by Bob Sparrow
I have just returned from the Big Island of Hawaii. As always, it was great friends, great golf, great cocktails, great weather . . . great time! Those who read last year’s blog about our trip to the Big Island may remember that I had planned a ‘Water Falls Tour’ to the Hilo or wet, side of the island, but no one else was interested in going, so the trip was aborted. I made a similar offer this year, and again, no one signed up, but a car was available this time and the group encouraged me to go by myself; apparently, they were looking for a way to get rid of me for half a day. So, please come join me on this mini adventure, so I don’t get too lonely.
It’s about an hour and a half drive from where we’re staying at the Hilton Grand Vacation Club timeshare in Waikoloa on the west side of the island (Kona), to Hilo, on the east side of the island, where most of the big waterfalls are. The drive takes you through the historic Parker Ranch, which at one time, with 130,000 acres, was the largest cattle ranch in, not just Hawaii, but the U.S. Yes, bigger than anything in Texas, but that’s another interesting story, maybe for my next visit to the Big Island.
The difference in weather between the two sides of the island is night and day, or rather I should say, dry and wet. Except for the lush environs of the hotels and golf courses on the west side, the terrain there is mostly dark, rocky unhospitable lava. Conversely, the Hilo side is incredibly lush green, as it gets lots of rain, averaging about142 inches per year! The reason for the vast difference in climate in such a small distance, I’m told, has to do with the trade winds and the two huge mountains in the middle of the island, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, both above 13,000 feet and spectacularly snow capped at this time of year.
OK, we’ve got the geography and meteorology details taken care of, let’s move on to why I made this trek – water falls! I’m not sure where or when I became enthralled with waterfalls, but I’m guessing vacationing in Yosemite growing up might have had something to do with it, but they’ve always intrigued me. To think that a waterfall starts out as a small drop of water, either from rain or melted snow, then unites with other drops of water as they journey to wherever gravity takes them; and when they reach a cliff, they joyously and beautifully cascade over it. What’s mind-boggling to me is that it just keeps going, never seeming to run out of little drops of water!
I headed out to the other side of the island around 7:00 am for my solo ‘Waterfall Tour’ which focused on three main waterfalls, Umauma Falls, Rainbow Falls and Akaka Falls. But I must say, when I got to the eastern coast of the Big Island, the views were breath-takingly beautiful of a rugged shoreline and spectacular foliage, the likes of which I’ve never seen – just amazing! Every time I saw a ‘Scenic Route’ This Way sign taking me off the main road, I took it. I’d be hard pressed to find anything more scenic than my diversions on these ‘scenic routes’! I stopped just outside of Hilo at a small, out of the way café, where I had the best banana pancakes sprinkled with macadamia nuts ever. I heard Jack Johnson singing “Banana Pancakes” the whole time.
I’ll spare those who aren’t interested in waterfalls, which apparently is the vast majority based on my travel group, by just saying that Umauma Falls is in a great recreation area where you can ride horses and do a zip line over the falls. At Rainbow Falls, I actually witnessed a rainbow created by the fall, and Akaka Falls, the Big Kahuna of waterfalls, is in a Hawaiian State Park and provides a scenic circular trail through the rain forest to the falls, which are spectacular . . . if you’re into waterfalls.
I was back on the ‘dry side’ by noon, and enjoying that, but with a head full of amazing images. Thanks for joining me, for your efforts please enjoy this eye-full of banana pancakes, sprinkled with macadamia nut!