Snow?  Hawaii?

Not a typo nor a fantasy.  Started Tuesday with a 4WD trek UP Mount Mauna Kea, one of Hawaii’s two 13ers.

Mauna Loa, known for its active lava flow.  Mauna Kea, the world’s highest telescope.  “The altitude and isolation in the middle of the Pacific Ocean makes Mauna Kea one of the best locations on earth for ground-based astronomy.”

Gonna be a HUGE day – Fire, Ice AND a tropical Waterfall 🙂


Rank      Name           Elevation      Counties

1         Mauna Kea       13,796′          Hawaii

2         Mauna Loa       13,679′          Hawaii

Hopped aboard the Grecos SUV (thanks again Paul for chauffeuring), drove an hour east toward Hilo – our third day travelling the Big Island’s Saddle Road (Hawaii 200), island’s only East-West highway (Kona to Hilo).

First stop: Onizuka Center for International Astronomy, adjacent the Visitors Center.  Closed ‘til noon.  Stretched our legs, started the 7-mile all-dirt journey UP to Mauna Kea Observatory.  Less than a handful of US states with 13,000ft peaks.

Rocky, barren, red Martian landscape.  UP UP UP.  Patches of last week’s windswept snow remained on the high peaks near the Observatory.  Stopped outside each massive structure: the Subaru Telescope, Keck I and II Telescopes, NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility.

After multiple days of tropical humidity, LOVE LOVED my half-hour of high-altitude gusty, thin air.  FAAANNNTASTIC!


  • Hilo Lunch: organic Kombucha at Sweet Cane Café
  • Hilo Highlight: Rainbow Falls in Wailuku River State Park.  Short hike, top of the Falls thru a forest of Giant Banyan trees (double WOW) to the Boiling Pots, a succession of big pools formed by slow cooling lava.  What a crazy diverse climate!

Evening’s activity? LAVA: the ONE single most thing I’ve ALWAYS wanted to do in Hawaii.  And not the possible red glow a mile away, from the deck of a building in the National Park.  Pāhoa Lava Flow, tonite’s ranger-free private-land molten lava experience.

[Too early in the afternoon to head to the south coast.  Most impressive after dark.]

Filled our lava ‘wait’ time at Mauna Loa.  NOT the massive peak ‘cross from Mount Mauna Kea…rather, Mauna Loa, Hawaii’s #1 Macadamia nut manufacturer.   Factory tour, garden walk – FREE samples at the gift store.  No money, lotta flavours.

Did I say FREE?  Reality: Tasty & super addictive.  ALL of us dropped cash here.  LOL>



Rainbow Falls (Waiānuenue)




Captain James Cook (7 November 1728 – 14 February 1779) was a British explorer, navigator, cartographer, and captain in the Royal Navy.  Cook made detailed maps of Newfoundland prior to making three voyages to the Pacific Ocean, during which he achieved the first recorded European contact with the eastern coastline of Australia and the Hawaiian Islands, and the first recorded circumnavigation of New Zealand.


Two ways to Captain Cook Monument – by foot or by sea.  No road will take you there, no view from afar.

Hitched a ride with Sis & hubby in their SUV rental.  Drove south past Kona, took the Mamalahoa Bypass ’til it dead-ended on State Highway 11.  2 miles from Kealakekua, one mile from Captain Cook – Ka’awaloa Trail tucked away on the right.

2 mile/2000ft scramble thru tropical fern, Palm & tall grasses.  Not lush like the Island’s Hilo shore, but plenty of variety from Colorado winter.  Flowers, nuts & fruit gave way to volcanic rock.  Kealakekua Bay still a mile away, sharp descent to the salt water inlet.  Pic-snapped Cook’s elusive Monument, then shed some clothes.  Hiking pants & shirt on a nearby log.  Swimming in January!

BEST SNORKELING on the Big Island.  Yesterday was fun – this site, truly a hidden gem.  Schools of yellow tang visible to the eye, hanging near shore.  Everything amplified.  Bigger fish, larger numbers.  WOW!

2 mile/2000ft hike return.  UP,UP, UP – 2000ft UP.  Hit it hard, paced strong.  ALL IN this day – killed it!

Farm-to-table lunch, luau dinner tonite.  Livin’ B-I-G, absolutely no regrets 🙂



Kealakekua Bay



Saturday: road warrior.  Sunday: ocean explorer.

Ok ok not so much exploring, as adventuring under the sea – SNORKEL Day.  Christmas present from Ash & Tom 🙂

Sunday a.m. start, 30-minute drive to Kona, party of 6 reservation.  Only my 2nd time snorkeling – both times in Hawaii.  Lucky in life. Boarded a small catamaran from the pier.  Laid-back island adventure, entirely on Hawaiian time now 🌺

Air temp: low 70’s.  Water temp: the same.  Sunshine.  Pretty much perfect.

Things to Note: Pawai Bay has an excellent variety of tropical reef fish and dramatic terrain, with ledges, caves, shallow shelves and steep drop-offs; and all coral encrusted lava formations.  Depths vary from 3-4 feet on the shallow ledges to blue water where the bottom disappears at 100 feet.  Average is about 18 feet.


Our crew, Anglo & Hawaiian, bantered back-n-forth but both had a great knowledge of the reef.

Lotta talk ’bout ‘Tonys’ – local term for tiger sharks (as in Frosted Flakes’ mascot: Tony the Tiger).  More sharks off the Big Island than others in the Hawaiian chain.  Who knew?  Luckily, no fins this day.

Triggerfish, Yellow tang, Parrotfish, Bannerfish, Hawaiian Sergeant Fish, Cauliflower Coral – but NO sharks (or eels or barracuda…or anything else with teeth – LOL>).  3 hours, 2 reefs, FRESH PINEAPPLE snack break.  FAAANNNTASTIC!

Late lunch at Kona Brewing Company.  Taste highlight: Sweet Potato Pie.  2nd purple vegetable I’d eaten this trip (Sis ordered Poi   the night before).  HUGE fan of purple Okinawan sweet potato (not so much for pasty Poi).



Solo evening plans.

Local trail, petroglyphs, Hawaiian ocean sunset.  Otherwise known as: ”lost at night on a lava field”.  2-mile jog morphed into a 6-mile night hike – with only an iPhone for light.  Dropped a pin on my Google map, jumped a rock fence off the 7th green on a ritzy golf course, bushwhacked quarter-mile to a residential road.  Phone-a-friend rescue, Foodland-rendezvoused in nearby Puako (thanks Stephen).

Hiking Captain Cook in the a.m. – 2 miles/2000ft down, 2 miles/2000ft UP.  Just another Big Island Day 🌺



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