Excursions on the Big Island

Before this trip, I was made fun of. It’s because I tightly budgeted the times for exploring the island while not in the meetings of the Western Orthopaedic Association, and my time plan was more like a work schedule. The good thing is, the meeting is set up so that most all of the afternoons are free.

The first stop on Wednesday is at the Four Seasons Resort’s Beach Tree to grab lunch. The original plan was to get lunch at the airport, but the small eatery had no healthy choices that were good. My senior resident, Krysten, and I split a “Super Salad” of kale, quinoa, chia seeds, and sprouts along with a margarita pizza. Then, after checking in, we went and picked up another senior resident, Rob.

My hope had been to rush off to hike the Waipi’o Valley, but Brad had heard of bad reports. And besides, we got done with lunch a little later than hoped for. Anyhow, it worked out. We pick up Rob and head to Kahalu’u Bay where I had called ahead to rent paddleboards. The bay is beautiful, and despite the choppy waters and falling off my board several times, the snorkeling is remarkable.

The next morning, during the Fairmont Orchid’s floating yoga class, Rob and I swim with the sea turtles.

After lectures and Rob’s presentation, we visit Two-Step for snorkeling and then the Place of Refuge (Pu’uhonau o Hōnaunau). This place echoed many biblical themes of forgiveness, and we remind ourselves of the cities of refuge described in the Bible. Imagine being condemned because of some crime, but once reaching the shores of the Place of Refuge, the wrongdoing is forgiven, absolved by a priest. You can reenter society again, guilt free.

Friday morning, before lectures, we again swim with the sea turtles.

Then, we are packed and ready. Right after the last session, Krysten and Rob join me on a trans-island excursion. Our first stop is at the Village Burger in Waimea, which is among the top ten burger places in the country. We all get vegetarian choices. Passing Waimea, we enter an entire rainforest during the drive along the Hamakua Coast.

The rain is relentless, and sheets of water drown us at Akaka Falls. In Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, we first stop at the Thurston Lava Tube. We reach the Jaggar Museum and the crater overlook to view Kīlauea. We’re right on schedule, but there is complete whiteout from the mist and rain.

Plan B. Originally, we were supposed to join the stargazing party at the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station, but because of the heavy rain, we decided to bunk in Hilo. So, we ended up missing the stars and the sunrise from Pu’u Kalepeamoa. That’s OK.

Early Saturday morning, we drive up Saddle Road and punch through the clouds as we ascend toward the summit on our hike up Mauna Kea along the Humu’ula Trail. This brings us back to the original schedule as planned.

After the evening luau and turning in early, we get up and head out at 4:40 Sunday morning. We make it to Pololū Valley Lookout in good time. Despite warm rain, the sunrise is more spectacular than I had hoped for. We then hike down to the beach. There, we’re half drenched, but we take in the mist, golden rays, green valley, black sands, and white-capped waves.

On the way back to the hotel, we swing by Hapuna Beach and then the Puako Petroglyphs. We clean up and make it to our early afternoon flights in plenty of time.

In all, going through the climate zones of desert, tropical, temperate, and arctic, all in half a week,  I got more out of this trip than I had planned for. I think Krysten and Rob would agree: budgeting helps, but flexibility is what expands the horizon.

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