Hawaii (the Big Island), March 1998

Here are the raw notes from our March 1998 trip to Hawai'i (the Big Island), entered on a Newton on-site. We were on sabbatical and living in Burnaby, B.C. (near Vancouver) at the time. Since these notes are mostly to jog our memories (along with the prints and slides we took), they are short on poetic detail and overlong on descriptions of each meal and snack). Our kids were 5.5 (Arju) and 3 (Zuki).

12 March

We arrived in Hilo on schedule, about three, but our luggage did not make the Honolulu connection. We put kids in the rented car without car seats, and went to our hotel, the Hilo Hawaiian. It was on Banyan Drive, on a small peninsula east of the town, and our room overlooked Hilo Bay with a view of Mauna Kea.

We shopped for some basic supplies (breakfast bread, beer, coffee) & lunch for the next day. The luggage was delivered around 6:30. Dinner was at Miya's, an "authentic" Japanese place tucked away in an obscure mall: N had teishoku with tempura, sashimi & charbroiled mackerel; I had fried ahi; the kids had salmon teriyaki. Nice homey atmosphere.

March 13

Slept poorly, up very early (fiveish). I made Kona coffee using the hotel room coffeemaker, and had it on the lanai (balcony) while watching the sunrise turn Mauna Loa pink. Our room was five floors up and less than a hundred feet from the water, with views of the open ocean to the right and the downtown area to the left.

We made lunches of fish cake & bread (N & I) and peanut butter and guava jam sandwiches for kids. Breakfast was picked up at the small bakery outside the hotel (pineapple muffins & bread pudding). We left for Volcanoes around 7:30. It was an easy trip to the southeast and up; only the elevation markers told us we were climbing a mountain. In about 45 minutes we entered the park and stopped at the Visitor Center. It was cold; we all put on sweatshirts. We walked across the road and out to Volcano House (the only hotel in the park) to catch our first glimpse of the caldera, spreading out for miles and steaming at several points. On the way back to the road we passed a steam vent at close range.

We drove in a counterclockwise direction to Kilauea overlook - the road and lot were deserted, it being too early for tourist traffic. Around to Halema'uma'u Crater. In the parking lot there we all put on hiking boots and sunscreen, walked out to the nearby crater overlook, and then on perhaps half a mile to the most recent (1982) lava flow in this area. The lava was very black and shiny, jagged and piled into spatter cones along a ridge, and while anxious to take a picture with her own camera, Z fell and scraped her legs & face. It took about half an hour to hike back, through areas with smelly steam vents.

Next was Keanakako'i Crater, an older crater starting to be revegetated, with a recent lava fissure accessible across the road. I dropped the family at beginning of the Devastation Trail, drove to Pu'u Puai (a car park near the hill formed by the 1959 Kilauea Iki eruption), left the car & met them on the trail, which was about twenty minutes of hiking through the skeletons of trees killed by that eruption. At the end, I pointed out the view of Kilauea Iki crater, which we'd hike in two days.

The Thurston Lava Tube was next; we walked through quickly (it was really quite tame, like your average tourist-attraction cave). This spot had the most people we were to see anywhere in the park. Then we turned back and headed south, off the park ring road and down Chain of Craters road. Had lunch at the beginning of Napau Crater trail, where the road was cut by the 1974 flow, in a tiny bit of shade. We had plans to hike the first part of this trail later, to Pu'u Huluhulu, but eventually gave them up.

We drove further down the road, enjoying gorgeous views of the sea far down the slope, over mixed fields of a'a (jagged lava) and paho'eho'e (smoother ropy lava). The road came to an end abruptly, cut by the 1983 flow which still continues, and marked by a moveable trailer visitor centre to replace the one that burned. We parked and hiked about fifteen minutes out onto the paho'eho'e flow to see the steam plumes where lava, flowing from the Pu'u O'o vent, was meeting the ocean, about five miles off. We could see people setting off for a closer look but even if the kids hadn't deterred us, the warning posters would have.

Back to Hilo, and dinner at Sachi's Gourmet, a small homestyle Japanese place downtown: the kids had shrimp tempura, N & I had tempura & miso butterfish. Afterwards we walked around a bit, found a nearly empty restored Art Deco building housing only a cinema and a stall serving Tropical Dreams ice cream, which of course we tried. To bed early.

