The definition of paradise par excellence. The sweet smell of the South Seas. Dream beaches and palm trees, well-trained surfers, warm water and tanned island beauties dancing the hula with flowers. Lightly dressed tourists on Waikiki Beach sipping Mai Tai. The funny part about Hawaii is that these stereotypes don't simply exist in people's minds but they match our imaginations. I, however, am always fascinated by the natural attractions of Hawaii. Above water as well as underwater. In Hawaii, you will find something that can't be described with words. It is an energy, a vibe and a way of living that keeps me coming back. It must be the legendary Aloha spirit. However, the island chain has much more to offer than palm trees and water sports.
Nowhere in the world do the 4 elements play together more than in Hawaii:
Born from fire, shaped by the wind and waves. Spouting volcanoes. Snow on the peaks of 4000m mountains. 11 different climate zones on one island. And of course, rain here and there. Without rain, no lush green vegetation. Without rain, no waterfalls. And without rain, no rainbow.
"If you want good weather in Hawaii, wait for 5 minutes or walk 100 meters," says a Hawaiian proverb. In Hawaii, you will learn that there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes. However, you don't need much clothing in Hawaii anyway. T-shirts, flip-flops and swimming shorts are usually enough. Most tourists even travel in a beach outfit while hopping to another island. The first two days are always needed to wind down. The long flights, the jet lag, the all too familiar traffic noise in Germany. In Hawaii, you suddenly find yourself sitting somewhere in lush green areas, palm leaves moving in the wind above you, a cold beer in your hand, beautiful, friendly people and warm air. This is when you realize that you are surrounded by paradise.
Why am I doing this to myself? Between 17 and 19 hours of pure flight time, crowded American airports, a 12-hour time difference and the associated jet lag. Bad American food, security checks and a jungle of prohibition signs as far as the eye can see. Switzerland is beautiful, too.
I am doing this to myself because I know that the legendary myth of Hawaii and the energy of the volcanoes have a therapeutic effect. Because I quickly forget the strain of the long flights as soon as I set foot on the islands. Because I can't get enough of the Aloha spirit. Because I am looking forward to the German food after the vacation. You can ignore the prohibitions in America. You should. And last but not least, because I like to visit a very good friend. When I sit at home listening to "One foot on sand" by Justin Young with his Hawaiian falsetto singing, tears come to my eyes because I get "homesick". I guess you could say I'm in love.
My passion for volcanic islands began in 2003 when my good friend Uwe and I flew to Lanzarote during my studies. I knew that the volcanic island belongs to the Canary Islands. But due to a lack of preparation that was about it. As the plane started to land, we saw nothing but black lava fields and parched landscapes below us. This is not how I imagined my first vacation at university. During the week, however, I fell more and more in love with this island.
The Timanfaya Volcano National Park offers colours and landscapes that I have never seen before. Depending on the position of the sun, the dormant craters change colour from orange and red to purple. This fascination has not let me go until today. From this moment onwards, I had the urgent desire to experience not only dormant volcanoes but also active ones. There are hardly any opportunities to be close to these forces of the earth. Volcanic eruptions are very limited in time and difficult to plan. Not so in Hawaii...
My old school friend Martin noticed that I was not doing well mentally after my studies and the death of my mother in 2003. He emigrated with his American wife in the same year. He told me that the islands are the best opportunity that could happen to me in my situation. However, the idea of flying all around the world completely overwhelmed me and I gratefully declined his offer.
One year later, the topic came to the surface again and as I told my friend about the plans, she was full of adventurous energy and we booked our flights for October shortly after. A 32-hour long flight from Frankfurt via Chicago and San Francisco to Honolulu awaited us. The American border controls and long stays in Chicago and San Francisco, where we stayed overnight and spent a few days, were very stressful.
