Monday, December 3, 2012

Aloha from The Big Island of Hawaii!

The Spa Without Walls - The Fairmont Orchid
Aloha! We've just returned from a five day getaway to Kona and The Kohala Coast on The Big Island of Hawaii. Since this was a last-minute adventure with American Express Canada and The Fairmont Orchid, I didn't have the time to do the extensive research that I revel in when planning a getaway. So I was in for a lovely surprise! The island is built from the formation of five separate shield volcanoes with two of them actively erupting. Picture lots of black volcanic rock and then a change in landscape from barren desert to lush rainforest. 
We arrived to our sweet island home at The Fairmont Orchid (above) in Hawaii with gorgeous views of the ocean, local Hawaiian food and warm breezes. Since I was celebrating my birthday, my sister called the hotel and treated me to an oceanfront lomi lomi massage at Fairmont's Spa Without Walls. All the treatments are performed in little huts either on the beach or next to a soothing waterfall. Listening to the sounds of the ocean while working out all the knots in my back put me in birthday heaven...
Here's a little peek of the 'lush side' of The Big Island

No visit to Hawaii is complete until you savour your first Mai Tai - with an umbrella and cherry, of course. The BEST one I had was at a local watering hole called The Seafood Bar. The prices were really reasonable for Hawaii and the fish was incredibly fresh and delicious. I think I ate a different fish, served every which way the entire time I was here. Try to go local as much as possible, it tastes so much better! We also drank A LOT of Longboard Island Lager from the Kona Brewing Co.
My goal was to actually bike down an active volcano for my birthday. But I had no idea that the volcano wasn't the usual cone-shape that I was expecting. It was more flat and shield-like without a lot of downhill. So it looks like I'll have to save this adventure for the next time I return to Maui, Hawaii instead. We did rent this 'Jurassic Red' jeep as noted by our rental car dude and the four-wheel drive definitely came in handy driving in the back country. I could barely reach the pedals and I totally could've used a booster seat!
Volcano Steam Vents
After about a three-hour drive from our hotel, we reached The Volcano National Park and had the chance to interact up close with a real, LIVE volcano! Steam vents were opened alongside the road, so you could literally touch rainwater that had been heated by lava! Above is the volcano crater and it looks like its on fire, when really they are just steam vents pretty far out from the actual crater opening. The air was very polluted and it was cloudy, but also difficult to see. The smell of sulfur did linger in the air and I tried not to breathe too deeply.
One of the highlights of the National Park was walking through an old lava tube. Imagine something being hot enough to MELT ROCK! If you're planning a trip to The Big Island, the volcano region is a must-see. I only wish I had more time to explore the Hilo side of the island because there was just so much to do here in terms of unique outdoor activities. If you get the chance, look into booking a zip line tour that will take you through waterfall country or a flume kayak ride through an old irrigation system. I'll be flying back just to do these two activities the next time in Hawaii. Do not miss a drive to the observatory (elevation 14,000 ft), my eyes could not believe the thousands of stars I was seeing from the middle of the Pacific ocean.
All in all, it was amazing way to celebrate my birthday and I had to pinch myself that such an opportunity presented itself at the very last-minute. Thanks again to our friends at Fairmont Hotels and American Express Canada!

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