Exploring Hilo and the Hamakua Coast of the Big Island of Hawaii

Episode 2 January 22, 2023 00:21:52
Exploring Hilo and the Hamakua Coast of the Big Island of Hawaii
2TravelDads Podcast
Exploring Hilo and the Hamakua Coast of the Big Island of Hawaii

Jan 22 2023 | 00:21:52


Hosted By

Rob Taylor Chris Taylor

Show Notes

There's more to the Big Island of Hawaii than the Kona Coast. Hilo and the Hamakua Coast are amazingly beautiful with great communities, bike paths, beaches and waterfalls. We talk about some of our favorite places in Hilo and chat, just a bit, about Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (we have an episode dedicated to the NP). Give a listen and see what makes Hilo and Hawaii's eastern shore so wonderful to explore.

If you want to really get into the city of Hilo itself, we do have a pretty comprehensive guide to visiting the rainiest city in the USA. Check out our Hilo guide, our complete Big Island Itinerary and favorite unique natural sites to visit over on our blog!


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Episode Transcript

[00:00:13] Speaker A: Welcome to two Travel Dads podcast. Here we share our favorite destinations, travel tips, stories from our adventures, and bring on awesome guests to share insights into their travelsome lives. Be sure to subscribe wherever you get your podcasts and check out our detailed show notes at Dash episode. Hey, this is two travel Dads podcast. And I'm Rob. [00:00:38] Speaker B: I'm Chris. [00:00:39] Speaker A: And today, or this episode, we are going to talk all about the east side of the big island of Hawaii. It's also called the Hamakua coast. And yeah, we're going to get into Hilo, some waterfalls, Monacea, and maybe dip our toes into lava. And talking about Hawaii, volcanoes. [00:01:04] Speaker B: Does this one still have all the endless lava? [00:01:07] Speaker A: Yeah, we'll talk about. So the east coast of the big island. I think it's gorgeous. It's totally different from the Kona coast, which we've got a podcast episode all about that. Also, did you like the Kona coast or the Hemakua coast more? [00:01:25] Speaker B: Is the Hemakua coast the same as the coast? Yeah, yeah, I prefer the Hamilua coast. Okay. [00:01:31] Speaker A: Hemakoa. [00:01:31] Speaker B: Hemakoa. [00:01:32] Speaker A: Yeah. That's interesting. I think they are very different. And the Kona coast, even the kona kailua kona is the biggest town on the big island, Hawaii. I think that the hilo side feels a lot more not necessarily developed like tourism developed, but a lot more lived like. The town of Hilo itself is very much. It feels like a city. It has city parks and it's flat. It has a grid of streets. Yeah. [00:02:00] Speaker B: And a farmer's market. [00:02:01] Speaker A: The farmers market is amazing. Is that where you want to start? Is talking about the farmers market? [00:02:05] Speaker B: Sure. [00:02:05] Speaker A: I love the hilo farmers market. What do you want to say about it? [00:02:08] Speaker B: Well, I just wish that I lived there or that we were staying at a place that had a kitchen or a kitchenette because there were so much fresh fruit and vegetables there that you could have made amazing fruit salads, smoothies, regular salads. I wanted to try everything. [00:02:27] Speaker A: It's definitely the most beautiful and most produce heavy farmers market I've ever been to. [00:02:32] Speaker B: And reasonably priced. [00:02:33] Speaker A: Yeah, it's amazing. It's open every single day. Seven to 03:00 p.m. It is undercover. It's expanding. So across the street, instead of it being produce and stuff across the street, that's where you're going to find more handicrafts and stuff. Oh, there's that awesome shave ice place that was right there. Kula shaved ice. Remember we got the. [00:02:52] Speaker B: Oh, yeah. [00:02:53] Speaker A: What'd you get? You got like. [00:02:57] Speaker B: Yeah. And lillicoi, I think. [00:02:59] Speaker A: Oh, yeah. And then I got the huapia shave ice. Oh, my gosh. [00:03:02] Speaker B: Yeah. And I had. What's that? Coconut cream. [00:03:04] Speaker A: That's the huapia. [00:03:05] Speaker B: Okay. Yeah, I had that, too. [00:03:07] Speaker A: There you have it. [00:03:07] Speaker B: Yeah. It was amazing. [00:03:08] Speaker A: Yeah. No. Hilo farmers market. I'm glad we started right there because it is absolutely awesome. And if you're thinking farmers markets are something you want to do