Yes, this first day doesn’t sound as if it were worth the 2,000+-mile flight, but stick around. It gets better.
Most everyone who knows me knew how much I needed this trip. When my sister canceled on me, I searched frantically for a travel companion. Then, when three volunteers stepped forward just days before I left, I decided I wanted to go solo. I needed to go solo. After a long night mostly spent packing and making my home somewhat presentable to the most wonderful kitten-sitter ever, I was on my way, headed to the most remote islands on the planet for some much-needed R&R.
I wasn’t prepared for what I saw out my plane window. The barren, lava-rock landscape was not what I’d had in mind when I’d pictured my tropical island getaway. “It looks like Mordor,” the gay husband had told me, but I ignored him, knowing his penchant for exaggeration. He was right. (One of the few times I’ll admit this.) But I also remembered that the Big Island is famous for its varied terrain and climatic (not climactic, as one guide book had led me to believe) zones, so I knew that lush landscapes still awaited.
After dealing with the interminable line at the rental car company (note to Dollar: Hire more staff, please), I hopped into my Sebring, cursing the lack of amenities I was used to in Eartha KITT, my beloved Prius, and tore off for my timeshare condo on Ali’i Drive. When I learned my room wouldn’t be ready for another four hours, I peeled out again, heading south on Ali’i, the Big Island version of the guide books I’d come to trust on Oahu in hand.
I wasn’t the only one to choose the Hawaii Revealed series as my guide book of choice. As I strolled past the parked cars lining Ali’i near Pahoehoe Beach Park, I saw numerous pairs of pedicured feet sticking out of windows, their owners reading the familiar light blue tomes describing all the insider knowledge they’d need for their trip to the largest of the Hawaiian islands. A quick dip in the surf and a visit to the adjacent Little Blue Church (formally known as St. Peter’s and described by Hawaii Revealed as the most photographed church in the island chain) and I was on my way, this time to the terraced cliffs that contain the graves of numerous Hawaiians after an inter-island battle.
Before leaving LA, I’d researched some of the more popular restaurants of the island, and one in particular stuck out: Ba-Le, which several readers had described as having a wide array of vegetarian options. I happened upon it while looking for a local supermarket where I could stock up on provisions and soon found myself back in my timeshare eating an enormous amount of pho, the first vegetarian version of the popular Vietnamese soup I’d ever found. If you’re in the islands, you must hunt down the nearest location. During my week in Hawaii, I ate there at least five times, including a well-planned pre-airport excursion for food to replace my in-flight meal.
Up route 180 I went, ascending to an elevation of 1000 feet as I explored the mountainside towns of Captain Cook, Holualoa, and several other burgs that blended together as I swerved and curved through rolling greenery, not far below the local cloud forest. Then back down to my temporary hale of Sea Village I went, exhausted already from my lack of rest but intent on getting an early start the next day. I hadn’t yet ticked off many items on my to-do list, but the week was still young.
Also visited on Day 1:
Big Island Grill
Day 1: Escape From Cube Life
Day 2: Manta Heaven
Day 3: Paddling to My Death
Day 4: The Southernmost Gaffe in the United States
Day 5: Somewhere Over Polulu
Day 6: Grounded in Hilo
Day 7: To Fly or Not to Fly
Day 8: Don’t Make Me Go!