Around the World... One Journey at a Time. Around the World... One Journey at a Time.

Big Island of Hawaii

by Kathy 18. January 2011 13:47

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Kaloko Honokohau National Historical Park >>


Keauhou Resort and Kahalu’u Beach

The western shore of the Big Island is commonly referred to as “the sunny side.” Although we experienced more grey skies and rain there than anticipated, we still found the Kona coast to be the ideal home base for our explorations around the island.

Our first view of the clear waters:

At the airport, we were greeted by this statue of lei-makers (by artist Lark Gray Dimond-Cates):

While the garland necklaces are often associated with the welcoming of island visitors, Hawaiians have a tradition of giving lei on many special occasions.

Our hotel was about half an hour from the airport, at the tail end of the Kailua-Kona area.

The primary factor in choosing our hotel was its location right next door to one of the best snorkeling areas for kids on the island—Kahalu’u Beach Park.

Here is the view from our room, overlooking the Kahalu’u Bay:

I never got tired of looking at the view of palm trees and water; it was so peaceful. And at night, the ocean waves lulled us to sleep.

Here is our panoramic view near sunset--sweeping from the ocean on our left to the hills on our right:

Our room was clean and comfortable, with two double beds for us to share:

The hotel also had many cozy spots for people to relax and enjoy the fresh breeze and ocean air. Here is Genevieve in one of the rocking chairs out front:

She and I delighted in trying out the two hammocks that were strung between palm trees on the side lawn. Here is Genevieve figuring out the best way to climb in:

Mission accomplished:

We sought out those hammocks quite a few times during our stay.

Genevieve even took it upon herself to rock my hammock gently back and forth:

(Ahhh, heaven!)

Occasionally, only one hammock was free. No problem! It was big enough for the two of us:

We loved to lay back and look at the palm trees against the sky:

When I was gently swaying in the breeze one afternoon, I caught sight of a large dark shape shooting upwards from the ocean. It was a humpback whale, breaching! I grabbed my camera in time to capture the splash from the second jump into the air:

And the splash from the third jump (I was so mesmerized, I forgot to “click” faster):

Here is a similar image of what I saw, taken from the Internet:

(Photo credit here.)

I wanted to get a photo of the whale, but I also didn’t want to miss seeing it with my own eyes (as opposed to merely looking at the image on my camera screen). So I held the camera up in the general direction and snapped as the whale lifted its huge tail out of the water. Wow. It was amazing. Genevieve and I were so excited! The camera, however, was too far to the left and only caught ½ of the tail--can you see it on the far right side?

In addition to a few whale sightings, we had daily encounters with green sea turtles (called honu). The turtles were often basking on the lava rocks in front of the hotel, or nibbling algae in the shallow waters.

Here are four turtles that were sunning themselves on the day we arrived:

One turtle that liked to hang out near the hotel had deep gouges and cracks in its shell:

The hotel also had walkways that led to various nooks and crannies within the grounds. One path led around next to the water:

The plant life was lush and gorgeous, with a variety that we don’t usually see at home. I loved the polka dots on these leaves:

This plant had stalks with bulbous growths:

One dry-looking stumpy plant could have passed for dead, except for the peach-colored leaves/flowers sprouting from its side:

The gardens had an abundance of these bushes with orange flowers:

These red flowers were festive:

One evening we wandered into an area on the side of the hotel and discovered a magnificent tree, with what must have been hundreds, if not thousands, of birds twittering loudly in the tangled tree branches. The birds had a lot to say! Geneveive said, “There is a lot of politicking going on in those branches!”