as you're traveling around the big island, there's another really awesome one when you are kind of heading back over to the kona side. Just outside of Hawaii Volcanoes National park is the Maku farmers market, which it only goes on Sundays, but it's way bigger than the Hilo farmers market. And it's combo of produce, baked goods, jewelry, handicrafts, you name it. But that's another good one if you're traveling on a Sunday and want to stop in there. So just keeping in mind all the different farmers market options that you're going to have all along the east side of the big island, it is a very farmy region, and you're going to love it. And if you are doing the maku'u farmers market, or if you're just in that area, it's actually right by the Mona loa macadamia nut farm visitor center, which you're totally welcome to stop into. Yeah. If you like macadamia nuts, it is the place they've got. [00:04:05] Speaker B: I was surprised that you brought back something different than just your regular chocolate covered macadamia nuts that I'm used to. [00:04:11] Speaker A: Yeah. Oh, my gosh. Chocolate covered macadamia nuts were, like, the least present thing that they had there. So you go in and you actually get to learn all about macadamia nuts, which, by the way, do you know they are not picked from trees, even. [00:04:24] Speaker B: Though they're, like, potatoes. No. [00:04:26] Speaker A: So macadamia nuts definitely grow on trees because they are a nut, and the trees are huge. But if you pick it off the tree, you're not going to be able to use it. So they will fall off the tree. And then the way that they harvest them is by collecting them off the ground, and then they husk them and do all that stuff. That's why if you go through any of the macadamia groves, because they've got them on both sides of the island, you won't see anybody doing, like, the cherry picker thing. They actually go along the ground to collect them. But, yeah, when you're there, you get to learn all about the process, and they've got probably 40 different types of macadamia nuts to choose from. So. Amazing. If that's your thing. Gosh, that's just one of the many types of agritourism that you can do on the big island. Another really cool thing to watch for are chocolate farms and chocolate tours, which you. [00:05:10] Speaker B: Yeah. You guys know. You guys went on a cacao tour, right? [00:05:13] Speaker A: Oh, my gosh. We went to a cacao farm. That was absolutely amazing. And I'm sorry that you didn't get to go because you would have loved it. It was kind of like doing a coffee farm tour and that we went to lava Loha, which is right there just outside of Hilo. And, yeah, you get on your little tram and the guide takes you along and you actually get to pick cacao from the tree. They're these huge, maybe like six to eight inch long huge beans that inside, they cut them open and they just kind of pry it. And then it's full of this white fruit. And inside of the white fruit are these purple beans that look kind of like indian corn. And then you can actually eat the entire thing like that. And it doesn't taste bad. It actually tastes really good. [00:05:57] Speaker B: Interesting. [00:05:57] Speaker A: Yeah. And then they dry them, and then they roast them, and then they crush them and they grind them and all this stuff until you get chocolate. But when you go on the tour, you get to see it literally from the tree to coming out of a crock pot for you to try melted chocolate. And it's delicious. [00:06:13] Speaker B: Cool. What an experience. [00:06:14] Speaker A: Oh, yeah. If you're into understanding where your food comes from, it is one of the coolest things to do. Gosh. What do you want to talk about next? So we talked about farmers market and a little bit about agritourism. How about waterfalls? [00:06:26] Speaker B: Yeah, they've got waterfalls over on this side, right? [00:06:27] Speaker A: Yeah. So that's one of the things that I think really sets the east coast, the Hamakua coast, apart from the Kona coast in that they do have a ton of waterfalls. Some of them are on private property. Some of them are just off the highway. Some of them. I think my favorite one that we did was Akaka Falls. [00:06:46] Speaker B: Which one was a cocka falls? [00:06:48] Speaker A: That was the one that it had that really easy loop that goes through the jungle. [00:06:52] Speaker B: Oh, that's right. Okay. [00:06:53] Speaker A: What is. It's 