Kona is very popular tourist area because it’s on the sunny side of the island. It’s in the "shadow" of Mauna Kea so it gets much less rain. It also has the benefit of being on the west side where the sun sets over the bay.
We started our day with a short drive up to Kahalu’u beach. Based on appearances, our assumption was that it would be an underwhelming experience. The beach is right along the main drive in the tourist area. We put on our snorkeling stuff and headed off into the water to explore. We were immediately surprised to find a wide variety of marine life including many bright colored fishes, and our first encounter with a sea turtle! Roby was especially excited and enjoyed swimming along side of the turtle.
There were lots of coral formations and very calm water. It was a great way to shift into a new mood for Kona. Exploring at Kahalu’u was fun but it made us realize that we had some shortcomings in our snorkel equipment. Ryan couldn’t move around very quickly in just beach shoes and two of our masks were leaky and poor quality. Rusty ended up with sea urchin spines stuck in his finger so we figured some gloves would also be a good investment. After an hour of swimming we headed off to a local scuba shop to see if we could upgrade our equipment. We bought two new masks at an outdoor market and looked for flippers for Ryan, but they didn’t have any of the right style. It turned out that the only place to get the right equipment at the right price was Wal-Mart. Walking into a bustling Wal-Mart on a Saturday afternoon in Kona seemed a bit odd, but we found just what we were looking for — two new sets of flippers and an additional pair of gloves.
We decided to head south to explore some other beaches and bays. We stopped for lunch along the way and learned of a route that would take us past Kealakekua Bay and over a one-lane back road to Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Park. (At lunch we happened to meet a nice Hawaiian who explained that the Hawaiian language has only 15 consonants which explains why all these names are so darn hard to pronounce and distinguish from each other).
The National Park is a historic location where tribal chiefs lived and ruled the islands. It’several buildings, an outrigger and the walled village that was build in the 1500s (the wall is actually the original).
The snorkeling in the bay was a bit more difficult because the water was choppy but there was a lot to see. There were deep holes in the coral reef — perhaps 30 or 40 feet deep — with lots of colorful fish. We also got to swim with several other turtles both in close to the shore and out in the deeper water. It was a lot of fun but we had a difficult time lasting more than an hour in the sun and waves.
We explored the village a bit after snorkeling and then headed back to Kealakekua Bay to just see the boats gathering in the late afternoon. We found a local who rents kayaks in the bay and that is our plan for the morning — take some food, our snorkels, and kayak out into the bay to see the Captain Cook monument and other hidden areas of this beautiful bay.
The evening was once again mellow. After a quick dip in the pool near the condo we had dinner and watched some TV while the sun set.