Monday, May 30, 2016

Last Day in Kona 2016

Temperature, 86 degrees, sunny and beautiful

The plan was to get up super early and spend the day on some beach before our late night flight out of Kona to Seattle at 10:50PM.  We didn't wake up until about 7:45 and then rushed to get some beach stuff together.  The weather forecast was supposedly not very good but it was sunny in Kona so we decided just to stay at our place for the day.

We started out with a nice outing to the pool where we met some interesting people, including a sugar daddy and his "trophy" wife who lived at Kona Reef full time.  Oh my, she was a piece of work.  She had pink lipstick, high heels, and gold full forearm wristlet gold thingys.  She was dancing by the side of the pool by herself.  Hilarious!  But who am I to judge - God love her!  She lives looking out at the ocean daily and owns her own dress ship in downtown Kona and gets to dance by the pool daily.  Dreamy.

After a couple of hours at the pool, we decided to hit the beach next door to our place.  We staked out a nice spot and sat in the sun for a couple of hours drinking POG and Meyers rum with a couple of beers mixed in.  This is the same beach where all the surfers and boogie boarders start from and there are rocks in the beach line so hard to swim.  We tried but I saw urchins and didn't want to get stung again.

We then decided it was time to start packing a bit but we wanted to hit one more beach at sunset and then maybe a drink with Danny and Kanoe if we can fit it in.  We packed for a while and then headed south just a couple of miles on Ali'i Drive to Magic Sands Beach.  Arrghhh - why did we just discover this the last day!  The sand was perfect and the surf was so fun.  We body surfed a few waves until done had me to a complete cart wheel underwater and I decided probably not a good idea to stay out and chance getting injured.  We watched part of the sunset here and then decided to watch the rest from our Lanai.

We landed back at Kona Reef for the last time and caught the tail end of our last Kona sunset for a while.  We'll be back.  Spent the next hour or two packing and talking about what a great time we had on our trip to Kona.  Off to the airport.  Said to drop off the convertible mustang and then on the 10:50 flight to Seattle.

Arrived to 56 degree cloudy weather at 7:25AM PST on Sunday the 29th.  Good to be home?

Mantas! .......and a full beach day

Temperature 85 degrees, mostly sunny

Today we decided to finally head south to a snorkeling beach called "Two Step".  It is called two step because there is no beach entry but rather two entries from the lava into the water via two steps in the formation.  Pretty cool.  We had gotten there pretty early - around 8AM and were glad we did as the place really filled up throughout the morning.  We had a nice spot on the sand and there was this really cool heron type of bird chilling in front of us most of the morning day.

The snorkeling was pretty darn good and I can see why it would also be a good dive site.  The reef is in good shape and slopes down to the sand about 100 feet of depth or so.  Lots of healthy hard coral and fish to go along with it.  We saw many pipefish and three turtles.  Finally, my first turtles of the trip and I see them snorkeling!  I also spotted two octopus who looked as if they were getting frisky.  The one - probably the female came out of the shadows of a large piece of coral and dragged male part way under.  They were attached.  Ah, octipi love.  There was a gal from Austria sitting next to us who snorkeled before us each time and she mentioned she saw a spotted eagle ray while she was out there.  We went out again but didn't see much the second time but it was still lovely.

Had a date with a two tank dive at 4 so we slowly made our way back to town via a stop off in South Kona where a guy was cooking Huli Chicken and Ribs.  He must have had 100 full on chickens with 30 racks of ribs turning on this massive smoker.  We got two combo plates, a loaf of banana bread and went to town.  So good!  Most tasty chicken I think i've ever had.  The spices were unreal.

Made our way to Kona Reef to get some different clothes for our dive.  Then to Kona Dive Company to settle up, say our good-byes and buy some gear.  Then made our way to the harbor to meet up with Big Island Divers for our two tank manta dive.

Met our dive mates and our Captain Michael and DM's Sarah and Kelly.  Kelly would the DM of the advanced group in which we'd be diving with.  We headed south to dive in front of the Sheraton which is the other dive place instead of the airport where we dove earlier in the week in search of mantas.  We had trouble finding the mooring ball which cut our first dive short.  However, we saw four different mantas on that first dive!  So beautiful gliding through the water.  Only a tease for what we were about to see later.

