Wednesday, February 6
As promised, today was Beach Day. The kids were up, totally stoked for this. Matt packed up beach foods(remember, Cheez-Its are appropriate for EVERY sand related situation) and we investigated the assortment of beach equipment that our Costco (trademark)rental came with. So this place may have the pool of no fun, but we were impressed with the selection of shady beach gear we found in a closet. We packed up the car with two foldable chairs that could be worn as backpacks along with two boogie boards (note: we didn’t even know what you do with a boogie board, but they had to be here for a reason), and left the umbrellas behind, figuring nothing screams tourist like a rusty Tommy Bahama umbrella. Costco beach towels (you know you have them too, stop judging) completed it all.
We motored back to Hapuna Beach, which is often voted the best beach in the nation per our blue Hawaiian bible. And it was glorious – the beach was full but not crowded, a nice breeze, and white sand everywhere. Everyone had beach umbrellas (goddammit) so Matt went off to get one at the concession stand. Don’t worry, it only blew inside out three times. Nothing REALLY screams tourist like an inside out beach umbrella.
We spent a half hour caking on sunscreen, only to run into the water (washing off the sunscreen) immediately with our boogie boards, whichevery single other person at the beach had, as well. There were great waves and we all took turns,frolicking in the turquoise waves. B especially loved the boarding. We took snack breaks and re-sun screening breaks, and loved every minute of it. We cannot stress how simply fantastic this beach was – PERFECT. The only slight issue was when the lifeguard announced “would the owner of a grey jeep that has been vandalized in the parking lot please come to the lifeguard station?” Matt and every other gray rental jeep owner(dozens of us) ran up to the parking lot. It wasn’t us. But wow, we found our brethren in that parking lot as all the sunburned tourists ran to their gray rental jeeps.
We motored back home exhausted after 5 hours, and laid around the house playing on electronics, then playing games found in a drawer here (broken Trouble game, Guess Who, and “Tumbling Towers” (sad Jenga rip off where the blocks don’t line up right)). We got take out from Big Island Fish and Chips, which had excellent food. The kids tried calamari and we enjoyed some Volcano Shrimp.
A wonderful relaxing day, with only slight sunburns!
Beer drank: Big Island Overboard IPA, Kona Brewery Kua Bay IPA
Miles driven: less than a dozen, just to the beach
February 7, Thursday
Originally the plan was to hit the beach again today, then go for a waterfall drive on Friday. Looked like the weather today though had a slight chance of rain, and thus we decided to save the beach for Friday, before the threatening winds and flooding started (a topic for another day).
Thus, we decided to head up to the north west corner of the island, north of Hilo. We drove up over the central and northern part of the island through Waimea. This is an interesting part of the island –this used to have the largest privately owned cattle ranch in the US, with just under ¼ million acres owned by a single person. It now still has lots of grazing, and lots of random buildings emblazoned with the name of the greedy family that owned all of this and then pitched a fit when their wealthy ancestor decided not to leave it to them. They sound great!
Anyway, we continued driving until we hit the north east coast, then drove up to the Wai’pi’o Valley. This is at the end of a road and has huge cultural significance for Hawaiians, with important decisions made by kings in this valley. A huge tsunami wiped out most of the population early last century, and this beautiful valley is now mostly populated by hippies and crazy people. The only road down into it has a 25%grade and is one of the steepest roads in the country. Apparently you can die on it – we decided just to look at the overlook. We will come back another day to hike it! Maybe when the kids are older and able to actually follow instructions. They were more interested in the random cats hanging around the parking lot anyway.
We continued on down the coast, enjoying the waterfalls and gorges, and stopping at A’kaka Falls – it is a gorgeous waterfall (there’s actually a few there and this is a state park) and we walked through grounds full of beautiful tropical plants (a display of all of the house plants that we have killed through the years back in Wisconsin).
We then steered down a remote road near the sea just north of Hilo. There it was, Just Shakin’. The best goddamn smoothie place in the entire world. Yes, that’s right. Matt and Sarah had smoothies and nachos there 12 years ago, and have spent the last dozen years recreating both of those delicious items. Was going to this fruit/smoothie stand the sole reason Sarah wanted to go back to Hawaii? Maybe. It doesn’t matter anymore because we are having a great time! But shit just got WAY BETTER when we pulled into the tiny parking lot. The vacation can end right now, because it can’t get any better.
