Hawaii. What does one say about Hawaii that you haven’t heard or seen on TV a million times? I’ve heard about it my whole life, you’ve heard about your whole life and it all looked super appealing. But, I have a confession to make. I really never had the desire to go to Hawaii. There, I said it. Even after watching “Magnum P.I.” and “Hawaii Five-O” and those “Brady Bunch” episodes I still just didn’t put it on my “want to travel to” list. I bet you never heard that about Hawaii before have you?

Before you call me a self-entitled jerk, or something worse, let me explain. I know Hawaii has beautiful beaches, spectacular scenery, an ancient seafaring culture, a cool, laid-back vibe and some of the best surfing on Earth. I get it, I love all of those things but I already live in Caribbean Mexico which is known for the exact same things besides the surfing, right? And I don’t surf, well, once, but it didn’t go well. So why would I pay $2,000 to fly in a giant tube full of breath for 12 hours just to get to place exactly like where I already am?

Well for Deidre for one thing. She had been to Hawaii a few times when she was younger and kept trying to tell me that it was completely different then the Caribbean coast of Mexico and that we should go. I still wasn’t convinced but when a house sit came up in Hawaii that fit perfectly with our time away from Mahahual, well I wasn’t gung-ho, but I really couldn’t say no to that.  I know, I just proved that I am a self-entitled jerk didn’t I? But what if I told you I was wrong about Hawaii? I’m not too proud to admit that I was wrong, wrong, wrong.

I went to Hawaii and it blew my mind. Every single day, it blew my mind! I mean, the mountains, the coffee plantations, the various colored beaches, the hiking, the waterfalls, the Pacific Ocean – holy mother, the Pacific! I live on the ocean, I spend every day in, on or around the ocean but that’s the Caribbean. It’s a Sea. A peaceful, gentle, inviting Sea (as far as those things go) and I feel like she’s a friend, always welcoming me in to show me around. The Pacific is an Ocean, the biggest OCEAN. She seems angry to me, scares me and makes me think that she’s trying to eat Hawaii and everything on the islands, including me. That’s nonsense, of course, the Pacific is just an Ocean with no real malice but it really is trying to eat Hawaii. And has been for eons. And will keep doing so.

Pacific Ocean is Mean
Does anything about this water look inviting to you? See what I mean?

Luckily for Hawaii (and me), Hawaii is made up solely of volcanoes, volcanoes that are still active in the war for Hawaii. Hawaii was formed by volcanoes on the sea floor continuously erupting for millions of years until finally, their tops broke the surface of the ocean, cooled down a little bit, formed the worlds most remote archipelago and people started surfing. Or something like that. For real though, Hawaii is formed by volcanoes, some of which are still erupting and fighting for Hawaii today. These eruptions are what keep the Pacific from finally just eroding Hawaii back into the waves.

Thankfully big volcanoes have defeated the Pacific before and are still doing so. They’ll eventually lose of course but at least their little brothers and sisters are still growing.

This interaction between the ocean and volcanoes has led to some of the most stunning vistas on the planet. Simply breathtaking.

Waipio Valley
When I first saw the Waipio Valley it literally took my breath away. And yes, I know what literally means. I mean that literally.

The volcanic eruptions have also created very steep mountains and those elevations and elevation changes coupled with the trade winds off the Pacific have led to microclimates forming which are perfect for the cultivation of pineapples, sugar cane, bananas and most importantly (at least to Deidre), coffee. Or more specifically, Kona Coffee. World-renowned for its rich flavor and smooth taste, Kona Coffee is grown in a surprisingly strange area – a cloud forest. Parts of it are literally in the clouds so it doesn’t so much as rain there, the clouds just brush up against stuff and get them wet. Apparently, this is the perfect environment to grow delicious coffee. Even I had several cups and it was truly delicious.

Hawaiian Cloud Forest
This is the rare sunny day in the cloud forests of Kona.


Kona Coffee Beans
These forests coupled with the unique volcanic soil of Kona create some of the best conditions for growing the Coffea arabica bean which makes Kona coffee so great.


This is a perfect specimen of the Deidreus Americanus in her happiest of environments.

While coffee really isn’t my thing, hiking is. And thankfully, Hawaii’s hiking is amazing. Simply and resoundingly, amazing. I’d never thought of Hawaii as a hiking destination but the next time I go (and yes, there will definitely be a next time), I’ll be bringing my tent and backpack.

