I am finishing up breakfast in the Kamaaina Terrace at Keauhou Beach Resort, sitting across from a chair recently vacated by a young man from Washington. He just headed out to Volcanoes National Park for the day. We talked about the lava show going on up there, the hiking trials, the visitor center’s many displays and educational opportunities. Well, I did. He was quiet. I suspect he was in the military; he’d spent a week “for work” on Guam. He was the appropriate age. Had the haircut. Said “Yes, ma’am.” He also evoked a sad air about him. Whether that was due to his past or the fact that his best friend backed out of their three-island Hawaii trip at the very last minute, I don’t know. Maybe it was just that he’d opened one-too-many the night before and the decision to sleep in a hammock under the stars wasn’t a good idea, after all. I encouraged his solo venturing around Hawaii.
Around me, the tables on the open-air lanai are full, much to the delight of small birds—sparrows and Brazilian cardinals and, perhaps, an immature shama thrush—who are hoping to swoop in for crumbs when diners return to the buffet line to re-fill their plates. Families, couples, foreign accents are all detected. It’s still early for pool-goers and sunbathers in chaise lounges on the grassy yard overlooking the tide pools here. But the beach next door—Kahaluu—is already attracting snorkelers, stand-up paddlers, surfers and turtles.
Andrea—The Dude—and I went snorkeling here yesterday. Even before we’d dipped our heads under the water, Andrea called out, “Turtle.” And, indeed, there were several along the rocky shoreline. They paid us no notice, just went about noshing the particularly delectable kind of limu, seaweed, which grows here thanks to the underground springs releasing its cool, fresh water into the ocean.
The colorful and friendly butterflyfish—threadfin, ornate and raccoon—are the first thing you see when you finally do stick your face in the water. Then, the tang--yellow, orange-spined and Achilles. Even, sailfin. This whole stretch of coastline was once nicknamed the “Gold Coast,” because of its abundant yellow tang. Unfortunately, years of unregulated aquarium collecting have mined the waters of its precious color. Thankfully, a few yellow tang fish still thrive here. Eventually, the triggerfish make their appearance, Picasso and lagoon, when they realize you come bearing curiosity and not harm. Wrasse are always in the background—Christmas, yellow-tail, saddle—slicing through the water with wing-like beats of their tiny pectoral fins. I try not to stare at the Moorish idol and give other fish their viewing due, but I can’t help it. Their jet-black bands, trailing white filaments and startling orange-and-white-striped—and long—snouts get me. They seem to travel in pairs, and whenever I see a couple, I feel like I am in an art gallery viewing a striking piece of art. More along the lines of an oddity at a carnival are the stripebelly pufferfish. Unlike most of the other reef fish here, puffers are round and plump. When alarmed, they distend themselves with water and erect their sharp spines, so they look like a balloon with porcupine quills sticking out of it. Luckily, this guy was peaceful as could be and let me take a few pictures.
Most fish kept their distance but a saddle wrasse posed in front of my camera, as I tried to take a picture of an uhu, parrotfish. The Dude gave one a poke. We swam through columns of warm water—thanks to the sun streaming over Hualalai—and cool water—those springs—and emerged from the ocean with rings around our eyes—snorkel mask reminders.
Dripping water and leaving a trail of coarse salt-and-pepper sand, Andrea and I walked by a replica of King David Kalakaua’s summer cottage, situated next to what was once a freshwater pool, and traipsed right by the table at which I sit today.
What is it about snorkeling—and, especially scuba diving—that leaves me ravenous. Yesterday, I couldn’t shovel my scrambled eggs and hash browns fast enough. I went back for seconds of papaya and watermelon wedges. I filled and refilled and refilled my guava juice glass.
Today, I am more modest in my portions.
Three heiau, sacred sites, sit on the other side of the hotel. We learned about them yesterday. Two have been restored, the third is underway. The existence of five known heiau in the immediate area make historians believe the Keauhou-Kahaluu district was, indeed, quite sacred and important to the Hawaiian ali’i, royalty. An “observation stone” in Hapaiali’i Heaiu was used as a way to mark the passage of seasons. The oldest carbon-dated rocks here go back to 300 years before King Kamehameha’s time. That’s about 1410.
A visit to Hawaii Island is always a trip back in time, rich with cultural and historic information, and this visit is no different.
Now, I’m off to explore a few National Historic Parks. Did you know there are five national parks on Hawaii Island? I hadn’t realized that until just recently.
There’s Volcanoes National Park, of course, where the lava flows. Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historic Park, a 413-acre park with guardian ki’i, wooden images of gods, a home to royalty and one of the few remaining places of refuge for ancient Hawaiian lawbreakers. Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park reveals the sophisticated aquaculture practiced by ancient Hawaiians. Pu’ukohola National Historic Site presents a restored heiau, one of the largest in Hawaii, built by Kamehameha the Great in 1790 and 1791 in order to fulfill a royal prophecy and gain the assistance of the war god Kukailimoku. Connecting these four sites is the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail.