#BigIslandLove is a hashtag I found when I started posting Instagram photos from the Big Island of Hawaii last month. I quickly added it to my posts and also started using it on Twitter. I must admit that I started using it without much thought but I quickly found my own #BigIslandLove as we explored the island. It is unlike any place I have ever visited. In a very small space you can travel from alien landscapes to tropical rain forests, chill out on black beaches or peer into the heart of the volcano that made the beach, and that is just for starters.
The first thing we noticed when we landed in Kona was how relaxed everything felt compared to Honolulu. The open air Kona airport had a casual, Caribbean feel. Still, the small band and hula dancers that greeted us in the airport left no doubt that we were in Hawaii. Even if we had managed to miss the dancers, the hula statue just outside the airport told us we were in Hawaii.
Leaving the rental car area and starting down the Queen K Highway caused more than a little cognitive dissonance. We all know that Hawaii is green, lush and tropical. We were in a land that was brown, black, barren and dry. This was not the Hawaii of our imaginations.
The landscape changed to match our stereotype as we drove towards Hawi. Our plan was to drive around the North end of the island, then to Hilo and finally to the Kilauea Military Camp were we would spend the night. We did not expect to drive into the 1960s but that is where we stopped for coffee. The Kohala Coffee Mill was filled with old hippies. A jazz trio was playing on the sidewalk. The realtor next door made no effort to sell me a home when I asked about home prices. He was busy rocking in his rocking chair and enjoying the music. Why should he hurry, he was in paradise.
We might have stayed ourselves but a starter home was $300,000 and we had reservations on the other side of the island. By the time we reached Hilo, we had had a good sampling of the biodiversity of the Big Island. Without realizing it, we were also falling in love with the Big Island.
Over the next few days we visited the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, drove the Crater Rim Drive, drove across the center of the island and spent a few days in Kona before leaving for Maui. Incredible, wonderful, magical and other words cannot capture the Big Island. The #BigIslandLove hashtag is a start but to really feel the spell that the Big Island casts you have to visit for yourself. We did not want to leave but we are going back. For us, the love affair has just started and we don’t want it to end.