Since we were planning on a bit more driving today, we got up, ready, and out early, and left the apartment at about 8 am, picnic lunch and cameras in tow (but forgetting our swimsuits for the second day in a row!). We drove down the Kona coast to South Point road, the access to the southernmost point of all the Hawaii Islands and actually of the entire US. (We’ve already been to the southernmost point of the continental US on Key West, in 2013.) We were a little concerned about driving there, because the various things we had looked up made it sound like the entire stretch of South Point road was going to be four-wheel-drive / Jeep territory. That turned out to be nonsense. It was twelve miles of super smooth, newly paved road, to a parking lot within, say, 70 feet of the cliffs of South Point Park, where people famously jump off the cliffs and climb back up on rope ladders (even if we had had our swimsuits, that would not have been our thing–but we did take pictures of several who jumped. From there, we were able to take a beautiful and super comfortable walk on firm sand/clay and smooth lava along the coastline, watching the waves with virtually nobody around except a handful of jumpers, then some fishermen, and eventually some campers with kids and dogs who were clearly locals. The landscape is beautiful, and the coolest part was to find some of the famous green sand. There is an entire green sand beach, which we decided not to visit after we found various patches of this stuff (and scooped up a tiny little bit). It’s called olivine, and actually a really common silicate, but there are only four green beaches in the world, and this green sand is the eroded cinder cone material from a volcano that formed 49,000 years ago (thank you, Wikipedia). Under a magnifying glass (which the engineer has with him at all times, of course), olivine sand looks like teeny little emeralds–beautiful. We also saw several barred areas where there are ancient Hawaiians burial grounds. As we left, we met many more vehicles coming toward South Point, so I was really glad we came early and had the place practically to ourselves. I am getting a bit tired of the crowded parking lots everywhere.
After our visit to South Point, we stopped at nearby Black Sand Beach, which is unspectacular in terms of the sand, which frankly looks like ground up asphalt, because it is just ground up lava rock. But the beach had a great picnic area, so we had our sandwiches and then treated ourselves to a frozen, chocolate-covered banana from a little vendor stand. And then it turned out that it had the beautiful giant Hawaiian sea turtles, and we watched them from the shore (at the mandatory 25′ distance) as they munched on the algae on the rocks while buffeted by the waves. They look like wet round rocks unless you see them stick their heads up, which they only do for split seconds at a time, so it took some patience to spot the turtles, and then to wait for a photo opportunity. But they are quite impressive! We then headed back home (at about 2 pm) to offload our picnic debris, get more water, and pack swimsuits and towels. The beaches we saw on the way back up to Kona had looked painfully packed as it was a sunny day with minimal surf or gales (I doubt Saturday or even New Year’s Day really made a difference–there are tourists here all the time). But we headed to the Old Airport Recreation area, which was a very quiet and long stretch of beach. It turned out to have lots of rocks and not much access to real swimming, but lots of little shallow coves (which I named bathtubs) which were fun for sitting and splashing in. We also wandered through various tide pool areas and saw very cool sea urchins and plenty of little crabs.
We headed home around 5, and I fixed a salad to contributed to a “PuPu party” that was happening at the resort. PuPu are appetizers rather than whatever it sounds like to non-Hawaiian ears, and we joined a group of about 30 people. The food was fun and miscellaneous (someone had brought delicious salmon from Alaska, and someone else a fantastic cheesecake that was obviously from a specialty bakery), but it took us quite a while to find people to talk to, which is not common for us. But many who came to the party clearly knew each other, because they either own one of the units here and basically winter here, or because they come every year around this time for a week or two, and so they weren’t necessarily paying attention to the newcomers. But we did get a conversation or two going, and wrapped up our presence at the party with a half hour in the hot tub with a family from Oregon. Now the challenge is to actually stay up until midnight and watch the fireworks, which many people apparently light from their homes all over town for new year’s. Commercial-grade fireworks are not allowed, but seem to still find their way onto the islands, so we’ll see what kind of displays we can catch from the pool side of the complex, which faces downtown Kona–if we last until midnight!