Our Hawaiian Adventure :: Days 1 & 2

We’ve been home from Hawaii for just over a month and already I miss it something fierce. Somehow the desert view out my office window pales in comparison to the white sand beaches of Hawaii. Since I find myself missing that place, I thought now would be the perfect time to share a few blog posts on how we spent our time there. So pack your virtual bags and come along with me to the Big Island. Aloha!

Hawaii: our Big Island adventure | Such the SpotDay 1 :: Travel and Hilo

Our journey began bright and early in the Phoenix airport. This was the first time we’d ever flown Hawaiian Airlines and I could not have been happier with them. I did not receive any discounts or freebies to say so, but I have to tell you that the next time we find ourselves Hawaii-bound, we’ll be flying this airline again. Not only were we treated well by the gate agents in the airport and the crew aboard the flight, but also they provided us with a tasty breakfast–included in the price of our fare.

Hawaii: our Big Island adventure | Such the SpotUnfortunately, we were unable to get a flight direct from Phoenix to Hilo, so we did incur a lengthy four hour layover in Honolulu. Some of us managed to make ourselves more comfortable during the wait than others.

Hawaii: our Big Island adventure | Such the SpotWhen finally our feet hit the ground in Hilo, our vacation officially began. Our first stop was Two Ladies Kitchen. I’d read that they make a mean strawberry mochi. Not wanting to miss out on any of the local specialties, we pre-ordered a dozen. Mochi, for those who’ve never heard of such a thing–is a traditional Asian confection. The strawberry version consists of a plump, juicy strawberry topped with slightly-sweetened red bean paste and wrapped in the pillow-y, chewy, stretchy goodness that is mochi. It looks something like this.

Hawaii: our Big Island adventure | Such the SpotI rather enjoy the consistency of mochi. It’s got a curious texture to it that equates to lots of fun for my mouth. The kids gave it mixed reviews; two of the three loved it. I’ll let you be the judge as to which one wasn’t thrilled.

Hawaii: our Big Island adventure | Such the SpotAfter enjoying the first of our mochi treats, we set off to explore the town of Hilo for a bit. We went to a beach park right on Hilo Bay and stood in awe under storybook-like trees. Well, at least storybook-like to us desert-dwellers.

Hawaii: our Big Island adventure | Such the SpotHawaii: our Big Island adventure | Such the SpotHawaii: our Big Island adventure | Such the SpotAll too soon it came time to pull ourselves away and head to dinner. We ate at Hilo Bay Cafe on our first night. It’s a quaint little restaurant that overlooks the picturesque bay. Unfortunately, that was where the high points ended for us. Ambiance was terrible. We were seated on the patio right next to a paper screen. Just on the other side of that screen, the restaurant was hosting what we presumed to be a wedding reception. The adult attendees were seated in a private room inside the restaurant while a table of unsupervised children sat just on the other side of the paper screen on the patio. To put it gently, they were loud. Very loud. And the adult wedding guests were too preoccupied to bring those rowdy kids down a notch or two. My family was unable to carry on a conversation at our table because we simply couldn’t hear each other. Add to that disappointment average food and slow service and, well, it’s safe to say that Hilo Bay Cafe has most assuredly seen the last of us. It’s okay, though; we were on to bigger and better things.

Leaving Hilo behind, we made our way to Volcano, where we would spend the first three nights of our vacation. We chose Volcano as a base so that we’d have ample time to explore Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Rather than stay in a hotel or B&B, we thought our family would be most comfortable in a vacation rental that we found on VRBO. Indeed, we were. We stayed in a cute, three-bedroom condo smack dab in the middle of the rainforest.

Hawaii: our Big Island adventure | Such the SpotHale Ma’ukele was located within a five minute drive of the national park. Quite convenient, especially since we would have an early start on day two and already the three hour time difference was leaving us a bit tired. We fell into bed on night one, eager for the next day’s adventures.

Highlights from day 1:

  • Hawaiian airlines flight experience
  • arrival on the Big Island
  • strawberry mochi from Two Ladies Kitchen
  • Hale Ma’ukele vacation rental

Disappointments from day 1:

  • Hilo Bay Cafe

Day 2 :: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park & Chain of Craters Road

Thankfully, I had the foresight to schedule a tour of Volcanoes National Park–otherwise, I fear we would have been overwhelmed by the sheer size of the place. We met Warren Costa, of Native Guide Hawaii, at nine o’clock and spent a half-day touring with him. Warren led us to a lesser-traveled hiking path and that was where our day began.  The trail, as you can see, begins under a shaded canopy.

Hawaii: our Big Island adventure | Such the SpotAlong the way, we stopped several times for Warren to point out interesting facts about various aspects of the park and the native flora and fauna.

Hawaii: our Big Island adventure | Such the SpotAs we trekked further along the trail, we found that it opened up to a lava field.

Hawaii: our Big Island adventure | Such the Spot Hawaii: our Big Island adventure | Such the SpotWe all enjoyed our very informative and scenic tour of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, but we were far from done. After we said our goodbyes to Warren, we set off to explore a bit more on our own. We made our way to the Thurston Lava Tube and were delighted to find that it wasn’t too crowded.