While we were dining and laughing at everyone back in Wisconsin getting snowed and rained on, we were approached by a couple of guys. They asked where we were from, and what are the chances, they were from Wisconsin! The older man used to be a prof at UW-Whitewater and now lives in Missouri, and when we told him we were from Waupaca, he was like “Oh, the Chain O Lakes!” Wow. Then his son (late 20s?) came up and lives in Verona and works at Epic, as does his wife. You can’t make this shit up. Him and Matt were exchanging which teams they worked on. Then we all cackled about the weather back home together. (Note: the weather wasn’t any better in Missouri either).
We then continued on. Sarah stopped caring about life after her smoothie, so Matt wanted to forge on to South Point, the southernmost place in the nation. Meanwhile, the kids started crying about wanting shave ice. Note: When you are driving from Hilo on the east side, then through Volcano, then down to South Point, then west up through Captain Cook then to Kona, there is NO SHAVE ICE between Hilo and Kona. There is nothing at all. It is the end of the world and you are falling off the edge. We drove down some desolate road off the main highway for 12 miles to get to the edge of the Earth. There were guys cliff jumping into the ocean. If you don’t get out of the water, the current will carry you to Antarctica. Weirdly, that didn’t stop the kids from standing too close to the edge on a boat hoist while Matt swore under his breath the whole time.
We rolled into Kona exhausted and made our way to Scandinavian Shave Ice. Our first choice was closed and Yelp sent us there instead, and it was really good (despite the strange name)! You get a scoop of ice cream wrapped in shave ice. Everyone was happy. It was over. Our horrible long journey was almost over. We dropped by the brewery for some crowlers and appetizers to go. The kids were fighting and yelling about getting dessert. WTF, the shave ice, kids. YOU JUST ATE IT.
Then we headed back home and collapsed. Kids got tucked in, and Sarah made her way into the shower, only to discover a gecko in the shower window. INSIDE the shower window. Just like at home, Matt had to get a newspaper and glass to trap something and release it outside.
Beer drank: We’ve upgraded to crowlers now… Kona Brewery Gold Cliff IPA and Black Sand Porter
Miles driven: >200
February 8, Friday –last full day
The votes are in…. this last full day was the best day of the trip. Well, Sarah’s vote is in and since she is writing the majority of this, it is the vote that counts. Today we swore to the kids that we would goto a WHITE sand beach and frolic in the waves again. We thought we would try the Mauna Kea beach – it was one mile down the road from Hapuna – they only have 40 spots in the parking lot so you have to get there early. We got there at 9 am and it was full already! Fine, we’ll slum it again at Hapuna (stupid best beach in America and all – and at least they have a lifeguard – Mauna Kea does not).
We roll in and notice that the waves are super high and a lifeguard is holding four signs. We sat there, fingers crossed, as he looked over his sign collection, and then put up the “dangerous shore break” and “high surf” signs, and laid down the “no swimming” sign. Yah! Matt went over to talk to him, and he said it was likely fine, just to be careful and stay on the breaking side of the waves,not to go out beyond them as there were dangerous riptides. Done! (Every so often the life guards would announce the surf dangers to everyone and remind them that this beach was #1 in the state for neck &spine injuries).
The beach filled up again, and the sun beat down on us. The waves were amazing – the boogie boarding was even better than the other day. We brought our own broken umbrella this time instead of renting one (Tommy Bahama has a literal monopoly on resort and beach furniture here). We spent SIX HOURS playing in the surf. We saw whales in the distance. Sarah got knocked over while boogie boarding and lost her hat and sunglasses, but managed to get the hat back. When she stood up laughing, the woman standing next to her said “This is SO GREAT!” Yes, yes it was. We cannot tell you how awesome this beach is.
We stumbled back to the car (no announcements about vandalized gray jeeps today) and made our way back to the villa for showers,then decided to drive the 30-40 minutes down to Kona to hit up the Kona Brewery. We had been enjoying their beers all week and friends had told us the food was pretty good. We did enjoy their appetizers last night as well.
We loved the brewery! We sat outside amidst tropical plants, they had the BEST music playing (some kind of classic rock playlist), and we did a couple of tasting flights and Sarah give two thumbs up to their hoppy red, Sail Away Ale. Kids had pizza and Pig in a Blanket, Matt had some kind of Hawaiian Pizza, and Sarah had mac and cheese. Dessert was fantastic as well. The atmosphere was really cool and it was hopping. The bar area inside looked fun too, but outside there were lots of families and groups of older people dining.
