The bathroom is beautiful with mirrors surrounded by stained glass and only screens in place of windows. Screens completely surround the master bedroom and the beads hanging in the doorway make very cool wave-effects in the gentle breeze that comes down the mountain every night. The screened-in kitchen has an equally amazing view of the setting sun and ocean. In the early morning, the house and trees shadow the outside bathtub area.
Immediately after dropping off our bags at the house we went down to Kealakekua Bay to snorkel before the sun went down. This was the first time I had snorkeled in a tropical area and I was just amazed at the vibrant colors from the fish. There were also a *bunch* of snapping shrimp in the coral areas where the fish were chillin.
We ate lunch on the beach and just generally tooled around waiting for the sunset that gave me the picture to the left. Deeper into the sunset I snagged this shot of a local couple.
After returning the dive equipment, we caught a sunset at Kona.
On the drive back up Manuka Bay Road, we struck a rock that must have been much more planted than it appeared. Stopping the Blazer immediately when we noticed that the oil pressure was at zero, we saw that the oil pan was dripping oil at a steady rate. This is not a good situation since AAA, car insurance, and rental agreements do not cover 4 wheel drive situations. We hiked four miles out to the main road and called AAA, but they never showed up and it had begun to rain on us.
We hitched a ride home with a very nice woman that likes to free-dive with some of the pros on the island. It turns out that most local tow truck drivers will not touch a vehicle off-road for anything less than $300. Always take two vehicles with you when you drive off-road. The next morning at 6am I hitched a ride with the friendly neighbor and caretaker of the property to the airport to rent a Jeep Wrangler. With tow strap, oil, and tools in hand to do a temporary repair of a cracked oil pan, we returned to Manuka Bay Road to fetch the Blazer. Crawling underneath, we found that there was actually a 2" hole in the oil pan and we could only hope to tow it out. The Wrangler performed like a champ and pulled the big, dumb Blazer up some pretty loose and steep hills to the road. Three hours and two calls to AAA later, we had the Blazer back to the rental agency and could continue with the vacation already in progress.
After returning the Blazer, we drove to the north side of the island to see the beautiful Pololu area. The north side of the island receives a lot of rainfall which explains the deeply cut valleys and forest.
On the way back to Kona, we stopped by a resort beach on our search for a sand beach without any rocks. Hawai'i, being the newest island, is still very rocky from the lava flows.
For lunch we cooked up some fresh fish from a local market and then headed to Kona for sunset/dinner. We caught a great sunset from a bar where everyone gathers to watch. Afterward we browsed the local shops and found this great lady that was very bitter about her job. She couldn't imagine why anyone would buy any of the junk that was in her store. Her manager wouldn't even let her open the window to the beautiful view of the ocean because the sea air would corrode the cheap jewelry.
We started toward the northern valley area of the island where the waterfalls rule. I could lean out and see straight up or down and even the tail rotor behind us. The falls were absolutely beautiful. This flight was the best roller coaster ride ever. Our pilot would climb through these valleys and once at the top ask us, "so is everyone feeling ok?". He would then proceed to roll the chopper about 80 degrees on its side and dive straight down into the valleys. It kicked so much ass.
Our pilot could perfectly hover us directly over waterfalls and objects nearly at tree level. At the bottom of all these waterfalls and valleys is where the river meets the ocean. From here we flew along the coast to the west and then inland to find a well preserved World War II bomber that had crashed into the valleys here so long ago. After that it was back to the coast and to the east towards the airport. And as we requested, the pilot did some nap of the earth (treetop level) flying on the way home. If you want more details, please email me.
That night we had rescheduled the Manta Ray dive that we missed because of the Blazer incident, so we just hung loose at Hapuna State beach until that afternoon. At 5:30 we met with the dive group that would take us out diving at night. The dive site was just south of the Kona airport and so we were instructed on what to expect and then suited up while we watched a couple of manta rays skim the surface of the water.
Once we were at the bottom, it was a completely different world. We adjusted our lights so that they floated just above our foreheads and plankton began to collect near us. The manta rays would swim directly for our faces with their mouths wide open and then just skim the tops of our heads as they swam past. Fish would collect and feed off of the plankton in front of our faces. It was so amazing. You could even shine your light inside of the rays' mouths and see deep inside to their gills. After about 30 minutes, five manta rays were swimming around us and even getting a bit aggressive. The dive master estimated that the biggest ray had a wingspan of 14 feet. After another 15 minutes or so we followed the dive master and explored the sea floor a bit with our lights. Without sunlight down there, you get a feeling of sensory deprivation. Definitely one of the best experiences I've ever had. We had rented all of our equipment and scheduled the manta ray dives through Big Island Divers of Kona. They were very professional and friendly and the equipment was in good condition.