Yes, I am FINALLY writing about Hawaii. I have half a dozen draft posts about it but none of them seemed right. I was trying to divide our trip into sections: the town of Kona (meh), snorkeling (amazing), and food (double meh). Being logical and analytical about each aspect of our stay just didn’t capture the feeling because there was a lot I didn’t like about the Big Island, especially in comparison to Maui, and yet I loved it. Isn’t that what love is? Illogical, sometimes crazy, and so adept at making us blind to flaws. Love doesn’t have to make sense – it’s passionate, exciting, and more than the sum of its parts.
That’s the Big Island for you! It has a lot of downsides – the land is rocky and strange, the large towns are dull and cater to boring tourists, everything closes at 9pm, transportation options are almost non-existent, the beaches in town are ugly and dirty, and the food is, for the most part, mediocre and expensive. But on the positive side, if you have transportation out of the city, the beaches are beautiful, the water is warm and clear, and there are fish and turtles everywhere. The weather is perfect on the Kona side of the island – sunny in the morning and cloudy with sprinkles in the afternoon, every day like clockwork. And the people, like all the people we’ve met in Hawaii, are kind and friendly.
Do the few positives outweigh the negatives? Maybe it’s Hawaiian magic, maybe it’s simply the thrill of the exotic, but yes – absolutely yes.
Part of the magic is definitely in the water. We hardly set foot in the ocean for the first 3 days of our trip. When we finally tried to go snorkeling on the 4th day, we found the beach closed because of a shark sighting. Major disappointment! At that point, I was certain that Maui was my favorite island and that the Big Island could never compare. After all, our hotel in Maui was right on a white sand beach where I could stick my feet in the water whenever I wanted to, while our Big Island place (I can’t call it a hotel because it was more like a condo – more on that later) was a 15 – 20 minute walk away from a really ugly little beach with gray sand and an odd pit in the middle. The food wasn’t as good, the towns were too spread out, and even the volcano, which was cool to see because it was active, didn’t compare to my beloved Mt Haleakala.
That thinking changed the day we set visited Kua Bay. It was a beach I’d chosen to go to based on reviews, and Tim’s family had agreed to go because they’re all incredibly agreeable people. Initially, I was worried I’d made a mistake. The drive was long, parking was difficult, and there were more people than I’d hoped. But the sand was soft and the water was a stunning shade of blue, so I put on my sunscreen and jumped in… to find 3 (!!!) sea turtles hanging out near some rocks, just chilling in the surf. We snorkeled within inches of those turtles for a few hours, until someone warned us that the police would ticket tourists for being too close. We explored the rest of the beach, which was home to a few cool fish, then headed back to town for lunch at Kona Brewing Co, one of the few restaurants we really enjoyed. It was a near perfect day! Swimming so close to those turtles was magical, like being in a nature film. I thought that was as good as it was going to get.
But every day after that was better. After snorkeling in other locations, I discovered that Kua Bay was choppy with lower visibility and fewer fish than other spots around the island. It was actually a perfect beach to start with because I didn’t know enough to be disappointed! Every time I got in the water after that, I loved the Big Island more and more.
In the next installment… more turtles!