Here is Genevieve near the base of the tree:

The branches overhead:

During one stroll around the grounds, Genevieve darted off the path to take a short cut between two large plants. All a sudden, she started yelling, “Get it off, get it off!” She came running toward us, bent over, frantically brushing at her head and her chest.  Her voice was escalating to the point of hysteria. As Ben and I rushed to her aide, Ben noticed a spider laying quietly on the ground. It was about three inches in length, with a bright yellow back and pieces of wispy web clinging to its legs:

Genevieve had inadvertently ran through the middle of this spider's home.  Ben scooped it up on the end of a long stick and returned it to the remnants of its web. Spiders make me shudder in revulsion, while at the same time drawing me closer, almost against my will.  We all gathered around with big eyes as she made herself comfortable.

As we watched, our gasps of “Ooooooohhh!” were intermingled with an equal number of “Eeeewwwwww!’s”.

In addition to the plant life around the hotel, we found a multitude of fascinating sea life in and around the shore. We often took walks on the lava rocks to check out what was lurking in the shallow tide pools.

Genevieve, on the rocks:

There were plenty of sea urchins clinging to the rocks. We were amazed at how the “collector” sea urchins try to camouflage themselves by picking up bits of coral and shell and carrying it around on their backs:

The camouflage is to protect them from predators, such as the octopus.  Does it work?  Although the light-colored bits did make their dark bodies less noticeable, we just hope that the octopus’s eyesight isn’t quite as good as ours.

Under the bits of coral and shell, the collector urchin has thin prickly spines:

The “pencil” sea urchin didn’t try to camouflage its bright red color, but it skillfully protected itself by burrowing between rocks.

We were also intrigued by the plump sea cucumbers, which are related to starfish.

The coloring of sea cucumbers allows them to blend in with their environment, and we almost mistook this huge lumpy one for an ordinary rock.

While all of these creatures were easily spied within the tide pools, we also found them in abundance when we were snorkeling out in the bay. Kahalu’u Beach Park lived up to its reputation as a snorkeler’s dream.

We loved this beach area for many reasons.  First, the bay was relatively calm on most days. Long ago, King Kamehameha had a seawall built of stones to create a protected cove; although the wall has deteriorated over the years, many of the rocks remain and act as a sea break for the waves.

Here is a distant view of the hotel, showing the deteriorated sea wall and the waters of the cove:

A closer view of the rocks:

The calm water allowed us to snorkel without being concerned about waves breaking over our heads. This environment was ideal for Genevieve and Sebastian, both "good", but not "great", swimmers.  Here they are, testing out the water temperature:

Second, there was a small sandy beach area and a lifeguard tower with two people scanning the water in case someone needed assistance.

Sometimes the water was a bit rough and the undertow very strong. Although we didn’t witness anyone being rescued, the lifeguards did have to use their megaphone to shout instructions to people every now and then—e.g. stay away from the slippery lava rocks, don’t swim too far over into the path of surfers, warning of a high surf advisory, etc.  Sebastian and I even received some booming instructions ourselves!  During the high surf advisory, the forceful current had swept us onto some shallow coral; I had grabbed onto Sebastian’s foot as he sailed by, and as I struggled to hold on to him and get us both back into deeper water, I could hear a megaphone voice calling for us to “swim to the right.” (Coral is very sharp, and we both had minor, but very bloody, wounds to deal with later.)

Here are two photos showing the contrast between “choppy water” . . .

. . . and “calm water.”

A sign warned that the rocks were slippery:

Sebastian liked to use those algae-covered rocks near the beach as a short sliding board:

A third reason that we enjoyed Kahalu’u Bay was the fairly shallow, clear water. The water near the shore tended to be a bit murky from people walking around, but the water further out was much better. And the deepest parts near the middle of the bay were no more than 10 or 12 feet, with occasional stretches of rock (not coral) where we could touch our feet down and rest. 

Although we saw bunches of colorful coral, the most common type was “mound coral,” which was yellow-green with a relatively smooth texture.

Here is Genevieve exiting the shallow edge:

Ben and Sebastian, getting ready to snorkel:

It is difficult to walk with large flippers on—sometimes you just need a hand!

With faces in the water, off they go!