March 14

Breakfast on the room lanai. Sunny day. We headed out to the east, down 132 into the little-travelled Puna district. We stopped at Lava Trees State Park, and took the marginally interesting twenty-min walk through the stumpy shapes formed when hot lava met wet trees. No bugs, at least; we'd been warned about them, and had repellent ready.

Further on, the highway became one-and-a-half lanes. We stopped briefly at Isaac Hale Beach Park (no real beach) to watch the locals surfing, but there wasn't much for us to do and we felt as though we were intruding. We continued to end of road, parked the car below a large paho'eho'e flow, and started up & over it. Twenty minutes' scramble got us to a new black sand beach, with rocks down in the pounding surf. A couple of 4WDs of locals parked nearby told us we didn't take the most direct route. We sat amidst newly-planted coconut palms & enjoyed the isolation, and views of the steam plume and (up the slope) Pu'u O'o venting. This was our best view of the source of the current lava flow.

The hike back to the car was quite hot. We drove up through Pahoa and back to Hilo. Lunch was at Nori's Saimin, a boisterous local eatery: kids had ahi burger, N & I split seaweed saimin & fried saimin (saimin is just ramen noodles). This was the first time the kids had Spam (a garnish on both saimin orders); after my using the term in vain for five years, they didn't believe me when I told them what it was. The food was not as good as the ambience.

Our room was being made up, so we walked through nearby Liluokalani Gardens. They were a little sparse; one could tell there was a drought on. Finally got Z to nap. A & I sat on the lanai, used binoculars for a while, then took a walk to tiny Coconut Island, connected to the hotel by a causeway.

When Z woke up, we all went to the hotel's legendary seafood buffet for dinner. Best choices were marinated mahi-mahi (freshly sauteed) and fresh pineapple. Everyone ate well. We walked out to the island once again in the dark, then went to bed early.

March 15

Up very early, ate breakfast with Z on lanai while watching the dawn - it was cloudy, no real sunrise. Packed lunch and we were off to Volcanoes. The weather cleared some on the drive up.

We parked the car at Kilauea Iki overlook, sunscreened, and started our hike into the crater. We had a gradual descent through ferns and forest, then steeper stairs over rock until we reached the beginning of the lava, about 450 feet down. It clouded over again as we left the forest cover.

The first part of the crater floor hike was over and around great piles of tephra and pumice thrown up by the 1959 eruption. Z had to go slowly; a short way in, she forgot her toilet training and dumped in her pants. It didn't look like anything decomposed in a hurry in that terrain, so I had to bag it, pack it away, and go on. Once we were past the vent, hidden by lava fragments, the ground settled down to what looked like asphalt with mighty heaves and cracks in it. Steam rose from vents very close and also some distance away. We passed a handful of hikers going in the other direction, and were passed once or twice by single males, but there was almost no one on the trail. The kids munched on their sandwiches as we walked. The sun was obscured, even the sky was cut off by the haze, and it all seemed quite unearthly.

As we reached the far end of the crater floor, and another jumble of rocks at the edge of the forest, a light mist began to fall and cooled our ascent. We reached the Thurston Lava Tube parking lot 2 hrs 20 mins after we started. Z had not complained once about the nearly four mile walk. The kids snacked on gummi bears while I made the short hike to pick up our car.

We made a brief stop at the Jaggar Museum on the main ring road (crowded, and not very informative) then headed back to Hilo. Since it was just before lunch time, we stopped at KTA and bought some poke (marinated seafood, raw marlin Korean-style and tako, or cooked octopus) for lunch. We ate them on our hotel balcony, the kids as enthusiastically as us.

In the afternoon, I did laundry in the coin machines in the basement while Z napped and N played with A. We had a forgettable dinner at a Chinese seafood restaurant in a nearby hotel.

March 16

After my customary coffee on the lanai, we got in the car and headed north. It was overcast and periodically drizzling. We left the main highway for a 4-mile scenic drive through dense tropical forest which at times formed a tunnel of vegetation above the road. We had hoped to pick up breakfast at Ishigo's General Store in Honomu, but it seemed permanently closed, a victim of a fancier gallery/cafe nearby. We pressed on to Akaka Falls State Park, and walked the half-mile loop in the rain. The kids enjoyed spotting flowers and dew-outlined spider webs.