You feel like a potential criminal during passport control and the obligatory fingerprints (no, one finger is not enough, there must be several). The airport staff worked at a slow pace that makes you worry about missing your connecting flight. And don't you dare to stutter during the numerous questions. Why the USA, how long will you stay in the USA? And whether you want to enter the country for terrorist reasons. I would have loved to know what would have happened if I answered YES to these questions.
On the other hand, the last 6 hours from San Francisco with Aloha Airlines and stewardesses in Hawaiian blouses as well as videos about Hawaii, literally flew by. The pictures we saw on the small monitors were breathtaking. We could hardly believe that in only a few hours we would arrive in this paradise ourselves. In the afternoon, we finally head for Hawaii's capital Honolulu with sunny skies. The airport on its own is stunning. It is much smaller than the German and American grey buildings, coconut trees grow around and into the terminals. Nevertheless, everything seems very civilized and modern. We received our luggage and hugged our friend Martin, who greeted us with Hawaiian flower necklaces called Leis. This warm welcome with Leis used to be given to every visitor who arrived on the island. However, the growing tourism and associated costs have led to a decrease in this tradition. Nevertheless, you can find masses of Lei stands directly at the airport, where Hawaiian women create the flower necklaces in laborious handwork. If you are lucky like us to have friends on the islands, this welcome greeting is the start of a dreamlike stay every time.
The flight connections and times vary considerably. While the price was important to me during my first visit as a student, I prefer shorter routes nowadays. Connecting flights in Amsterdam and Seattle or the route via Atlanta has turned out to be the shortest way. I have also had the pleasure of receiving a standby ticket, with which you can only fly if there is availability on the plane. Enjoyment, however, I only had on the 1st class return flight. The outbound flight would turn out to be extremely tedious...
The first week on Oahu
On my first trip, my very good friend Christiane was travelling with me. As we boarded the flight from San Francisco with Aloha Airlines, we could hardly believe that we would arrive in paradise in 6 hours. On the displays, we saw pictures and documentation of the islands. Dreamy. The stewardesses were mostly of Hawaiian descent and served us tropical cocktails with flowers in their hair. Of course, without alcohol but with very warm smiles. One is prettier than the other. Christiane noticed my grin and grinned back. The 6-hour journey flew by and we landed in Honolulu. Coconut trees all around us. Hawaiian moms were playing the ukulele in the terminals. It was unbelievable. And my old school friend Martin was waiting with 2 flower necklaces outside. The joy of the reunion was huge.
We drove to his rented cottage in Kaneohe, where his American wife Dana was already waiting for us. The drive was already incredible. We passed the city of Honolulu with almost 700,000 inhabitants. This has nothing paradisiacal about it at first sight. But only a few minutes later, we saw green overgrown rocks, a jungle and colourful flowers. It was like being in an amusement park. We were quite dazed. Not only because of the jetlag. The evening got, as expected, more than cheerful and we celebrated until late at night on the terrace overlooking Kaneohe Bay.
The next morning, we drove directly to one of the most beautiful beaches on the east coast - Makapuu Beach. Rocks, coconut trees, body surfers, fine white sand. And it was hot. Dealing with the hangover from the night before was a challenge in this heat. So off we went into the turquoise water. The former house from the 80s series "Magnum" is just around the corner. I could hardly believe it. As a kid, I always admired Tom Selleck. What a guy. And where he hangs out. Now I'm here myself.
Waikiki - Heartbeat of Oahu
The next day, Waikiki was on our program. The heart of Hawaii. The favourite destination of the Americans. Copacabana is the most famous but also the most crowded beach in the world. Like oil sardines, mostly American tourists lie here next to each other and share a piece of sand. In between are hotels and surf stores. Still, Waikiki Beach has a certain charm. The easy-going attitude to life is transferred to the performance-driven lifestyle of a European.
The waves in Waikiki are not particularly high but very wide and break close to the beach. Perfect for beginners. After several years of avoiding this sport, I finally borrowed a longboard, which is almost two meters long. After all, the first question after my return is always "Were you surfing?". Simply paddling out and constantly lifting your head is very tiring which quickly hurts your back and neck. You sit out at sea and wait and wait.
