Laura and Lee's Big Island Bash

March 13-19, 2004
Part 3

Wednesday, March 17 - Kailua-Kona Sightseeing

Awoke to the sounds of roosters crowing - even though it was before sunrise. It didn't really bother us, though. Walt and Barb were going scuba diving that morning and needed to be at the marina by 7:15, so we left around 6:20. The morning traffic was quite surprising and on a two lane road it was pretty slow. We had them there in plenty of time, though. And we got to see a nice sunrise on the shoulder of Mauna Kea!

We stopped at Starbucks so Lee could have his mocha and we got a couple of pastries, then drove back to the B&B. This place served a Continental Breakfast rather than a hot breakfast - you served yourself from a selection of fruit, hard-boiled eggs, toast, and beverages. The fruit was good - most if not all of it grown on the farm - but I was glad I'd had that scone at Starbucks!

We drove into Kailua-Kona later - the town is actually named Kailua and the region is known as Kona, but the town is called Kailua-Kona to distinguish it from the Kailua on Oahu - which is where Walt and Barb used to live. Got that? :-)

Hulihe'e Palace
We first hit Walmart to pick up some cheap "slippahs" - aka thongs - since we hadn't brought any shoes we wanted to get wet. Also picked up some macadamia nuts and postcards. Downtown we managed to score the last parking space in the free public lot and walked to Hulihe'e Palace. There were several school groups in there so we waited a while until they had moved on. In the meantime a very nice museum volunteer told us a lot. The palace was constructed of lava rock and coral mortar - the walls are three feet thick. It was later plastered and stuccoed to make it look more European. There were a number of photographs from the 1800s of the royal family - many names we've seen used on Oahu like Kalakaua, Kapiolani, Likelike, Liliuokalani, and of course Kamehameha - there were five kings by that name.

The Palace's most famous resident was Princess Ruth - granddaughter of Kamehameha I. The first thing anyone tells you is how big she was - reportedly over six feet tall and 400 pounds. I can believe that from seeing her photo, and her extra king size (princess size?) bed is on display upstairs.

Koa table
The furniture on display is from the Palace and just gorgeous - most of it built of koa wood by European or Chinese craftsmen. There's a six foot diameter koa table made of a *single* vertical cut of koa - you don't find koa trees that big anymore. And even small pieces of koa go for large sums of money - there's a small fortune in furniture in that place!

We enjoyed the tour, though it didn't take very long. Walt and Barb had called and were going to be later getting in than expected so we had some time to kill. We wandered down the main drag - Ali'i Drive - which is pretty much like Waikiki with all the tourist stuff. Not as much traffic, but still busy. We finally found a place that sold shave ice - it was nice and fine just like it should be.

We called Darin who recommended "Quinn's Almost by the Sea" for lunch. We hadn't realized it was St. Patrick's Day, but they were serving a corn beef and cabbage special. We opted for fish instead. Their fresh fishes were mahi mahi and ono (wahoo). "Ono" means "delicious" in Hawaiian, and is one of my favorites. I had the grilled ono sandwich and Lee had fried ono and chips. Ono is much more substantial than the usual cod that we're used to, and Lee was kind of surprised when he bit into it. I tried it, and it's very different when it's battered and fried. I think my grilled piece was better, but we both enjoyed our lunches. It was an interesting place - had the oldest hostess and waitress we've ever seen - Lee described them as geriatric beach chicks. I'd guess they were around 50. Our waitress had long blonde hair and looked about 25 from the back - I'd like to have legs that good - but it was quite a shock when you saw her face - that tropical sun is not kind.

Crown of Thorns starfish
We went back to the car and picked Walt and Barb up at the marina - our timing was good and they hadn't been there very long. They had really enjoyed their dives and saw lots of interesting critters. No whales, though. They also hadn't had lunch...but we'd never been able to get them on the phone to ask about that.

Soooo...we went to Costco! :-) I wanted to pick up some chocolate covered macadamia nuts to take home to work and stuff, and we picked up some sushi for them to have for lunch. Also got some Costco muffins to augment the somewhat lean breakfast pickings.

Darin drove down and met us at Costco *again* - but this time he had something for us. He has a friend who owns a Kona coffee farm, and had picked up fresh-roasted (like the day before!) coffee for us. Much cheaper than we could buy it, plus 100% Kona and not a blend. Mmmm...it smelled so good!

Barb and I wanted to make a stop at Kailua Candy Company, so Darin led us there - it would have been a little hard to find. In the parking lot, the guy driving a bread delivery truck was someone he knew. :-)

We had fun sampling and talking to the owners. They have some wonderful stuff, though my macadamia nut turtles are better. :-) I still managed to spend plenty of money there, though...they had an Easter bunny made of "kona swirl", which is their white/milk chocolate/kona coffee combination. It's my favorite - just melts in your mouth.

