The west coast/Kona side of the Big Island, where we stayed, is very different from the east coast/Hilo side.
The landscape is not what your mind's eye sees when you think of Hawaii.
Of course, the entire chain of Hawaiian islands was formed by volcanic action, but with little rain on the Kona side there is also little vegetation. Pockets of green are scattered here and there, but it's mostly lava, lava, and more lava.
These photos are from Kahaluu Beach. Not the typical sandy "beach" you might expect...
The water is relatively calm and the coves created by the lava make for great snorkeling, diving, and paddleboarding (no...this is not anyone we know...). But we didn't see a single surfer on this side of the island while we were there.
Supposedly there are some ancient Hawaiian petroglyphs along this seawall, but it was too treacherous trying to negotiate those lava rocks for us to find them.
But there are plenty of gorgeous landscapes all along the coastline...this is Honaunau Bay.
Not surprisingly, there are plenty of lava rock walls around...
Some of the beaches have patches of sand created from coral reefs, like here at Kekaha Kai State Park.
Oh, that clear ocean water is so many hues of blue...I couldn't get enough of it!
This park was just a few miles from our condos at Hapuna Beach.
It's the remains of an ancient Hawaiian village...
Who are those crazy tourists taking a selfie?
How the Hawaiians "made" their own sea salt...let the ocean water fill hollowed-out rocks and then dry in the sun.
Some sort of gaming system circa 1400...
There was a sign warning us not to mess with the endangered monk seals that apparently like to lounge there, but disappointingly none of our group (who visited at various times) ever got to see one.
Driving northward along the Kohala Coast, the landscape gradually began to green up...
We finally found a shave ice place (so many touristy spots have closed in the pandemic) that we loved and came back to a couple of times.
Now THAT is a shave ice to blog about!
Just before the north road ends (I mean ENDS!), just around the northern tip of the island, is the town of Hawi and statue of famous Hawaiian King Kamehameha.
And suddenly, within less than a mile, the bare lava rock gives way to lush rainforest at the Kohala Forest Reserve.
The Pololu Valley Lookout is literally the end of the road.
There is a very steep and treacherous trail down, which Kristoffer's family hiked and had a picnic down on the black sand beach below. My sister Barb and her husband John had hiked it a few years ago and highly recommended. Kim and I toyed with the idea of hiking down ourselves. When I asked my kids and grandkids if we would be able to do it, some encouragingly said "yes" but my granddaughter Kelsey was adamant that "Gramaw would never make it." That alone made me want to do it, just to show her that I may be "old" but I've still got it in me to do hard things. But ultimately, in the end our laziness, lack of time, and a bit of trepidation won out and we were content to photograph it from above.
This looks more like the Hawaii that I picture in my mind!
But even under all that lush vegetation, the layer of soil is shallow and these plants are basically growing on...
...lava, lava, and more lava.