After such a great snorkeling excursion and luau on Day 4, I figured whatever hubby and I did the next day would be a hard act to follow.
|Palm tree reflections|
Day five dawned as another perfectly sunny day in paradise. Before breakfast, as was becoming the custom, I took a walk around our hotel grounds, snapping more photos of this amazing place.
|Bright colored flowers|
As you'd expect, the grounds were impeccably landscaped, with some of the most gorgeous, brightly-colored flowers I'd ever seen.
One side of the bay was named "Buddha Point" and a large statue of Buddha had been erected here.
|Someone left their lei with Buddha|
It was a lovely, peaceful place to sit and take in the surrounding landscape.
|The magnificently landscaped hotel grounds|
The hotel received many Asian visitors, and some of the buildings on the hotel grounds reflected this. I especially loved the koi pond, complete with large friendly fish, and floating lily pads.
|Koi pond reflections|
After breakfast, hubby and I decided to take another trip over the mountains to check out the big island's west side.
|Driving towards Kohala Mountain|
Since there's very few roads on the big island, we had to first drive north to intersect an east-west highway. Highway 19 gave us some killer views of Kohala Mountain, the oldest volcano on the island. The volcanoes here are shield volcanoes, formed from highly fluid lava that spreads out along the ground, creating wide mountains without prominent peaks.
From the village of Waimea, we headed due west. One of our first stops on the western coast was the overlook into lush Waipi'o Valley. Steep cliffs line each side of this ultra-green paradise, and it's shoreline is bordered by mile-long black sand beach.
|Ridiculously steep road into Waipi'o Valley|
I would've loved to travel down into this beautiful valley, however the road to get there was murderously steep - a brake-burning 25%! There was no way our rental car could handle that grade - and my hubby didn't want to drive it either. Although tour companies offer transportation to the valley floor, we hadn't made reservations. Besides, there was more island to explore.
Not only that, but as hubby and I were photographing some of the unique flowers growing nearby, a sudden torrential rainstorm had us running for the shelter of our car. Welcome to the wet and wild west side!
|Approaching 'Akaka Falls|
From Waipi'o Valley overlook, we reconnected to Highway 19, and followed it's windy path as the road contoured along the coastline, crossing several densely jungled gulches. It was a one lane road, and if you got behind a slower vehicle (as we did), passing opportunities were few and far between. Rain intermittently pattered our windows.
|Banana tree leaves|
Because of it's wet climate, the Big Island's west side boasts many lovely waterfalls. One of the largest is 'Akaka Falls, a long lacy cascade that tumbles an impressive 420 feet. Of course being the waterfall buff that I am, there was no way I was gonna miss that one!
|Top half of 'Akaka Falls|
Hubby and I located the side road that took us to 'Akaka Falls State park. We each had to pay a dollar admittance (luckily we had a couple of bills - the lady taking payment was out of change). The approach trail wound through a gorgeous forest of lush vegetation, including a banana tree grove.
|Banana tree flower|
Sadly, the falls themselves were a disappointment. The viewing platform at the very bottom was closed for repairs. Where the trail ended, about midway down, visitors crowded into a wide spot in the path, everyone jockeying for a good photo op. Only the top third of the falls was visible. I tried to get a few images, but I wasn't pleased with any of them.
And the icing on the cake.....as we were walking back to our car, the sky decided to open up, and it absolutely dumped! Having to use the facilities, I made a beeline for the lady's room and hung out inside for another 5 minutes waiting for the rain to let up. When the deluge showed no sign of stopping, I finally put up my hood and rain through the puddles back to our car, getting absolutely soaked in the process. As a matter of fact, my shoes and socks were wet for the rest of the day.
|Got our macadamia nut fix!|
Hubby needed a break from driving, so we headed into Hilo in search of the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut factory. There was a quick self-guided tour, but the best part was of course the free samples. And yes, we managed to come out with a few bags and boxes of those tasty morsels. (You can't visit Hawaii without taking home at least one box of chocolate-covered macadamia nuts!)
|Rainbow Falls was my favorite Hawaiian waterfall|
A local lady at 'Akaka Falls told me I shouldn't miss Rainbow Falls. She said it was her very favorite waterfall on the island. So while in Hilo, I did some searching (Google maps was so helpful!) and we located the city park where the falls resided.
|Torrents of water at it's base|
Oh my! Rainbow Falls was magnificent! A trio of thick torrential cascades dropped over a basalt cliff with such force it created interesting currents in the water below. From all the rain that had fallen, it was absolutely raging. What 'Akaka Falls had lacked, Rainbow Falls more than made up for.
|Lovely yellow bloom|
Not only a amazing waterfall, the city park had a trail that took visitors to the top of the falls. Lined with gorgeous flowers, it was a pleasant climb. Although I much preferred the bottom viewpoint to the top, there were some dark forests full of huge gnarled old trees that were quite interesting.
|Unique giant tree|
I lingered here for quite awhile, snapping photos of all the unique sights. But finally, hubby decided it was time to head back. We had a long drive over the mountains ahead of us. Saddle Road was the quickest way back to Waikoloa, so we decided to go that way. But at least this time we'd get to see the sights in daylight (as opposed to our prior late night trip back from Kilauea.) Or so we thought. Just as we were leaving Hilo, the rain started up again and didn't stop until we descended back down the other side. Again, fog and low clouds obscured any views on the saddle between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea.
|Got back in time for sunset (barely!)|
We arrived back at our hotel just in time for sunset. Grabbing my camera, I headed to a vantage point that silhouetted palm trees and reflected the sinking sun's light on the bay. Oh so lovely! I never tired of these spectacular Hawaiian sunsets.
|I'll never tire of these Hawaiian sunsets|
Hubby and I spent our last night in paradise sitting on our room's balcony, enjoying a bottle of pre-mixed mai tai's we'd purchased at a local store (so much cheaper than our hotel's bar!)
One more day.....could we fit in a few more sights before boarding our flight home? Check out my next post recapping our final hours in Hawaii.