Got out of the water to a beautiful Kona sunset.  What a nice way to climb the ladder back into the dive boat!  We then got prepped and ready for our manta dive.

We left the boat and went down at about 7:35 after a nice briefing with some corny jokes from Kelly.  We headed towards the "campfire" to find that there was too.  We circled around to the larger one and found our spot.  MANTAS!  Mantas everywhere!  They swooped, glided and barrel rolled all around us gulping up the plankton that our lights were attracting.  We couldn't believe how close they got to us.  We were told not to touch the mantas but apparently the mantas were not told to not touch us.  Both Carrie and I got bumped several times.  It was magical.  Such awesome animals.  All total there were 8 mantas including Big Bertha who is 13 feet wide, Lefty who is missing his left _______ fin and Chloe, Amanda and a few others _______________.  I got stung pretty badly by a spiny sea urchin about halfway through the dive and reached down to pull about 15 tines out of my ring finger.  It hurt but it wasn't going to end this dive.  No way!  Too fun!  We had quite a show.  Easily the best dive I've ever done in my life.  We swam away after about 45 minutes back to the boat.  It was fun swapping stories of what each person experienced when back on the boat.  What a fantastic evening of diving and being blessed by interacting with those beautiful creatures.

Went to bed that night floating like we were still being cloaked by mantas.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Long Range Diving

Temperature 84 degrees, mostly sunny - beautiful day!

Today Carrie and I had what they call a long-range dive charter which is a three tank dive to some more obscure and unusual dive sites up north.  Carrie was unable to go however as she was having ear issues.  I ended up going and had a fantastic day of diving.

I dove with Gus and Salina from the Bay Area and Kerry (dive shop owner) was our DM.  She was great to dive with.  I think most of my dives were near 90 minutes!

We first tried to dive a site called Touch of Grey but the current was ripping.  Too bad - the viz looked incredible!  Apparently Jerry Garcia put up the money back in the 70/80's to put in the mooring balls around the island to save the reef from anchoring boats.

We went to Kua Bay instead which they said you can only dive from May-October as the winter swells just pummel the beach.  There is a bunch of sand between the coral heads so the contrast is quite stunning.  All kinds of cool things to look for in the sand.  We also saw a bunch of big moray eels, a viper eel, an undulated moray eel and a lot of other cool stuff.  Very, very relaxing dive.

We saw a couple of frog fish on the second dive site called the Black Hole as well as a bunch of juvenile wrasse which are spectacular.  They call it the Black Hole because there is a lava tube that runs straight down from about 60 feet to 85.  I saw a nudibranch in there but now much else.  I never do care for diving lava tubes much.  There was also a leaf fish which I hadn't seen since Kosrae so that was cool.  A very fishy dive with at one point a large school of pyramid butterfly fish hanging out with us.  There were also these fish (can't recall the name) that school around the antler coral and they literally chirp at you when you get close.  It was really neat to have 40 fish trying to communicate with me.  I'm sure they didn't appreciate me as much as I did them.

The last site we dove which was by the airport was called Hoovers Tower.  It was a nice fun relaxing dive with the hopes of seeing dolphins as we saw them while mooring.  And sure enough - they came and swam with us for about 5 minutes.  It was magical.  Such majestic animals.  So glad I got to spend some time with them.

Got back to the marina and had to wait for Carrie so went to the Harbor House bar and had a couple of ice cold coors light "schooners" which are 18 oz.  In college, schooners were 8!  Carrie finally met me and she had a beer and we shared some edamame.  We made our way back to town and stopped in at the Fish Hopper restaurant for some pupus and beer.  The coconut prawns were delicious as was the Ono salad served with tortilla chips.

I needed a shower, took one, and then we walked to town for some dinner.  We were both so tired at that point that we only made it as far as Humpy's.  Carrie got pizza and I got a Kalua pork calzone.  They were just ok.  There was a jam band playing next door at Laverne's so the music was great.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Helicopter Ride

Weather - cloudy, 78 degrees and humid.

Today we had scheduled a 45 minute doors off helicopter ride out of Hilo to see the volcano up close.  As we called to reconfirm they asked if we wanted to fly out of Kona instead for a 1 3/4 hour ride around the island including the volcano for only $100 more.  So, we said yes!  Plus we didn't have to drive far so we had breakfast at Bongo Ben's (which was surprisingly pretty good) and then headed to the airport.