Hawaii: our Big Island adventure | Such the SpotSo, what exactly is a lave tube? I thought you’d never ask! It’s basically a tunnel that was once occupied by flowing lava. The walk through Thurston lava tube is about 50 yards long. Inside the tunnel, you can see solidified drips and waves–evidence of the molten lava that once flowed. Just on the other side of the lava tube, you exit into a rainforest.  A certain someone I know took advantage of the opportunity to expel some energy running along the pathway.

Hawaii: our Big Island adventure | Such the SpotLeaving the lava tube, we made our way to the park’s steam vents. These are spots where ground water drips down to the hot volcanic rock below and returns to the earth’s surface in the form of steam. Hawaii: our Big Island adventure | Such the SpotThe steam vents were a bit stinky. Think along the lines of rotten eggs.

Hawaii: our Big Island adventure | Such the SpotAfter the steam vents, we made a quick stop at the Kilauea Visitor Center to check out the exhibits. There isn’t a whole lot to report back on, but it was worth a quick look.

I went into our trip determined to get a photo at the end of Chain of Craters road. The photo opp did indeed pan out, but it was no easy feat. After driving the nineteen mile windy road, you have to park and walk to the spot where the lava crosses over the road. The tropical winds, my friends, were blowing something fierce that day. And the walk was a long one. All for this.

Hawaii: our Big Island adventure | Such the SpotMission accomplished. The walk to this spot, at least, was a scenic one.

Hawaii: our Big Island adventure | Such the SpotPicture-perfect, no? One of the things I found most beautiful about Hawaii was the contrast of colors. There exists this tropical greenery against black lava rock. When you add in the azure blue of the ocean and the turquoise sky, well, it comes together in one awe-inspiring backdrop. Don’t you agree?

Hawaii: our Big Island adventure | Such the Spot

After Chain of Craters Road we went back to our vacation rental to freshen up for dinner. Reservations that night were at Kilauea Lodge, a restaurant that my Hawaii The Big Island Revealed book declared “one of the best restaurants on the island.” Suffice it to say that they must have been dizzy when they wrote that sentence. While the ambiance at Kilauea Lodge was cozy and pleasant, the food was terrible. Between the five of us, we ordered five different entrees and with nary an exception, every item on every plate tasted as though it had been defrosted in a microwave before being served. The $200+ dollars we paid for our meal was by no means money well spent.

Following dinner, we returned to the Visitor’s Center to get a glimpse of the night glow from the Kilauea caldera. Unfortunately it was raining and I was unwilling to expose my camera to the weather so I don’t have a photo to share. Please take my word for it when I tell you that a trip to Hawaii would be incomplete without seeing the night glow.

Highlights from day 2:

  • Native Guide Hawaii tour of Volcanoes National Park
  • Thurston lava tube
  • Chain of Craters Road
  • Night glow

Disapointments from day 2:

  • Kilauea Lodge dinner

Stay tuned for more from our Hawaiian adventure coming later in the week!

Why Disney doesn’t need a princess with Down syndrome


One of my friends–and a fellow mom of a child with Down syndrome–wrote on my Facebook wall this morning. She wanted to share information about a mom, Keston Ott-Dahl, who has started a petition in an effort to encourage Disney to depict a princess with Down syndrome in a future film. The Orlando Sentinel reports that Ott-Dahl’s daughter, Delaney, who has Down syndrome, loves Disney characters but is not able to relate with any of them, presumably because none of them have Down syndrome. As most of you know, I too, have a Disney-loving daughter who also happens to have […]

10 tips for hosting a holiday meal

10 Tips for hosting a holiday meal | Such the Spot

Last Thanksgiving marked a momentous occasion here at home. Momentous because Jeff and I hosted Thanksgiving dinner for thirteen people. It was the biggest one I’ve ever done and I wanted to do it right. Right–by my definition–does not include paper plates or Stove-Top stuffing. I mean right right. I pulled out all the stops in an effort to treat my people to not only a delicious meal, but a great time as well. A friend of mine recently learned that she will have the privilege of hosting Thanksgiving this year and asked me for my top ten tips. I’m […]

That Thing I Never Told You – A dear friend


That thing I never told you is a series of posts here on The Spot that attempt to reveal a previously unspoken sentiment. Each post is directed at a very specific someone–whether it’s the grocery store clerk who carded me on the weekend of my 37th birthday (thank you very much!) or the elderly neighbor who never fails to smile and wave when I drive by. These are the words that I either didn’t have the time or courage to say in the moment, or in the season of life. These are the words I don’t want to leave unsaid. […]

A closer look at Beaches Turks & Caicos

Beaches Turks & Caicos : A Closer Look | Such the Spot

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, I might have made you just the teensiest bit jealous over the last several days. You probably guessed that the azure blue waters and white sandy beaches were not sights from our home here in the desert. You were right; my main squeeze and I escaped to the Caribbean for three blissfully uninterrupted days at Beaches Turks and Caicos for the invitation-only Social Media on the Sand conference. Prior to this trip, neither Jeff nor I had stayed at an all-inclusive and didn’t have a good grasp of the concept. But, like […]

Tucson mom blog | food, family travel & inspired living