420ft tall. I think it is. [00:06:56] Speaker B: Got it. [00:06:56] Speaker A: Yeah. It's absolutely incredible. [00:06:58] Speaker B: And also had all the strawberry guava. [00:07:01] Speaker A: Right. [00:07:01] Speaker B: You can eat. [00:07:02] Speaker A: Yeah. Because remember, we were walking along this really easy trail. It's not exactly accessible, but it is paved the whole way. No, we were just walking along and all of a sudden just smelled so, so good. And strawberry guava had been falling off the trees onto the hiking path. [00:07:18] Speaker B: Yeah. [00:07:18] Speaker A: And then we actually got to pick some and eat. It was pretty. [00:07:20] Speaker B: They're delicious. They're tiny and soft and taste just like strawberries. [00:07:25] Speaker A: Yeah. Pretty darn good. The other waterfall I thought was really cool, just right there in Hilo is Wile Falls. It's not one that a lot of people are visiting. [00:07:33] Speaker B: This one's not accessible. [00:07:35] Speaker A: It's definitely not easily accessible for this one, and there's a link to it in the blog, so you got to actually pop to the blog for this one. You park on the side of the highway, and then you have to hike through. What was it? Seven foot tall grass. [00:07:50] Speaker B: Yeah. Like, I felt like a bug. I felt like I was in a bugs land in Disney. [00:07:55] Speaker A: Yeah, it was totally like we were little bugs. It was hilarious. But you have to tromp through. It's an actual trail. You tromp through this trail with seven foot tall grass all around you. And it's that Grass that's actually in the sugarcane family. I forget what it's called, but then you come to the stream that you then have to figure out how to cross, which isn't too deep, so it's not bad. But then there is this beautiful waterfall that just pours off the cliff into this amazing splash pond. And, yeah, that's wiley Falls, and you can swim in it. [00:08:27] Speaker B: Yeah, it's gorgeous. We wanted to go swimming, but we're off to many other adventures, so we didn't get to swim in it, but it was beautiful. [00:08:32] Speaker A: I think that's a lesson to always be ready to swim when you're on the big island, because, yeah, there's lots of opportunities all around you at all times, so, yeah, that's a really fun one. Definitely not the easiest to get to, but totally worthwhile. Another one that, Chris, you didn't get to do this with me, but Kelly and I just did it when we were there. It's Kalania pia Falls, and that is on private property, so you can contact them. Waterfall net is actually their web address. How cool. Do they actually have that? And it's right there. Located at the inn at Colonia Pia Falls, it is the most beautiful waterfall, and it splashes down into a big, beautiful pond that is big enough that you can take a kayak onto the splash pond or a paddleboard. I did a paddleboard, and then it continues on through a series of other falls, and there's gardens just all around. One of the most beautiful places I've been. And you can actually stay at this big, beautiful bed and breakfast overlooking the falls. And. Yeah, it is probably, I'd say it's the most remarkable hawaiian stay that you can plan on that side of the island. Any other waterfalls that we went to that you thought were pretty great? Heads up. Rainbow Falls. Everybody wants to go to Rainbow Falls. [00:09:38] Speaker B: You could go check it out, but it was a little wont want. [00:09:41] Speaker A: Yeah. So once you've been to akaka Falls or Waele Falls or kunulonia pia Falls, rainbow Falls is super lame. [00:09:49] Speaker B: We spent five minutes there. [00:09:51] Speaker A: Yeah, there's lots of tour buses in the parking lot and then the waterfall itself. It's pretty, but you can't do any hiking. There's just a little viewpoint and it's not all that spectacular. If you've seen waterfalls in your life. [00:10:02] Speaker B: Yeah, exactly. If you've seen a waterfall, then you've seen this waterfall. [00:10:05] Speaker A: Yeah. A lot of people say, oh, yeah, go to Rainbow Falls. It's one of the best things to do in Hilo. It's not. So that's just insider tip. So if you're not down for hiking and you want to take time not in the water. Another great thing about Hilo specifically is that it's really bikeable. So there's lots of bike rentals or we actually stayed at the SCP Hilo. Gosh, I love that hotel. [00:10:28] Speaker B: Yeah, it's a beautiful hotel. Great coffee. [00:10:30] Speaker