Big Island

What is the Big Island like?




We had a wonderful time on the Big Island. Maggie was better than we could have dreamed, and saw amazing lava formations and some of the most diverse landscapes in a single geological formation that I have ever seen.

But first, a word (or several) on our lodgings.

Tom and I, being budget travelers, have stayed in some spare rooms. Not dives, just…plain. Stripped of amenities. On our trip to northern California we slept in a budget B&B, in a tent, in bunk beds at a budget hostel, and on the grass at Crissy Field with the Avon Walk. (Side note: the grass at Crissy Field is possibly made of magic, and was more comfortable than any bed we slept on in the city.) This B&B on the Big Island was no exception; rooms with gapped floorboards plopped down in a working farm, complete with corrugated roofs and windows with screens that can’t be shut. I thought it was charming and set about unpacking.

Now, I grew up in rural Maine, and I know that there is nothing noisier than the country. Insects, animals, you name it, it makes noise. I have heard moose rutting near my window and can tell you it is louder than any car alarm. More nasal, too. And there are insects. Tons and tons of insects that crawl on you and bite, and you just learn to deal and ignore them. But I forgot after years of city and suburban life.

Imagine my horror seeing a parade of wee tiny ants scuttling along the baseboards and through the floor, close to where my baby was going to sleep in her travel bed. As an immediate cancellation would cost us $300 and we’d still have to find a place to sleep, I decided to choke back my disgust out of cheapness. (Not once was my baby bitten by anything, by the way, although my legs are covered with various welts.) We settled down to sleep and enjoyed the cool mountain breeze figuring “Well, non-biting ants, no harm done, that’s not so bad.” Maggie slept like a stone in the brisk air.

There are worse things than ants. Oh yes. There are roosters.

Roosters are an aspect of Hawaii that most tourists do not experience. I can’t explain why they are so prevalent, I only know that they are everywhere: as pets, as part of working farms, as feral entities unto themselves. And they cannot tell time. And if a rooster lets off on one property, the NEIGHBOR’S ROOSTER responds in kind. And this goes on for hours.

In retrospect the ear plugs left by management ought to have been our first clue, but motherhood has sapped my once-formidable deductive powers. Six a.m. arrived and we were wide-eyed after waking every half hour or so to that unholy bird.

After two nights of this, we finally stopped panicking that the baby would wake when the rooster cried. Maggie seemed to be rather resilient. But the farm was not done with us, oh no. Late that night we heard the unmistakable moaning “Mrrrroooooooow” of the farm’s tabby. Clearly, her time of the month had come. Listening to a cat in heat provided a welcome break from the rooster…until the rooster chimed in. And the rain started. Between the cats screwing, the rooster crowing, and the rain on the corrugated roof, we had quite the symphony. A disturbing, unpleasant symphony, one that had us dreaming of deep-frying chicken.

Leaving the next morning to check out, the rooster crossed our path in the driveway. We decided to do the humane thing and not run it down, but oh, it was tempting.

But the farm was not yet done with us. For breakfast that morning they served a high-fiber baked oatmeal. Fiber and I have a complicated relationship, and soon I was running all over the airport in Kona looking for Pepto, Gas-X, anything to quell the gurgling reports from my belly.

See, it wasn’t enough that THEY are noisy. The farm’s final joke was to turn us into noisemakers too.

I kept a pair of the earplugs.

Lucky Duck

We are recovering from about 5 weeks of houseguest fun, in which I saw more of downtown Honolulu than I ever have and drove a packed minivan–complete with infants and toddlers–through Waikiki at rush hour. But before I get into that, I have recently been informed that I will be a stay-at-home mom for the duration. The magazine I worked for laid off all but one employee and is going up for sale. All things considered I’m glad I don’t have to put Maggie into daycare, and I’m looking for ways to fill the hours. So far: joining a local photography club, baby yoga classes, possibly joining the Hawaii Breastfeeding Coalition, and considering going back to school for my graphic design certification. Possibilities!!

In the meantime, we are going to the Big Island to prepare for Maggie’s big trip to Maine in September. I am really looking forward to excellent Kona coffee straight from the source.

Maui Christmas!

Sorry about the bad pun up front, but as many of you know that is how we role here at Travel Monkeys. We both really enjoyed Maui because it was a departure from the almost blatant tourism of Oahu. Granted, Maui is an island devoted explicitly to resort tourism, however things just seemed to move a little slower here. Also, this trip features the first travel by our new mascot, Reginald the Sock Monkey. Wherever we travel over the next few years, Reginald is coming with us.

Our first full day in Maui was Christmas Day. We figured a lot of places would be closed so we decided to take the Road to Hana. The road is over 50 miles long, features 600 turns and over 50 bridges, plus some of the most amazing scenery in the islands. Unfortunately, because we were on a bit of a time crunch, we decided to hit a couple of spots along the way and not stop at every overlook and point of interest. Later that night, we had dinner at the Ruth’s Chris in Lahaina. Nothing special, but we did not want to get burned on not be able to have a Christmas dinner when traveling like we did in the past.

When we woke up on Friday, it looked like it was going to be a fairly nasty weather day. With this in mind, we decided to head up to the Upcountry portion of Maui. For anyone looking to get away from the standard beaches an. Our first stop along the way was Tedeschi Winery at Ulupalakua Ranch. The winery has been around for several decades and is the only working winery on the island. They serve a variety of wines at their tasting, white, red and sparkling, but none are really that great. Most of the white and sparkling varieties have pineapple mixed in, which makes them truly acidic. The exception is the Ulupalakua Red, which I would be proud to serve any guests who might visit us in the islands. The next stop on our tour was the Aliikula Lavender Farm. The farm is truly amazing, plus it has some of the best views of western Maui. Everything here has lavender infused into it in some way. Tours of the farm are $12 per person and last about a half and hour. My recommendation is to try the lavender scones and lavender lemonade. The final stop on our trip was the Surfing Goat Dairy in Kula. A little bit rustic, it was nice to find something different on the island. Plus we were able to taste some yummy cheeses, as well as, being able to feed the goats.

Our last full day in Maui, we decided to drive up the summit of Mount Haleakala. Haleakala is really cool because as you travel the 10,000 feet to the summit of the mountain you go through several climatic zones. Unfortunately the weather on the summit can be uncooperative, so make sure you take a jacket or sweater and realize that you might be disappointed by what you are able to see. Also, be wary on the way down for bikers. Lunch was furnished by the good people at Who Cut the Cheese, which served a fantastic, albeit expensive panini.

Before we headed back home to Oahu, we made sure to hit up the studios of Hot Island Glass in Makawao. The studios offer glass blowing demonstrations, in addition to a cool selection of island inspired glass creations. Our last stop before boarding the plane was Krispy Kreme donuts, the only place you can find them in the state.