On the very first morning we woke up on the Big Island of Hawaii we went to a trail head only about ½ mile from our Airbnb to take our first hike. This hike started at about 1,300 feet above sea level and purported to take us down to the ocean. I only mention this because it gives you a sense of how the elevation changes in Hawaii change nearly everything. We started out in a sugar cane field for a mile or so, went through some woods for about another mile, hit a band of pasture for a bit (with great ocean views) and then came out onto a lava field before hitting some more woods and then boom, there it was. The ocean. And then, DOLPHINS! Within hours of arriving in Hawaii, we’d hiked through sugar cane fields, lava fields and other terrains that I’d never seen before, all with an ocean view, before being greeted by a family of wild dolphins. Amazing, and it was before noon on our first of like 21 days. Wow.


The ocean is down there somewhere!
I was told that the ocean is down there somewhere.


Would you look at that? Lava! Sure, it may have cooled down millions of years ago but how can I be sure? I walked around it.


This looks much safer. But even looking at the picture I’m still pretty sure it’s about to burst into flames.


Whew, we made it! Deidre is much more comfortable than I about the temporary truce between the Lava and the Pacific than I am. But then again, Dolphins! I’ll brave not only inanimate rock but calm seas for these guys!


There is nothing like seeing a family of dolphins in the wild!#dolphins #savedolphins #nocaptivity #kona #hawaii

Posted by AWOL Americans on Saturday, December 16, 2017

After watching the dolphins in awe for a few minutes I was wondering what would come next? I turned around and there was a big obelisk monument so I wandered over to check it out. Lo and behold, we’d stumbled upon the exact spot where Captain Cook, the discoverer of Hawaii and Australia had been killed by the native people of Hawaii. Apparently, it pays to “discover” lands that aren’t already populated. So it goes.

Captain Cook Memorial
I can’t really read it from here but I’m pretty sure the plaque says that trespassers will be stoned and slashed to death.

The Captain Cook hike was just the first of many. We hiked up volcanoes, down volcanoes, through volcanos, (Volcanoes National Park is lousy with them) across part of an African Savannah to get to a green beach, up a mountain to a peaceful graffiti-covered WWII pillbox, through rivers and jungles and Farmers Markets on two different islands. We hiked all over the place and it was all amazing.

Kīlauea Iki Lava chute
Well, the gun barrel of the still active Kīlauea Iki volcano hasn’t shot boxcar size boulders, red hot liquid rocks or posionous gas out since the late 1950s so why not hike right down range of it?


Kīlauea Iki Crater
It’s not like I could outrun the thing, may as well go check it out.


Not all lava is scary. After all, it is what Hawaii is made of and it’s amazing. And amazingly peaceful.


Did I say peaceful? I could have sat in the rain under this tree for days.


Bonzai Pillbox
It’s even peaceful on top of this WWII pillbox overlooking the Bonzai Pipline. Yep, that break down there is the world famous Pipe. I didn’t need to get much closer.


Somehow, even the inside of that concrete box designed to kill people was peaceful.


Bonzai Pipeline
Okay, so I went a little closer.

Uncle Roberts Awa
If you are ever Hilo side on the Big Island on a Wednesday night you must go to Uncle Robert’s Awa Bar and Farmers Market! You must! We had so much fun listening to the bands, eating great food and talking to people, this is the only picture I took!


Dave Winters
Heck, we hiked so much I even ended up hiking in the water with my new buddy Capt. Dave Winters looking for some of the biggest Bonefish on the planet. Left to right, that’s Dave, Honolulu, Diamond Head and an airliner taking off from Honolulu Airport.

Just about every day I woke up thinking ”Wow, I can’t believe this is even the same island” or “where in the hell are we, do they take dollars here?” Hawaii is that kind of place. It’s enchanting and wonderful and so difficult to describe other than to say – go there. Go there now.

In between taking care of a dog and house we found time to do plenty of exploring, often with the dog in tow. But we didn’t even scratch the surface of things to see and do in Hawaii. And so we will for sure be going back. Even if you live on the beach, don’t be a jerk. Grab your normal beach clothes, add in a sweatshirt and some hiking stuff and just go. You won’t regret it.