Back on the road, brief stop at Laupahoehoe Point, wind and crashing surf. Z was particularly taken with the story of the teachers and schoolchildren that drowned in the tsunami of 1946.

We reached the attractive town of Honoka'a about 10:00 and finally found breakfast at the Mamane St. Bakery: N & I had banana bread topped with macadamia nuts and the kids had coconut & apple turnovers.

Waipi'o Valley was a few miles down the road. The drizzle cleared and we had a good view of the mouth of the valley from the lookout, though the main part (to the south) was shrouded in fog.

Retracing our path, we drove through Honoka'a and tried to take another scenic route (the old Mamalahoa Highway) up to Waimea, but it was closed due to construction about five miles in. We eventually made it to Waimea just before lunch, and ate at Merriman's. We all had the dinner-menu sampler plate: kalua pig & goat cheese quesadillas; corn, shrimp & mac nut fritters; and fish marinated in coconut milk, lime juice, and Maui onions. Very tasty.

After a short visit to a nice bookstore, we drove back to Hilo in the pouring rain. Dinner was at Miyo's, a homestyle Japanese restaurant overlooking Wailoa Park in the tsunami zone. The kids had sashimi & sesame chicken while N & I had ahi nitsuke, tuna stewed with shiitake, green beans, and tofu. The salad was much appreciated.

March 17

Overcast morning which cleared rapidly as we drove up to Volcanoes. We headed down Chain of Craters Road to the Pu'u Loa petroglyph trail. The coast was hazy (brush fires?) and the sun periodically obscured by clouds. As with the floor of Kilauea Iki, the trail over old pahoehoe was alternately marked by piles of rock and visible as sand crushed by the feet of hikers. It took us about half an hour to get to the boardwalk trail. Most of the petroglyphs were circles, spirals, and holes, but a few figures were visible. we didn't step off the boardwalk to look for the better figures the guidebooks mentioned.

It was getting quite hot as we got back to the car, and we decided not to hike to Pu'u Huluhulu. We drove "the long way" around the caldera, and stopped at the totally overrun visitor center to buy the Kilauea CD-ROM.

We attempted to visit the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo on the way back, but gave up because of the heat, and took the kids to have shave ice at a crackseed shop in Puainako Town Mall.

Since it was A's fifth-and-a-half birthday, we took the kids back to Miwa and sat at the sushi bar. The sushi turned out to be excellent! Fabulous abalone, giant clam, freshwater and sea eel, sea urchin, sweet shrimp, salmon, tuna, yellowtail, and salmon skin hand rolls. The kids chose their own, ate well, and behaved well; the sushi chef raised his eyebrows at their orders pickled mackerel and salmon roe. It was expensive (for example, two pieces of abalone nigiri were $11) but well worth it.

March 18

Bad night: Z woke repeatedly with incomprehensible complaints, and my throat was bad. We took our time over breakfast, as this was our day to kick around Hilo. Our mood was redeemed by the Farmer's Market downtown: huge bags of ginger for a dollar, papayas three for a dollar, heaps of green soybeans still in their pods, organic salad greens, lots of vegetables. I bought Arju a lei for $5 and the seller gave one to Zuki for free.

Just after nine we headed back to the zoo. N took the kids around while I wrote travel notes. They took me back to see their favorites.

Back downtown to a nice used bookshop to stock up for A, who was going through a chapter book every day. Lunch was just around the corner, at Naung Mai Thai Kitchen - a tiny place where N & I had heaping plates of mussuman curry, green curry vegetable, and vegetarian pad thai for $6.

After lunch, we visited the Lyman Museum, which had a really good exhibit of minerals and seashells, and some odds and ends from Hawaiian history.

