Last weekend Jessica and I got back to taking road trips around the Big Island to explore corners we have not visited.
The northern end of the Big Island is known as Kohala, more accurately the Kohala Peninsula. This finger of a mountain ridge has micro-climates ranging from the hottest-driest part of the island on its leeward shore to the lush green foliage of the last rainy end of the Hamakua coast.
Driving up the ridge in the center of the peninsula one enters a more temperate climate at 3,500 feet dominated by intensively managed beef cattle ranches. The northern wetter part of the region supported massive sugar cane plantations earlier in the 20th century, but required irrigation out of the mountain streams via giant concrete aqueducts!
We rented a house in the little town of Hawi (Hah-vee), quickly being colonized by haole outsiders as the next ‘cool’ place away from the tourist madness of Kona. Our host was charming ex-patriate Frenchman whose story of emigration we did not learn.
The featured image is the Pololu Valley lookout, literally at the end of the road headed east on the rainy side of the peninsula. This section of the Big Island coast is roadless to the south until the Waipio Valley, below (about 30 miles up the coast north from where we live).
This part of the windward coast has been intensely eroded over millions of years by the crashing force of the wide Pacific and the tradewinds, creating the steepest cliffs and most inaccessible terrain on the island.
We took an early hike down to shore of the Pololu Valley, a short but steep climb down to a beautiful black sand beach, walking and swimming for the morning.
The dry side of the peninsula to the west and south of Hawi quickly becomes almost like a sagebrush desert in the west, but has many coves with good off the beaten path snorkeling to be had. One spot we explored had coral growing on ridges and valleys of submarine lava flows, a new sight for us.
Down to the southern end of leeward Kohala is a cluster of amazing beaches which have been occupied by fancy hotel resorts. Those hotels are required to provide limited public access and you have to get there early to get a parking spot, and so we did.
This is the superbly lovely beach at Mauna Kea Resort, where we parked it for a day, snorkeling and lolling in the ocean – the classic beach setting (of which there are none on the windward side of the island).
Happy Fourth of July!
Nota Bene: The blog has been quiet as we have been on the sidelines for a few months while Jessica has recovered from a serious re-occurence of an old neck injury. All is well again.