For beginners, surfing is like playing the lottery. I have already been in the water for almost 2 hours but caught only 2 waves. The first wave went wrong but on the second one, I stood up after a short time, riding on my 2-meter board at least for a few seconds towards the beach. It was enough to get an impression of how you must feel riding the 10-meter water mountains on Oahu's North Shore. And enough to wear my purchased Quicksilver surfer shirts.
Afterwards, the obligatory poser photo at the statue of the surf master Duke Kahanamoku with Leis followed.
However, I quickly realized that surfing doesn't have the right balance of effort and success for me and decided to devote more time to my great passion, wakeboarding. The historic Royal Hawaiian Hotel, where most surfboards are rented, is also called the "Pink Palace of the Pacific" due to its pink paint. Right next door, you can enjoy salads, burgers and Mai Tais with sea views and listen to live Hawaiian music at the always crowded "Duke's".
The sunset cruise catamaran starts every evening at 4:30 pm. For 20 dollars, you get a great view over the skyline of Waikiki and Honolulu in the evening sun, plus cocktails and beer on mass. The captain and bartender are 2 fun fellows. "The more you drink, the funnier we get." A rainbow over "Pacific Manhattan", cold Budweiser and nice company. The sunset was picturesque and magical as always. So were the fireworks, which take place every Friday throughout the year. Tourists and locals sat on the beach, drinking beer out of brown paper bags and marvelling at the colourful fireworks with "Aaaahhhs" and "Oooohhhs". The sun has barely dipped into the sea when a surfer next to us took a wave and rode on it in a handstand. In the soft red of the sky and under the loud cheers of our crew. In the background, we saw the black silhouettes of other catamarans. An image that has become deeply embedded into my brain.
Located to the east of Waikiki Beach is the Waikiki Shell, a concert dome surrounded by green parks and tall coconut trees. The Kokua Festival initiated by Jack Johnson took place annually here during spring. Unfortunately, I was not born yet but I was lucky enough to experience Sheryl Crow there. The atmosphere was unique. Wonderful music, lush green nature and a view of the illuminated Honolulu skyline. At least if you put up with the American ban on alcohol and smoking on the entire grounds. For friends of tobacco and Kona Brewery's barley juice, a small wooden pavilion has been created, not larger than 30 square meters. The American ban on alcohol in public is pure irony if you have previously walked past the miles of beer shelves at Walmart, shaking your head in disbelief.
From Diamond Head to Kaneohe
Above the Waikiki Shell lies the Diamond Head, an extinct volcanic crater and Honolulu landmark. The steep hike over paths and steep stairs is exhausting but rewarding. An early start is recommended if you want to avoid the midday heat and masses of Chinese, who grin and besiege the crater rim with victory signs. From the top, you have a fantastic view of Honolulu and the mountain ranges on the horizon.
During my first hike with Martin, a Hawaiian suddenly jumped out of the bush and convinced me to buy a Diamond Head T-shirt to save the crater. Payment upfront of course. They would send the shirt to me he told me. My doubts were unfortunately limited and I gave the bushman 20$. Martin shook with laughter. My weakness for Hawaiian souvenirs would lead me to the ruin eventually, he explained to me. Still, I firmly believed that my shirt will be sent to me. It took less than a 10-minute walk from the Diamond Head to Martin's house. The shirt took 2.5 weeks. There you go.
Another tourist magnet is Hanauma Bay, a sunken volcanic crater, where colourful fish and Hawaiian Sea Turtles live. The water was extremely shallow and I cut my lower leg on the sharp reef. The blood flowed in streams. So, I got to enjoy Baywatch. Unfortunately, a muscular lifeguard saved me. Pamela Anderson was not to be seen far and wide. The beach and the reef were so overcrowded that I continued my journey as quickly as possible to the Halona Blowhole.
