While we were still on the island of Kaua’i, right after I had renewed my Scuba license, I knew I wanted to have adventures on the other Hawaiian islands. Doing a google search on what to do on the Big Island, I found out you could do a night dive with Manta Rays and immediately booked a ticket.
My flight was late evening, and I had booked my first Airbnb. The place was hard to find, and parking was non-existent. I was excited to stay in an Airbnb but was quickly underwhelmed. Where I stayed was a cheap hotel/timeshare condo that rented out units on Airbnb.
But it was a bed, and by the time I was able to check in, I was exhausted and fell asleep quickly.
The following day, I drove to Papakōlea Green Sand Beach. I had only done a quick search on what else to do while on the big island, and the idea of different colored sand intrigued me.
My Airbnb was on the island’s Northwest side, and I had to drive all the way south. It was a slow winding hour-and-a-half drive, but I didn’t mind. Reaching the spot picked out on the map, I found some parking and looked around.
There were groups of tourists, some walking down a path and others talking to a group of locals offering a ride to the beach. I had time to kill, so I started out walking. An Asian family was hiking together and speaking a different language, but as we went on, I saw a girl walking by herself, so I asked if she knew how far we would be going.
We talked about our adventures; she had just done the Manta dive the night before. After seeing a few of her videos, I was excited about my plans for that evening. We walked and talked for maybe an hour and then came up to the incredible green beach.
The sand has semi-precious olivine in it, which makes the greenish hue. I learned that there are only four green beaches like it in the world, so I was glad to have seen it. The rock formations surrounding the beach were almost as impressive as the green color of the sand. Apparently, the bay is carved from the cinder cone of an old volcano.
Having the foresight to bring my mask and fins, I put them on and went further out than all the other people at the beach playing in the waves.
I spotted two sea turtles and pointed them out to the excited tourists.
Coming out of the ocean and doing the wet climb to the top of the cliff, I inquired about the price of a ride back to the parking. It was only ten bucks, and I was happy to pay. I sat in the front seat of a beat-up old pickup and talked to the local girl, who I was surprised to find was only 16. 16 and had been driving the pickup on this treacherous road for the last few years. The area was gouged with years of cars eroding the area. She knew every twist and turn on that dusty route.
She mentioned she wanted to go to the mainland because there were more opportunities, but I told her I was sure many mainlanders would love to trade their jobs for what she was doing in paradise.
Once I got to the parking lot, I took off back north to shower and took whatever nap I could before the manta dive.
After an hour of closing my eyes, my alarm went off, and I drove out to the harbor. I checked in, boarded the boat, and rode to the spot.
Once we arrived and made anchor, we were given a briefing about mantas. Did you know that the manta starts in an egg, but while still inside its mother, the egg dissolves away, and there is the manta, wrapped up like a little burrito? Once it is born, it can swim, hunt and do everything a manta needs to do.
For our dive, we were given a little flashlight. We were all to sit on the ocean floor and hold up the light. The light attracts the krill, which the manta feed on. While the krill swarm to your flashlight, the manta swoop by your head, scooping up all the krill they can.
Also, manta rays have a unique pattern of dots on their underside and can be recognized by them. If you measure their wingspan tip to tip, each foot would weigh roughly 100 pounds. Some of the ones we saw had a 10 to 15-foot wingspan. The giant ocean mantas can get up to a 29-foot wingspan.
Being underwater and having the manta come from out of the darkness and then fly past your head was a fantastic experience.
The following day I slept in a little. After scuba diving, you should wait a certain amount of hours before climbing altitudes. Then I made my way to the island’s active volcano. I had the urge to see lava.
I saw a sign promoting the United States Southernmost winery on the way. Since I had been to the country’s Easternmost Bookstore, I thought it would be a good thing to do.
I had never been to a wine tasting, and being alone, they seemed surprised at my presence. There was a party at another table, and I quickly enjoyed my wine samples and boned out. But if you get a chance, The Guava-Grape was fantastic, as was the Volcano Blush. The Meads smelled terrific, but the taste did not compare to the smell.
Reading up on it earlier, it seemed your best bet was to get to the volcano early because parking close to the caldera would become a nightmare the later it got. I wanted to see everything I could in the volcanic park, so I arrived early and parked close to the entrance to the volcano.
Initially, I checked out the volcano pit, but all I could see was the smoke billowing from the ground.
So instead, I walked over to the utterly incredible lava tubes. The way lava tubes are formed is terrific. Imagine a sheet of lava pouring all over the land. The top and sides would naturally cool and harden first as they are exposed to the air; however, the inside is still molten and liquid, so it would flow out, leaving a hole with the crust that had cooled around it.
After the lava tube, I headed back to my car for a chipwich and hiked more around the area until the sun started to set. Once it started to get dark, I made my way back to the volcano. By then, a crowd had formed around the fence, and no parking was available.
With the lack of light, you could see the lava glowing red.
After a while, I started back towards my car. By this point, I was freezing cold and wondered what the temperature was. I looked at the weather app, and it was only 65 degrees. I had acclimated to Kaua’i’s temperature ranging from 70-85, and 65 felt like I was in a meat locker.
Returning to the Airbnb, I saw the most hauntingly beautiful moon hanging over a black ocean. With no lights around, the moonlight reflected on the water rippling to infinity—the perfect end to a fantastic trip.