July 6: Day 10

We woke up and enjoyed another lovely breakfast delivered by Higgin's ladies at the lodge--and then we were off.

Our first stop was a quick return to the National Park to visit the Thurston Lava Tube. There were so many tourbuses here in the afternoon on the day before that we couldn't even park the car. At 10AM, however, there was only one other car so we had the entire place practically to ourselves.

Hundreds of years ago, these vacant caves carried 2000 degree liquid rock to the ocean. Today they're just an empty reminder of that. While walking through we bot a little nervous that the lava spikot would be turned on again and they'd fill up with the red stuff while we explored. Fortunately that never happened.

Next we stopped at the Volcano Winery. Yup, there's a second vineyard in Hawai'i and it's worse than the subpar one on Maui. Most of the wines here are made with a fruit other than grapes and maybe they're decent if you're into that kind of thing. There were only about 10 grape vines present on the property near the tasting room--which was somewhat strange and made me wonder how they could really be a vineyard of they have no grapes. Inside Liz tried hard to be polite and not make the "ewww, this is totally disgusting face". I guess she succeeded because the woman pouring kept pushing us on buying a box of 6 bottles to take back to the mainland.

From winery, it was a long trek down 4000 feet of altitude to the southern tip of the island. We stopped at a black sand beach to stick our feet in the water and get a few more pictures.

Apparently they're anti-fun here though. We couldn't figure out what was so bad about horseshoes.

Our trek continued to Pu`uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park. (Try and say that five times fast). We were here on a weekday, so it wasn't particularly crowded, but with living interpretors/actors here at busier times, I imagine it's much like a Plymouth Plantation or Historic Williamsburg kind of spot--except translated for native Hawai'ian history. Back in the day, if you commited even a minor crime, you could be killed by the King or his people. This location, called a Place of Refuge was a spot of religious significance that served as a kind of Get Out Of Jail free card. Anyone that was able to make it here alive, was forgiven by the priest and pardoned of their crimes by the king.

The park was in a gorgeous little bay and we even saw our first Sea Turtle of the entire trip.

Liz was ecstatic to finally find Turtle Town!

She also decided to take a picture of Japanese tourists getting a picture.

Not too far from the park is The Painted Church--which is a very small wooded Catholic church, that is, well, painted. It sits up on a hill with an endless view of the coastline. I imagine it would be a nice place to get married--if you only had 40 guests.

Now that we were getting close to Kona, we had to make the obligatory stop at a coffee mill. I don't drink the stuff--but Liz said it was damn tasty. There are countless coffee tasting rooms spread all throughout Kona. They operate very much like Wine Tasting rooms and most of them are affiliated with just one privately owned farm. (A few are larger and corporate).

We stopped for lunch at a restaurant in the old South Kona business district. The restaurant was a cool little cafe built into the converted lobby of a very old movie theater. We had a seat by the window where a little gecko seemed to live. The little guy darted up and down the window curtains eating bugs. Liz called him Percy. We wondered if he knew Petunia.

Kona was already starting to feel quite different from our experience in Maui. This area of town was older and felt run down and worn out. We wondered if things would change where our hotel was located in the newer part of Kona.

Finally, we reached out hotel--Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort. The name of the place is somewhat deceptive since it didn't have nearly the number of resort amenities found at the Sheraton on Maui. And like most hotels on the eastern part of the Big Island where old lava rock makes up most of the coast, there was no actual beach.

The place seemed decent enough and we were shown a room that opened out right onto...a massive waterslide. Kids were screaming all over the place. Hmmm...this wasn't seeming like a romantic ending to our trip. After some complaining we were finally given an upgrade thanks to my Starwood Platinum Status and moved to The Plumeria Suite. Now the hotel may have been a bit too family oriented for our taste, but the room they moved us to was fabulous. It was a one bedroom suite with two bathrooms a wrap around porch with ocean AND mountain views as well as a living room with a 45" flatscreen television. Nice!

We relaxed for a while in our room and then ventured down to the large pool with the waterfalls and waterslides. There were a lot of kids but we made the best of it by ordering drinks. Soon we were having fun and forgot about all the families.

Eventually we ended up at the hotel lounge for dinner. The cheesiest lounge singer chick you could imagine was entertaining a small crowd. We ate our food and headed back up to our huge room to wrap up our second-to-last night in Hawai'i by ourselves.

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