coast.
We finally saw the sun on the day we left, on the beach of the Fairmont Orchid on the Kohala Coast.
The shave ice at Original Big Island Shave Ice Co, housed in a truck in Kawaihae, is probably the best I've ever had.
The shave ice at Original Big Island Shave Ice Co, housed in a truck in Kawaihae, is the best I’ve ever had.

17 Comments

  1. Amazing world we live in. I love the lava shots.

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  2. You give me many more great reasons to make Hawaii a destination for my family. Thanks for all the pictures that depict Hawaii with its natural environment!

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  3. You stayed in great places, and that beat-up 5 did a great job. If I were going to move to Hawaii, which I keep saying I’m going to do (actually did in 1987, but then got a job traveling!…still have stuff in storage on Oahu), I’d move to the Big Island. The lava looks cool in photos, but I’m not a big fan of the stuff in real life, wouldn’t sit my motorhome (or tiny house) in the middle of a field of lava (as some have done because the price is right, I guess).

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    1. The four-mile walk to the sea at Kalapana was just as fascinating as the sight of lava itself — the pockets of off-grid tiny homes, camper vans, sheds on stilts, etc. of residents who’d returned after the town was destroyed in 1990(?).

      It’s an incredible sight to see lava, but also left me uneasy and powerless, putting me in my place. Which I think is ultimately a good thing.

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  4. I *adore* your unenthusiastic photos and apathetic writing, Cheri! 🙂 Thank you for sharing your adventure with us.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Gorgeous. I think if I ever went to Hawaii I’d never come home, especially this time of year!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Keep taking photos. They’re great!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Even with a beaten-up iPhone 5, your photos remain gorgeous. The Big Island is less approchable than the other islands, I think. But I stayed there with three of my children over their spring break week, several years ago. We were lucky with the weather, although it could change dramatically from the coast to any inland location. I remember driving through Hilo to the Volcanoes National Park. The coffee plantations and horse ranches on the way there were stunning. My son was still in middle school and loved anything volcano, so he enjoyed the park very much. I loved the rainforest part most. The girls enjoyed the ocean with its warm and clear waters. And all of us loved the shave ice.

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    1. The Big Island is less approachable than the other islands, I think.

      Yes, that’s what I kept thinking — from the stark landscapes to the challenging hikes. It was amazing to see lava for the first time, whether flowing into the ocean or spilling out of a crater while we were gazing from the edge of the caldera. But these sights really put me in my place and made me realize how incredibly powerful, intense, and magical this place is. I’m glad we visited — nice to acquaint myself with this island.

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      1. Agree with the magic aspect, Cheri. It felt ancestral and I felt small but not insignificant.

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  8. So lovely to see you writing about your trip to Hawaii! I’ve been following you on Instagram, your photos of the Big Island are gorgeous. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Oh I love this writing, you make me want to vacation there! Lovely pictures too!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. pinklightsabre

    Shooting art photos on a beat up iPhone 5s is the new folk art.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Thank you for sharing your travels!! What AMAZING photos!! I LOVE the picture of the volcanic rock 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Beautiful! I’ve been to Hawaii numerous times. Spent most of my time on Maui. However, I must admit that I now want to check out Papakōlea Green Sand Beach. It simply looks amazing and other-worldly. Thanks!

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  13. Thanks for giving us a virtual visit with this great gallery. Happy Holidays 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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