The Big Island

I was five years old the first time I traveled to Hawaii. My aunt and uncle lived in a small house on the island of Honolulu. The memories of that trip have the fuzzy haze of a five year old’s perception. Much of what I remember was the house. It had an open, winding layout. Almost like parts of it were more treehouse than house.

It was situated in the midst of a dense jungle. The tiny shack for the toilet was a couple hundred feet away and marked with a path of smooth slate stones. I distinctly remember the uneasy anxiety of trying to find the bathroom with only moonlight and a small flashlight.

More terrifying than the bathroom, however, were the mosquitoes. At the time these mosquitoes were as large as my five year old fists. My parents and I were sleeping in beds outside with large nets to keep the bugs out. I remember staring at the net, paralyzed by the sheer number of insects attempting to crawl through it. Lights would go out. I would pull the covers over my head and pray the bugs didn’t get me.

In the last twenty odd years, I have become slightly less afraid of the dark, insects, and insects in the dark. This made my second trip to Hawaii more enjoyable.

I stayed for a week on the Big Island. I learned this by booking my flight to the wrong island and receiving an email from my dad that simply read:

It’s going to be a long swim. :-)

The Big Island is, for lack of a better term, big. It contains 11 different microclimates. Oh, and also some volcanos. It’s a bit like Seattle actually. They even have excellent coffee. This is high praise considering after living in the northwest for a mere two years, I have sadly become picky about coffee. Once you go locally roasted, you can’t go back.

And on that note, onto the adventures!


Mountain Thunder Coffee Plantation

Mountain Thunder is well known on the island. Their coffee has won many awards from esteemed coffee competitions whose names I cannot begin to remember. Point is: their coffee is delicious. They grow their own beans and roast onsite. 

We drove up the mountain to get attend one of their free tours. It was a 40 minute drive, half spent on roads that snaked slowly up the mountain. The last two roads created a helix across the terrain and intersected every mile or so.

The tour was short and sweet. We spent an hour wandering through the facilities, looking at lots of beans, and learning the entire bean to cup process. 


Mostly the beans are sorted about five times through five different sorting methods. I was most amazed by the Japanese bean sorting machine. This machine analyzes the beans to check for discoloration by shooting lasers at the beans. 


Let that just sink in for a minute.


Then, it sends a little puff of air to knock away the bad bean into the bad bean bin. I understand now why good coffee is $15-$20 a bag. I’m paying for laser-approved beans. And I'm perfectly okay with that.


Hawaii Volcanos National Park

As I said before, the Big Island is big. This became apparent during our 2 hour road trip to the volcano park. We even drove straight through the middle of the island. It’s just that big.

At the park, we debated for a while about what we wanted to see. The lava flows were another 45 minutes of driving and potentially more hours of hiking after that. So instead I badgered everyone into hiking the giant volcanic crater with me. It was a 4 hour hike around and through a really, really big crater. The scale was hard to grasp until you were right in the middle of it and looking up at the surrounding walls of forest.


The rock started out as scattered mountains of broken pieces. It was sharp, porous lava rock. Falling was not an option. Of course, this danger did not stop my boyfriend and sister from running full speed down the trails.


I was in constant awe of the landscape the whole hike. The terrain was unlike anything I'd set foot on before. I zig-zagged back and forth across the crater, wanting to explore everything. These small hearty flower bushes (Ohia lehua) were the only things growing amongst the rock. It was incredible how such rich color could come from a dull lifeless rock.


I wish I could have had another day exploring the volcanic terrain and exploring some lava tubes. For the day I was there, the crater was plenty.


Not much to explain here. Ben and I stole the rental car and did a lot of meandering around the island while the female members of my family went shopping. I definitely preferred the meandering.