This is where the Pacific shows what it’s made of. You can watch for hours as the waves break and move through old lava tubes push. It did not get boring even after a long time. 5 minutes further east is one of the most dangerous beaches for swimmers: Sandy Beach. A fitting name for a sandy beach, I think. And very hot, obviously. I got so much sun that I glowed in the evening. Due to the refreshing trade winds, you only notice once it's too late. The 3-meter waves and brave bodyboarders were a joy to watch. Swimming however is not recommended here because of the strong currents and waves.
Another good spot for bodyboarders is Makapu Beach. The blue of the ocean in contrast to the green palm trees and the dark rock face was so breathtaking that I had to park in a no-parking zone to capture it digitally. I wished Yvonne was here and sent her multiple photos of dream beaches via SMS. I can’t recommend that. A few days later, I received my cell phone bill for 374€. Afterwards, I relaxed in the sun and realized with music in my ears once again where I was. Further north, you can find dream beaches like Waimanalo Beach, Kailua Beach and Lanikai Beach. Fine white sand, turquoise water and coconut palms are appreciated not only by the locals but also by tourists, families and marriage seekers. Michelle Pfeiffer too, by the way.
Another highlight of Oahu are the Kaneohe Sand Bars. Especially on weekends, the locals take a kayak or boat out a kilometre into the sea to play volleyball or enjoy a barbecue. At low tide, sandbanks are formed there, which are used as a destination for day trips.
Our 2-man kayak offered more space than I anticipated. We started with 3 people, Martin's dog Sophie, a barbeque, camping chairs and a cooler with meat, sausages and drinks. The mountains of the Kualoa Ranch appeared like an illusion in the distance.
Kauai - here we come!
After Christiane and I spent 5 wonderful days with Martin and Dana on Oahu, we move on to Kauaiwhich is the smallest but with an age of about 6 million years also the oldest of the Hawaiian Islands. It looks younger than the others because there is less tourism than on Oahu, Maui or Big Island. Due to its lush vegetation, it is also known as the Garden island . Covering an area of almost 1435 km², it offers a variety of landscapes and is home to about 72,000 inhabitants. The capital of the island is Līhuʻe with 6100 inhabitants. The area around the 1569 m high Waiʻaleʻale is one of the rainiest points on earth, with an average annual precipitation of 11,684 mm.
The rough and lush cliffs of the Na Pali Coast (translated: "The Cliff") in the north of Kauaʻi, contrast strongly with the dry west side, which is characterized by the Waimea Canyon (which is also known as Grand Canyon of the Pacific ). Most of the coast is dominated by sandy beaches with coral reefs. Poʻipū on the sunny, low-rainfall south side is the main vacation area with hotel complexes and vacation homes. This is where you can find Spouting Horn, a lava tube ending in the sea, which offers a natural spectacle if there is enough swell.
We are staying at 3 different locations for 2 nights each based on our itinerary. We spend less time driving around like this. Good planning is everything! I already booked accommodations before the trip started at Kokee Lodge in Kokee State Park on the West Coast, another place in Wailua on the East Coast and the last one on the North Shore.
Kokee State Park & Kalalau Lookout
The first stop is Kokee State Park with its impressive Waimea Canyon. The detour to the south is worth it. We drive through the Tree Tunnel, a road that passes through tall eucalyptus trees, and eventually reached the small town of Koloa. We take a short trip to the Spouting horn, an underground lava tube that causes the surf to spurt several meters into the air, like a geyser. East of the family Poipu Beach , we explore the diverse area around Mahaulepu, on whose cliffs Harrison Ford and Anne Heche in "6 days, 7 nights" jump into the sea to escape from pirates. The long beaches can be reached through coniferous forests and sand dunes, which are heated up by the sun to such an extent that I almost got blisters on my feet. In the shade of some trees, we picnicked on a deserted section of Gillin's Beach and enjoy the incredibly turquoise colour of the ocean. We saw hardly any other tourists, only a few locals met here to go fishing together.
