Friday, February 26, 2010

Whale Watching Off the Big Island of Hawaii

One day of our vacation we went whale watching! We had a perfect sunny day for it. Captain Dan McSweeney out of Kona was recommended in "The Big Island Revealed." That turned out to be a good choice. He as been following and researching the whales for decades and has good knowledge about where to find them, their habits, and how to position the boat well away from the whales and still have good visibility.

Jennifer stayed on the bottom deck, as it's supposed to be a little smoother ride and she is prone to seasickness. I'm happy to report that even though she did feel a little queasy towards the end of the 3 hour trip, she did not get sick. Yea, Jen!

Ted and I rode on the top where the view is completely unobstructed. During the 20 minute ride out, we started spotting humpback whales blowing....there are plenty of them in the area! McSweeney stopped well away from the whales, but before long two whales swam right up to the boat and stayed for about 20 minutes! I think his long experience following the whales enables him to anticipate the movement of the whales, and position his boat well for this type of encounter.

While they are in Hawaiian waters the whales give birth and breed. They spend their summers in Alaskan waters. Sometimes you can see two whales spouting next to each other...a large spout and a smaller one...mother and baby. Jennifer and I stopped and watched the whales from shore one day and we saw this several times.

Amazing to be this close to these huge creatures!

This might be a whale "Aloha!"

And this too!

Throughout the trip, the captain and crew were giving great information about the whales and the area we were cruising. They also provided drinks, snacks and, very welcome towards the end of several hours in the sun, a cool cloth to refresh.

They say we were very fortunate, and that the whales do not always come this close. If you go to Hawaii during the winter, I'd definitely recommend going whale was one of the highlights of our trip!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Scenic Hamakua Coast

As you head north of Hilo on highway 19, look for a little sign that says "Hamakua Coast Scenic Drive." Be sure to take it! You won't be sorry, because every inch of the four miles is worth a picture. Don't worry, I didn't load this post up with all of them! I have to confess though, that it took us a couple of hours to cover the four miles because we kept getting out of the car to take walks and shoot pictures!

While we were admiring this waterfall, a local man came up, cigarette in mouth, and did a backflip off the bridge into the's deep! Later in the trip, Jennifer and I came back to this waterfall and pool and went swimming.
Here Jennifer and I are trying to stay dry while exploring a stream.
That didn't work too well, and we found it was actually easier and more fun to just walk in the water. If you don't own Teva sandals for hiking, get some and your feet will thank you!
This is Ted, a friend from way back when I was in college. He lives near Hilo now and we had a great time catching up on the last 30 years (am I really that old?!). He also knew lots of helpful information about what to visit and where to eat!

Jennifer and Ted really are following a trail here, but I think the rainforest covers up trails pretty quickly!The Hilo side of the island is loaded with lush vegetation and waterfalls and streams at every turn....

 ...sometimes you can see the ocean on one side and turn your head and see a waterfall from the same spot. Absolutely beautiful.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Rainbow Falls, Hilo, Hawaii

One day in Hilo, we decided to check out the waterfalls. Rainbow Falls is a spectacular falls, and still beautiful even now, but they have been having a drought so it was just a trickle. Compare the picture above to the one Joe and I took when we were there a year ago:
Just upstream is Pe'e Pe'e Falls. Here it is this year:
and the same falls last year:
Beautiful either way, but definitely a different scene!
The dry conditions gave Jennifer and I a chance to see the riverbed that is usually underwater. Fun to climb around in and some kids were using the water that was left as a swimming hole.
At the top of the Rainbow Falls is a huge banyan tree. This is only a small portion of it....looks like something out of Avatar, doesn't it?!
Fun day!

Monday, February 22, 2010

South Point Banyan Treehouse

As always, you can click on the pictures to enlarge them

Now, I will admit that we didn't stay in this tree house. We passed it on a drive around the south end of the island. But I love tree houses and this one is seems just about of these days I'd like to try it. It's built under a big old banyan tree and when you are inside, you definitely get the tree house effect.
Here's the view off of the deck. There's a hot tub on the deck so you can do some star gazing...and let me tell you, the star gazing is amazing on the big island. It's very dark and I've never seen so many stars. We met the owner in the yard as we were passing by and he let us in to take a look around:
Look at those huge limbs through the windows! The roof is windowed in many places too, so you are looking right up into the foliage.
It was very clean and comfy looking. I think I could move into this little place and never leave. The tree house sleeps 2 and is afforadable at $100 a night.
Visit their website for a tour and more information. As I said, I haven't stayed here yet, but I've looked it up they have received many positive reviews.