A: Great coffee, great location. It's located right on Reed's Bay. [00:10:33] Speaker B: Well, and it's free to use their bikes and their stand up paddleboards, too. Right. [00:10:37] Speaker A: So they provide those for guests and. Yeah, just grab your bike. And then, because the town of Hilo is built around the know Hilo Bay, it's really flat, so it's really easy to ride around. And so we did a ride through the Liliokolani gardens that are right there. There's some japanese gardens and huge banyan trees. [00:10:56] Speaker B: Those banyan trees are amazing. [00:10:57] Speaker A: Yeah. And then along the beach to actually, we rode over to the farmers market. [00:11:01] Speaker B: Yeah, that's how we found it. [00:11:02] Speaker A: Yeah. And then, yeah, you can ride around through town. It's so easy and fun. It's a great way to mix up what else you're doing on the big island, especially because most other places on the island are super hilly. So being able to ride bikes in Hilo, I think, is kind of a bonus of the town. [00:11:19] Speaker B: Well, and sometimes I feel like, when you're riding a bike versus being in a car, you experience the location in a completely different. [00:11:26] Speaker A: Yeah, yeah. And so if you're on a bike, you might as well also hit the beach. Right. So there is the really large beach that's right there on the Hilo bayfront. But then if you kind of continue eastward away from, for us, away from the SCP or away from the downtown area, you get to, like, Richardson Beach park. And we went to one that was just crazy. Laliwi Beach park. Remember that one? [00:11:48] Speaker B: Is that the one that had, all of a sudden, extremely cold water and this cool sea snakes? [00:11:54] Speaker A: Yeah, it had the sea snakes. That's right. So this beach park, there's kind of this strange thing about the big island. There are tons of freshwater springs on both sides of the island that just feed directly into the salt water. So when you find one, you'll be all excited to get in the water, and then you'll discover that the water is ice cold, which is kind of a surprise. [00:12:16] Speaker B: Definitely a surprise. And you're seeing just how it's mixing in with the salt water. So when you're looking underwater with your goggles on, you can see just the salt swirling in front of you. It's interesting. [00:12:27] Speaker A: Yeah. From the surface, it just looks like the most perfectly clear water, because, number one, it's spring water, which is always super clear. And then secondly, it's all around lava, so there's not a lot of sand to kick up. So ideally, you'd think, oh, this is perfect snorkeling conditions. You can see fish from above the water. We saw sea snakes. [00:12:44] Speaker B: They're black and white. Like the beetlejuice. [00:12:48] Speaker A: Yeah, totally. Just like the big snake and beetlejuice. And then once you get in, though, if you can make it through the cold, the salt is so thick, especially here at Liliwi Beach park, the salt in the water is so thick that it looks like you are looking through, like, resin. It's really strange. I don't know. Is that how you describe it? [00:13:07] Speaker B: It was just swirly. [00:13:08] Speaker A: Yeah, it's just swirly and distorted this last time, both times we did some stand up paddleboard right there on Reeds Bay, which is in between the beach park and then the hotel. We were at the SCP Hilo, and there's actually freshwater springs right there at Reeds Bay, too. So when we were out on our boards this most recent time, we saw that there were three sea turtles, and we're like, oh, cool, popped over there, and we were kind of watching them and then I stuck my phone in the water to take pictures underwater, and it was so present or so obvious how present the freshwater saltwater mix was right there. So all of my pictures of the turtles were just super distorted and kind of crazy. Like I was tripping. [00:13:48] Speaker B: Well, that place is so cool, too, that bay, because when we were there, I saw the sea turtles, but also saw some spotted. I think there were spotted eagle rays that were there, in addition to a ton of other beautiful fish. [00:14:01] Speaker A: Yeah. So Reed's Bay, it's that whole area that's right there along the Lulu Yokalani gardens and the waterfront across from our hotel. And it kind of scoops along up to the jetty and there's little coves that you can go into. There's some banyan trees along