We docked at Hilo early and after a quick peek outside I sighed. It was cool, grey and raining. I hopefully packed our cossies and towels in the backpack along with the camera and GoPro then we went ashore to collect our hire car. By then the rain had lifted very slightly but as we headed toward the Volcanoes National Park it stepped up and we weren’t sure how much volcano we’d be seeing after all.
It’s not a long trip from Hilo and after about 40 minutes we were pulling up at the Visitor’s Centre. We got a map and discovered exactly how frustrated Pele is and how much of Crater Rim Drive is closed at the moment – a lot!
We stopped first at Nāhuku Lava Tube but we were unable to venture in. The tube is extremely dark and has not been tampered with in any way (I love that) so flashlights are a must… and we didn’t have any.
We drove on to Kīlauea Iki Crater and were afforded some really incredible views of Kīlauea Caldera. The weather isn’t reflected so dramatically in the photographs but it was wild up there. The sun shone as we got out of the car but by the time we reached the lookout the wind was whipping at us and icy rain was falling. It didn’t last long and we were glad we waited it out.
Finally, we took a short walk through the Ha’akulamanu Sulphur Banks and saw where volcanic gases had deposited colourful sulphur crystals and other minerals that paint the land.
We headed toward Volcano for some lunch and stopped at Lava Rock Cafe for lunch where I ordered their famous chilli plate lunch and wasn’t disappointed – it was quite good! It was really fun stopping in Volcano, even if it was just for an hour or so. Interesting to see folks just going about their day… with big steamy Kīlauea just a few miles away.
When we headed back to Hilo we were a little earlier than we thought we’d be. We’d taken walking shoes, etc with us to the Volcanoes National Park but when we arrived we realised we’d need a few extra hours than what we had to do any of the real hikes so we decided to save that up for when we visit the Big Island properly one day.
So with a couple of hours before we had to return the Jeep and head back to the ship we drove to Richardson’s Ocean Park which is the closest black sand beach to Hilo. We went knowing that sea turtles are often spotted there but with just an hour to explore we didn’t think we’d be lucky enough to spot one. And we weren’t. We spotted and swam with two!!
We stayed at the beach until the last possible second and then salty and happy we rushed back to return the car and get on the ship. Hilo delivered more than we ever thought it could!
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Kailua-Kona: Palaces, beaches, snorkelling and FOOD