We checked in, paid - got on a scale to give flight weight and waited for our safety briefing by ground crew member Jamie.  Our captain Ryan then came in to let us know the flight plan.  As there was weather on the island, we would do a different route along the beaches south of Kona instead of up over the top.  Oh bummer, our 1.75 hour ride just became 2+!  Flight departure:  11AM

Our fellow passengers were "Passenger Ryan" and his three kids Snow, Archer and Laila; ages 12, 10 and 7 respectively.  Very cute kids.

We climbed aboard our Bell 407 aircraft and strapped in.  Carrie got the copilot seat!  What a thrill.

We took off which was a strange feeling having never flown in a helicopter before.  So fun!  We flew south along the Kona coast and saw some beautiful beaches from the air and the topography including mac nut farms, coffee farms and a few cow pastures thrown in.  We flew past South Point where Ryan confirmed that is the best jump on the island.

After rounding the south corner we flew up the face of Mt. Kilauea which we had just visited by car days before.  We were not able to fly over the main cauldron Halemaumau Crater as the cloud cover was too low and we have to be at least 8,000 feet over per restrictions.  Oh well we headed to the East Rift zone where lava was FLOWING!  Yes, we hit the lava lottery.  It was like a bunch of fairly fast moving creeks of reddish black lava.  Our pilot said "no joke" this just started yesterday and hasn't been this good in over three years!  What a treat.  I had only seen the slow moving stuff on TV but this was fast moving stuff.  We flew over the cauldron of the vent as well where I was able to see a billowing bubble blast of red hot lava.  You could actually feel the heat in the aircraft!  There was venting steam and sulfur dioxide all over the mountainside.  Much more thrilling than I ever expected!  As we flew away from the mountain a sulfur dioxide tornado formed and we fly right be it - probably within 150 yards or so.  The kids and Carrie were excited too.

After the excitement we made our way over Hilo town and on to the north Kohala coast where we saw some ridiculously amazing waterfalls.  I mean - two of them were 2500 feet long!  We approached them at 1600 feet and our pilot said "we are at 1600 feet and you can't even see the top".  So lush, green and beautiful.  We flew over Polulu Valley where Carrie and I had hiked in the week before.  About this time poor little Laila kept saying she "wanted to go home".  She was so tired.  It was time to head home anyway and we made our way over Hawi and down the north Kona coast.  Ryan pointed out all of the beautiful resorts and beaches along the way.  I was trying to make points of all of the beaches (which were good for snorkeling, eating, drinking, etc.) but too many to track.  Landed back at Kona airport at 1:10PM so over two hours in the air.  Ryan was great so we tipped him well.

How do you compare to an experience like that?  Well, you don't.  You go back to town, have a wonderful Ahi poke at TK's noodle house (Carrie had Loikani Chicken) and then a nap by the pool!  Carrie went shopping and I caught some great ZZZZzzzz's.  The surf was up so I fell asleep watching the guys catch some pretty big waves.

Had dinner at Jackie Rey's Ohana Grill - was supposed to be fine dining but it was just ok.  The fresh catch was Ono which is hard to pass up so Carrie had hers breaded in rice flour and the presentation on the plate was very pleasing.  I got the grilled Ono and it did look good but was way overcooked so I sent it back to the kitchen.  The next bit that came out was undercooked but it was fine - I like raw fish!  The ambiance was cool - kind of like a classed up surf scene.

Beach Day

Weather - 84 degrees and quite sunny through most of the day with some clouds and rain in the afternoon.

Today was a designated beach day so we headed north to Beach 69 which is just north of Hapuna Beach.  Great beach with lots of shade which was dearly needed by me.  We did a little swimming and had brought some Meyers rum and POG (passion, orange, guava) juice and had a couple of cocktails.  That led me straight to a nice nap under a tree while Carrie set her chair up near the beach searching for shark's teeth:

It started to rain around 3PM and we had enough sun at that point anyway so we headed back to Kona.  Stopped and got a couple of beautiful filets on the way home, went on a nice short walk and went to Huggo's to enjoy a beer and another amazing Kona sunset.

