Day 1: Welcome to the Big Island

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I’m going to begin this post by stating the obvious: Hawaii is paradise. My first time visiting the Hawaiian Islands was with my dad back in 2006. The two of us traveled to Maui, where I spent most of my time lying on the beach desperately trying to get tan so that I could go back home and, for once, not be the whitest of my friends.

Ten years later, Miri and I decided the Big Island would be the perfect place to spend our second honeymoon (I’ll explain that later). The inspiration for our trip actually came from the Pixar short “Lava” (2014) which was released alongside the feature film “Inside Out” in June 2015. This was not the first time Miri and I chose a vacation destination after seeing a movie–our trip to Bruges (and subsequent engagement) in November 2014 was inspired by the 2008 film aptly titled “In Bruges.” Anyway, for those of you who have seen the Pixar short, you know it is about about two lonely volcanoes searching for someone to “lava.” I was unsuccessful in trying not to cry during those five minutes. The song, reminiscent of Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s “Over the Rainbow,” was just too damn sweet. After all, at the end of the day, aren’t we all searching for someone to hear our song?

We touched down at Kona International Airport on February 9th at around noon. The “aloha spirit” hit me like a wave as soon as I got off the plane. I felt my worries lift from my shoulders and I was in such a good mood it was almost scary. It’s hard to stay stressed out in a place where you are greeted by a beautiful statue of hula dancers in an airport terminal that is OUTSIDE because the weather is just that good.

After picking up our rental car, we stopped in Waikoloa Village (about 25 miles north of the airport) to have lunch. I was starting to get “hangry” so we chose Tropics Ale House because it had relatively good Yelp reviews and it was the closest thing nearby. As soon as we sat down, Miri started getting texts from his brother, Eddie, informing us that the Island of Hawaii just declared a state of emergency due to more than 250 reported cases of Dengue Fever, a mosquito-borne disease that causes painful and debilitating symptoms, including fever, headaches, nausea and vomiting, among other things.

Miri and I locked eyes, both of us realizing in dread that our honeymoon and so-called trip to paradise might be over before it had even started. To be fair to Hawaii, however, it’s important to note that mosquitoes were brought to the Hawaiian Islands by Europeans in 1826. Over the next 150 years, at least four more species were introduced. So, we can thank Europe for that…

I tried to stay positive after hearing the potentially-trip-stopping news and focused on the delicious fish tacos I had ordered, which were served with seared Hawaiian fish, fresh pineapple salsa, chopped cabbage, cilantro and chipotle aioli. Miri ordered a Kalua pork sandwich, but, judging from the number of times he asked for a bite of one of my tacos, it’s safe to assume I ordered the better of the two dishes.

Our worries were assuaged by the map my mom sent us showing that the high risk areas for Dengue Fever were mostly on the west coast of the island. We were on our way to Pepeekeo, a small area north of Hilo on the east coast of the island, with fewer than 2,000 residents and no reported cases of the fever. We decided to spend four nights in this remote area after coming across the Hamakua Guest House on Booking.com.

Miri and I are not resort people. When we travel, we try as much as we can to get a “real” feel of the place we’re staying and an authentic glimpse into the culture. We try to live like the locals, which means avoiding highly-popular and, in my opinion, overpriced package deals at big resorts like the plague. When we came across this very reasonably-priced, off-the-grid accommodation with solar panel electricity and a water tank, we knew it was the one.

However, getting there was a little tricky and after bouncing down a rocky, dirt road for about ten minutes before reaching the house, we started to wonder what we had gotten ourselves into. The house is surrounded by jungle and is, quite literally, in the middle of nowhere. The nearest restaurants are about a 20-minute-drive away in Hilo.

Nonetheless, as soon as we arrived we were giddy with excitement to be staying at such a cool, unique kind of hostel/B&B. We stayed upstairs in the room with the King-sized bed and ocean-view. We patted ourselves on the backs for not being the “typical tourist couple” that stays at soulless, corporate resorts, surrounded by mostly older white people with too much money to spend and boisterous American families with cute-but-spoiled children.

Our smugness was a little premature as we realized our bedroom only had three solid walls. The fourth wall was comprised of slatted folding doors, which opened to reveal a bird’s-eye view of the kitchen. The setup provided excellent ventilation since the house doesn’t have A/C, but was not particularly great for privacy, especially when one envisioned a sexy, secluded stay. Still, I wouldn’t hesitate to come back here (I just wouldn’t forget to bring earplugs next time!).

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