The final, and most important, reason why we loved Kahalu’u Bay was the abundant sea life. We saw an astounding variety of colorful fish.  There was always something new.  Sometimes we even found ourselves swimming along surrounded by an entire school of fish—it was unreal!

We didn’t have an underwater camera, but I scoured the Internet to find photos of some of our favorite fish.

Here is the Hawaiian state fish—the humuhumunukunukuapua’a (also called the reef triggerfish):

(Photo credit here.) 

The first time I saw the triggerfish swimming by, I was captivated by what looked like bright lavendar lipstick around its mouth. From then on, I called it “the lipstick fish.”

I think the large and stunning "parrot fish" wins the award for “most beautiful,” with its shimmering aqua, pink and yellow colors:

(Photo credit here.) 

There were many bright yellow “sailfin tang”:

(Photo credit here.) 

The blue “surgeonfish” were a visual treat:

(Photo credit here.) 

The “spotted puffer fish” never failed to make me smile with its happy polka-dots:

(Photo credit here.) 

The “threadfin butterfly fish” was adorned with a pattern of diagonal lines:

(Photo credit here.) 

The bright streak on the “orangeband surgeonfish” looked like it had been placed with the swipe of a paintbrush:

(Photo credit here.) 

At first glance, we thought the “trumpet fish” was an eel because of its elongated body:

(Photo credit here.) 

We spent many hours floating and swimming, gazing down through our goggles, pointing and gesturing to each other, and later asking, “Did you see that fish with the [yellow nose / gigantic body / black starry stripes around its eyes / etc.]?!!”

As spectacular as the fish were, our most magical underwater experience came from a turtle. We saw quite a few. However, there was one special time when we were all floating together in the deeper part of the bay, away from any other people, and we came upon a turtle swimming slowly to our right. It was only about six feet away—a majestic and graceful being. It paused and turned slightly, and we had the distinct feeling that it was checking us out. We were mesmerized. Time seemed to stand still. For me, it was one of those “perfect moments” when the energy of the universe seemed to hum in complete harmony.

Here is a photo that I found on the Internet, to provide a sense of what we were experiencing:

(Photo credit here.) 

For a few precious minutes, we were all connected.  Then, the turtle turned its head and propelled itself forward, away from us, with a smooth sweep of its front flippers.  Holding onto the wonder of it all, I exhaled into my breathing tube and waggled my own fins to glide slowly in the opposite direction. 

Being underwater with the fish and turtles was a remarkable experience for each one of us. After our first day of snorkeling, Sebastian exclaimed, “Mom, when you told me that we would be seeing fish and turtles on this trip, I was thinking, ‘Yeah, right.’ But I really AM seeing them! I can’t believe that I actually DID that! This is so awesome!”

I can still see the joy flashing in his eyes.

Near the end of our stay, we were fortunate to meet Lauren, a volunteer with Reef Teach, an non-profit organization that seeks to educate visitors about local sea life.

Lauren was patient, as well as extremely knowledgeable, in answering our many questions regarding animals that we had seen under the water. Thank you, Lauren!

Sebastian sometimes had “snorkeling energy” left after the rest of us were depleted. This is where the hotel’s pool came in handy:

Genevieve, by the pool:


Looking up at our hotel balcony from the pool area—do you see Ben and Sebastian waving?:

A closer view, with Sebastian giving a “thumbs up”:

Not only was our hotel next to a great snorkeling beach, but it was dedicated to promoting and preserving various aspects of Hawaiian culture. While we didn’t have time to take advantage of the hotel’s daily classes (e.g., learning about the Hawaiian language, playing the ukulele, or dancing a hula), we appreciated the special Hawaiian sites that were on the hotel grounds.

Most spectacular were the restored heiau—stone platforms or structures that once served as sacred temples. An exhibit in the hotel lobby showed how the hotel grounds looked before and after the heiau restoration was completed.



The walls of the heiau were built from stacked rocks, without the use of mortar or any chiseling to make the rocks fit together better.

