I wrote some about our honeymoon, but nothing detailed, and since it was a really wonderful trip I thought it would be nice to have a document of it before too much time passes.
We were on the island for a week and a day, give or take some hours lost in the time change. Flying there from Chicago was a doozy, but it could have been a lot worse. We flew out from O’Hare at 7am for 3 1/2 hours to Salt Lake City, with two little kids in the row behind us constantly kicking our seats and their parents intoning in the same cheery voice, “Luke, Anna, remember kindness? Remember?” Like kindness was some guy who used to come by their house to visit. They had to be Mormon. Only Mormons could be so calm in the face of their children being obnoxious for that long.
Anyway, then we had two hours from Salt Lake to LA, and then 5 1/2 hours to Kona. As we banked over the island we got a fantastic view. We could see the difference between the green leeward side and the dry windward side, and the amazing massif of Mauna Kea looming above the cloudline. We could even see the observatory telescopes!
The Kona airport was tiny and open-air; kind of a collection of huts in the middle of old lava fields.
By the time we got our luggage and our rental car, it was almost 6pm Hawaii time, which meant 11pm Chicago time, after having gotten up so early. But the excitement of being in Hawaii revived us a little on the drive to our hotel.
For the first four days and five nights, we stayed at the Sheraton in Keauhou Bay. Since it was our honeymoon I wanted a little bit of the ritzy resort experience, and I’m glad we did it. When they found out we were honeymooners they upgraded us from a parking-lot view room to one with a view of the grounds and the ocean. It was very, very nice.
We had a late dinner at the hotel bar and then collapsed in bed. We used our first full day in Hawaii to just relax. We explored the resort some. It’s parked right on the bay, literally atop a bunch of striking lava cliffs that drop right into the Pacific.
And the pool. Oh my goodness, the pool. I am not really a pool person, but this was heavenly. Cool and clear and clean and ENORMOUS. Half of it was in the interior courtyard and the other half was right by the ocean. It was so big that no matter how many people were in it, it never felt crowded. There were always enough chairs. And because all of the kiddie attractions like the shallow faux beach and the giant waterslide were on one side, the interior pool was always quiet and relaxing.
I spent a great deal of time there during our trip. Every morning after breakfast I would jump in the pool then dry out in a chair while reading. Then I’d take a walk around the grounds before lunch. Plumeria blossoms littered the ground like sweet smelling snow.
On the first night, Greg and I had our one super-nice dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, Aina Kai. We got a bottle of wine and enjoyed the view over Keauhou Bay:
While we were watching, we saw a little animal scurry across the grounds. We thought it was a squirrel at first, but when I saw it the second time we realized it was a mongoose! Apparently they’re vermin over there, but it was still cool to see one. The meal was fantastic – Greg had tuna and I had mahi-mahi, and the fish was the best I’ve ever tasted.
The next morning we went out to explore Kona, about 20 minutes south of us. Kona is a charming, if touristy, beachside town and we enjoyed walking around. We went to the pier and then hit up King Kamehameha Beach.
We walked around downtown some and had to snap a picture next to this giant banyan tree:
Then we got lunch at Island Lava Java, a very chill cafe, where we were able to snag a table outside with a nice view:
We came back to the resort to relax some, then got dinner and enjoyed the second of many amazing Hawaiian sunsets. While we were watching I struck up a conversation with an Australian family also at the resort. It was really interesting to talk to them about life in Australia – they had several horrifying stories about sharks and crocodiles. While Greg and I were taken aback by how expensive Hawaii is, to them it was delightfully cheap!
You might have gathered that Greg and I are not really “Go out and do everything” people. I know a lot of people would have come to Hawaii determined to do everything – snorkeling, diving, trips to Mauna Kea. Do I wish we had done more? Sometimes. But the truth is we were so tired and so stressed out from everything going on with the wedding and the move and the job search that we really just wanted to relax for a few days. So we spent most of the time sitting by the pool, reading, enjoying the amazing climate. We did a lot more on the second half of our trip, so I think it evened out.
On the third afternoon, we went for a drive up into the hills above the coast. There are a lot of tiny towns above Keleakekua Bay, like Captain Cook, that are very different from the touristy Kona, and we got a sense of how Hawaiians live. The whole island vibe is incredibly laid-back. We followed the winding road for a little while past coffee plantations, tiny main streets, and incredible views before we stopped at a little rundown place for lunch, called the Coffee Shack.
Don’t let the humble exterior fool you. We walked inside and were greeted with this view:
It was stunning. Just a chill little place with an incredible, incredible vista. While we were there it started to rain softly, and we were both staring out the windows, mesmerized.
It was so peaceful and beautiful I was a little overwhelmed. In that moment, I really wanted to find a little cabin with a lanai somewhere around Captain Cook and just stay there forever. I’ve written before about the strange effect Hawaii had on us, of making our worries seem so insubstantial. The glow I felt during that lunch at that simple little ramshackle cafe stayed with me for the rest of the day. It really was euphoric.
On the drive back we stopped at another little coffee house where I got a soy chai and a delicious vegan brownie.
I was talking to the barista while she made my drink and she said, “Yeah, it’s like this every day. Warm in the morning, around 2 o’clock the clouds roll in and it starts to rain for a couple of hours, then it clears for sunset.” Considering that just fifteen minutes away at our resort it was always, always sunny, it was our first introduction to Hawaii’s many microclimates.
We came back to the hotel for dinner, the obligatory sunset, and then went back to our room to cash in on our complimentary honeymoon champagne. Or, as Greg called it, our Higgs Boson champagne. He was drinking and following the live-blogs of the presentation. It was pretty adorable.
Our last day at the resort was pretty quiet. I soaked by the pool, Greg read on the veranda. For our last night, I was determined to see a manta ray.
You see, Keauhou Bay is home to the highest concentration of manta rays anywhere, and the cliffs below the Sheraton are a cleaning and feeding station. Nearly every night they come right up the hotel, and the hotel shines lights into the water so you can see them. I would go out and sit on the lava cliffs and watch the manta ray viewing boats go out right around sunset.
But the first three nights, the rays didn’t show. I so wanted to see one, and that last night I sat on the cliffs for well over an hour. One by one, all the other guests left. Even the boats left. Soon I was the only one there. I just listened to my ipod and enjoyed the breeze. And soon…I was rewarded.
It was impossible to take a picture of, but seeing a big manta ray swim right up start riding the waves, flipping over to show its white belly, flapping its wings like a big black bat – it was amazing. I stayed and watched it for a very long time. Greg came down and joined me. Even he had to admit it was very cool.
The next morning we checked out of the Sheraton and took off on a leisurely drive around the south side of the island. I am so glad we were able to do this – we saw so much of the island this way. The first stop was Keleakekua Bay.
It was so beautiful. I wish we could have snorkeled there, but there was no time or equipment. I did get to see some wildlife though – crabs were EVERYWHERE on the rocks.
The tiny beach was scattered with coral.
And in the distance we could see the Captain Cook monument, marking the spot where he was killed by native Hawaiians in a scuffle.
We drove on through windswept Ka’u, the south point of the island, and when we rounded the coast there were stunning views. I’m telling you, amazing views on this island are a dime a dozen. We were almost jaded by the end of the trip.
We drove on through several tiny towns where I wished we could have stopped and stayed. Then when stopped at a black sand beach. The waves were huuuuuge.
The black sand was eerie and very cool:
But not nearly as cool as this:
They were just hanging out on the beach, basking in the sun. There was a little crowd around but everyone was keeping their distance, and the turtles were totally used to it. They come and bask there every day.
It was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. And yet there was so much more to come…