Visit all 50 States? Check.

This week we reached a travel milestone for our family: Having visited the other 49 states in our motorhome, it was time to hop on a plane and see the final state of Hawaii.

We started the adventure in a BlueIndy (one of the electric rental cars that we use fairly regularly ’round town) for an easy one-way 4:30am drive to the airport:

I was pretty sure we could cram the five of us into one of these cars, but I forgot to factor in the impact of luggage. And the total weight. We made it work, however. Barely.

It was a full day of flying — Indy to LAX to Seattle to Kona — where we slept…

…watched movies, read books, and in every way “killed time”…

…until, 22 hours later, we arrived in Kona, Hawaii:

Air travel is amazing that way I suppose, but it’s very different from the RV experience where the journey is as meaningful as the destination.

The Kona airport was interesting; it’s essentially an outdoor airport, which I took as a sign that it must not rain here very often. (I was very wrong — it’s rained a little every day so far.)

It wasn’t until the next morning that we got our first actual view of Hawaii from our hotel balcony:

Toes were in the water shortly thereafter:

After a quick morning walk around Kona (and spending a small fortune on a simple breakfast), we went to a familiar place to load up on essential food and supplies:

After lunch, we made the 2-hour, cross-island drive from Kona to Hilo and got checked in to our Airbnb house. That afternoon, we took a drive into downtown Hilo to visit their tsunami museum. (The town of Hilo has been devastated by tsunami twice in recent history, once in 1946 and then again in 1960.)

We then stopped at a beautiful local park in Hilo to take in a fine collection of banyan trees. Below is one (yes, one) such tree:

These trees are pretty amazing. They start by sprouting up like regular trees, but then they drop roots back into the ground from above, ultimately creating a beautiful, tangled mess of skeletal root-branches:

This was our Airbnb home, located about 20 minutes inland from Hilo:

This house was located at a noticeably higher elevation compared to the coast — our ears would pop as we drove to and from downtown Hilo. It was also a very rural area, so the nighttime sounds of insects and frogs were some of the loudest I’ve heard.

Saturday was to be a very full day. We started in the morning with a visit to the nearby (and aptly-named) Rainbow Falls:

rainbow-falls

…and climbed some more banyan trees:

Amy is a sucker for farmers markets, so the one in Hilo later that morning (with fresh, locally-grown exotic fruits and vegetables) had her in a near trance:

We enjoyed several new food discoveries that day. These lychee tasted like (delicious) grapes:

…the apple bananas tasted like regular bananas, but with more tartness and cuteness:

…this mountain apple tasted like how fresh flowers smell (strangely good):

…and Natalie curiously described her  coconut water as tasting “a little like puke, but still good.” (I concurred with the first part.)

We then made our way to Hawai’i Volcanos National Park, starting with a visit to the Halemaumau Crater. This is an active lake of lava that spews out toxic sulfur dioxide gas, so they don’t let you get too close:

The main objective of the afternoon was to get in a good hike. The start of the trail was actually an old roadway that is apparently being allowed to return to nature. This, along with an occasional dilapidated road sign, gave it a fun post-apocalyptic, Walking Dead feel:

As we hiked, we could look down into a lava lake that has been inactive since 1959:

The trail also took us through a lava tube, which is basically a natural conduit left in the earth where molten lava once flowed:

These were just a couple signs along the trail that I found amusing:

The trail eventually took us down into the hardened lava lake that we saw from the overlook earlier:

This was my favorite experience so far. It felt so other-worldly, like being on another planet:

Lava rocks are surprisingly light, as demonstrated by Natalie:

They are also surprisingly sharp, as demonstrated by Natalie:

This is what “Internet Hour” looks like, an innovative new tactic in cruel parenting. For the duration of this trip, we are limiting the girls’ daily internet connectivity to one hour, which we hope will help them be fully present here the other 23. (You’re welcome, girls.)

Before calling it a night on Saturday, we drove back to the Halemaumau Crater to see the glow of the lava against the starry nighttime sky:

We drove to Lava Trees State Park on Sunday morning to see the “lava tree molds.” This phenomenon was created in the 1700’s when lava flowed through here, coating the trees and leaving the molds intact after the trees died and rotted away:

It really wasn’t that interesting, but it felt good to walk around and to see vegetation I don’t get to see every day in Indiana:

After the lava trees, we stopped at yet another farmers market. (It turned into a delicious lunch stop.)

After checking out of our Airbnb house, we hit the road and started making our way back toward Kona. We stopped at a local coffee farm along the way:

We love tours, so here we learned all about how coffee is grown, harvested and roasted. Did you know green coffee beans are the worlds #2 commodity? (Oil is #1.)

By the end of the afternoon, we were checked into our condo in Kona where we will spend the rest of the week:

Monday morning was bright and sunny, so we decided it would be a good day to spend at the beach:

After a few hours of swimming and snorkeling, we drove a bit down the road to walk a very different type of beach: (Note the overcast weather, a mere 15 minutes after leaving the previous sunny beach.)

This stretch of beach is known for its sea turtles, and we were lucky enough to see a few sleeping on the shore and still others swimming in the tide nearby:

Up this week: more hiking, more beaches and at least one more National Park. It’s going to be a good week!

 

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