It was quite hot at this point. We took Z back to the hotel for her nap, and I did another load of laundry, sitting in the basement area open to the bay and doing travel notes. In the late afternoon, we drove out to the east where Hilo's rather meagre beach parks are located, not in search of sand, but in search of Hilo Homemade ice cream. The store, unfortunately, was closed Wednesdays. Back to the hotel, to walk about Coconut Island. Dinner was at Miyo's again; N & I had superb broiled/sauteed mackerel, and the kids shared a large serving of sashimi. We had our Hilo Homemade ice cream at a bakery near Miya's (ginger for N&I, mango for Z, Kona coffee for A).

March 19

This was the day we moved out of Hilo. We were up early and left the hotel before eight. All the luggage and groceries fit in the car, to our relief. We stopped briefly at Rainbow Falls, then continued on, through Volcanoes Park and along the immense southern flank of Mauna Loa. The scraggly vegetation of the Ka'u Desert gave way to macadamia nut plantations, though frequent punctuations of a'a lava, barren for over a century, continued all the way around.

We stopped at Punalu'u, the only long-term black sand beach on the island. We had the place pretty much to ourselves, and managed to spot a sea turtle in the tide pools, struggling to make open water. The kids, who had been agitating for a sandy beach since we arrived, finally got to use their pails and shovels.

After a while, the morning sun started to heat up the sand, and the tour buses started arriving. We headed out, stopping briefly in Na'alehu (the southernmost town in the U.S.) for some nice cinnamon-raisin mac nut bread we'd originally found at a Hilo grocery store.

Approaching the Kona coast, the vegetation settled down to semi-desert, and the road became windier and more prone to traffic interruptions. We had lunch in Honalo at Teshima's, an unpretentious Japanese place right on the highway. N&I had the lunch special of fish and vegetable tempura and spare ribs; the kids shared an ahi burger.

We continued on to Keauhou, a small "community" (read: three hotels, several condo complexes, and a shopping mall) and checked into our hotel, the Keauhou Beach. We had expected something faded but comfortable, with an obstructed view; to our surprise, the room was even nicer than in Hilo, and we overlooked palm trees and pounding surf.

We drove into Kona proper, perhaps five miles north past innumerable condo complexes and strip malls, then up to Kmart to get cheap "reef shoes" and to Snorkel Bob's to rent equipment. After Z's nap, we had dinner at the hotel's Hawaiian buffet. Best: tako poke and kalua pig.

March 20

This morning we were trying to do something quite popular, so we headed out first thing, forsaking the temptation of snorkelling on the beach near the hotel. Breakfast stuff at the French Bakery in the industrial zone of Kailua was pretty disappointing. We headed north.

We drove along the coast highway, through vistas of bushy kiawe trees punctuated by barren stretches of a'a lava speckled with tufts of sparse dry yellow grasses and "decorated" with graffiti spelled out in white rock: a bit more environmentally friendly, perhaps, but no less annoying than the spray-painted kind. The ocean was some distance away and below, and we could see surf crashing against the rocky shore.

We drove into the grounds of the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel and got permit #1, won for us by a lawsuit forcing public access. The beach was marred a bit by the hotel, but had lovely fine beige sand, coconut palms, and two lines of submerged rocks at which large waves broke before reaching shore. The surf was high enough, though, that we couldn't snorkel, or even let go of the children in the water. They still had a great time with the sand, and we took turns swimming.

Around eleven the shade had disappeared and we were getting quite hot. We packed up, walked up the hill to the car, and drove north to Kawaihae (a harbour with a few buildings nearby). Lunch was at Cafe Pesto. Arju was intrigued by their having won an award for best kid's menu in America 1 but in the end, as usual, she found the adult menu more interesting. We had calzones stuffed with line-marinated fish, and the kids split a sandwich with garlic shrimp, crab, mushrooms, and cheese. They ate well enough that we let them order dessert; Z insisted on ordering a creme brulee, and A had deep-dish apple pie with Tahitian vanilla ice cream. The portions were huge, though, so we got to help.

The heat did not deter us from driving to the Mauna Lani resort complex and taking a hike to see the Puako petroglyphs. It was about a twenty-minute walk (one way) winding through lava partly shaded by short (ten-foot) kiawe trees, though these were mostly dry and had wicked thorns. At the end was a large stretch of smooth rock with a number of human figures scratched in (not many "bellybuttons", as Z called them).

