The Big Island, Hawaii - Waipi'o Valley, Pu'uhonua o Honuanau, & the Green Sand Beach - Days 7 & 8
"E hele me ka pu’olo" – Hawaiian Proverb, meaning 'make every person, place or condition better than you left it always.'
Day Seven - Waipi’o Valley, Honokaa, and Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park
Saturday was the last day of the trip for Missy and Logan, so we all eased into the day by hanging out for a while at the Airbnb, watching the baby ducks in the pond below our balcony. After we finally got around to it, we decided to make a trip up north so Logan and Missy could see the northern part of the island prior to their departure.
Our first stop was Waipi'o Valley Overlook. We didn’t hike or drive down to the beach like Zac and I had a few days prior, but did take in the views at the lookout. This time, though, I was able to keep my phone in my pocket and not have it become a victim to the ocean.
After soaking in the views at Waipi’o Valley, we all headed back to Honokaa to do some shopping. Zac and I hadn’t spent much time there previously because we were focused on getting back to Verizon in Hilo for a new phone, but we loved the little town. I’m glad we were able to explore it again because we got a chance to check out all of the cute shops in town. We all bought some souvenirs and finally settled down at Grammas Kitchen for lunch.
I was pretty excited to see a dog at one of the shops (and was wearing the perfect shirt)!
Let me tell you, Grammas Kitchen was amazing. We didn’t exactly know what we were getting into when we stepped inside, but it did not disappoint. For the price, the food was incredible and the service was out of this world. Plus, Gramma made fresh-baked mini crisps every weekend, and we just happened to stop in when a new batch was being taken out of the oven. Zac and I split a French apple crisp, and it was absolutely to die for.
We continued driving the coast of the island from Waipi’o and Honokaa down toward Kona. Once we got to Kona, we saw Missy and Logan off at the airport. They had a Saturday flight back, but we had a bit more adventuring we wanted to do before leaving the island.
With that, Zac and I continued driving along the coast, all the way to Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park. The park had some awesome views, and shared really interesting Hawaiian history.
We learned about Kōnane, a Hawaiian board game (pictured above). Apparently, according to the National Park Service app, it was actually historically played to settle disputes.
Finally, after those adventures, we drove all the way around South Point once more, continuing along the coast until we reached our new “home” for the evening. We stayed in Volcano at an adorable cottage. With that, we had traveled nearly the entire coast of the island all in the one day, starting at Hilo and ending at Volcano.
As we neared the Airbnb, Zac got a text from United that Denver (our layover location for our flight home) was expecting some bad weather around the time of our return flight. We had to review our agenda, look at the weather, and check out the alternative flight options for our way back home.
We finally decided we would (unfortunately) cancel the Monday excursion we had planned and get an earlier flight home. When we made the decision, though, the United app wouldn’t work. We decided we would sleep on what to do, then make the final decision the next morning.
Day Eight - Papakōlea Green Sand Beach, The Local Buzz, and Our Flight Home
When we woke up the next morning, over coffee, we decided that we would change the flight to a “safer” option that would be less likely to be impacted by the bad weather. We got ready to change the flight, only to realize that all of the other options for Monday were taken – aside from one option that had a thirty-six minute layover in San Francisco followed by a forty-two minute layover in Chicago. We both knew that flight would be impossible, even if each of our flights were on time and had absolutely no issues at all.
Instead, we decided to make the call to unfortunately move the flight up by an entire day, cutting our trip a bit shorter than expected. We made the changes on the United app, and were off for the day’s big adventure – a hike to Papakōlea Green Sand Beach.
We took the hour drive from our Airbnb out to the trailhead. As we got out of the car, I was greeted by the nicest cat I think I’ve ever met, who followed me all the way to the bathrooms then back to the car for pets before he finally took off to get attention from someone else.
The locals often drive their 4x4 vehicles out there, so there were actually multiple makeshift roads and path options we could have taken. We trekked out toward the beach on foot, making our way as close to the coast as possible the entire way.
The view of two trails carved out by locals driving them both.
Along the way, we even spotted a small Sea Arch.
Listening to the waves crashing up on shore the entire hike was wonderful, almost to the point that it felt somewhat meditative. As we continued on, we started seeing small areas of green sand mixed into the dirt and lava rocks.
Finally, we came up to a cliffside that allowed us to look down into the beach from above. Interestingly enough, the color looked more like an earthy brown-green than a full-on green. We were both pretty surprised by that. Of course, we weren’t happy with just seeing the sand from afar so we eased our way down the rock face into the beach.
From up close, we could see the bright green tint of each individual grain of sand. However, somehow, even when we took pictures up close, the color still doesn’t look anything like it did in person. One of only four green sand beaches in the entire world (Source: Hawaii-Guide), it was definitely worth the beautiful hike to glimpse its beauty in person.
We climbed back up out of the beach and headed again along the coast to our car. From there, we started the journey back to the main highway. Along the route, I saw signs that advertised free macadamia nut tastings, coffee tastings, honey tastings, and more. Of course, after our nearly six mile hike, I was sold. We followed the signs right to Paradise Meadows – Home of Hawaii's Local Buzz.
A coffee plant, up close. The red is ripe, but the green is not ready. They shared that, because of this, they have to hand-pick these coffee plants.
There, we were able to walk through a coffee field, check out some banana trees, trek along an “herb walk” to see all of their herb garden, and more. Even cooler, though, was that they let us taste all of the products they made on their farm. I was excited, too, that their catch phrase was “Hawaii’s local buzz,” since our favorite little adventure dog is named Buzz!
We picked out a few flavors of macadamia nuts, along with some smoothies made with some of their fresh fruit for lunch. After grabbing our goodies, we also chatted with a few of the workers there for a while before heading out. One of the women working was actually from Iowa, and had mentioned that all of her family still lives in Iowa.
We said our goodbyes and headed back to our Airbnb to clean up. Afterwards, we packed everything for the airport and headed on out of there. We took yet another route from Volcano to the airport than we had before so we could soak in all of the views of the island. We drove past Mauna Kea, the tallest peak in the world if measured base to peak (taller than Mount Everest!). Llearn more about the amazing peak here and here. Had we had additional time – and been more acclimated to the altitude – I would have loved to hike to the top, with the peak just under 14,000 feet above sea level.
We got to the airport with plenty of extra time. Having never tried to travel without a photo ID before, I wasn’t quite sure how things would work out with TSA. We got to the front gate, and informed the TSA agent on duty that I had lost my ID. She called her supervisor over, who walked me through separately. She mentioned I had to keep all of my belongings separate from Zac’s because they would do additional testing on my items.
I was then guided to the side with my things. They looked through my bag and items, and swabbed them all to ensure they were all safe. After everything looked good, they gave me my things back and sent me on my way. The entire event really only added about five or ten extra minutes more than normal. Because of that, it meant that we had overshot how early we needed to be at the airport by a lot, and gave us about three hours to hang out before our flight.
There were, of course, a few things I would have loved to have had more time to do on the trip – including the excursion we had to cancel for Monday. Even though the vacation was cut short, we still had an amazing trip. Sitting in the airport ready to head back home, we both already agreed we will gladly come back to visit again (despite all of the bad things that happened to me on this trip). We have a few things still on our bucket list that we need to come back to the island for, and I am absolutely okay with that. It just means that we will have more adventure ahead of us down the road.
Until next time, Hawaii, aloha.