Monday, February 1, 2010
Northwest Winter: Escape to the Big Island
Yes, this is a blog about the Pacific Northwest, but a lot of us here do the same thing for a week or two each winter:
Often for somewhere warmer and, perhaps, tropical. My last tropical vacation was to Belize (which you can read about here), but now I’m chillin’ on the Big Island of Hawai’i. So consider this the first of a few blog postcard equivalents. Short on words and picture-centric.
We’re staying on the wet side of the island, a few miles south of Pahoa. It’s very damp and lush here, unlike home right now.
Since I’m a farmer’s market junkie, on Saturday morning we head to the famous Hilo Farmer’s Market to see the real local food and culture. It doesn’t disappoint. Everyone seems to be happy and smiling and relaxed here. With beautiful produce and soft, warm air, no wonder!
We don’t grow these in the Northwest!
Then we stop at a local glass jewelry maker’s stall and enjoy chatting with Jenny Kempe-Kupka and her husband Alex. And of course buy a few pieces of their beautiful work (notice Jenny's pendant).
Then it’s on to lunch at Café Pesto in funky old downtown Hilo near the market. We just stopped here because it was close to the market and we could sit down. But my lunch is fantastic! I chow down succulent, flaky fresh ono topped with crab and a plum hollandaise sauce, served with a salad of lightly steamed fresh fern shoots and sesame jasmine rice. Everything is fresh and local and perfect.
After lunch we head north of Hilo up the Hamakua coast, where it’s a bit sunnier and drier. We cut off onto a 4-mile scenic drive that follows the route of the old highway and take a quick walk down to Onomea Bay.
About a mile farther up the road we stop for mango smoothies. My smoothie is so thick and tropical sweet that I get a nasty headache from slurping it down too quickly. But life is good as we relax and sip at a covered table next to the Smoothie Shack and take in the expansive ocean view.
Before dark we dash to spectacular but very accessible Akaka Falls along a short paved trail through profusely green and luxuriant native vegetation. It really reminds me of our many plummeting waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge.
Heading back down from the falls, we pass through the sleepy but picturesque old plantation town of Honomu, where some locals sit in lawn chairs in their front yard and watch the tourists.
"Where are you from?" says Woodshop Gallery and Café co-owner Peter McLaren, formerly of Yorkshire. When we say Seattle, he sighs “Ah, beautiful place. Been there many times. Lots of people stopping by today from Seattle.” We get around. Peter chats away for a good 20 minutes, dropping lots of insider’s tips on what to see and do. I'm learning to forget my agenda and listen patiently to what the locals here have to say. My mantra for the rest of the trip:
Dinner tonight at Miyo’s Japanese restaurant in Hilo is just as good as lunch. I’m realizing that everything tastes so wonderful because most of it is all island grown and produced (or fished). I know I’m going to eat very healthfully and well on this trip.