Welcome to Hawai'i Island a.k.a. Island of Hawaii a.k.a. Big Island

Visitor Alert Sign at Hawaii Volcanoes National ParkCredit: Southerngirl09

Discover Hilo on a Diamond Princess Cruise to Hawaii From California

Princess cruises knows how to do cruising right, so we had no concerns when we booked our cruise to Hawaii from California voyage with them. As repeat cruisers with Princess, we knew they'd deliver an extraordinary Hawaiian cruising experience, and they did. Our fifteen day roundtrip cruise to Hawaii from California, with stops on the islands of Maui, Kauai, Oahu, and Kona, also on the Big Island, was exhilarating, educational, elegant, excellence - truly worthy of their motto - "Escape Completely!"

Roundtrip Cruise to Hawaii From California on the Diamond PrincessCredit: Southerngirl09Sadly, however, this was our last stop on our cruise to Hawaii from California. Departing Hilo, the Diamond Princess would be turning east, and sailing for home. However, we rallied around, knowing that this first cruise to Hawaii from California, wouldn't be our last. The Hawaiian Islands are many things - ancient, magical, beautiful, historical, volcanic, romantic, a place of mourning - but at heart, she's addictive!

When booking the excursions we wanted to take in Hilo, on our cruise to Hawaii from California, we'd elected, from all the available tours offered, an excursion called, "Explore Hilo."

The following information, in the Princess Cruise's Guidebook, was a big help to us as we selected excursions for our cruise to Hawaii from California.

"Welcome to the Big Island of Hawaii - a paradise of black-sand beaches, tropical rainforest and volcanic mountains. Mauna Loa, the largest mountain on the planet, sars above th bleak lava fields of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. In the heart of the Big Island's lush rainforest lies the remote and stunning Wai'po Valley (Valley of the Kings). Hawaii's history matches its incomparable landscape - it is a saga of mighty Polynesian kings, sugar barons, war and treachery.

The landscape of the Big Island ranges from black-sand beaches to tropical rain forest to the alpine terrain of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea. At 13,796 feet above sea level, the summit of Mauna Kea is the highest point in the entire Pacific basin."  (Quote courtesy of Princess:  http://www.princess.com/learn/excursions/index.jsp)

So, Let's Go Explore Hilo

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

"I don't know where I'm a gonna go, When the volcano blow..." sings Jimmy Buffett in his song entitled, aptly, what else, "Volcano!"

To see "the volcano blow," you need to make sure, on your vacation cruise to Hawaii from California, that you select a tour that will take you to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. This Park is amazing! And you don't have to be a volcanologist to appreciate the sheer magnitude of this place, of 'Mother Nature,' and of 'Pele.'

While the Park inhabits one sector of the island, near Hilo, the Big Island, itself, is composed wholly of five different volcanoes. Only two of the five are located within the Park boundaries, and they are:

Mauna Loa, the biggest of the five volcanoes, is also the biggest in the world. An active volcano, she last erupted during the time spanning March 24, 1984 to April 15, 1984. Interestingly, some of Hilo actually rests on cooled, hardened lava, which had been erupted from Mauna Loa during the late eighteen hundreds.

Kilauea, the newest of the five, is the one many people travel to see. Kilauea, with her rift zones (zones where tectonic plates separate), dominates the Eastern Coast of the Big Island, south of Hilo. Pu'u 'O'o cone, situated on the eastern rift zone, has never stopped erupting since 1983. Lava from this cone has run into the ocean, ever enlarging the Big Island. According to ancient Hawaiian religion, Kilauea is also home to Pele - the goddess of volcanoes. A word of caution while visiting Kilauea: DO NOT take away any volcanic souvenirs, as this is considered stealing from Pele. This angers the goddess, and in turn, will bring you bad luck. Be respectful of Pele, when visiting her home, as you would anyone's home.

The five Big Island volcanoes are classified as shield volcanoes (those comprised of layers upon layers of hardened lava), and of course, the entirety of the State is located within the infamous, "Pacific Ring of Fire."

Crater Rim Drive and the Jaggar Museum

Halema`uma`u Crater Eruption April 10, 2008Credit: Southerngirl09When booking the tours you will take on your cruise to Hawaii from California voyage, look for an excursion that will take you around Crater Rim Drive (surrounding the Kilauea caldera), and stop at the Jaggar Museum. Jaggar sets beside the caldera, and provides an unobstructed view of the Halema'uma'u crater, from its outdoor observation deck. On April 9, 2008, Halema'uma'u crater erupted, spewing billowing clouds of sulfur dioxide into the air. We were scheduled to arrive in Hilo the next day, on April 10, but it was questionable if the Park would even be open.

Luck was on our side. The Park was open, and we were able to watch, and photograph, from the deck of Jaggar, Halema'uma'u crater expelling a massive cloud of sulfur dioxide from the Kilauea caldera. So, was Pele mad, or was she just saying "Hello?"

New Plant Growth in the July 1974 Lava FlowCredit: Southerngirl09We witnessed the effects of the "July 1974 Lava Flow." Like our other tour guides on this cruise to Hawaii from California trip, our Hilo guide was wonderful. He took the time to walk, whoever was interested, out onto the hardened lava, which had resulted from Kilauea's July 1974 eruption. He pointed out new plant life, which had sprouted up from the layers of lava.


Rain Forest at Hawaii Volcanoes National ParkCredit: Southerngirl09And, as unusual as it sounds, in this rugged volcanic land of Pele, there exists a rain forest. Our guide took us through the rain forest, pointing out the various plants as well as the Thurston Lava Tube. (A lava tube forms when a path of slower moving lava hardens on the outside; while on the inside, the lava continues to flow. Once all the lava has been expelled, and passed through the channel, an open tube remains.) This tunnel is now open for exploration. (But not by me!)

Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Factory

Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Visitor Center SignCredit: Southerngirl09

After our volcano adventure, we were ready to try some delicious samples at Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Factory. Imagine some of your favorite things to eat, and then imagine them integrated with macadamia nuts. Think: "Dry Roasted, Honey Roasted, Maui Onion & Garlic, Wasabi & Teriyaki, Milk Chocolate, Milk Chocolate Coconut, Milk Chocolate Toffee, Dark Chocolate, Kona Coffee Glaze, and Butter Candy Glaze." Thanks Mauna Loa volcano, for providing the perfect soil for growing these perfect little nuts!

In Closing

Our time in Hilo was wonderful! We will look forward to this port stop on our next cruise to Hawaii from California. What will Pele be up to the next time we visit? When looking to book your cruise to Hawaii from California, look for ship tours that will take you to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, to see what Pele has to say to you.



My Personal Diary

Princess Cruises Website (www.princess.com)

Wikipedia (www.wikipedia.org)

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park


US Geological Survey