Each of the two large heiau had a “Keep Away” sign at the entrance:

Genevieve took this photo of me in front of the largest heiau, called “Keeku.”

She also took this photo of the platform heiau, called “Hapaiali’i,” with our hotel in the background.

On the other side of the hotel was a beautiful little pond called “Po’o Hawai’i.”

The pool of water once served the Hawaiian leaders—some say it was a bathing pool for the leaders and their families, and others say it held a supply of fish for them.

Next to the pond was a small wooden house that was a replica of the summer cottage that King Kalakaua (who became Hawaii’s seventh monarch in 1874) ordered built during his reign.

Nearby was a large “ku’ula”—a stone god that was once used to attract fish.

In that photo, there is a carving of a large fish hook, curving down near Genevieve’s hands. Near her head is a hole that extends through the stone, resembling a fish eye.

On occasion, the lounge area of the hotel presented Hawaiian music and dancing. We were fortunate to catch this beautiful group of girls performing a number of traditional hula dances:

Their teacher:

These three women were very talented musicians and have performed in Japan and other places around the world:

The hotel also supports the local community by hosting a weekly Farmer’s Market, with items grown or made in Hawaii.

At this market, we had our first taste of Kona coffee (smooth!) and some locally grown tangerines (sweet and juicy).

We could have spent an entire week at the hotel, never leaving the grounds except to snorkel in the adjacent cove. But we didn’t. We wandered. Every day provided new experiences for us--in the nearby towns, the Volcanoes National Park, three national historic sites, a local coffee farm, and other places around the island. Those adventures are chronicled in our other stories for this journey.

“Aloha” is a Hawaiian word that is commonly understood to mean “hello.” However, we learned that it also means “goodbye,” as well as love, affection, and unity of spirit. So, I will close by saying, “Aloha . . . from Hawaii!”


Back to Big Island of Hawaii Index Page

Kaloko Honokohau National Historical Park >>

Comments (3) -

1/26/2011 8:10:25 AM #


ahh, love hawaii.  love snorkeling more.  let the gen and seb know that sea cucumbers defend themselves by "expelling" a mass of sticky strings (from their respiratory system).  if they get on you, nearly impossible to get off (sticky)...if they come in contact with air they become hard like cement...i always loved that by them.  but no worries - it takes a lot to make them feel threatened...squeezing and stomping would probably do it.  but holding and looking would be fine.  some of my marine biology professors have some funny stories about their youthful run-ins with cucumbers.  fun stuff.  looks wonderful and low key.  

becky United States | Reply

1/26/2011 11:35:43 AM #


Becky, thanks for all the juicy tidbits about the sea cucumber! We always kept a respectful distance, however, and never tried to touch one.  They are fascinating creatures indeed.  K.

Kathy United States | Reply

1/26/2011 1:07:13 PM #


yeah, i've never tried to touch one either after all the stories i had heard.  i've cringed quite a few time underwater while other scuba divers have picked them up and passed them around - (those Australians will touch ANYTHING - poisonous or not).  anyhoo, i love this blog/website.  it makes me happy - and yet guilty, because i am going to eventually replicate every single trip step by step...which feels like some sort of travel plagiarism.  sorry in advance.  Smile

becky United States | Reply

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Map of Our Journeys

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Our travel map

Places We’ve Been, w/Quick Links

   Bumthang Valley
   Gom Kora
   Paro Valley
   Punakha Dzong
   Sangdrup Jongkhar
   Wangdi Phrodrang

   Janko Marca
   La Paz
   Laguna Colorada
   Laguna Verde
   Salar de Coipasa
   Salar de Uyuni
   San Pablo
   Santa Rosa
   Sud Lipez
   World’s Most Dangerous Road

