This place can sure make a big impression quickly... I realized that I haven't even been on Hawai'i for 24 hours, and already I'm in love. We are staying on the southern part of the Kohala coast of the big island (northwest side). The natural scenery here is primarily a desolate landscape of lava, with a hardy grass that somehow finds a way to root itself through the rocky landscape and grow. The manmade landscape, on the other hand, is probably what you expect when you think Hawai'i - lush, green oases with palms, hibiscus, plumeria (do you know how incredible those flowers smell?!?), and other exotic plants I haven't yet learned to identify.
This morning I drove down to Kailua Kona to get some basic groceries for our mini fridge - we really don't need these $30 hotel breakfasts every day! I was on a pretty tight schedule, but I managed to fit in a couple of quick sites in Kona. I found parking (somewhat of an ordeal - maybe because I just didn't really know where to look!), and walked along the main (tourist) drag: Ali'i Drive. I'm quick to ignore strips like this, but I know some folks live for the Hard Rock Cafes and the Bubba Gumps in the world (at least these are some of the best located versions!). But, I did want to hit some of the major cultural locales that happen to be neighbors to the many vendors of schlock.
I first went to the Ahu'ena Heiau, which was King Kamehameha's personal heiau. The area has been restored, and one of the structures was currently being worked on (not the heiau, but an adjacent structure) with scaffolding about. Walking on the structures is kapu (forbidden), but you can get reasonably close to get a feel for them. Unlike most of the heiaus I've been reading about, this one was not a sacrificial site. I've been reading a bit about the history of the island (so incredibly interesting!), and it's worth noting that one of the ki'i akua (statue of a god) at this heiau has a plover atop it's head. It is thought to make reference to the theory that the first Polynesians to find the Hawaiian islands may have been guided by the golden plover on it's annual migration. Here is a pic:
Right next to this heiau is a small, calm beach that is quite nice for little ones, and there's a snack shack and equipment rental there. The hotel adjacent to the heiau is King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel, which I think was just acquired by the Marriott company. I was on the same flight as three Marriott folks, and then I saw them today at the hotel discussing new paint colors and such.
I walked up a block to see the Hulihe'e Palace (built in 1838), which was suffered severe structural damage in the earthquakes in 2006. As a result, the viewing is limited to the first floor (and the admission lowered to $4), but it was still worth going through to see examples of the beautiful furnishings and architecture. They also had a pretty interesting movie playing about the Palace and the people associated with it. Just outside the Palace is a Pohaku Likanaka, which is a black lava rock with a hole toward the top. Sacrificial victims were forced to sit in front of it while a rope was fed through the hole, around their neck, and then back through the hole. They would then be strangled... probably not a nice way to go!
Of course, amidst the remnants of a rather violent and bloody history, there are incredible reminders of mother nature. Somehow, despite a rather violent natural history, life here is abundant and remarkable:
Birds here are beautiful and not very timid! I don't know what these are, but I love the orange!
Umm, yeah... I really need to start snapping more flower photos. Aren't these gorgeous? For scale, each one of those is about the size of my hand!
It's going to be really hard for Jerry to talk me out of bringing one of these cuties home in my pocket! Although the colors in the photo may be astounding, it doesn't even come close to the irridescence and vibrance that you see in person.
Honu (green sea turtles)... I'm completely entranced by them. I can stand there staring at them while they rest, not moving a bit, and I'm still fascinated. We're incredibly lucky in that these guys have a resting area on the beach at our hotel. We're getting up early tomorrow morning to see if they'll let us snorkel with them for a bit - I'll let you know if we get lucky!
and, of course, I couldn't leave you without your picture postcard, could I? This is the hotel pool. We haven't tried it out yet, and I'm not sure that we will. It's lovely, but I'm pretty partial to the "pool" just beyond teeming with fish, sea turtles, nudibranchs, and other delightful flora and fauna!