the way. There's a beach park, Reeds Bay beach park, where there's actually really nice sand and you can have a picnic there, or that's where you can put in your paddleboards. You can paddle over to Coconut island. That's that cool little peninsula that comes off of the Lulu Kalani park. We rode our bikes over to that. And it's got. Yeah, it's got some historic structures on it and then nice little beachy areas as well. So all kinds of things you can do just right there in Hilo without having to try hard. One of the other really unique things about the big island. So when you look at a map, like an actual satellite image, you can see that it's just made of volcanoes. Besides what you find in Hawaii volcanoes National park, which we'll talk about in just a minute, there, is Monacea, which is the tallest mountain in the world. [00:14:57] Speaker B: Surprising still, because I feel like it's Mount Everest, but I guess it's not. [00:15:00] Speaker A: I know. So Oliver was the one, our son, who told me that it was the tallest, and I was like, what? So then, in researching it, Everest is the tallest when you measure from sea level, but Monaca is the tallest when you measure from the measurable start of the volcano. So, of course, it goes underwater, and the summit is just about as tall as Mount Rainier in Washington. So you can imagine that Montekea sometimes gets snow. And during the most recent visit, so it was just now in January when I was there, there was snow on both Monaca and Monoloa, which was really interesting. [00:15:34] Speaker B: Yeah, what a beautiful sight to see while you're in Hawaii. [00:15:36] Speaker A: Yeah. We had this one morning where we were out paddling on the bay, and we're surrounded by tropical water and sea turtles. And palm trees, and then you look up and there's snow. And it just seemed in Hawai, it seemed out of place. But people will even ski on Montekea. But here's the thing, is that getting there is kind of a unique experience. So you've got to drive out of Hilo, or if you're on the Kona coast, you can also drive on the saddle road that goes across the island. And when you get to Montekea, you have to drive up a 17% grade. [00:16:09] Speaker B: That's insane. [00:16:10] Speaker A: Yeah, no, it really is. So it starts where you're just kind of in like this lava flow, and then all of a sudden it turns into a prairie, just like high prairie down in the Columbia gorge. It looks just like that with the same plants and everything. And then you've got a line of fur forest and it looks like Florida or it looks like the Sierras of California. And then you break through that and you're kind of in like this high desert sort of area. And then all of a sudden you're up on the windswept alpine portion that is just below the snow line. And that's where they actually, if you don't have a four x four car, that's as far as you can drive. And there's visitor center there. And you can learn all about the many observatories because there's actually a whole collection. Like many different schools and countries actually have observatories up on the top of Montekea. So you can go and you can learn all about it there. And we actually got to look into a telescope directly at the sun. [00:17:04] Speaker B: Oh, interesting. [00:17:05] Speaker A: Oh, so crazy. So the lady who was managing it, she was showing us solar flares as they were happening. Oh, it was absolutely wild. I had no idea what to expect with going up Monacea. And then we got there and had a full on science lesson. [00:17:21] Speaker B: Now, let's say you had a Mustang convertible. Could you still make it? [00:17:25] Speaker A: Well, we did have a Mustang convertible, and we made it as far as the visitor center. But because we didn't have the four x four, we couldn't go up. Even when there's not snow on Montekea, they still don't let you drive up unless you've got the four wheel drive. Because I'll tell you, that steep road, I can't even express how steep it is. I've been on one road in my life steeper than that. And that was. What is it? It's like Jackson in San Francisco, where you feel like, you know, that dream where you're like, you're going to flip backwards in your car. That's what it feels like. So, yeah, Montekea, really cool. Not for everybody. So it's a cool volcano that's dormant. But you want to talk about, just for a hot sec, volcanoes that are active? [00:18:05] Speaker B: Yeah, let's do cool. So which