   Banff National Park
   Battle Hill Nat'l Hist. Site
   Boya Lake Prov. Park, BC
   Burns Lake Bike Park
   Canyon Sainte-Anne
   Dawson Creek
   Eastern Townships
   Fort Nelson
   Jasper National Park
   Kluane Lake, YK
   'Ksan Historical Village
   Lake Louise
   Liard Hot Springs
   Niagara Falls
   Quebec City
   Thousand Islands
   Vancouver Island
   Watson Lake

   Forbidden City
   Great Wall at Mutianyu
   Hong Kong
   Summer Palace
   Terracotta Warriors
   Tiananmen Square
   Yungang Caves

Costa Rica
   Arenal Volcano
   Finca Corsicana
   Hanging Bridges
   Manuel Antonio
   Poas Volcano
   Proyecto Asis
   Sky Trek Zip Lining
   Venado Caves


   Amazon Rainforest
   Chaquiñan Bicycle Trail
   La Mitad del Mundo
   Napo Wildlife Center
   Papallacta Hot Springs
   Proyecto DCR
   Yasuní National Park


   Baja California
   Frida Kahlo Museum
   Hierve el Agua
   Marietas Islands
   Mexico City
   Monte Alban
   Oaxaca City
   Puerto Angel
   Puerto Escondido
   Puerto Vallarta
   San Agustin
   San Martin Tilcajete
   Santa Fe de la Laguna
   Santa María el Tule
   Studio of Jacobo Angeles
   Teotitlán del Valle

   Dead Vlei
   Elondo Village
   Etosha Nat'l Park
   Hippo Pools Camp
   Hoba Meteorite
   Khowarib Camp
   Moose McGregor's Bakery
   Mowani Camp
   Ngepi Camp
   Nkasa Lupala
   n'Kwzi Camp
   River Dance Lodge
   Seisriem Camp
   Treesleeper Camp

   Cañón del Pato
   Cerro de Pasco
   La Oroya
   Machu Picchu
   Nuevo Jaén
   Tingo Maria
   Yungay Memorial


South Africa

   Rock of Gibraltar
   Santillana del Mar

United States National Parks
   Arches National Park, UT
   Badlands National Park, SD
   Bandelier National Monument, NM
   Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
   Cahokia Mounds (UNESCO site), IL
   Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM
   Canyon de Chelly Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Cape Hatteras National Shoreline, NC
   Capitol Reef National Park, UT
   Civil Rights Memorial, AL
   Death Valley National Park, CA
   Denali National Park, AK
   Devil’s Tower National Monument, WY
   El Morro National Monument, NM
   Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.
   Glacier National Park, MT
   Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
   Grand Tetons National Park, WY
   Great Basin National Park, NV
   Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, HI
   Joshua Tree National Park, CA
   Kaloko-Honokohau Nat'l Hist. Park, HI
   Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks, NM
   King's Canyon National Park, CA
   Martin Luther King Jr. Nat'l Hist. Site, GA
   Mesa Verde National Park, CO
   Montezuma's Castle Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Monticello, VA
   Mount Rushmore National Memorial, SD
   Mt. Rainier National Park, WA
   Olympic National Park, WA
   Petrified Wood National Park, AZ
   Pinnacles National Monument, CA
   Pu'uhonua o Honaunau Nat'l Hist Pk, HI
   Pu'ukohola Heiau Nat'l Historic Site, HI
   San Antonio Missions Nat'l Hist. Park, TX
   Tuzigoot National Monument, AZ
   Walnut Canyon National Monument, AZ
   Washington Monument
   White Sands National Monument, NM
   Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, AK
   Wright Brothers National Memorial in NC
   Yellowstone National Park, WY
   Yosemite National Park, CA

