How I spent my summer vacation

I know. Unofficially, summer just started and, by the calendar, it’s still a couple weeks away. But to celebrate our 30th anniversary, my wife and I (and kids) just spent two weeks at our favorite place on earth:

We returned last week from what is our third family trip to “the Big Island.” We’ve stayed at the same rental house each time, indicated by the placemarker on the map (you should be able to zoom in). Not only is it oceanfront (not beachfront because lava abuts most of the Pacific in the vicinity), it is basically on Kealakekua Bay, the site where Capt James Cook “discovered” Hawaii (and where he would die) in 1779. It is also about four miles from Pu‘uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park, a place for both Hawaiian royalty and where people could seek refuge from criminal sanctions and in times of war.

To get there, you have to take a winding road about 1,200 feet down the side of Mauna Loa, the earth’s largest volcano. About 150 feet or so above the bay, you encounter the sign advising you are entering a tsunami evacuation area. In fact, some houses between us and the bay were damaged in the March 11 tsunami.

We stay on the south Kona (Hawaiian for leeward) coast. It doesn’t have the beaches the north end has and while it has more rain than the north, it is less than the windward side around Hilo. While you have to take a vehicle to get most places, the area is more rural and laid back. There are coffee farms, not malls, with brilliant blue sky and sun in the morning and a bit of a rainshower in late afternoon.

We’ve been there often enough that, other than the absolutely requisite trip to Volcanoes National Park, we don’t do a lot of touristy things. We go to a beach or two, grill fresh fish and relax in an incomparable, ineffable way.

While the five hour time difference is a killer coming back, it’s worth the price. And even though my wife and I are adjusting to life as usual, my wife and I are plotting how to retire there.

Kealakekua Bay is a little curve like the last kink of a snail shell, winding deep into the land … bounded on one side … by a little flat plain [and on the other by] a steep wall of lava, a thousand feet high at the upper end and three or four hundred at the lower, comes down from the mountain and bounds the inner extremity of it. From this wall the place takes its name, Kealakekua, which in the native tongue signifies “The Pathway of the Gods.”

Mark Twain, Sacramento Daily Union, August 24, 1866

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1 comment to How I spent my summer vacation

  • Janelle Krause Toman

    Tim, we spent time in the same general area about a week after the tsunami hit. We were based at Keauhou Beach Resort; our first trip to the island. Loved it.