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Hilo

Started: 2018-04-10 18:11:00

Submitted: 2018-04-13 14:59:22

Visibility: World-readable

In which the intrepid narrator heads into Hilo and swims in the Pacific Ocean

Our first tourist stop on Wednesday, 28 March was Panaewa Rainforest Zoo & Gardens, a county-run zoo outside Hilo with various tropical plants and animals. (As a bonus, admission was free.) We wandered around the zoo in the bright tropical sun, saw a nene (Hawaii's state bird, a local goose), a bunch of parakeets and reptiles, and various monkeys. (Most of the plants and animals were not native to Hawaii; as one of the most isolated land masses on the planet, Hawaii's ecology is somewhat less diverse than one would expect from a mainland tropical rain forest.) We saw the most impressive animals last: two Bengal tigers, one white, lounging in the shade, looking over the fences separating them from several mules walking nervously around their fenced-in yard.

Bengal tigers Tzatiki and Siracha at the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo
Bengal tigers Tzatiki and Siracha at the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo

We stopped by Target in Hilo to pick up sandals for the beach for the rest of the family. (Julian did not appreciate the flip-flops Kiesa got for him yesterday, so she got him shoes that would work in the water. Finding flip-flops that fit Calvin seemed far more difficult than it should have been; I was confused by the inconsistent sizing of the sandals so we eventually picked water shoes that probably worked better anyway.)

We drove to downtown Hilo, found the farmer's market, found street parking nearby (that barely fit my giant Yukon XL), and wandered through the market, looking at the stalls set up with various local produce, not all of which I recognized. Sasa pointed out longan, a relative of lychee, which her father grows. We picked up some papaya and a novel banana variant called "apple banana", and got a bag of tamales to eat for lunch. There didn't seem to be an especially good place to eat our lunch, so we sat on a low wall overlooking Hilo Bay (near the bus station and band shelter that seemed popular with the local homeless population).

The sky was overcast when we started eating, and it started raining as we finished eating. We beat a hasty retreat to the car, without stopping to admire the massive banyan tree in the park and its dubious promise of some shelter from the downpour. (At sea level, on the more-rainy eastern side of the island, the rain was unpleasantly wet but not nearly as cold as I normally expect with rain.)

We drove a few miles west, through the small downtown and into the neighborhoods to the west, to stop at Rainbow Falls, an impressive cascade in the Wailuku River, where the river had cut through volcanic rock on its inexorable journey to the sea.

Rainbow Falls
Rainbow Falls

It was still raining as we emerged from the car, but the water was warm enough that it didn't really matter, aside from not wanting to get my camera especially wet. We climbed up the stairs leading to an overlook above the falls (where the rocky outcrop between the viewing platform and the falls blocked some of the view of the falls), then continued along the bluff to find ourselves under a large banyan tree, providing a brief respite as the rain subsided.

Banyan tree outside Hilo
Banyan tree outside Hilo

We headed back down the stairs as the rain stopped. I staged something resembling a family photo and enlisted Sasa to take our picture with the falls in the background.

Jaeger, Calvin, Kiesa, and Julian at Rainbow Falls
Jaeger, Calvin, Kiesa, and Julian at Rainbow Falls
Sasa, Calvin, Kiesa, and Julian at Rainbow Falls
Sasa, Calvin, Kiesa, and Julian at Rainbow Falls

We headed back to the car and drove up the river to the Boiling Pots, a series of cascades that the river had carved into the volcanic rock, which turned out to be somewhat underwhelming (though certainly bright and green as the sun began to come out again after the rain clouds passed).

Boiling Pots
Boiling Pots
Calvin, Sasa, Kiesa, and Julian walk back from Boiling Pots
Calvin, Sasa, Kiesa, and Julian walk back from Boiling Pots

We drove back through Hilo to Richardson's Beach Park, a small public black-sand beach with a protected cove where Calvin and Julian could play in the water.

Calvin in the water and Julian, Kiesa, and Sasa on shore at Richardson's Beach Park
Calvin in the water and Julian, Kiesa, and Sasa on shore at Richardson's Beach Park

I grabbed the snorkel mask and fins I borrowed from our Airbnb and headed into the water. The cove was protected from the direct force of the ocean by a natural lava breakwater, but the water still rose and fell as waves broke on the rocks forming the cove. It took a few minutes to get the hang of my mask and snorkel, but once I figured it out I could see the brilliantly-colored fish swimming around the brain coral under the waves -- albeit somewhat blurry, since my glasses wouldn't fit under my mask (and would have gotten too wet to see through if they had).

I returned to shore, amused by my experience snorkeling in the ocean, and wondered if one can get prescription corrections in snorkel masks. (One can, it turns out, leading me to wonder how often I would need to go snorkeling to justify buying a prescription corrected mask.)

Pacific Ocean from Richardson's Beach Park
Pacific Ocean from Richardson's Beach Park

I walked around the beach, which quickly gave way from sand to rock. (I want to call the rock "boulders", because that's roughly the right size, but being volcanic rock formed in place I'm not sure that's the right word.) I caught a glimpse of a sea turtle swimming in a rocky channel behind the surf, and climbed onto the rock to look out over the surf into the Pacific Ocean.

Waves crash at Richardson's Beach Park
Waves crash at Richardson's Beach Park

We declared our time at the beach complete, dropped by the beach shower to change, and headed into Hilo for supper. We ate at Pineapples, a good crowded restaurant a few blocks inland from the bay. (Calvin did not seem amused by the pineapple salsa offered on his nachos, but I thought it was good.) After eating we headed back to our Airbnb to end the day.

For more pictures from my day around Hilo, see Photos on 2018-03-28.

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