United States, Cities and Places
   The Alamo, TX
   Alaska Wildlife Conservation Cntr.
   Alpine Loop in CO
   Anchorage, AK
   Antares Junction, AZ
   Arctic Circle, AK
   Barrel Oak Winery in VA
   Biloxi, MS
   Bottle Tree Farm in CA
   Calico Ghost Town, CA
   Canfield Mountain Trail System, ID
   Cape St. Vincent, NY
   Carson City, NV
   Carter Caves State Park in KY
   Chappie-Shasta OHV Area, CA
   Child's Glacier, AK
   Circle B Chuckwagon Show in SD
   City Museum in MO
   Cody, WY
   Corn Palace in SD
   Crazy Horse Memorial in SD
   Custer State Park, SD
   Dalton Highway, AK
   Dinosaur Tracks in AZ
   Discovery Place in Charlotte, NC
   Dry Falls (Sun Lakes-Dry Falls), WA
   Fairbanks, AK
   Front Royal, VA
   Gallup, NM
   Goffs, CA
   Grand Canyon Caves, AZ
   Grand Canyon Skywalk, AZ
   Grave Digger Monster Truck in NC
   Great Salt Lake, UT
   Hackberry General Store in AZ
   Hannibal, MO
   Hatteras Island, NC
   Hawaii (Big Island)
   Hickison Petroglyphs, NV
   Holbrook, AZ
   Hole in the Rock, UT
   Homer, AK
   Honey Island Swamp Tour in LA
   Hoover Dam, NV
   Hyder, AK
   Jim Gray’s Petrified Wood Co. in AZ
   John’s Peak OHV Area, OR
   Kailua-Kona, HI
   Keepers of the Wild Nature Park in AZ
   Kennecott, AK
   Kennecott Copper Mine in UT
   Kingman, AZ
   Lake Havasu, AZ
   Lake Tahoe, NV
   Las Vegas, NV (winter 2010)
   Little Brown Church in IA
   London Bridge in AZ
   Loneliest Road in America, Hwy. 50, NV
   Los Angeles, CA
   Lost Colony Show on Roanoke Isl., NC
   Lowe’s Speedway in NC
   Mardi Gras World in LA
   Mark Twain Museum in MO
   Meteor Crater, AZ
   Million Dollar Highway, CO
   Minnesota Zoo
   Mitchell, SD
   Moab, UT
   Moab, UT (dirt biking)
   Montgomery, AL
   Montpelier, ID
   Navajo Nation, AZ
   Needles, CA
   Nevada Beach, NV
   Newberry Springs, CA
   New River Gorge, WV
   New Orleans, LA
   Niagara Falls 
   North Pole, AK
   Oatman, AZ
   Old Faithful Geyser in WY
   Omak Stampede, WA
   Painted Desert, AZ
   Park City, UT (summer)
   Plymouth, NC
   Portage Valley, AK
   Portland, OR
   Prospect OHV Trail System, OR
   Resaca, GA
   Riverside State Park, WA
   Rock City in TN
   Rosa Parks Library and Museum in AL
   Roswell, NM
   Russian River, AK
   Salt Lake City, UT
   San Antonio, TX
   San Diego, CA
   San Juan Islands, WA
   San Francisco, CA
   Santa Catalina Island, CA
   Seattle, WA
   Sedona, AZ
   Shoe Tree in CA
   Shoe Tree in NV
   Silverton, CO
   Sonora, TX
   St. Louis, MO
   St. Paul, MN
   Talkeetna, AK
   Telluride, CO
   Route 66
   Twin Knobs Recreation Area in KY
   Virginia Beach, VA
   Washington D.C.
   Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park in IL
   Williamsburg, VA
   Winom Frazier OHV Area, OR
   Winslow, AZ
   Zion National Park, UT

Planning Our Adventures

For us, each journey begins with the initial heart pangs to venture to a certain part of the world. Then the ideas start coming together . . . ahh, the possibilities . . . and the dream evolves gradually into an actual plan. But, oh, the joy of the dream!  Click here to learn more about how we plan and prepare for our journeys.

Where Are We Now?

Click here to discover where we are now, as well as our uncoming travel plans.

Words for the Heart

“. . . and then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

Anais Nin