Afterwards, we went to the Kokee State Park. The drive was fantastic with beautiful views of Waimea Canyon. If you want to stay overnight in the "cabins" of the Kokee Lodge, you should make a stop at Waimea to go shopping first.
By the way, there are multiple Waimea: One on Kauai, one in the north of the Big Island and of course the legendary Waimea Bay on Oahu's north coast.
The cabins were fully equipped with a refrigerator, a fireplace and a kitchen, but there are no shopping facilities nearby. Kokee Lodge has a restaurant which offers sandwiches but it closes in the early evening. After that, you are on your own. It is also logical to stock up on firewood during the winter months because the nights can get very cold up there. The next morning, the air feels so fresh and clear. Except for singing birds, it is completely silent, almost eerie, in this unique piece of nature.
We explored the area and drove to the top to witness the sunset at the Kalalau Lookout . It is known to be one of the most beautiful viewing points on all the islands. But since the "wettest spot on earth" is also just around the corner, everything is covered in clouds. You can't see anything. Nothing at all.
Great disappointment occurred. And then the wind started. Icy. Uncomfortable. Christiane went back to the car. That was bad luck for her. The strong gusts pushed the cloud cover aside and gave a clear view of the most beautiful cliff in the world. I can hardly believe my luck.
The green ridges of the Kalalau Valleys turn red in the setting sun. It looked so beautiful that I get tears in my eyes. I could hardly pull myself away but MUST get Christiane. I run to the parking lot and told her to get out of the car. She was in a bad mood because of the uncomfortable weather. I promised her a wonder of the world. As soon as she stood next to me on the observation deck, her mood changes 180 degrees. Like me, she hardly believed the fantastic view in front of us.
The next day, we walked through Kokee State Park for a little bit to take pictures of the colourful Waimea Canyons. Unfortunately, we already have to leave to our next accommodation in Wailua.
I only learned now that you can hike over the entire canyon and I suddenly realized that I have to travel to Hawaii at least a second time to spend more time up here.
I believe that there is much more to discover than a few lookouts that are accessible via the car...
Probably one of the most visited attractions when you arrive at the airport of Lihue since the Wailua Falls are only 10 minutes away. There are signs to find the waterfalls, you stop at a lookout and can admire them from above. It is advisable to come early in the morning or the evening hours because from 10 am onwards, masses of tourist buses stop there, masses of Chinese get off and take masses of photos with masses of Victory signs. With all those selfie sticks, the waterfalls are hardly visible 😉.
A much bigger (but forbidden) pleasure is the waterfalls from below. More about this on my following trips in the next years...
North Coast Kauai
On my first visit in 2007, Christiane and I stayed at the YMCA for 10$ per night. The large meadow directly on the beach with a volleyball court and cosy wooden huts turned out to be a cockroach nest. The whole evening, I was busy sweeping the crawling insects out of the hut. In the middle of the night, we packed up our stuff and tried to sleep on the picnic table. But even here we did not succeed because of the fascinating night sky. Due to the lack of city lights, the sky here shines twice as brightly as in Germany. Even though we only had a few beers, this view makes us feel totally drunk. The next morning, a big toad surprised me in the shower and therefore I prefered the ocean in the morning sun.
The morning in Hawaii is the most beautiful time of the day. There is something perfect about the peace and serenity ofthe archipelago. The light is magical and immerses the lush nature in colors that you rarely see in Germany. Therefore, I was out and about at 07:00 am to drive to the world famous Lumahei Beach, which I want to photograph in the morning sun without people. I did not succeed since it started to rain. I found a dry place under a rocky outcrop. My mood is as cheerless as the weather. Disappointed, I made tracks to my hike on the Okolehao Trail and I suddenly stood in bright sunshine again. The trail started at the end of the Hanalei Valley and lead me through lush greenery. I climbed steep rocks and reached the first viewpoint that offered a wonderful view over the crescent-shaped Hanalei Bay. The sweat is running down my face. Effort makes happy. Euphorically, I continued the hike. I went deeply into the Na Molokama Mountains, which offered me all shades of green. The trail took it out of me. Nevertheless, I continued to hike just below the clouds, until it became too steep and slippery for me. Above me, I saw multiple helicopters chauffeuring lazy tourists up the cliffs. 150$ for a half-hour flight? Nothing for me. I made tracks to walk the steep way back. I quickly bought a sandwich and returned to Lumahei Beach, which now appears in its most magnificent colours. Golden sand, black lava rocks and turquoise water. I still wanted to do so much but I was so tired that I lied down on the sofa at home and dozed off.