Darin had offered to cook fresh ono for us the next night using the facilities at our B&B, and needed to drive out our direction to pick up the fish. So to avoid some of the horrible traffic he led us on a back way out of town.

We'd made a dinner reservation at Kee'i Cafe but it wasn't until 8:30, so we got cleaned up and hung out at the farm. I made the mistake of going out exploring/picture taking just about dusk and got eaten alive by mosquitoes - I must've gotten 10-15 bites in 15 minutes! Oh well, at least I don't react to these like I do Florida mosquitoes. I put Stingeze on them and they didn't really bother me much after that.

Starfish
We had a table and chairs outside our room and both Lee and I brought our electronic toys (laptop for him, Palm for me) outside and started working...after a while Walt came over to visit and then Barb came over with *her* laptop - we had small, smaller, and smallest. :-) Walt thought it was all pretty amusing. (Which is pretty ironic since *he's* usually the one sitting in the car reading/sending email from his Sidekick!) Barb was able to show us pictures from their dive trip that day! We got serenaded by the peacock for a while. Sigh.

Eventually we drove to our dinner at Kee'i Cafe. Since we had no phone service at the B&B I called Darin's cell phone from there to coordinate for the next day, and he picks up the phone and says "Guess where I am...Costco!" :-)

Even with a reservation we still had to wait 10-15 minutes to be seated, and it was kind of disorganized. The food was very good (and quite reasonably priced) but the service was horrible...our waiter told us the specials, disappeared for about 5 minutes, then came back and said "I'll start with the ladies first"...no "what can I get you to drink" or anything. And after that we didn't see him for about 45 minutes...we got our appetizers, but no entrees...even though tables seated after us had been served. No sign of our waiter...Walt finally tracked him down and was told that he'd put our order in but the kitchen hadn't noticed it. By that point it was 9:50, and we didn't really have any other choices...he told us the kitchen could have our meals ready in 10 minutes, apologized (yeah, he *should* have been aplogizing!) and offered us free dessert. We stayed, and the food didn't take 10 minutes...it was actually less. :-) And it was *very* good. I had the spearfish with a lemon caper sauce and the others had the special which was in a curry, as I recall - the guys had mahi mahi and Barb had the spearfish. Only Barb and Lee ordered dessert, and when the bill came he'd comped the appetizers, Lee's beer, and the desserts. We still didn't leave him a tip, though...there was no excuse for his inattentiveness. He let us just sit there for 45 minutes without checking on us at all - he only had two other tables and they were finishing dinner!

So I don't know if I'd recommend the place or not...certainly the other servers that were working seemed to get their tables served efficiently, so it seemed to be just a problem with our waiter. And there were at least a couple of tables in there (one of them our waiter was serving) that seemed to be regular customers, so they've obviously kept coming back. The food WAS very good, though.


Thursday, March 18 - Kayaking, Pu'u Ho'onaunau, Coffee Farm

I was up at 6:30 - getting a little bit later! It was a beautiful morning and I sat outside and worked on this trip report for a while since Lee was still sleeping. Breakfast still a little lean, but thank goodness for Costco muffins!

Our hosts had 3 kayaks we could rent - 2 doubles and a single - which worked out perfectly since Darin was joining us. He arrived and we got our stuff together and our host helped us tie them to the tops of the cars - Darin had to get into/out of his car via the window. :-)

We followed Darin down Napo'opo'o road to Kealakekua Bay. It was about 10:15 by the time we were all in the water and paddling, and there were a number of people already out - this is obviously a very popular thing to do! We paddled across the beautiful blue waters of the bay to the Captain Cook monument. He was killed by Hawaiians near this spot in a fight over a stolen boat of all things. Pretty tragic since by most reports he was a pretty decent guy. He realized some of the effects the coming of the Europeans would have on the isolated Islanders and tried (though without much success) to minimize them. Cook was a scientist and explorer rather than a conqueror looking for new lands.

Anyway...this piece of ground actually belongs to the UK, given to them by Princess Likelike in 1874. So I've finally been to the UK and didn't even need a passport! :-)

>
Darin and I walked over to the monument (you aren't supposed to beach right in front of it) and noted that it needs a paint job. The others snorkeled over - the snorkeling in that area is superb. Darin and I sat around the bay and "talked story" for quite awhile and then he went in for round 2 of snorkeling with the others. I'm not a water person and was happy to just sit on the rocks with my feet in the water. I could still see quite a few fish - there were scads of bright yellow tangs.

And scads of incoming kayakers, too - this definitely is the thing to do! We headed back (took about 20 minutes each way) and got everything reloaded in the cars again.

