Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Big Island Vacation, Part Two

Welcome to Waimea!  It's my favorite small town.  It is also known as Kamuela to differentiate it from another town called Waimea on the island of Kauai.

The town sits at a beautiful location, at the base of the Kohala mountains.

This is Waimea as seen from above as you head north on the mountain.

These photos show Waimea at ground level.

Waimea is home to an excellent restaurant called Merriman's.  Recipient of many culinary awards, Merriman's is a leader in the movement to support local farmers.

It looks simple on the outside but it's an elegant space with fine service.  Merriman's and Sansei (sushi at the Queen's Marketplace) are the two places we make a point to visit when we are on Hawaii.

I like to visit the Waimea Coffee Company, a small cafe that is a pleasant place for breakfast or lunch.

Waimea is home to Parker Ranch, one of the largest and oldest cattle ranches in the country.

Waimea is known as "paniolo" country.  Paniolo is the Hawaiian word for cowboy.

A Waimea style stop sign…

From Waimea I drive north on Kohala Mountain Road (State Route 250).  This is my favorite drive, and I do it every time we visit the island.  As you drive up the mountain you have beautiful views of the ocean and Waimea below.  You pass forests and ranches.  There are a couple of areas where you can pull over to enjoy the view.

This is what you find at the end of the road… the Pololu Valley outlook!

I love driving through this area in North Kohala on the island of Hawaii.  I never could feel tired or bored with so much beauty around me.  it's awesome and inspiring.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Big Island Experience, Part One

My love affair with the Big Island of Hawaii continues.  I have lost track of the number of times we have been there.  This was either the fourth or the fifth, I think.

In case you've never been there, here is a little bit of our experience:

We flew five and a half hours from Los Angeles to Kona.  The terminal looks like this.

We got our rental car and headed out on Route 19, which runs along the Kona/Kohala coast.  If you turn right you are headed south toward Kona.  It is a busy town with many shops, restaurants, B & Bs, and smaller hotels.  You see a lot of locals as well as a lot of tourists there.

We always turn left and head north to the Kohala district.  There is South Kohala and North Kohala.  This is where most of the large beach hotels are located.  We drive about thirty miles along the coast on Route 19, in a northerly direction.  At first the scenery is not very colorful.  There is lava on both sides of the road.

You will notice that people have "written" messages on the lava using white coral and stones.

The farther north you drive, the more lush it becomes.  You begin to see palm trees and other trees, colorful shrubs and flowers.  You pass a sign that says "Donkey Crossing".  You begin to see fancy signs pointing to long driveways off to the left that lead to the various beach resorts.  This is the sunniest, driest part of the island.

We pass the Four Seasons Hualulai, the Fairmont Orchid, the Mauna Lani Beach Resort and two shopping/condo/villa areas called the Queens Marketplace (where we stop at the Island Gourmet store for wine and snacks).  and the Kings Marketplace which is more upscale.  The Queens Marketplace has some nice shops and a food court that includes a Subway restaurant.  It is also the location of the Sansei restaurant, which is known for its large menu of famously good sushi.  We usually eat there one night during our visit.

The Kings Marketplace has high end shops like Louis Vuitton, Prada, Tiffany's, and the tiniest Macy's I have ever seen.  It has more expensive restaurants like Roy's and Tommy Bahama.

Eventually we come to our favorite hotel, the Hapuna Beach Prince.  Still on Route 19, you see this sign.  You drive down a very long, winding road that leads past the golf course and some vacation villas.

This is a beautiful area; you can see Mauna Kea (the mountain where the observatories are located).  The summit is often wreathed in a bank of white, fluffy looking clouds, and sometimes there is  snow up there.

Can you see those tiny little dots just left of center on the top of the mountain?  Those are the observatories that fascinate me so much.  Here they are a little closer:

Sometimes they shoot lasers at the sky to maximize viewing into the universe:

There are tours that will take you up to the summit.  They provide winter gear.  All in the same day you can wear a bikini on the beach then go to Mauna Kea and put on a parka.

Anyway, back to the beach…

We go to Hapuna Beach because it is one of the best beaches in the world.  The sand is white and soft and the water is clear and shallow enough to walk out a ways.  The hotel is at one end and there is a state park along the other end.  It's popular with both hotel guests and locals, but it never seems to be crowded.

The hotel is right on the beach, tucked between the ocean and the mountains behind.  Every room has an ocean view.  We like the rooms on the lower left, where you can walk right out from your room.  This is the view from our room:

I took this photo as I was walking on the beach.  You can see part of the hotel on the right side, and that's my husband toward me, wearing the white shirt.  You can also see how uncrowded the beach is.  Here are some more of my photos:

There is a beautiful pool area between the hotel and the beach.  There are trees near the beach so you can find shade if you like.  The whole place is perfect!

This post is getting long, and I need to close my laptop and do some chores.  So, I will post some more photos tomorrow, getting away from the hotel and exploring other favorite places on the island.