Big Island - Island hopping one last time
Big Island is the largest island of the archipelago with about 10,433 km² and roughly 175,000 inhabitants. It is also the largest island in the United States. Big Island is dominated by the Volcanism. On the one hand, there are the two neighboring Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea volcanoesand on the other hand there is the highly active Kilaueawhich was formed by a hot spot in the Earth's mantle. The next island is approaching in the south of Big Island. Located 900 meters below the sea surface, "Loihi" grows a few centimeters every year and will reach the surface in about 10,000 years. I probably won't live to see it. But I feel like a name godfather and call the island "Floihi".
Due to the long-lasting activity of the volcanoes on Big Island, especially in the south, there are numerous black and even green lava sand beaches.
Big Island is extremely diverse: spouting volcanoes, waterfalls, lonely valleys, crystal clear snorkelling bays. Growing cities like Hilo with its university, but also hippie villages like Kalapana make Big Island a special experience. Big Island gained its greatest fame as the venue for the annual Ironman in Kailua-Kona on the sunny west coast.
Volcanoes National Park
Probably the most spectacular natural phenomenon can be seen in the Volcano National Park south of Big Island in the middle of a huge rainforest. Completely ignorant, we drove along the Crater Rim Drive during my first trip to Big Island, visited the Thurston Lava Tube and circled the huge Halemaumau Crater, residence of Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of fire and volcanoes. At the edge of the crater, you can find Hawaiian lei flower chains or gin bottles, which the native inhabitants lay down to honour the fire goddess Pele.
However, more than a few smoking banks at the Sulphur Banks were not to be seen during our visit. In addition, we learned at the Visitors Center that there is no active lava flow to be found at the moment. We finally reached the Chain of Craters Roadwhich led along the coast to Kalapana until it was buried by the lava in the course of the last years.
Christiane, Martin and I spent the night in the "Volcano Hale", a rustic wooden house in the middle of the rainforest. We met a French couple there telling us that they have observed an eruption from the Chain of Craters Road. Filled with euphoria, we decided to get up at 2 in the morning. The alarm clock woke us up and we realized that it is raining out of buckets. The fog was so thick that you can't see your hand in front of your eyes. We decided to stay in bed. As it turned out later, the eruption was simply a distant glow of the inaccessible and highly active PuuOo crater.
I was disappointed to see only old black lava and my first, but still great, Hawaii vacation is coming to an end without having experienced the power of nature. As a bonus, however, a short earthquake surprised us shortly before our departure. Our breakfast plates and the chandelier shook for a few seconds. Directly under a hotspot, this is normal, he said, tells us grinning the operator of our Bed & Breakfast. Arrived at home, a view of the observatory sides of Kilauea.
It is like brushing my teeth: Every morning when I check my e-mails, I want to know what fire goddess Pele is getting up to.
Our next stop is the capital Hilo on the east coast. Big Island has 2 capitals and 2 airports. Hilo in the east and Kona in the west. In the north, it is worth it to plan a short trip to the Rainbow Falls. With the right position of the sun, there should be a beautiful natural spectacle over the water masses. However, I have not yet experienced the right position of the sun even after my seventh visit.
