When I was on the Kona side of Hawaii Island, a friend who lived there told me they go to Hilo to eat. After having visited, I can understand this. While there is some spectacular food on the Big Island – fresh, locally-sourced, and sometimes pretty pricey, there’s something to say for good old home-style comfort foods, and I think this is really something that Hilo does exceedingly well.
Two Ladies Kitchen
When I asked around for where to eat in Hilo, EVERYONE recommended the strawberry mochi at Two Ladies Kitchen. It’s recommended to call ahead but we were pretty lucky since they still had some available. We also were able to sample fresh grape mochi while we were waiting and bought a big sampler pack to try out some of the other varieties.
Many who visit the islands consider visiting the volcanoes a “must do” and plan accordingly. Yet, I’ve lived in Hawaii my whole life and have only visited the volcano once, way back in the 80’s when the eruption first began. Back then we traveled with my grandparents who were visiting from Pennsylvania, and I remember very little about the helicopter flight we took over the lava fields. Long overdue for a repeat visit and using my brother’s recent enrollment at UH Hilo as an excuse, I roped Todd and my friend Wendy into spending a day exploring the volcanoes with me.
My disclaimer for the next post: I’m the type of person who plans my vacation around meals. I like to get suggestions from friends and family who have lived or visited there, and if all else fails, I turn to Yelp or Twitter. There’s nothing I hate more than being forced into “just grabbing something” at the nearest open restaurant. It’s like giving up! If I could pack an extra stomach just for vacations, I truly would. I usually find myself armed with more recommendations than I’ll have time for.
My first morning waking up in the mountains of South Kona and the stillness of the forest outside was almost overwhelming when compared with the city of Honolulu I’d left behind. Huge, stately ohia trees reached up to the sky with lush, green ferns and colored hibiscus flowers scattered throughout canopy below. A little bird sat chirping away in the window, looking confused as to why we’d be wasting such a glorious morning lying around inside.
One look at the gorgeous weather and we packed up to head down to the bay in search of dolphins and whales. We first drove by the historic Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Park and although the parking lot was pretty full, even at 8:30am, Kitty’s expert eyes decided that Kealakekua would be our best bet so we kept driving til we reached Manini Beach.
I arrived in Kona late in the evening, and I was a tad disappointed that I hadn’t thought better about timing my flight. I had done my research on which side of the plane would give me the best perspective coming into the landing (right side, I was told) and I always love that first moment when you see the black lava fields coming into view. However, since my flight arrived around 7:30pm all I saw was black. I could tell when we were getting closer to Kona though, because the light on the plane’s wing was cutting through the vog which got thicker and thicker as we drew near.
The Kona airport always makes me a bit nostalgic. If I reach really far back into my memory, I can pull up vague images from when the Maui airport was open-air, like Kona. When instead of jetways you’d use the stairs off the tarmac to board your plane. I still remember the big tree where the baggage claim now lies. So stepping off my plane in Kona, all of those memories came back and it gave me a feeling of going back in time. Already, my mind slows down, muscles relax, and I let out a deep sigh. Ahhhhh…. vacation.
Heading south down the highway, we started climbing higher and higher in elevation, and light rain misting down on the windshield as my girlfriends and I caught up on each other’s lives and loves and all the fun things they’d been doing in Kona without me the past couple of days. We arrived in Kaohe, our home base for the next two days, and in the night we were surrounded by the sounds of the forest and the love from our hosts. I could tell already this was going to be a great trip – you know that feeling when you arrive in a place you’ve never been, yet it feels like home?