Friday, June 11, 2010

The Big Island Discovered: Day 2

Greenwell Farms
We started our day not with your average cup of joe, but with 100% Kona coffee. We received a free private tour of Greenwell Farms, around ten miles south of Kona, and in ten minutes we were coffee experts. Greenwell Farms is the oldest farm on the islands and the first to export Kona coffee beans. For us Californians, whenever you see Kona coffee blends in a Peet's or Starbucks, you can guarantee it came from Greenwell Farms. So what makes Kona coffee so damn special? Well, in order to qualify as Kona coffee, it must be grown in a 22-mile coffee belt that spans the perfect median of climate and elevation on the Big Island. So don't be fooled-- check if your coffee is truly 100% authentic-- because this stuff ain't cheap.

Kealakekua Bay
We continued south and head makai, or toward the sea. Down a winding road we arrived at Kealakekua Bay, noted to be one of the most beautiful on the island. The bay is especially famous for Captain Cook Monument, a white obelisk seen across the water one mile away. The statue commemorates Captain James Cook, who was the first white European to land on the Hawaiian islands. Not only does the spot mark historical interest, but the best snorkeling and spinner dolphin viewing is seen there. However, we didn't jump right in-- the only options to getting there is by kayak, a dangerous cliff climb, or by boat (which we'll be doing a few days from now). In fact, we hurried to book our boating excursion because word has it that the bay may become off-limits to humans. Protection groups have fought to stop tourists from entering the bay; believe it or not, but over the years, sunblock residue has formed a film across the surface, blocking needed light for the marine life. So this may be our only chance to experience the nature of the bay up-close.

Coconut Grove Farmers' Market
Heading back to town, my Nana marveled at my mom, brother and I as we constantly pointed out the mango trees that grew along the road, just waiting to be picked. You see, my dearest Filipino mother has a deep nostalgia for fresh mango, and she came to Hawai'i knowing that mango grows abundantly here. Yet we were tortured driving to Kona because my dad refused to stop to pick mango from people's property. But oh, we can't really even ventured onto state land because apparently, mango-picking is a misdemeanor that could land you a $250 fine and a night in prison. But my mom says she doesn't mind. My brother and I are on her side as well. It's an interesting topic that may spring up in future job interviews!
Instead, we opted for buying three mangoes at the Coconut Grove Farmers' Market at Kona. Not worth the price when mangoes are hanging over the highway, but at least it's legal. Aside from that, the rest of the market features a lot of handcrafted souvenoirs.

Island Lava Java
We came here knowing that this sweet spot serves a mean cinnamon roll and coffee, but we decided to try their lunch fare first. Boy, was it good! I split fresh mahi mahi tacos with a great salad and black beans with my mom and everything tasted superb. And filling enough. My Nana ordered a veggie hummus wrap, my Pop a huge, delightful turkey sandwich served with salad, and my brother a roast beef sandwich with au jus. At least I think he ordered that because man, he wolfed that thing down! Must of been good. My Dad went safe with an unimpressive Ceasar salad knowing that he'd eat our leftovers. Eventually my Pop did order some java and a Pull-Apart cinnamon roll, served warm. It was heaven. And having that first thing in the morning? Not a bad treat!

Hapuna Beach
We briskly finished lunch determined to reach Hapuna Beach forty minutes up north. My Nana had requested a white sand beach to unwind on even the minute we bought plane tickets, so we were on a mission to get her there. Hapuna Beach is often ranked by travel shows as one ofthe top ten beaches in the U.S., next to some sandy shore in Florida. And it sure didn't disappoint. My brother, Dad and I practiced our snorkeling for the first time in the comfortably warm waters. We spent an hour and a half in there, as we were easily wowed by one sea cucumber and a couple of fish. Ha, if we thought that was exciting, we had no idea what was in store for us the next day!

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