Dinner was excellent, again.  The filets were so tender and the grilled zucchini was spectacular once again.  Played some romantic piano music on the bluetooth speaker and had some wine.  Epic dinner..

Tomorrow we fly!

Manta and Black Water Dive Day

Weather - 84 degrees and mostly sunny

Today we had to switch condos from D16 to D25.  We kind of lazily packed, went to the pool and then made the swap at around 11AM.  What a difference.  D25 is SO MUCH nicer.  Darline (the owner) has thought of everything you could possibly need to make a condo vacation great and then some.

We packed up the car with beach items and went to Hapuna Beach up north by Waikoloa and Mauna Kea.  Beautiful white sand beach.

Had a couple of beers there, took a short nap and then decided to head back to Kona in preparation for our Manta Dive and my Black Water Dive.

We met our dive boat, the Honu Iki, and our dive master Leo (pronounced Leauu).  Nice boat - lots of snorkelers on board for the Manta experience and 6 divers.  We headed north by the airport to Garden Eel Cove.  We had a videogropher on board (her name was Rian) who studies mantas so it was great to listen to her talk about the species.

Arrived just before sunset and tied up to another Big Island Divers boat and had our dive briefing.  Basically, go down 30 feet - sit around the "campfire" and watch the show.  By campfire I mean the collection of lights that each dive company brings to make an underwater auditorium.  So, we waited and we waited.  Plankton all over my light but no Mantas.  HUGE BUMMER!  We got skunked!  Oh well, we'll re-book for later in the trip in the hopes to see them in action.

Brought the divers not doing the black water and all of the snorkelers back to the marina to drop them off.  That included Carrie.  I was on my own to do the black water dive with three other divers and our DM, Leo.  Had our dive briefing on shore while we looked at pictures of what we might see out there.  We then headed out into the darkness, about three miles off-shore in 10,000 feet of water.  Yes - almost two miles deep!!!!  And I was going to attach myself to a single line at 50 feet with nothing but blackness under me?  You bet!  And I was so glad I did this dive.  SO COOL!  It was like what I imagine outer space to be or something like that.  We were in meso and bathypelagic soup with all sorts of wild looking creatures.  Much bigger than I expected.  All so beautiful refracting the light from our lights.  Blues, greens, oranges, yellows.  But transparent.  It was a bit disorienting so I kept turning my light off to re-orient myself under the boat and continued to watch the show float by.  We saw one thing float towards us that looked like some sort of long glowing snake or something.  And when I say long - Leo described it as "crazy ass thing" he'd never seen before and "as long as I was".  He's probably 6'4" so this thing was HUGE!  There was too much to look at - over stimulating almost.  I really enjoyed this dive.  Made it safely back on the boat at 12:05AM and headed back home.  Whew - I was pooped!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Great day with Danny, Kanoe and Nevaeh

Weather all over the map from warm 86 degree sun to 46 degree clear skies over the saddle road between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea - with the top down and the heat on high of course!

Today we spent the day going to Volcano with Danny, Kanoe and little Nevaeh.  What a sweetheart she is!  We went to pick them up at 8:30 but found that our little convertible was too small for the five of us so we decided to use two cars.

We drove down the Kona coast to beautiful sunshine.  We first went down by Captain Cook to a bay called  Kealakekua Bay

and Danny, Kanoe and I jumped in.  The entry was a little hairy but the water was great.  Bright blues all around!  The area around this place was full of little coffee farms and nut farms.  Beautiful countryside!

Just a few miles to the painted church and checked out that out for a bit.  Very small with an altar that reminded me of St. Bonifice in Uniontown.  The whole church was made of wood and is painted on the inside with all sorts of murals, etc.  The grounds, view and cemetery - all amazing.

South Point: which is a stunning point through pasture looking out at the vast Pacific Ocean.  It is actually the southern most tip of the United States of America.  The blues in the water were vibrant.  There is a 40 foot cliff off the end of the US that I just had to jump off.  Didn't take much nerve to do it as I was more worried about the ladder coming back up than I was the jump itself.  So, I jumped.  It was fun.  I swam around just a bit at the bottom and then up the ladder which did in fact kill my feet (thin metal bars) and gave me a nice arm workout.  Was so fun though!