We needed a change of pale, so wc drove to the huge, sprawling Hilton Waikoloa (formerly Hyatt Regency) to look at their multimillion-dollar Asian-Pacific art collection, spread along an open-air (but shaded) walkway for about a mile from the main lobby. As we walked, boats and a mini-BART train passed us. This was Hawaii as theme park, hilarious in its absurdity. We took the train back to the lobby.

We headed back along the coast highway and got caught in a traffic jam just north of Kailua. I took a side road in and miraculously found parking at the only free lot in the area. We treated ourselves at Scandinavian Shave Ice and listened to the stories of the proprietor.

After a stop at Snorkel Bob's to get A a mask (nothing would fit Z), it was back to the hotel. The open-air restaurant had "Polynesian" entertainment (just a small band playing "Hawaiian" easy-listening guitar music) and the kids were fascinated. I wandered back to the back terrace overlooking the large tidepool and got a double bonus: a sea turtle in the clear water below, and the elusive "green flash" of a perfectly clear sunset, not so much a flash as a half-second of the last of the sun turning bottle-green. N, who was fifty feet away watching the kids, was not amused, especially as the conditions were never right again. We may be the only tourists this year to leave Hawai'i without a picture of a sunset.

It was Friday night and we didn't want to brave Kailua traffic again, so we headed south to Captain Cook and ate at Billy Bob's Park & Pork: big plates of BBQ chicken, pork ribs, and "shred pork" in a raucous local atmosphere.

Both kids fell asleep on the drive back, so we sat up reading guidebooks.

March 21

Up early; had an abbreviated breakfast on the lanai and headed downstairs to the beach (Kahalu'u). It was almost deserted. The kids took to the salt-and-pepper coarse sand and the gentle surges of water along the narrow channels between the rocks to the shore. N & I took turns snorkelling. It was stunning.

In water no more than waist-deep, I spotted a dozen species in the first five minutes. Needlefish, parrotfish, wrasses, butterfly fish, tangs, pufferfish, grouper, triggerfish (the infamous humuhumu nukunuku apua'a) and others I wasn't sure of. And the colours! Orange and white; yellow and white; green and blue; grey with blue iridescence; deep black with bright blue or yellow dorsal outlines; striped, banded, spotted, speckled. It was like swimming through an aquarium. Once I drifted through a school of large fish that parted to swim on all sides; I tensed for ticklish impacts, but none occurred. We agreed we had to try to show the children. I took Arju out a short distance and had her hold her breath while wearing my mask; she liked what she saw and wanted to get her own.

By about nine the kids were a little chilled, and people were starting to arrive: splashing with their fins, standing on coral, chasing fish. We went back to the room and cleaned up.

We drove a short distance south on the main highway and turned onto the old coast road, which wound north at higher elevation. It seemed we were back in the old Hawaii, or on the east coast again: lusher vegetation, quaint shacks, small local garages. Only the occasional upscale house reminded us where we were - that, and the views of the developments down the hill.

We continued along the upper slope road, with good vistas of Kohala Mountain in front of us, Hualalai to the right, Mauna Kea in between, and the thin green fringe of the major resorts by the sea. Prickly pear cacti started appearing among the lava outcrops. Z fell asleep and A read continuously.

Through Waimea, and onto the Kohala Mountain road, planted with tall windbreaks beyond which we glimpsed cattle grazing in fields. We wound down the mountain; the terrain became greener, and we arrived in the small arty town of Hawi. Some care had been taken with the storefronts, which were rustic yet bright without looking forced.

Lunch was at the Bamboo; N & I had broiled mahimahi with salad greens, and a side of Thai green papaya salad. The kids split a kalua pig sandwich, though A found the lilikoi (passionfruit) barbecue sauce far too sweet. Our salad dressing suffered similarly, a victim of the "sugar as exotic" syndrome.

After lunch, we drove east to the end of the road, at the Poholu Valley lookout with a fine view of cliffs, a black sand beach, and dunes covered with dense vegetation. In the few miles since Hawi we had moved out of the Kohala rainshadow and into rainforest.

Driving back through Kapa'au, Z spotted the King Kamehameha Statue for the second time (recognizing it from one of the free "guides" we picked up for them to draw on); while A read chapterbooks every second she could while in the car, Z spent a lot of time looking out the window.

