A Digital Journal

Photography by Tony Triolo

Aloha Hawaii

On quite the spur of the moment, my wife Sharron and I decided to go to Hawaii. We had been to the 50th state way back in 1980, almost 37 years ago. That’s a long time, so when we got an offer from Hilton Hotels to stay at their resort village on Waikiki Beach, at a reduced rate, we said, why not. The catch (there’s always one of those) was that we would have to endure a two-hour sales pitch to purchase a Hilton timeshare. We’ve been to these sorts of things before, so we thought we could easily survive their efforts to get us to sign on the dotted line.


Sunset on Waikiki

We decided to go in January, which we felt would be a good time to escape the cold. We didn’t know how right we were until we started receiving texts and emails from family members back home telling us that Alabama was experiencing some of the lowest temperatures in years.

Hilton Hawaiian Village


Diamond Head at Waikiki

We arrived on Saturday, January 13, a momentous day in the history of the Hawaiian Islands, as it turned out. That was the very same day that an erroneous emergency alert was sent out to every citizen’s cell phone, TV set, radio and Apple watch, that a ballistic missile attack was imminent and to seek immediate shelter. Fortunately for us, our plane was still several hundred miles away from landing in Honolulu. Once we did land, the threat had already been determined to be in error. The panic felt by many Hawaiians had already dissipated by the time we arrived.


Our first week on Oahu was spent at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, an enormous vacation resort right on Waikiki Beach, and just a few hotels away from where we stayed 37 years ago. It’s a beautiful place comprised of a half dozen high-rise residence towers, five pools, an equal number of restaurants, two Starbucks, shops and even its own lagoon. You could get lost in this place, and believe me, we did.


The Fire Dance at the Hilton luau show

Our week on Oahu was great. When we weren’t enjoying the beach or one of the pools, we were exploring the island. We took a tour of Pearl Harbor, drove through properties once owned by the Dole Pineapple Company, watched surfers challenge thirty-foot waves up on the North Shore and visited the Polynesian Cultural Center. We even saw the locations for several Hollywood movies, like Jurassic Park and From Here to Eternity. One night, we took in the Hawaiian luau at our hotel and really loved the show.

Scenes of Oahu

For our second week, we flew to the island of Hawaii, or as it’s better known, the Big Island. We had never been to this island before so we rented a car since we planned to do a good bit of exploring. To get a sense of the place, we took a group tour around the entire island on the first day to see the major highlights, and decide which places we wanted to return to on our own. From Kona, we headed south and then east to Hilo, the main town on the east, or wet side, of the island. Because of the prevailing winds and mountainous terrain, the east side of the island gets over 200 inches of rain a year, while the west side gets relatively little. Unfortunately, most of what we wanted to see was on the east coast, so we kept raincoats and umbrellas close by.


On the road to Ka Lae (South Point)

We did manage to revisit several spots we saw on our first day’s tour. The black sand beach at Panalu’u was made better on our second visit by the presence of several green sea turtles. We wanted to go back to the Volcanoes National Park, but that wish was almost dashed when Congress did not vote on the budget and the government shut down. As a result, most national parks were closed including Volcanoes NP. Fortunately, a few days later, Congress did approve funding for a few more weeks and the park did reopen. A highlight of the trip was getting to stay overnight at the Volcano House, the historic hotel on the edge of the Kilauea Caldera. At night we got to see the lava glow from the crater right from our hotel, but a better vantage point was from the Jaggar Museum. We drove the Crater Rim Drive down to the ocean, walked through the Thurston Lava Tube and survived several active steam vents.


The glowing caldera on Kilauea

Another place I wanted to return to was Akaka Falls. The tour company took us here, but conditions for photographs that afternoon were awful, so I planned to return the next morning. Akaka is a spectacular 420-foot waterfall, one of many on the island. Rainbow Falls was another beautiful waterfall we got to see and photograph. The natural beauty of the island of Hawaii cannot be truly appreciated until you actually visit there. The Waipi’o Valley is a beautiful and spiritual place, as is Ka Lae, which is better known as South Point, the southernmost point of the United States. The road to get there is narrow, and the last couple of miles can only be safely accomplished with a four-wheel drive vehicle. We didn’t want to test the capability of our two-wheel drive rental car, so we drove as far as we could, but didn’t quite make it to the green sand beach at Mahana Bay. We did see several black sand beaches, including one where a bathing suit was optional.

The Big Island

We took the drive up Mauna Kea to the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy that was named for the Kona-born astronaut who died in the shuttle Challenger explosion in 1986. Not far from the slopes of this 13,000-ft. extinct volcano, the land begins to flatten out into beautiful grasslands. This is the Parker Ranch, the largest privately held ranch in the U.S. The land supports 35,000 head of cattle. We visited the original homestead, which was a bit underwhelming.

Perhaps the highlight of our time on Hawaii was our zipline adventure. Surprisingly, Sharron has had ziplining on her bucket list for a while, so we figured this was as good a place as any to make it a reality. The zipline company we chose was highly rated and we were not disappointed. The course was comprised of seven ziplines progressing in height and distance. You start out nice and easy, but before you know it, you’re sailing over 400-foot ravines and a distance of over half a mile. We passed by some amazing waterfalls and lush tropical vegetation. Our guides pointed out the notable flora and fauna of the area and we even got to sample the local “apple” bananas and sugar cane growing there. We really had a fun time and hope to do it again sometime.


A fellow zipliner takes a selfie

Our self-guided tour of the Big Island basically followed the same route that we took on the first day, but we were able to see so much more. Had we not gone off on our own, we would have missed St. Benedict’s Painted Church in Honaunau, highlighted by bright biblical scenes painted by a Belgian priest. We’d have missed the Pu’uhonua O Honaunau Historic Park that showed us how the early Hawaiians lived and worshipped. And we would have missed the humorous things that kept us laughing, like the coffee plantation named “Kona Lisa” whose marketing featured that smiling DaVinci maiden sipping a delicious cup of Hawaiian coffee. We’d also have missed the bookstore that was open for five hours on Wednesdays only! That’s the job I want.

Parker Ranch and Panalu’u’s green sea turtles

It was a great trip that ended all too soon, as most good things do. Our flight home from Kona was uneventful. The airport there is totally outdoors, which I suppose illustrates the little rainfall that side of the island receives. It is not well managed, which leads to a bit of confusion. We had no idea what gate we were flying out of until the last minute. All flights are accessed from the tarmac, so Sharron had a bit of a struggle dealing with her carry-on luggage and all the souvenirs she brought back for all the kids and grandkids.


Windmills along the road to Ka Lae

One final note – we did manage to resist buying a timeshare in Hawaii, much to our kids’ dismay.


Kilauea Caldera

March 11, 2018 - Posted by | Hawaii, Photography, Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Your work is incredible! Harriet Reavis is a dear friend and sent me a link to see your photos. Beautiful!

    Comment by Sue Kramer | July 29, 2018 | Reply

    • Many thanks. I appreciate it.

      Comment by Tony | July 29, 2018 | Reply

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