We headed across the island again, back to Hilo, to catch an 8:00 helicopter flight. Oh my lands, stars, whistles, and everything else. Incredible! We signed up for a "doors off" helicopter ride- we left those suckers at the airport! So, so glad that my assigned seat was between J and the pilot. It was squishy, but I wasn't hanging out! I was the only person not next to an open hole- works for me :). I loved the take off and landing- much nicer than an airplane. The turns were nuts, though. We flew over macadamia orchards, towns, and finally Kilaeua. We saw lava- check it off the bucket list! It wasn't what I expected- I thought we would fly over the crater, peer inside, and see a bit of a glow from a crack somewhere. We saw lava flows, mostly black and cooled but burning the fringes of a forest where it touched and was molten. Maybe four spots? The pictures are on the other camera. The pilot showed us where there used to be a subdivision, but it's now covered in lava. There are still people living there! Guess they just rebuild if it burns down? The lava is slow, you have weeks of notice to get out. Just incredible- we couldn't stop grinning when we got off!
From the airport we drove to Rainbow Falls, just outside Hilo. Beautiful spot! We walked down a bit to see some banyan trees- J adores banyan trees. He really, really likes wood. A lot. He clambered all over the rocks at the top of the waterfall- I stayed on the shore and shook my head and took pictures. I am not as much of a clamberer as he is :)
We poked around a bit in Hilo and got a late breakfast/early lunch. I had a plate lunch with tempura vegetables and tuna, a garlicky yellow rice, and a great mixed salad. J had Katsu chicken plate lunch with the same rice and salad. Afterwards we found shave ice- I have been looking forward to shave ice for a very long time! Mine had all kinds of mochi, gelatins, evaporated milk, purple yams, and a nice scoop of purple yam ice cream on top. Yum!
After lunch we took off north to round the tip up there and stop along the way if anything looked interesting. North Hawaii is incredible and just what I thought the island would look like- lush, a bit old, lots of little bridge and waterfalls. We saw a botanical garden and stopped in- tickets were more than we wanted to pay but we picked up a field guide for the island and checked out the neat artifacts on display.
Lolo, this is an alabaster Buddha from China.
Next we found Waialoa Valley- this is the view from the lookout. There is a way down there, and it's 1,000 feet in 3/4 of a mile. Unless you were a 4wd vehicle driven by a better-than-average driver, it's no vehicles allowed! There are still people living in the valley, farming rice and taro, but the beach is open to the public via this old county road with an average 25% grade. Walking is totally allowed though.
It was really really hard to do! Really really hard.
From there we booked it to the King Kamehameha statue and then kept driving. We were so hungry and nothing was open! Hawaii seems to shut down at 5:00. The sun goes down at 5:30 and by 6:00 it's pitch black. We found an open sign in the window of a really sketchy looking place in Kohala- I was pretty sure it was going to be a stinky bar, even though their sign promised burgers and tacos. Surprisingly instead of Buds and sports tv inside we found clean booths, thank you notes from kids on the walls next to first place awards from the local chili cook-off and a happy man back in the kitchen hollering that the catch of the day was Ono and the avocado burger was great. J had the avocado burger with onion rings, I had the ono fish tacos with fries, we shared a pineapple shake. Man it was good! Fish is the thing here- it was perfect. Nice and firm, great clean flavor.
Home for swimming, hot tub, showers, and lights out. We are exhausted, haha. What a great day, I still can't believe what we've been able to do this week. It is so far outside of anything I had ever considered I would be able to do! Snorkeling, turtles, lava, helicopter, petroglyphs, amazing food... Just wow. So grateful for this week.