We stopped again in Hawi for Tropical Dreams ice cream (Kona coffee for us; caramel butterscotch for A and guava sorbet, the best choice, for Z). While N took Z to a bathroom, A started reading a book on revealed Buddhist prophecies.

A few miles west, we took a very narrow, rolling, rutted dirt road to Mo'okini Heiau, a place of worship and human sacrifice commanding a great view of both mountain and sea. The walls, built of lava blocks without mortar, were better preserved than others we had seen. It wasn't spooky as the guidebooks all said, but we could feel the "mana". We were more spooked trying to negotiate the road out.

Back on the highway, we arrived at Lapahaki State Historical Park within a half-hour of its closing, and decided to skip it and head back. We drove into Kailua, found parking, and walked around the reconstructed 'Ahu'ena Heiau (now part of the King Kamehameha Beach Hotel, and the site of their weekly luaus) before having lunch at the Ocean View Inn, a distinctly downscale restaurant with the best location in town. Clearly, it predated the '70's developments.

We all had the same thing: broiled ono steak. The accompaniments were forgettable, but the fish was great, like swordfish but moister.

N tried to see the sunset from here, but it couldn't be seen through the shops, and as we followed her down the main drag it got more and more touristed and horrible. I finally suggested that they wait in a small seafront stretch while I walked back and got the car. But driving back to where they were, let alone parking, was a major ordeal. We finally all made it into the car and retreated.

We attempted, this night, to see manta rays from the bar terrace of the Kona Surf resort, to the south of our hotel. We had to park far out, and press through a large conference reception, only to find that dive boats were hovering offshore stealing the rays, and the surf was so high we couldn't see anything. So we skulked back to our hotel. As usual, the guests arriving for the hotel restaurant's buffet made it impossible to park, and we had to park across the street.

March 22

Up early and out snorkelling first thing in the morning. It was colder and cloudier than before; the kids splashed into the water and then shivered on the beach when they wanted to play in the sand. N managed to see sea turtles twice, but I didn't. On the other hand, I saw a wrasse with what appeared to be a spiny mouth. It turned out to have a small sea urchin sticking out of its jaws; when I followed the fish, it repeatedly spat the sea urchin out forcefully against rocks and sucked it back in, presumably to tenderize it. Eventually the fish swallowed it and continued looking for food.

A couldn't get the snorkel tube of the set we rented for her into her mouth properly, and was quite frustrated at our attempts to fit her mask carefully. In the end, I went out with her on my back, and she dipped her mask into the water while holding her breath. It worked well enough.

After a few turns each in the water, we called it a day, had hot showers, and decided to treat ourselves to a hearty brunch. Brunch is not normally our meal, but we're not normally out swimming before seven. We drove south to Kealakekua and the Aloha Cafe. A insisted on ordering the "Aloha Special", with scrambled eggs, sausage, a huge pancake, a muffin, and a chunk of canteloupe. N & I had fresh fish (ahi) with the usual brunch accompaniments, and Z was content with a large mocha scone and nibbling off our plates.

After a leisurely meal on the side lanai of the cafe within sight of the ocean, we continued to Pu'uhonua O Honaunau, or the Place of Refuge. This had a reconstructed heiau and a large stone wall in a very pleasant setting, with a small cove, lots of tidepools in pahoehoe, and a walk through coconut palms. The natural surroundings were more compelling than the few historical displays. Our books told us this was one of the best places to snorkel on the coast; unfortunately, the surf was high, and no one was in the water, not even the locals.

After some time spotting fish and hermit crabs in the tidepools, we headed back to the hotel. Z napped while A and I went down and did laundry. Actually, I loaded the machine, and then we sat out on the hotel's big ground floor lanai, at the edge of the shade, and watched fish in the shallow water. Most of the fish were small catfish or nondescript grey darting smelt, but we spotted a number of single specimens of different varieties, including a triggerfish and a blue-green wrasse that hung out for some time.

