Continued from here.
Hilo immediately struck me as a nice place to be. Open and spacious, developed and interesting, with a nice combination of culture and commercialism. It’s not popular as a tourist destination, so it’s a haven for locals, and it shines because of that. There’s no $150 luau on the beach, instead there.s residents running restaurants with the cuisine of their origins – Thai, Chinese, Hawaiian, Japanese, American – there was so much to choose from, and not just in the back street malls, these restaurants were dotted around the town, and all seemed to be drawing a decent crowd. There’s a nice little street food section, and the shops in town seem to be much more orientated to real people, clothing stores with affordable but still unique local designs, food at decent prices, more of the basic stuff that residents actually need. I’m not talking about a Target or Walmart, but a real local stores owned by people on the island. There’s a couple shops that are definitely focused on the tourist market that comes through, but it doesn’t spoil the atmosphere, and I think the nice mellow approach actually adds to the town.
There’s a nice amount to see around the town as well, a little free gallery, some Japanese gardens and some nice beach spots to chill out at. It’s just about small enough to walk around most of the town, and see these things without a car, although it’s definitely still a reasonable amount of walking. The town is in a lovely little bay, so heading around the coast line just shows off more and more views. Moku Ola is worth the walk alone, a little man made island with tiny enclosed beaches that look like they were design to be protected places to take babies and toddlers to the beach. The hostel I stayed was nice, conveniently located, but really quiet, while I met a few people there, our plans never lined up and it meant I was mostly adventuring alone. The lady running was lovely though, it was an easy place to relax which I needed.
The following day I strapped on my walking shoes (the same pair of Vans I wear every single day, for everything), managed to catch a ride up to my first destination with a guy from the hostel, but from there it was solid walking. Rainbow Falls is a pretty little waterfall, easy to get to, with a nice safe viewing area and plenty of tourists. If you head up along the path to the left you can see why it’s called Rainbow Falls – yep, it makes a rainbow! Next stop was the more impressive, the Boiling Pots, an area where the flood water creates and fills dips in the rocks that then warm up nicely in the sun. The ‘boiling’ part of the name comes from the bubbles and white water when the water level is high. Swimming is strongly discouraged here as well, nasty water and the risk of flash floods. I have to admit, I adventured down the bank and tried to figure out a way up to Pe’ePe’e falls that are the backdrop to the Boiling Pots. After getting some much nicer photos and completely dead-ended, I wandered back to the road around the long way. I eventually found a side road that lead to an access that crossed the river, and from there I could walk down to the very edge of the waterfall. Probably not a very safe idea, if a flood had come in I would’ve been over the cliff in seconds. The question of whether it was worth it is debatable, I certainly won’t suggest it but I think the pictures came out pretty well. You can access the cliffs on both side with some reasonable scrabbling, definitely not for your grandma, or even your mum, but if you’re into that sort of thing it’s pretty easy and enjoyable.
Then came the first real walk, about 45 mins alongside the road to get to the Kaumana Caves – a break in some lava tubes that are pretty big and impressive. You can really head some distance into these ones, not hundreds of meters, but far enough that the dark really starts to close in. I had to use my phone torch to keep going, but after the group behind me bailed out I got a bit nervous and turned back. It got a lot narrower from where I had got to, I’m sure if there was a proper way through or not, but I wasn’t brave enough to find out.
Finally, it was time to hit the road again. I was tempted to try to hitch, but after not much success before, and the nice looking cars going by, I decided to just to tramp it all the way back into town. You hear about hitchhiking being dangerous, but honestly when compared to the road, which are completely lacking in sidewalks maybe it would be safer. It would be really nice to have some cross country paths out to these spots, but even in the hippy haven that is the east side of the Big Island, Americans will be Americans, and no one wants to walk.
Back at the hostel I had a mellow night, tried some more of the local food and prepared for the next day and renting another car. I also managed to find somewhere a reasonable price to stay – and it happened to be back where I’d just come from – Ocean View. But that was a night away.