And so we continued in the direction of Akaka Falls, which flow through lush green forests and over 130 meters vertically into the deep. In the western town of Waimea, we visited the Parker Ranch which is the largest cattle herd in the United States. We were lucky to experience a Hawaiian rodeo. In the evening, we ate typical American burgers in a rustic restaurant. The waitress can hardly believe that I ordered a Baileys with my beer. In addition to that, there was live country music from 3 local musicians.
I was in Waimea for the first time with Christiane and Martin in 2007. He had some time off and flew to Big Island to show us the largest of the Hawaiian Islands. I was very happy. Martin discovered the announcement of an Oktoberfest on a sign. Tonight. What a stroke of luck. Christiane and I were happy to escape the German traditions for a while. For Martin, who only visits his home country every 2 years, nothing better could have happened obviously. So, for his sake, off we went to the Oktoberfest. With great horror, we watched how American villagers tap the stale beer. Not even "Maßkrüge" are available. The small plastic cups were placed 30 cm under the tap and most of the guests didn't get served more than the foam. When the word spread that we are "real Germans" we stood behind the bar ourselves shortly afterwards. Our circle of friends that evening was gigantic 😉 They can party, the Hawaiians. But they can't tap beer and fry chicken. Not even after our crash course. You obviously have to have that in your genes.
After a few miles from Waimea, you reach the Waipio Valley-Lookout. I have not seen a more beautiful and original valley on all islands. Perhaps also due to a tsunami that has flooded everything here not so long ago. During my first visit with 4-whell-drive still on the way, years later we will have to descend the extremely steep road with our hiking poles. At the bottom we found ourselves in an enchanted fresh oasis. A real Garden of Eden in green, red and pink. With almost a disturbing silence around us. Big Hawaiians, who are washing themselves in the brown Waipio River . And the smell of colourful flowers. We reached my favourite spot, where the small Waipio River makes its way through the green bush. The few inhabitants of the valley drove their quads through the water, fancy jeeps are photographed for commercials. There were also wild horses around that can be petted. I would have loved to dive deeper into the valley to explore a 150-meter waterfall. But a native Hawaiian drove his quad bike extra close to my feet and drew my attention to his private property with an "Ey man, this is private property!" The metal signs marking private property should be taken seriously and respected. But we were still blessed with a black deserted sandy beach. We decided to spare ourselves the steep climb to the lookout. We just held out our thumbs and sat on the loading area of a pickup truck a moment later. The natural kindness of the inhabitants surprised us every time anew.
Mauna Kea - highest mountain in the world
The word over 4200 meters , Mauna Kea, is one of the highest elevations of the Hawaiian archipelago, which we wanted to experience at sunrise. Measured from the seabed, it even counts as the highest mountain on earth at 10,203 meters. Because of its heavy weight, the base of the volcano has sunken into the seabed and measures a total of 17,000 meters! From Hilo, we took the well-known Saddle Roadwhich led us right through the middle of Big Island. Passing cactus fields, through the green rainforest and vast steppes, we reached the summit of Mauna Kea at dawn. We should have stopped halfway to acclimatize. However, the view of one of the most beautiful sunrises in the world made us drive straight to the top and the quick drive becomes immediately noticeable. The air is extremely thin. Martin in particular acts as if he had been drinking. The sunrise above the clouds is bombastic. I have never experienced clearer air. And it's freezing cold. I underestimated that. There is snow on the summit during winter. It must be such a special experience to ski or snowboard down the pink-lit craters at sunrise. Only an hour later, we were lying on the beach again at 28 degrees. Big Island is unique with its 11 out of 13 climate zones.
Green Sand Beach & South Point
At South Point, which is the southernmost point of the USA, I jumped off the 10 meter high cliffs with Martin in 2007. Despite the rusty ladder, which didn't look particularly confidence-inspiring and led us back up.
Nearby, the Ka Lae Green Sand Beach, a solitary beach formed of olivine crystals can also be found. It is only accessible by jeep or on foot through the hills.
And just like that, my first trip to Hawaii ended, but I'll be back! More stories about my experiences you can find here.
Photos (c) Florian Krauss