After five days at sea we were reaching the big island of Hawaii! I, of course, was up bright and early to catch the sunrise.
For our stop in Hilo Hawaii we rented a car at the airport a short 10 minute drive from the port. It cost us $16 for a taxi to the airport, which I rounded up to $20. We returned from the airport to the ship on Lyft which costs under $13. But if you see someone dropped off by a Lyft driver at the airport you can offer them $10 to take you back to the pier and they might take you up on it. Since they only make about $7 if they drive you via Lyft, they'll make more doing a $10 ride off the books. Even paying for a round trip on taxi or Lyft, it made for a fairly inexpensive tour including $65 for the car rental and $40 or less to and from the airport. For that price we could have taken two more people and shared the expense. Regardless of the low cost, it's usually worth a lot more than the excursions since you can choose your own itinerary and do it at your own pace.
We first drove to the Thurston Lava Tube in Volcano National Park. We'd both been to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park before, but never together. But neither of us had been to the Thurston Lava Tube. It was a pretty interesting experience. It's not very scenic inside, being pretty dark, but the thought of the lava naturally creating a tube high enough to stand up in is a pretty amazing thing.
We next drove to the visitor center. The short ranger talk given at a booth near the entrance to the building was well worth it. He told us a brief history of the volcano including how a section of the Crater Rim Road fell into the caldera in 2018 and where to find the best view of the volcano floor.
Most of the people on the tour bus parked near us missed the best view in the park of the caldera though I'm not sure why. You drive to the end of Crater Rim Road and park in the parking lot there. In front of you is a building now surrounded by a fence. Looking at the building, to the right of it is an observation area. But if you walk around the left of the fenced area instead, there is a path which is a bit longer walk but has a much better view of the floor of the caldera.
We stopped on the way out of the park at another overlook, but the first stop was definitely the best. We were fortunate enough to see some wild orchids though. At home you find orchids only in nurseries and hot houses. It was strange seeing them grow wild in large areas.
If we'd had more time it would have been fun to drive the 20 miles to the sea. But the road looked pretty winding on the map and our time was limited, so we left the park.
Our next stop was the Rainbow Falls, a beautiful waterfall and the most easily accessible waterfall in the area. Since it was cloudy there wasn't a rainbow. I think you need to go in the morning in any case because the sun has to be behind you for a rainbow to appear. Still it was a very scenic view.
Our next stop was at the nearby Liliʻuokalani Gardens a "30-acre park [which] showcases Edo-style gardens, koi ponds & a Japanese teahouse." It's a great location for taking pictures.
We were reaching the end of the day. Although we'd planned to go to the Farmers Market, if for no other reason than to get Elizabeth a coconut, we instead drove out to a couple of beaches which our cruise director had recommended: Richardson Ocean Park and Carlsmith Beach Park. Richardson looked good for some snorkeling and further offshore were surfers. Carlsmith looked good for just wading and cooling off. On our way to those two areas we had seen a number of other beaches and we were wondering why the tour director hadn't recommended any of those.Thinking back on it, those two locations might have been the only two with lifeguard stations. Being a Sunday all of the beaches along the coast there were packed.
We did manage to find a place along the beach road selling coconuts, though it took Elizabeth five minutes or more to find the people selling them and find a coconut that actually had some juice in it and also had some meat in it. Digging the meat out turned out to be another challenge, but where there's a will there's a way. We happened to have a spoon with us and Elizabeth was determined to have her coconut. She made good use of the spoon to dig out quite a bit of the coconut meat.
Fun facts: Although most people would recognize the eight main islands of Hawaii, the state of Hawaii actually consists of 137 islands. This includes 4 islands of the Midway Atoll, which I didn't realize was part of the state of Hawaii.This also includes the 13 islands of the French Frigate Shoals, which I'd never even heard of before. Most of the islands are uninhabited, some are underwater during high tide and a few have eroded away so much that they are now always underwater. The one island of Hawaii contains more land than all of the other islands combined.