Last night I arrived in Hilo and met up with Wendy at the Hilo Bay Hostel. This is definitely one of the trendiest and most retro-looking hostels I have EVER stayed at! I loved the vintage/colonial/Hawaiiana decor and the people there were really friendly and nice. The beds were comfy, the kitchen was spacious and clean and the furniture was opulent. I would definitely recommend people to stay here.
In the morning, we wasted no time in getting on the road and outta Hilo. Whilst it is a good size town, it definitely has a rundown and uncared for feel about it - many of the buildings are falling apart, there are a lot of homeless people sleeping in doorways and it also holds the title of "Wettest city in the USA" with almost daily rainfall. As the skies were clear this morning we thought we'd take advantage of the opportunity to drive with the top down in the Mustang Convertible that Wendy rented!
We drove to Akaka Falls. I don't recall the exact height, but I think the drop is over 95meters. It's certainly an impressive natural sight of beauty! On the way back down to the highway, we stopped at a local cafe to get some healthy Mahi Mahi fish to go. Unfortunately, by the time we got back to the car, the heavens had opened and brought down torrential rain INTO our car which we had left with the roof down when we went in to the shop. One minute the sun had been shining and the next minute the dark clouds (which had appeared from nowhere) were pouring buckets of rain. With both us and our seats suitably drenched, we drive towards the South East coastal area of Puna.
The tiny town of Pahoa is well known for its eccentric and bohemian residents. It's the kind of place that has Tibetan prayer flags fluttering in the wind and tie-dyed t-shirts still on sale. Our accommodation for the night was at a small guesthouse called Mama Jo Jo's Hostel. Nobody in town seemed to know where it was located but we eventually found it and were greeted by the manager, Ogden, a skinny, bearded chap tending to the garden. We were shown to our room (no keys for the room doors as they support an open-door policy, but it was clean and quiet and within our budget so we were happy to base ourselves there for the evening and explore the coast that afternoon.
The coastal one-way drive on the Puna coast was amazing, thrilling and often scary in parts! Whether it is due to the effect of the lava flows changing to landscape or the geothermal and seismic activities, the road rises up and dips down and around like a moving ribbon. Really, I am not exaggerating when I say that, in parts, it was like riding on a roller coaster! We stopped at several places along the way to find a black-sand beach, rock pools, warm pools and a lagoon where you can snorkel in safety, protected from the string currents and stormy waves that characterise this part of the coast.
For dinner, we went to Kalani Retreat - a place I'd heard about from one of Maria's friends, Joel, who does work exchange for them. I'm not sure of the exact details, but he and many others work at the retreat in exchange for board, lodging and the opportunity to attend one of their many daily lifestyle and health classes and workshops. Unfortunately, we didn't have he budget to stay there but we decided to eat an evening meal as I'd heard rave reviews about the food on offer. The lady at reception, Venetia, mentioned that the Head Chef was a former Chef-to-the-stars who had worked for, amongst others, Princess Diana and Yasser Arafat! Anyways, I can confirm that we had a wonderfully healthy and delicious buffet meal with Uala (native purple sweet potato), seaweed salad, miso soup, seared Ahi tuna and fresh garden salad. The best part, yet again, was the vegan chocolate cake which was deliciously moist and fluffy, full of chocolatey goodness and finger-lickingly gooey. The most divine chocolate cake I have had in a long time and surprisingly great, especially considering that no eggs, butter or dairy were used! I need to find the recipe for this cake, somehow...