ANNIVERSARY ADVENTURES ON THE BIG ISLAND
Several hours before celebrating our one year dating anniversary at the Holuakoa Cafe, we both decided that it felt more authentic to cancel our dinner plans and spend the evening filled with a spontaneous adventure! Kilauea Volcano, the most active volcano in the world, is situated on the isolated Southeastern slopes of the island. After packing up the car filled with our camping gear, we began the two hour journey across the island in search for Pele (Hawaiian Volcano Goddess) and her precious flowing lava. As we cruised through the center of the island singing our favorite road trip jams, we made sure to pit stop at a small pu'u (miniature volcano) along the side of Saddle Road across from Mauna Kea. We hiked up the steep but short trail that hugged the side of the hill through a fairytale forest filled with incredible trees blanketed with thick, vibrant green moss. When we reached the top, the view of Mauna Kea and the surrounding landscape looked stunning with all of the valleys, ridges, and hills illuminated from the setting sun.
JOURNEYING TO VOLCANO NATIONAL PARK
We then journeyed down the winding road and headed straight for Pahoa town. Ryan was recently turned away by the security guards at the lava flow parking lot on a previous escapade, so we knew that entering the area before 8:30pm was our top priority. After splitting a quick but delicious Massaman curry meal at Ning’s Thai Cuisine, we finally made it to the parking lot within seconds of it closing! While I was packing up my backpack in the car, Ryan was off using his secret bargaining talent at the nearby bike tent. You can either hike the 4.5 miles to the end of the road where the lava is flowing or you can rent bikes and make your experience A LOT more enjoyable. :) Usually the price is $20 per bike, but Ryan has brought the company numerous guests, so he gave us a deal for half off. If you do end up renting bikes, go to the end of the vendor line next to the flashing orange sign, and they'll give you a decent bike for unlimited time. This is much better than the other companies who require you to return their bikes at a certain time. If you say you were recommended by Ryan, you may have a chance for a deal! No promises, though :D
BEST WAY TO REACH THE LAVA FLOW
After we browsed all of the mountain bikes to find the best ones, we grabbed our headlamps and were ready to charge it! [Warning: depending on what time you begin your bike ride, you may be subject to a vast amount of headlamps shining into your eyes as you bike. I recommend that you leave more than an hour after sunset so that you miss the entire sunset crowd of tourists stampeding toward you on the road.] We pedaled a peaceful 45 minutes under a twinkling sky above and soon reached the end of the road where we could see the numerous pockets of bright orange in the distance. We ditched our bikes amongst the jagged lava rock and began the several mile hike across the moonlike terrain. Slowly and steadily, we gently walked crunching on the newly developed lava field below our feet. As we approached an extremely active lava flow, there happened to be two professional photographers who seemed to have been set up for quite some time. While we were attempting to take our first lava photos with the tripod, they were kind enough to shine their bright lume cubes which completely illuminated us smiling back at the camera. Then they shared advice on their recommended camera settings to capture the memorizing flow that oozed passed our feet.
After shooting for a bit, Ryan and I decided to venture further up mauka (mountain) to discover more lava flows in the distance. As we were tramping across the rugged terrain, we began to feel the intense heat pouring out from the cracks below our feet. It was getting more and more difficult to navigate around these hot spots, so we turned back around and found the same photographers capturing the more intense magma surrounding them.
ADVENTURING TO SEE THE LAVA UP CLOSE
After soaking up this incredible creation of earth, we decided to hike back down the mountain toward our bikes. When we saw the sky illuminated by the ‘lavafall’ pouring in the distance, we knew that we had to get a closer look! As we slowly inched toward the orange glow along the crumbling sea cliffs, we were finally able to get close enough to observe the lava exploding into the sky after hitting the cool water.
Ryan decided to set up his tripod to snap photos of me peering into the distance with the lavafall radiating a bright aura around me. After gazing at the mesmerizing lava flow, we eventually decided it was time to head back around 12:30am towards our car. While cruising back under the stunning sky above, I continued to reflect how incredible this island truly is with its fire spitting Pele mama that showers us with unexpected glimpses of her flow every so often. Feeling blessed that we were able to capture such incredible views from the evening, we cruised back contentedly and anticipated how we would share our experience with our loved ones. We're even more excited to showcase all the beauty and incredible aspects this island has to offer! Stay tuned for more adventures to come!