volcanoes are active? [00:18:08] Speaker A: Well, at the time that we are talking about this right now, it's just Killauea that's active. So it's. The Halemamau crater is what is active in Kilauea right now, which when we were there, that's what we saw, too. That's the lava lake that's active. It's kind of crazy. So in November, Mona Loa, which has been dormant for a while, all of a sudden woke up and it was just this absolutely astounding eruption and there was lava actually getting ready to threaten the saddle road, going across the island and all kinds of things. They weren't sure what was going on and it was surprise to everybody. And then with that, gosh, what was it? It blew up for like three weeks or a month. [00:18:44] Speaker B: Yeah, a few weeks. And you were like, I want to go back to Hawaii, I want to check it out. [00:18:47] Speaker A: Yeah. So booked a ticket and then right after booking the non refundable ticket, both Mona Loa and Kilauea turned off and my heart dropped into my tummy. But luckily, on day two of the most recent trip, all of a sudden, like 04:00 in the morning, Killawaya woke up and it was absolutely incredible. So when we were there, we were there in October and Killawaya, I mean, we were pretty starstruck by it because. [00:19:16] Speaker B: It was still amazing. You still get to see lava, but it wasn't like erupting or anything. [00:19:20] Speaker A: Yeah. Like the lava glow and the steam, it was all absolutely incredible. But then being there on this most recent visit, there were two and 300ft lava fountains which if you're there and it's going off, you need to see it. Even if you don't want to go up in the daytime, go up at night just to watch the lava, because it is so unusual and so unique and absolutely beautiful. And if you've seen moana, it looks just like Teka, the lava goddess. Like the way that the lava shines through the cooled rock, it's insane. [00:19:52] Speaker B: You get to watch like the lava lake kind of move. Right, which is crazy. The lava is just right below it shifting. [00:19:59] Speaker A: I didn't even know that I was able to capture that. When you're staring at it, you can't really see it, but if you are able to see video, you can track with your eyes just how the ripples hit the lava lake. It's bizarre. I've never seen anything else like it. But anyways. Yeah. Hawaiian volcanoes National park. It's more than just the active lava. [00:20:18] Speaker B: It's more than just the nae nays. [00:20:20] Speaker A: It's more than just the nae nay geese. The Nene geese are amazing. They're super cute and they're everywhere. And it's funny because. So we were there in October and then I was just there in January, and I took pictures of these same birds because a lot of them have little tags on them, and I got pictures of the same exact birds in different areas. [00:20:37] Speaker B: It's wild. [00:20:38] Speaker A: Yeah, literally, they are wild and they choose to hang out. And they are the funniest, most social geese I've ever met. Good times. But, yeah, we're going to actually have an episode for you all about Hawai volcanoes National park. So be sure to tune back in or download that episode as well because we'll get into the scenic drives to take the different hikes you can do, the different units of Hawaii, volcanoes, all that stuff, where to eat. [00:21:01] Speaker B: That's important. [00:21:02] Speaker A: Yeah, I would say that's important. Yeah. Anything else that you want to talk about, about the hilo side for now? [00:21:06] Speaker B: I think we covered a lot. Cool. [00:21:07] Speaker A: Yeah. So then stay tuned. Check out our other Hawai episodes. And yeah, we're going to talk to you about Kauai and all the awesome hikes we did there. We've got more of the big island. And then check out everything else that we've got. We've got a lot to talk about Florida, too. So that's it for now, and we will be at you later. [00:21:28] Speaker B: All right. [00:21:29] Speaker A: Two Travel Dads podcast is created by Rob and Chris Taylor in St. Augustine, Florida. We'd love to answer your questions here on the podcast, providing both our experience and stories to share our own insights into ever you're wondering about, visit twotraveldads.com podcast episodes to leave your questions and to check out past episodes and show notes. Don't forget to hit that subscribe button and have an awesome day.

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