We piled into the car exhausted (after purchasing some merchandise, of course (speaking of, do you call can holders cOOzies or cOzies? Because the only people who we have ever seen call them can cozies are located in Superior WI (a very unique dialect) and the Big Island was no exception)).
We drove home after a Target stop for new sunglasses and copious amounts of chapstick (that salt water does a number on your lips and skin), only lightly bickering because we were all so tired.
Beer drank: all. We drank it all.
Miles driven: not many? Between the beach and the brewery. That makes it sound like a great day. Which it was.
February 9-10,Saturday/Sunday – the longest day ever
We awoke sadly – our last day here. We cleaned and packed and enjoyed some macadamia nut and banana covered waffles from Big Island Fish and Chips along with a bagel with salmon and lox. It was all fantastic.
We motored out and checked out of our condo, leaving sand all over the bathroom like the messy people we are. The goal for today was to stay busy until our flight at 8:30 pm. We motored north along the Kohala Coast, hoping to see the big waves that were coming in. We went to a tranquil beach park that you usually can snorkel at and watched the waves splash up over our car.
We headed up to the Pulolū Valley – we had hiked this 12 years ago and almost got trapped in the valley when the tide came in and the beach flooded. Good times. When we hiked out, we passed by some lovely militia men heading into the valley and their large collection of firearms, covered with blankets. They were friendly and said hi. Today, we enjoyed the views and there was no way we were hiking in with the kids. We were going to be flying out at night in 8 hours, and besides they see enough militia men and weapons in Wisconsin as it is.
All the kids did all morning was complain about wanting things: Noah and Matt – didn’t care; Braden – more damn shave ice; Zoe –brownie ice cream sundae (because the boys had those at the brewery); Sarah –smoothie and restroom. Well, we found the Fresh Off the Grid food truck and port o potty just down the road from the valley! It only served smoothies, shave ice and brownie sundaes (in the weirdest of coincidences). Everyone was happy.
We passed through Hawi on our way back – the Big Island is where the World Ironman Championships are and Hawi is the turnaround in the middle of the 112 mile bike course. We saw tons of bicyclists (all in dorky outfits) all along this highway – the entire way stretching down to Kona – for the entire week we were here. We think a lot of them came to experience the course in the off season. Sarah expressed her 5 year plan to compete in the Kona Ironman to Matt who laughed openly,noting Sarah hasn’t done even a sprint triathalon in 4 years and hates hot temperatures (note: also Sarah’s sun allergy rash appeared today too).
We headed down to Kona and now we were just restless. We went shopping so the kids could pick up keepsakes, and then we ate McDonald’s in a parking lot. We went through the drive thru then ate in their parking lot, and then after Matt determined there weren’t enough leftovers from the kids for him to eat, he had to walk back into get a meal for himself. Stay classy, Durst-Kolinski family!
We then motored to the airport, with Matt leaving Sarah and the kids and all the luggage there while he returned the car, which seemed to take way longer than it needed to. The shuttle driver from the car rental place was originally from Door County who quickly gave Matt his life story on the way back to the airport along with a Hawaii weather update. We all changed into winter clothes (sigh) then went through security. We dined in the open air airport while the news was on – 60 foot waves would be hitting Oahu in a matter of hours, with gale warnings and warnings about all coastal and valley areas flooding. The governor issued a warning to anyone attempting to go in the water. Definitely time to leave!
We flew from Kona to Denver on the red-eye, and we were so impressed with how the kids did! Upon taking off and the cabin lights dimming, Zoe looked around, and slipped her sleep mask over her eyes, and passed out in her car seat and slept almost the entire way. Braden slept for three hours and then insisted on watching a movie on the plane’s entertainment system. We then ate breakfast in Denver and boarded a plane for Chicago. Then had coffee in Chicago and boarded the plane for Appleton. Us parents got no sleep at all but survived okay – and upon landing in Appleton, Grandpa Bob was there and helped us clean all the frozen ice and snow off the car! Another successful trip. Good god, so tired.
Beers drank: Matt had an IPA on the airplane, Sarah had beef jerky and hummus. There weren’t a lot of options.
Miles driven: we forget because our brains are scrambled.