So where next? Well I love to climb volcanoes, so I went up the volcano. As much as driving really is cheating, it was still a cool drive, and that hike would’ve taken an awful long time to walk. It definitely the most commercial volcano I’ve been on, with a little gift shop up there, but really it wasn’t too bad. All the infrastructure was built for the observatory, so it made sense to make it accessible to the public as well and earn some money from it. There’s a few spots to park up and check the views and it is worth doing, as the driver I didn’t get much chance to look out the window, but there’s loads of stops to hop out and enjoy the rising view. I am really a fan of volcanoes, and this did not disappoint, cinder cones, a huge caldera, coloured sands and weird weather effects it ticks all the boxes. There’s a couple spots to park up and explore, but it’s well worth heading down into the crater even if you’re only walking for 30 minutes or so. It gets you away from the car parks and crowds and gets you really immersed in the volcanic setting. If I had planned a bit more, I would have liked to do some of the longer hikes here, although I’m not so sure about my companions.
After the volcano it was time to go turtle hunting. I’d heard of a beach on the north shore that was supposed to be good, but we took a gamble and headed south, further than the beaches I’d seen a few days before, to where the private mansions started to shrink and the resorts were non-existent (yet). There was a place where the turtles liked to hide out under a shelf in the rocks, but sadly the sea was rough that day which really put them off, and I didn’t see a thing after about 20 minutes of aimlessly paddling around. The visibility wasn’t great so maybe they were just good at hiding from us. We gave up and decided to head further down the coast, back around the way we had driven back from Hana the day before, but on the coast road. We found an amazing beach, and as it was starting to get late we were there at the right time for sunset. And boy, what a sunset it was. We stayed there for well over an hour, long past the sun had dipped below the horizon, the colors in the sky were just incredible and we couldn’t tear ourselves away. Turns out the beach was called big beach, and there was little beach just over the headland nearby, but also that little beach is the local hotspot for sunset, so it may have been pretty packed.
One odd thing that happened was the brakes on our rental getting crazy hot from the drive down the volcano, and one of the pads just disappearing. I don’t think they are checked very thoroughly on site, as they were so casual about replacing the vehicle. But do be careful when renting, those cars are thrashed by a lot of people and may not be in a good condition.
The new car wasn’t as comfortable as the first, but I still managed a nice kip by the beach that night, and while my temporary companions had flew off in the morning I had plenty more things I wanted to see before heading to the next island. That morning started with a surprisingly popular hike, the Waihee Ridge trail. It was pretty cloudy as I drove round, but thankfully it didn’t rain on me. The trail is nicely done, with little fencing or structure to spoil the nature. It does get a bit steep at the top, not ideal for less mobile people, but not too bad. It ends with a few benches and what I have to assume is a great view, but by the time I reached the top, I’d also reached the clouds. In fact, I met them about two thirds of the way up, and from that point on there was nothing to see but the path in front and pure grey on either side. So if you’re thinking of doing the hike, just stop at the clouds!
The road around the north side of the western chunk of the island is actually very impressive as well, all the fun of the road to Hana, but about a quarter of the traffic. There’s a few really narrow spots, but it was great fun to drive, and the emptiness makes it feel more adventurous and wild. Along the road there’s plenty more stops, the Olivine pools being the next for me. The rocks here have formed nice pools it’s possible to sit in, and as they’re nice and shallow they get warmed up by the sun, making some mild hot pools right by the ocean. As I said, the weather wasn’t great, so I didn’t fancy lying in cold pools, but the walk down, and the cliffs on either side are seriously impressive, and it’s good to take a break and explore. The Nakalele Blowhole a little further along the coast gives you a similar view of cliffs, but also has the spectacular blowhole jetting water up to 100ft up into the air. I spent a bit of time getting ocean sprayed in order to get a decent photo of the jet at maximum height, so I hope the pics are worth it. Both of these stops have very little in the way of infrastructure, no fences or viewing areas at all, just some signs ridiculously far up the walk to warn people of the dangers. Some thoughtful locals had added a few more, but if you do visit do be careful and keep an eye on any youngsters.
There’s a lot of little beaches along this drive, so it wouldn’t be bad just to take a trip up and find a nice secluded place to chill for an afternoon, much nicer than the crowded beaches along the resort areas, although no server to bring you margaritas. My next stop was the cliff overlooking Honolua Bay, where a big surf competition was going on. I finally got myself a ‘shave ice’ and sat down to watch the pros. I actually splurged a bit here, got the fancy dual flavor with diary free coconut gelato as well. As fancy as the food was, I was still sat on a fence, on a cliff – awesome, but not fancy! As I headed to Lahaina, I decide to divert past the big resorts, and honestly it makes me feel a bit sad that such an amazing culture and a beautiful place is being built over to supply rich people with more golf courses and heated pools to get drunk in. If they’re going to re-landscape, can’t they just build it anywhere? Stretching all along the beachy coast line for about 10 miles is just resort after resort, barely anything else, all designed to make their owners the most amount of money. The pure capitalist nature of the US still shocks me at times, but that is the world that we live in (I also heard that Oahu is much much worse).
Lahaina is a pretty typical Hawaiian town, the combination of historic parts, local housing and culture, and shopping centers, big chain stores and fast food joints. It’s not unpleasant here, they’ve managed to keep a decent amount of green space in the town, and while it was busy, and I imagine it would be crazy in peak season, it was nice enough to wander through. As I drove back around to the center of the island I noticed the sun starting to come down, so I pulled in near McGregor Point. From there, I waited, and saw maybe a dozen more whales. The sunset wasn’t quite as incredible as the other night, but it was still pretty decent. I’d definitely recommend the point for wale watching though, I saw more from there than my buddy did on the boat.
Another night in the car, and I was ready to head across to island number two: Hawaii.