We spent most of last week in Hawaii, a place where I had never been, but my wife had gone a couple times. It was a surprise trip for her, and I didn’t even tell her where we were going until she got her boarding pass. I only told her to pack for warm temperatures and bring a swimsuit. Or two.
Instead of Honolulu, where she had been (and she described it as LA but with better beaches), I picked Kona, on the Big Island. I knew next to nothing about it, other than there was coffee, the ocean and I could afford the hotel.
Turns out, it’s the best kept secret in Hawaii and I hesitated to even write about it. Can’t let the secret get out, you know…
Take all the ideas you have of what a vacation in Hawaii would be (sun, surf, beaches, greenery, quiet, small restaurants on the beach), and that’s what you get in Kona.
We found a restaurant that was on the beach (imported beach, Kona is on the lava rocks, but still!) with the tables in the sand and live Hawaiian music in front of the ocean. No traffic noise, even though we were right on the main drag through Kailua-Kona.
Also, it turns out Kona coffee is not just a marketing slogan. It’s real! We toured a coffee plantation (again, that I knew nothing about…sadly, the only thing I know about coffee is that they serve it at Starbucks and I need a lot of cream and sugar in it) that was large, but really only had three people working there. One guy was checking the beans as they were sorted, a woman was bagging and telling us about coffee, and the owner was emptying bags of beans into the roaster.
I came across this little guy on the railing going up to the open-air drying floors where they spread the beans on the roof and let the sun dry them out, just the way they always have. This plantation (called Kona Le’a) also does roasting for some of the other farmers in the area. One coffee plant only make a pound of coffee a year. That explains why real Kona coffee is way more expensive than gas.
We went snorkeling, which took off only a couple hundred yards from our hotel, and ended up at the Captain Cook monument. Which, as the captain of our boat helpfully told us, is the place where Capt. Cook ticked off the entire island somehow (no one’s really sure how anymore) and was killed for his trouble.
My visit to the bay was better.
I’ve never been snorkeling either (give me a break, I’m an Arizona kid…I snorkeled in the backyard pool a few times), and to be honest, the ocean kinda freaks me out a bit. The bottom is WAAAYYY down there and there are things swimming in it with me.
But I was over that in a few minutes once I saw things like this. I could have floated there for hours just looking at everything that lives there. Fish, coral, anemones, all kinds o things that we just floated over most of the time.
Now, I’ve seen beaches before. I’ve never seen a black sand beach until now. It was the weirdest feeling walking on sand that you KNOW is solid, but you expect to be some sort of gooey, sticky, oil-like feeling.
The black sand beach we went to is famous for sea turtles just sunning themselves on the sand. We saw one just laying there, ignoring the tourists, and another one who I swear was surfing. He would just ride the waves in to shore, check things out and ride them right back out again.
All in all, it’s a little painful to leave a place that amazing, but we’ll be back. Just don’t tell your friends.