Once our sunrise lava hike was over and we had re-caffeinated, it was time to hit the road again. My parents had an evening flight out of Kona, and instead of driving the same south route back, we chose to drive around the north side of the island since it was actually a shorter drive and we could see some different terrain.
We passed through Hilo, then took a right at the “4-mile Scenic Route” just north of Hilo.
There was a nice lookout point on the drive, but our main stop was the Hilo Botanical Gardens. We were really hoping it would be worth our while since it was a $15 entry fee, but it definitely was! It’s one of the best gardens I’ve ever been to. There’s a steep ramp down to the gardens, then many different paths and gardens to see. My parents are getting cute in their old age!
I don’t want to inundate you with too many flower / plant pictures, but they were just out of this world.
I have hundreds of plant photos; it was so much fun capturing the beauty with my little point and shoot camera. Even my Dad got a kick out of using David’s DSLR.
At the very bottom of the botanical gardens, there were gorgeous views of the ocean.
The sky was equally beautiful – paradise.
My favorite area had to be the Orchid Gardens.
The gardens are a highly recommended detour! It was a great break in our drive, but after about an hour of walking, it was time to get back in the car and find lunch. We chose to stop at the Woodshop Gallery & Café in Hanuma. It was much like Café Ono, with a mix of café and gallery.
The menu was great – lots of local flavors such as mango, papaya, etc. David got a great mango chicken dish and I enjoyed the fish of the day (ahi). I really like that Hawaiians love their steamed rice. We finished lunch and enjoyed shopping around the quaint little town, then came back to the café for dessert – Hilo homemade ice cream.
They had Extreme Ginger ice cream, how could I refuse? Some flavors the others tried were Macadamia Nut, Kona Coffee, and Mango, all of which were good – I checked. And look who we found, maybe he was also looking for ice cream?
While in Hanuma, we decided it was worth a quick stop at Akaka Falls, the town’s main tourist draw. The falls are only a few minutes outside the park. Our book (the famed “Blue Book”) recommended a short hike clockwise on the trail if we wanted only a 5 minute hike. The trees were huge!
This was an easy stop, but very touristy! We only stayed briefly, then were ready to go. The rest of the drive around the island took a couple hours, and we actually really enjoyed the landscapes in the north side of the island and in Waimea. It’s a bit farm-like with a lot of grassy fields and nice ocean views. When we got to Kona, we re-packed and helped my parents on their way back to Oahu.
David and I were exhausted, but managed the effort to walk from our hotel back down to Island Lava Java (we tried the Kona Brewery but there was an 1+ hour wait). I’m really glad we did get back to Lava Java though; I’m all about restaurants that source local and organic products. We shared an amazing salad / pizza combo. I didn’t get a picture because David started eating too quickly, so I’ll have to remake their “Big Island Beet Salad” at home (Oven-roasted beets, baby tomatoes, avocado, goat cheese, and Ka’u orange vinaigrette). Seriously the best dish I had on the island!! Side note: Lava Java is BYOB, but there’s an ABC store just down the way where you can buy single beers & wine. Cheers~