Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Hawaii trip - day 4

a brief diversion...

We had checked into our hotel north of Kona on Tuesday afternoon. We walked around the hotel looking for somewhere to eat, but it was the mid-afternoon lull between lunch and dinner, and most of the restaurants were closed. So we decided to go to the beach for a while and just have an early dinner instead. Back at our room, we found a bottle of wine on ice -- a gift from the hotel to help us celebrate our anniversary. We finished most of the bottle, headed to the poolside bar for more drinks, and then hit the beach for a couple hours. Toward sunset, as I looked out toward the horizon I saw some water spray into the air. A minute or two later, I saw it again... and then something jumped out and made a huge splash. I showed K where to look and we both saw it -- at least two whales were swimming together about 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile from shore, spouting water, jumping from the water and then crashing down, slapping their tails, etc. I'd never seen a whale before, and here we were, watching two of them from the beach about a hundred yards from our hotel room! Better yet, we were pretty much the only people left on the beach, and we were the only ones who saw them. This was definitely one of the neatest experiences of the entire trip.

Where we stayed

The Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel & Resort. April 2007.
The Hapuna Beach Prince is located about 20 to 25 miles north of Kona Airport, on the northern portion of the Big Island's west coast. It's located about 5 miles south of the town of Kawaihae. The Hapuna Beach Prince is a "sister" hotel to the Mauna Kea Resort, which is located a half-mile to the north. The hotels provide a shuttle van to take guests from one hotel to the other. Other than the hotels, there isn't much development in the immediate area. If you want to shop or eat someplace else besides the hotel, you have to drive north to Kawaihae, east to Waimea, south to Kona, or to another resort. (There are a few others within a 15-minute drive to the south). Hapuna Beach itself is very nice, especially for an island that isn't exactly known for having the best beaches. Much of the Big Island's shoreline is rocky, and Hapuna Beach is one of the largest on the island, consisting of about a half-mile stretch of white sand between the rocky areas. The hotel shares its beach with the Hapuna Beach State Park, but there is plenty of room, and it never reached a point of being what we would have called "crowded". From all except the northernmost portion of the beach, mountains on the island of Maui are visible to the north, looming above the ocean 40 to 50 miles away in the distance.

Early morning on Hapuna Beach. Mauna Loa, Hawaii's second-highest mountain peak, is visible in the background.

An early morning view from our lanai.

K enjoys the view from our fourth floor room.

Driftwood and rocks near the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel.

As for the hotel itself, it was built in the early 1990s. Rooms are located in three different "wings" extending out from the main building which houses the lobby, offices, shops, and some of the restaurants. The pool was large, the beach was very close, the staff was friendly, and our room was clean and comfortable. The hotel had several restaurants, but not all of them were open the whole time we were there. We really enjoyed our four-night stay there, and we'd definitely stay there again if we return to the Big Island.

Wednesday, April 11

We decided to set aside Wednesday as a pool and beach day. After breakfast, we headed down to the beach. Unfortunately, all of the hotel's beach chairs were already taken (the attendant told us it's best to get there very early, as the state park only allows them to set out a certain number of chairs). So we headed to the pool. It didn't take me very long to get sick of listening to screaming kids playing in the pool, and moms yapping away on their cell phones (in fact, it took less than 60 seconds!) I was in kind of a bad mood at this point, so I headed back to the beach and eventually found some vacant chairs. K and I spent the next 3 hours on the beach, which ended up being a little too much sun for both of us, even with sunscreen. After lunch, we decided to spend our afternoon doing something else.

We had wanted to visit the black sand beach and sea turtle nesting area at Punalu'u, and the green sand beach and overlooks down at South Point, so we headed south down the island. Approaching Kona, we got stuck in a hell of a traffic jam. With only two-lane highways in each direction, even through the middle of town, Kona and its neighboring towns to the south are unable to efficiently handle the traffic. Everything was stop and go, stop and go (mostly stop) for several miles. It reminded me of Branson, Missouri back around 1990! The traffic cost us close to an hour of time, forcing us to adjust our plans. Instead of Punalu'u, we decided to check out South Point, which was a shorter drive. We'd visit Punalu'u on Friday instead.
"Like Branson in 1990!" Traffic on Highway 11 south of Kona.

Located on the southern tip of the Big Island, South Point is the southernmost location in the United States. A nearby beach is reported to feature green sand (well, brownish-green; it's tinted with particles of a mineral called olivine). We arrived there too late in the day to see the beach (you have to hike to it), so we settled for just watching the sunset from the ledges overlooking the ocean. But the view was well worth the time it took to drive down there... we'd highly recommend it as a great place to catch a sunset!

K at South Point

the happy couple

Windmills and sunset at South Point
We picked up some dinner on our way back to the hotel, and called it a night around 10 pm. That's all for Wednesday... stay tuned for the next installment.
nr: Ruby El Hult - Northwest Disaster
np: Johnny Cash - "When the man comes around" on KHYI 95.3 FM

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