When the laundry was done we went up to the room. N and A suited up and headed out to the beach again, while I tidied up and worked on travel notes. When they returned, they reported that the beach and water were quite crowded, the water was often cloudy and the fish scared away by the antics of the tourists. N held the lifejacketed A beside her in the water, which worked better. Despite the less-than-ideal conditions, A was bubbling over with what she had seen.

Z slept quite late, and we headed to Kailua to find a restaurant for dinner. The first two we found were closed, which did not help our mood, as we figured that the remainder would be packed. Finally, we got in at Thai Rin, on the main drag a little south of centre. We ordered a lot of food, which turned out to be a good idea, as the kitchen was slow (as we left, people who arrived just after us were still waiting). We had chicken satay, pad thai, green fish curry, and a garlic seafood combo. The curry was a bit watered down but the other dishes were fine, and everyone ate well.

March 23

More snorkelling first thing in the morning, of course. I found and swam alone with a sea turtle for about ten minutes. There were fewer colourful or large fish than on the first day. A came out with me for a while; Z wanted to try, and I took her out and she put her face under the water a few times, but had difficulty holding her breath for long. She claimed to have seen fish, "a bunch, like a class", and later pointed out the tang on our fish ID card, which is what was swimming around us when she looked.

When more people started to arrive, we cleaned up and headed north in the car. This was to be our last northern beach day. We drove into the Waikoloa complex which contained the Hilton, but stopped before it at the shopping arcade. Nearby, on the edge of a golf course, were some surprisingly dense petroglyphs. Some, containing letters, were clearly post-contact, though of some age nonetheless. It was March break in Hawaii too, and we saw a daycamp group out on the short trail.

After that, it was time for lunch at Roy's Waikoloa Bar and Grill, in the shopping complex. This was a rather upscale restaurant, but with a limited and cheaper lunch menu. N & I had the fresh fish (bluenose snapper), which came in an ingenious preparation with the fish on top, greens just below, and rice on the bottom, a narrow tower with levels delineated by fried wontons. The kids split a beef teriyaki sandwich. Everything was quite well done.

'Anaeho'omalu Bay was just down a short road; we could almost have walked there, but for the heat. We found a sheltered place under some large leafy trees. This beach was walking distance from a couple of large resort hotels, and a favourite of windsurfers, so it was probably our closest approach to the archetypal Hawaiian beach experience.

The kids had a great time, as the bay was sheltered by a reef and the water was really calm. The snorkelling was not as good as at Kahalu'u, but had its merits: the coral was more interesting, though not as colourful as what we've seen in documentaries. I saw a fierce looking eel hanging out of a rock with its mouth open; didn't get close enough to identify the type. Also, another sea turtle. There were also a few fish we hadn't seen before, though the ones we recognized were in much smaller numbers, and clearly more skittish than the quasi-tame Kahalu'u fish.

In the late afternoon, we packed up and headed home. Zuki fell asleep on the drive back; we let her nap for a while, but got her up early and put her in the shower screaming. She had quietened down by the time we arrived at our restaurant for dinner.

A place called Oodles of Noodles in a shopping mall next to Safeway might arouse suspicions, but this was the latest venture for Amy Ferguson-Ota, one of the leaders in the Hawaiian nouvelle movement. The meal was too ambitious, however; seared ahi casserole was skimpy in its fish portion, and the "casserole" turned out to be orichiette in a cream sauce, an incongruous partner. Fresh island fish in black bean butter with fried noodles had the flavours right, but was far too rich. For once, the kids had kids' noodles, though N insisted on an add-on of grilled pork for her spaghetti.

We passed on the expensive desserts and went back to Scandinavian Shave Ice for some more messy but delicious combinations.

March 24

N was feeling poorly this morning: too much sun, salt, and cream and butter. I went out snorkelling alone, to finish off the photos in the underwater camera. It was pretty good, still not as good as our very first day, but I had some sunshine, found a turtle to photograph, and went out to the very edge of the breakwater, where I saw hundreds of zebra fish feeding on very shallow rocks, and something larger and very fast zipping through chasing them from time to time.

At one point I noticed N with the kids on the beach; they had gotten restless in the hotel room. But the tide had left the sand hard and unfriendly. I suggested we pick up some baked goods and go to a beach just north of Kona, where there might be finer white sand.