We thought some BBQ from Billy Bob's would be great, but drove there to find they are only open in the evening. Darin thought the local supermarket would have the setup for a "box lunch" but they weren't serving. They did have sandwiches, though, so we got those and took them back and ate in the outdoor kitchen at the BB. (And of course outside the market Darin ran into a woman he knew. :-) ) ) A beautiful peacock walked right through as we were eating - the same one that's been screaming outside our window. I'd just like to note that I resisted throwing rocks at him. :-)

After lunch we all piled in our car and drove to the Pu'u Ho'onaunau - the Place of Refuge. In more ancient times, the penalty for just about anything was death, but if you could get to a Place of Refuge you were safe and could eventually return to society. Hawaiian royalty also had a compound here just because it was a beautiful area. It's a National Historic Site so our park pass worked here, too! Best $50 we ever spent. We wandered around and Lee read us the information from the tour brochure. Darin tried to convince us naive tourists that there were pineapple trees growing here, but we knew better. (It's actually a pandanas, or lauhala tree, and they weave mats and hats and other things out of the fronds.)

There were tiki figures there - the Hawaiian version of "stacks of scary people" as Lee's brother used to call them. :-)

Back up the road we visited Bayview coffee farm. We'd missed their last tour of the day but the woman in the gift shop recognized Darin (imagine that!) and said we could go down into the barn area, where he gave us the tour. It's not harvest season right now so there wasn't too much to see, but he told us about the process. Coffee will keep a long time as dried unroasted beans, but as soon as it's roasted it starts to break down, and breaks down even more when it's ground, so that's why you should always grind your coffee beans fresh. (We saw this beautiful green gecko (taking a vacation from Geico?) in the gift shop.)

Darin also told us about the "Kona coffee conspiracy"...some company was bringing Colombian coffee beans into Kona and then sending them back out as "Kona coffee". But they were sending out more coffee than the region actually grows! Now the labeling of Kona coffee is regulated by the state of Hawaii - though only within the state. Most commercial "Kona" coffees are actually a Kona *blend*...it must contain at least 10% Kona to be called "Kona blend", but that 10% doesn't have to be even *good* Kona coffee! And once it leaves the state it could be re-labeled as pure Kona, since there isn't any regulation anywhere else. The moral of the story? Don't expect to find pure 100% Kona anywhere other than the Big Island, and even there buy it straight from a coffee farm. Or better yet, have a cousin like Darin. :-)

We stopped at the Painted Church - it was built by a Catholic priest, who to overcome the language barrier, painted frescoes of various Biblical scenes (Hell, The Temptation of Christ) all over the walls and ceiling of the church. He was very talented.

Back to the BB where Darin cooked us a wonderful meal in the outdoor "Jungle Kitchen". He had gotten fresh ono (wahoo) from one of his friends the day before. He bbqed it - and watching the ignited lighter fluid was the closest we came all week to seeing a volcano. :-) He served it with rice and stir-fried vegetables. It was *very* ono! For dessert he'd brought macadamia nut pie. We shared that with another couple staying at the BB. He reminded me of Jack Marshall, which won't mean anything to some of you, but others will know exactly what he was like. :-)

We cleaned everything up and put it away and helped Darin pack the car. I'm really glad he was able to spend the day with us - we had a great time. And he helped make our trip "mo' bettah" with all his local insider information.


Friday, March 19 - home

Time to go home...sigh. Between all the coffee and chocolate covered macadamia nuts our suitcases were quite full...we carried the wine on board the plane otherwise we would've been over our weight limit.

Walt and Barb were only going as far as Oahu, where they were planning to visit Walt's family for a while, so they didn't have to go through the Agriculture check like we did. Though that's much less painful than it used to be - now they just run your suitcase through an x-ray machine rather than making you open it. Barb got caught trying to smuggle a knife into her carry-on luggage, though. :-) They had a small bag with them that they checked so she could keep the knife.

While we were waiting for our flight both Lee AND Walt were using their computers and their cell phone service to read email. :-)

Once we arrived in Honolulu we said goodbye to Walt and Barb and walked over to the main terminal. Had lunch at a restaurant called "Stinger Ray's" - and had our only foofy drinks of the trip - Lee had a pina colada and I had a virgin tropical colada.

We were aboard the plane and #1 for takeoff when they got on the loudspeaker and said we had a sick passenger aboard and would be returning to the gate. Sigh. Our "just a few minutes" at the gate was more like 30...we finally got off the ground an hour and a half late, and landed in San Diego just after 11:00...instead of 9:45.

James, our towncar driver, was there to pick us up. I couldn't resist...once we got in the car I just *had* to say: "Home, James". ;-)


Final Thoughts

Oh, you were expecting more than that? :-) Ok...


Other Links

Part 1
Part 2
Tigger's Hawaiian Hukilau
Trip Photo Album - Just the pix, ma'am!
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Text and photographs copyright © 2004 by Laura Gilbreath. Some photos copyright © 2004 by Barbara Fletcher, used with permission. All rights reserved.