On our last day on the Big Island, we woke up bright and early for the hour and a half drive to Hilo, the opposite side of the island where the active volcano makes for one unbelievable helicopter tour.
If anyone was paying attention to the news last month, the town of Pahoa was making headlines for being right in the path of a massive lava flow – we were flying above the site, looking at images similar to those broadcast across the nation, just a day before the story broke.
While on our tour, we were informed that the town of Pahoa had two weeks to evacuate – by the very next day, the lava had sped up so rapidly that they were told to evacuate in less than a week.
Seeing the Big Island by sky, witnessing the resilience of towns that have been covered in the lava only to rebuild again and again, looking down at the ever-growing coastline and flying over the Pu’u Oo vent were once in a lifetime sites. We even witnessed the red-hot magma coursing beneath the black of the hardened lava from a skylight, an opening in the lava that could be seen just as clearly from our height.
Not only was this incredibly fascinating, it was so educational to see exactly how the land is made and reshaped, to know that the destruction from the lava is also a cycle of growth and to feel the emotions that come along with seeing this firsthand. I’d highly encourage everyone to take this excursion to see how interesting the Big Island is, something that we just thought we’d have to search for upon our arrival.
We took the long way back from Hilo, down a scenic road recommended by Jennifer Anderson (one of Epperly Travel’s indpendent contractors – she was my travel agent for this trip!) with a stop at What’s Shakin’, a delicious and fresh smoothie spot worth the search.
Since it rained a good bit and we were exhausted, we missed quite a few of the other spots on the Northern route, like the Waimea Canyon Lookout, so here’s a gorgeous picture of a waterfall from the helicopter tour instead:
We spent the evening at the Four Seasons and enjoyed the next morning on property, too, regretting that we didn’t dedicate more time to just relaxing on this beautiful property. Part of the problem with me and traveling: I want to see it all. Every hotel, every unique tour, every unforgettable restaurant, so much so that sometimes I forget to sit back and enjoy where I’m at.
That morning, I woke up early as I had been doing to stay on top of my work load, but stepped out onto the balcony to watch as the sun came up behind the property. I looked out onto the lagoon, seeing an occasional splash from the fish and every once in a while the little fin of the spotted eagle ray, and fell in love with that moment, right there. That’s something I need to work on: to learn to love the skies I’m under, as Mumford & Sons so eloquently puts it, and not always be one step ahead of the planning.
One of my favorite things that occurred this last morning was at breakfast – my mother ordered an omelet that she dubbed the best she’d ever eaten, so I went to the omelet line to get my own. While there, I struck up a conversation with Dan, the man behind the best omelets in the world. I told him my mom’s high praises and he smiled and said, “That’s all I want – I want for every omelet I make to be the best anyone has ever eaten.” He went on to tell me about the celebration they’d had when he flipped his 500,000th omelet the year before, smiling with the memory as he flipped another one.
I share this story to say this is what I love about our partner hotels – I don’t work with luxury properties that are unobtainable and stuffy. I’m passionate about our partner companies because they are warm and welcoming, they hand-select each individual team member for their passion, not only toward the guests but toward their job, and they understand that hospitality is not just their industry, it’s their way of life. Bravo to the Four Seasons Hualalai for setting the standards for this, and to Dan the omelet man for being a graceful reminder of why I love the companies I work with.
We ended our stay at Hualalai with a dip in the snorkeling lagoon that we’d been looking at from a distance since we arrived. There are thousands of gorgeous fish, which brought out the tropical fish nerd in me (I first wrote about this in the Maldives).
Guests could literally spend all day in here, enjoying the setting that blends right into the landscape of the property, it doesn’t feel manmade in the least bit. A definite highlight to staying here, one that made saying goodbye to this top-of-line resort even harder.