We drove up to the main east-west road heading into Kona, and stopped at a shopping mall to find a bakery called, unfortunately, Buns on the Run. We got a selection of items and a cup of coffee for me, and headed a bit further north, to just south of the airport. This was the location of the National Energy Lab, and a small local recreation area with a sand dune set behind higher rocks (against which the surf periodically dashed spectacularly) to form shallow tidepools and a few spots where the ocean surge snaked its way through to become a gentle wash.

After the kids came to terms with eating on sand, they went at the stuff with shovels and pails, while N and I relaxed in the shade of a large tree. Then we walked over the rocks to watch the surf, and joined what appeared to be a home daycare group in a small natural pool.

N was too tired and ill to contemplate lunch out, and we had an accumulated pile of leftovers in the hotel fridge. So, after dropping off our rented gear at Snorkel Bob's, and stopping by the surprisingly nice Middle Earth Bookshoppe (they have to do something about these names) for a guide to reef fish, we dropped N off at the hotel and went to a nearby KTA supermarket and also a specialty shop for a surprise, for this was Z's third birthday.

I brought the kids back; N was asleep. We tiptoed out to the lanai and had our meal. I had my last Kehuna beer, leftover pad thai, and ahi shoyu poke I'd bought at the supermarket; the kids had leftover noodles and barbecued chicken. Then we had some pineapple, and finally Z's birthday pie, a Kona coffee macadamia nut pie bought at the specialty shop (Mac Pie). A was not too impressed by this, but Z loved it, and I thought it was quite well done, considering how many bad pecan pies I've had.

Z went in to nap with N, and A and I did our laundry and fishgazing routine. We fed the fish with stale bread. A woman pointed out a sea cucumber; A spotted another one later on, which was pretty good, because they look like rocks, and you can't see them move. I spotted a flatfish only when the rocky bottom appeared to move, and we also saw black crabs and a few colourful fish.

We had heard of a "free Polynesian revue" at the Kona Surf and thought the kids might like it. It turned out to be on the same bar terrace where we had attempted manta-ray watching. The kids got to sit near the stage, while we stayed at a table farther back, which was fine with me, as it was pretty cheesy. At least most of the "talent" were kids and teenagers, and there were very few women in coconut-shell bras. I worked on travel notes while nursing a beer, and at one point we all wandered over to see the sunset, which was pretty but green-flashless.

The show ended about 7:30, and we hastened up to Kona for our farewell dinner, at Su's Thai Kitchen. Only it was full; they told us we needed to come at 5. Where were we going to eat? I didn't want to repeat the experience of being turned away, given how late it was getting. We decided to try a place where, if there were no seats, we could at least get quick takeout food.

While looking for a bookstore that morning, I had noticed a place called Kona Mix Plate in the shopping mall near Buns In The Sun. We went there; it was open; we got a table, and we were the only non-locals in the place. I had a mix plate of butterfish and fish teriyaki with mac salad and "two scoops rice": the kids split a calamari steak dinner; N had the meal she'd been wishing for all afternoon, saimin (noodles in soup). Everything was great and the staff were really friendly. It was a perfect finale.

We drove to the hotel, put the kids to bed, and packed for departure.

March 25

We breakfasted on whatever was left. I got the car from across the street and we loaded it up. We had some time to kill, so we took the kids down to the main lanai for fish-feeding and crab-spotting. Then we checked out, filled the car with gas, and drove to Kona Mix Plate for our takeout lunch for the road. They opened at ten, and we placed our order and told them what it was for.

At the airport, the check-in line was really slow, and by the time we got to the gate, the flight was full. We were offered the next flight out, which meant that I had time to buy the kids some cheap leis, which they played with and fought over for the rest of the trip. We got on the next flight, and started eating our lunch: Korean chicken, chicken teriyaki, and spice pork, all with "three scoop rice" and no salad. All the meat was grilled, nothing was greasy, and the flavours were superb. The flight attendant asked if we had extra. The flight to Honolulu wasn't long enough to finish everything, so we finished it off in the airport. We started our five-hour flight home at two; we were all sitting together, and the flight was uneventful; the kids were exemplary. We got into Vancouver before ten, retrieved our car, drove home, and put two sleeping children into their own beds.