We then went to Punalu'u Bake Shop for lunch.  Had some very yummy pork with rice and mac salad.  The Hawaiian sweetbreads were very good.

We then drove to a black sand beach and snapped a few pics - looked for turtles and found none.

Finally - on to Volcano! We had spent 7 hours exploring already and hadn't made our final destination yet!  Island Time!  We drove up the mountain and into Volcanoes National Park to beautiful sunshine.

Then once we finally got to the top and the crater entrance - we hit rain.  We spent a few minutes at the visitor's center getting maps and figuring out what we wanted to to.  We drove along the crater rim to the Jagger Museum which overlooks the crater of Mt. Haleakala.  Way bigger and more spectacular than I expected.  We could see the steam rising from the molten lava bubbling in the cone.  Very Cool!  We listened to a brief presentation on lava rock, how the islands were formed, etc.  Quite interesting.  After that we drove along the crater to some steam vents to feel the heat coming out of the volcano and then to a giant lava tube in the middle of the fern trees that we were able to walk through.

Off to Hilo in the rain for dinner at a little hole in the wall noodle house that Kanoe and her family used to eat at during volleyball tournaments.  We had saimin which is like ramen noodles.  The broth was yummy after being up at the volcano and getting a little wet and chilled.

Carrie and I drove the saddle road back to Kona with the top down and testing the performance of the convertible mustang we rented.  I think I topped 100MPH twice.  So fun!  The stars were amazing and we had the road to ourselves.  What a blast.

Back to Kona at 10:45 and in bed.  Tired from an active and great day!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

First Saturday

83 degrees, mostly sunny - not quite as warm, thank God.

Moonrise from our lanai......

Had another set of beautiful dives this morning.  Our first dive was to Pyramid which was out on the point north of town.  A fairly surgy dive as were right up against the rocks.  A few octos out and about playing which was fun to watch.  Dive time:  78 minutes, max depth 68 feet.  

Our second dive was right by the harbor as we had a lady diver who had ear issues so we had to take her back to the marina.  It was an exciting dive as we saw a Tiger Shark while leaving the harbor so there was a good chance to see her under water!!!!!!!!  The one thing I want to see while diving in Kona is a Tiger!  Lots of fish - like we were in an aquarium on this dive.  But I was on the hunt for the tiger shark so I didn't see much in the way of small stuff.  We did spot a pod of dolphins out in the channel which was fun.  First time ever seeing dolphins under water.  And, no tiger.  :-( Dive time:  79 minutes, max depth 66 feet.  Others on our boat did see the tiger though - one guy was taking photos of something small and swam ahead to rejoin his group and she swam right in front of him.  Thrilling!   He estimated size to be 15 feet long so take off the customary 25% and you get about 12 feet.  Still huge! I guess we did see her from the boat - so I did see a tiger shark.  I'm sure she saw me under water anyway.

We came back to the condo and Carrie wanted to go to the little market in downtown Kona.  I showered and fell asleep upright in the chair on the lanai while she got ready.  We headed down there and she bought a dress each for her and Hannah and also a couple for Reyhna and Aria.  I loaded up on papaya, mango and some veggies.  I then went to the store to get some fresh Ahi.  Yummy Willamette Valley pinot noir with seared ahi, fresh papaya, avacado, grilled zucchini and grilled chiabata bread.  What a meal!  Best meal we've had yet!


In bed at 8:30.  Sheesh!  Spending the day with Kanoe, Danny and Nevaeh tomorrow.  Going to Volcano and other stops along the way.  Should be fun.

Saturday, May 21, 2016


89 degrees, mostly sunny - hot!

Woke up to cloudless skies - beautiful morning!  I went for a short 1.5 mile walk into and back from town.  Kona is really growing on me - it is like a large Lahaina town.

