I loved every day on Big Island. I loved hiking the volcanos. I loved snorkeling in the clear water on Kona side. I loved the Place of Refuge. I loved Big Island. In spite of the fact that a good bit of our day was spent in the car, our second day on Big Island may well have been my favorite. 

We started with a drive up Mauna Kea. We stopped at a little area before the turn up to the observatory. Ray decided it would be a good opportunity to get a family jumping picture. Not one of them turned out but it was fun trying and this picture of everyone going to the camera when we were finished cracks me up for some reason.

G0011042Mauna Kea is a dormant volcano. There is a visitor’s center about 6 miles from the top. It gets a little chilly up there. This is what beach bums look like when they head up to the summit.

IMG_2501Please note the socks and slippas (AKA flip flops). We’re cool like that.

We stopped at the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy. There you can walk around a path and see Haleakala silversword plants. It is endangered and only grows at high elevations in Hawaii. 

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There were films to watch but they didn’t hold the attention of four kids who had been in the car for too long. 

On our drive up, we went over a cattle grate. I hadn’t felt one of those since leaving Tennessee. Then we saw this sign…

DSCF0109Okay then…

To go to the summit of Mauna Kea, there is about 5 miles of unpaved road. It should require of 4-wheel drive. Unfortunately that is not something our minivan had. There is no law preventing anyone from accessing the summit. There are signs. They say things like…

  • Don’t go if you are elderly.
  • Don’t go if you are under the age of 16.
  • Don’t go if you have a heart condition.
  • Don’t go if you don’t have 4WD.
  • Don’t go if you have ever had altitude sickness.
  • Don’t go if you are a chicken… um maybe not that one.

Now, I’m always up for an adventure. I am, however not a rule breaker. We were trying to decide if these were rules or guidelines. I was taking children to the bathroom, passing out snacks and getting everyone back in the car. Ray goes and flags down a tiny little sedan that was coming down from the summit. After interrogating discussing the road conditions, he comes back ready and willing to get to the top. There was snow up there for crying out loud! It’s been a long time since our kids have seen snow. The danger of Mauna Kea is that the climb starts well below sea level and rises to 13,000 feet above sea level. We’ve been up Pike’s Peak on a cog rail and the kids did much better than I did. (I was also very pregnant at the time.) Off we went.

We took it slow, enjoyed the view and Ray tried not to fishtail the van. We stopped to rest the transmission. It was quite a climb…

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We could see the smoke rising from Kilauea. That’s a little creepy. Everything started to look small. We heard other people talking about the landscape and how foreign and terrestrial it looks. After living for 3+ years in Iceland, it just sort of reminded us of our time there. 

It didn’t take long before we had our first snow sightings. 

DSCF0158As much as the kids wanted to, we didn’t stop immediately. Instead we drove straight to the summit. 

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The view was incredible but really there isn’t much to see except for astronomers and weird signs about ice. Here’s something interesting though. The views from Mauna Kea are used by astronomers from all over the world. To help them out, the entire island of Kona has weird yellow street lights. I didn’t love them. It kind of gave and eery glow. Apparently, it helps those fancy telescopes see what they need to see.

On the way back down we stopped for the SNOW!!!



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Everybody did great. The transmission on the car held out. The kids didn’t get sick. We headed back down the mountain.

We drove up to the north shore and stopped to see the original King Kamehameha statue. There were some nutty tourists there getting yelled at because they climbed inside the rope. Who does that? Well, I can now say almost all foreigners ignore ropes. They ignore them totally and completely. I saw a young Japanese girl climb over a rope and nearly trip on her long skirt at one of our stops. The wind was blowing so hard. I thought for sure she was going over the side of the cliff. It was nuts!


We did not go over the ropes thank you very much. 

We decided to stop at a little coffee shop in a town called Hawi. It was supposed to have Tropical Dreams ice cream and be some of the best on the island. It was pretty darn good. I didn’t get a picture there because around that time, Mr. Jack started doing the potty dance. The nice people in the coffee shop sent me to the little gift shop next door. She was closing. Someone was in her bathroom. There was no good place to take Jack. I started asking her about things. There was a living wreath that I really wanted and couldn’t figure out how I would get it back home. Finally, the lady leaves the bathroom. I take Bria and Jack in. I didn’t have my wallet. There was a dish for tips. I knew the sales person wanted to go home because she was essentially refusing to sell me ANYTHING. I guess I wasn’t meant to have my wallet. They finished and we rushed out toward the front door. It was locked. We had to go out the back, through the alley, through the coffee shop’s kitchen. It wasn’t awkward at all. (I need that sarcasm font here.)

The next part of our trip provided us with a drive down the coast. The view was stunning. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, but I was pretty sure I saw a whale breech. Then there were water spouts. Then there was another one. We pulled over to an AMAZING site. They were too far off for my little camera but I didn’t get this picture that I just love so much it hurts.


Someone is turning into a bit of a Daddy’s girl. 

I forgot to mention… Thankfully our little room had a cooler for us to use. When we climbed the mountain, Ray had the bright idea to pack it full of snow. So he did. Then we drove it to a beach just before sunset to let the kids play. How many people can say they climbed a volcano and took some snow down to the beach to play with it?

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A lovely gentleman who looked to be about 95 years old dressed all up in his bright red speedo saw us taking these pictures. (Sorry Arleigh. Yours isn’t quite as alone as I thought it was…) He offered to take one of the whole family. Of course we took him up on it. Arleigh told me later she was just sure he was after our camera, little Beauton Wheeler that one! I wish I had taken a picture of the gentleman. 

DSCF0248Then the kids finished out their day playing with snow on a beach. 

DSCF0265DSCF0260 DSCF0252We rode back to the room with a beautiful view to close out the magnificent day.

IMG_2508Arleigh took a picture that sort of sums it all up for me. I loved our little staycation…