Today was our first day of diving and we had a lot of fun with Kona Diving Company and crew.  Captain Paul from Tacoma, DM Billy from Issaauah, Katie, LIT (Lindsey in Training), Kerry (owner).  Other guests were Michael from Seattle (wearing a Sounders shirt - his first boat dive), a couple from SF, Indiana and a young couple doing Discover Scuba from Calgary.  Boat Name:  Haile Kai. our first dive site - Golden Arches.  Dive time:  71 minutes, max depth 52 feet.  A nice starter dive for Carrie (and I) to get our fins back under us.  She and her back did great!  Our dive master Billie wore an orange mohawk thing on his head so that we could identify him under water.  We saw a few junvenile yellowtail coris wrasse that are beautiful.  About 3-4 inches long and bright orange and white.  Also saw tucked under some coral a dragon moray eel which is a rare find, an adult frog fish and two bright yellow juveniles.  Wore my new 3mm Henderson wetsuit with 12 pounds of weight - perfect.  Second dive was called High Rock.  It almost reminded me of Kosrae with lots of hard coral heads and beautiful fish.

We saw dolphins on the way out and back in to the harbor - such majestically beautiful animals.  I hope we see some under water!

Came back to the condo and crashed on the couch for an hour before a walk to town that including a new pair of sandals for me and a hat and swim suit for Carrie.  We went to dinner at Quinns and had a couple of mai tai's which were actually quite good.  The food was ok - I had a grilled Ono salad and Carrie had fish and shrimp combo with Ono.

A nice walk back to the condo for some much needed sleep.  In bed at 10PM

Friday, May 20, 2016

5/18/16 First Day

Alaska Flight 843 Departed Seattle at 10:37, arrived Kona 1:30

Hot and Muggy!  Wasn't expecting that as when we were in Maui a few years back it wasn't muggy. But it is nice!

Got talked into an upgrade to a convertible mustang for our trip.  Didn't factor in the trunk space but I was able to CRAM everything in.  We sure looked like tourists rolling down the road with our huge suitcases (as we had all our scuba gear) piled in the backseat.  We hit Costco - fairly non-eventful and made our way to Kona.

Found D16 at the Kona Reef quite easily.  The location is AMAZING!

The unit is pretty run down but again, the view is ridiculous.  Had a lazy afternoon unpacking and exploring the place.  Went to Huggo's for a cocktail which is right on the water - cool spot.  We were then going to eat across the street at Bongo Ben's but our seats were right on the boardwalk and there was a guy doing tai chi or something right in front of us.  So, we moved to Huggo's On The Rocks across the street where some dude was jamming on his acoustic guitar and set the mood right.  We had some very average fish tacos while shooing palmetto roaches away from the wall next to our table.

Short walk back to the condo, to bed and ready for our first full day...............

first FULL day

86 degrees, everything from drizzle to pure sunshine.  Yep, we are in the tropics.

What a fun but tiring day.  First off - I was too excited to sleep.  I woke up at 1AM, is it time to get up yet?  No.  2AM, is it time?  No.  230, is it time?  NO!  I finally just got up at 4AM and glad I did and vowed to get up that early each and every day while here.

I went to Safeway to get some supplies (coffee) and came back and enjoyed the lanai with a cup.  I then went down to the beach and found a nice sitting rock and did a nice 20 minute meditation.  We then headed to the dive shop and checked in, sorted out our schedule (Carrie bought a wetsuit) and then we were off for a nice drive with the top down to Waimea town which is inland and up the mountain a bit.  It started to drizzle a bit so we pulled off to the Big Island Brewhaus for some excellent food (bean dip to die for, chimicunga for Carrie and some incredible fried fish bites for me).  The overboard IPA was my favorite (we did a sampler).

We then drive up and over the Kolala mountains to Polulu Valley for a nice hike to a beautiful black sand beach.

After our hike - we drive to Hawi where we were going to have dinner at Sushi Rock (a place that came highly recommended by Dax and Tim Lee).  But, they were closed for another hour.  We were tired and hungry so decided to drive the coast line back to Kona.

We saw a food truck on the side of the road for Malasadas (incredibly yummy Hawaiian donut) made to order.  I got mine with bavarian cream filling while Carrie got the coconut.  SO GOOD!  There was also another vendor there selling Pork Lau Lau and avacados.  I bought two avacados and 5 of the yummy pork wrapped in leaves.  We enjoyed them.  The leaves almost tasted like artichoke to me.

Carrie unfortunately stumbled and fell here and jarred her shoulder and has a nice huge bruise on her hip.  Poor Carrie!

We made our way back to Kona and were too bushed to do much else.  I took a quick dip in the pool and watched a nice sunset.  The sun was HUGE!

In bed at 9PM, ready for our first dives in the morning!  Yeah!