Aloha Hawaii!!!!

Around the same time we left cruising my parents and brother moved out to the Big Island of Hawaii, just outside of Kona. My sister Rebecca had been living there already with her husband Chris and their twin daughters, Christina and Hanna. It had been awhile since I had seen my family and when they asked us to come out for a visit we didn’t hesitate! We were so excited to see my family after almost a year of traveling and couldn’t wait to check out their new home for the first time.

I’ll spare you the day-to-day style blog post here, because honestly we spent a lot of time just catching up with my family. When you haven’t been able to hug your parents in a year you don’t really care so much about what you do as long as it’s quality time with your loved ones. That time isn’t for the blog, but just for us!

Instead, we’ll share with you the highlights!

The Big Island of Hawaii is the largest island of the archipelago and the fourth most visited island behind Oahu, Maui, and Kauai. The island itself contains less than 15% of the state’s population, even though all of the other islands could fit within it. What does that mean for the island’s visitors? More nature, less crowds and  way more aloha love!!!!

Thurston, Nahuku Lava Tube Walk in Volcano National Park.
Videoing waves at South Point.

Life in Hawaii is lived outdoors. Homes, offices, and even the airport are built with open-air walkways, large windows and lanais (balconies or patios) so you’re never fully indoors. The native Hawaiians see their identities and wellbeing intertwined with the land, respecting it and living in harmony with it is of the utmost importance to them.

The Big Island was unlike any other place we’ve been before and it’s one of the few places where you can find a land mass go from nothing but smoldering rock and ash, to a flourishing rainforest within an hour drive. In my opinion this island offers the most to an adventurous person!

Here are a few of our favorite stops/adventures while visiting the Big Island:

Seeing my family was number one of course….

Ok, I had to say that but seeing my family underwater was truly my favorite! For as long as I can remember I’ve loved the water, surfing, swimming, diving, or just floating. The ocean has cast her spell on me and it flows through my veins. So just snorkeling out in front of my parents house at Heeia Bay was amazing! The underwater structures and swim throughs out on the point looked like the Lost City of Atlantis.

There are lots of great spots for snorkeling around the island and we had a chance to visit a few. A couple of our favorites were: Anaeho’omalu (A Bay), Magic Sands, Two Step, Lapakahi Park, and Mauna Kea Beach. There are many more, but half the fun is stopping the car and jumping in to see for yourself!

Hiking Pololu Valley.

2. Manta Ray Night Dive:

The Manta Ray night dive was one of the coolest experiences we’ve ever had! And on the Big Island there are three main dive sites that numerous charter/dive companies can take you to to dive or snorkel with manta rays. The dive itself is very easy, essentially you drop down 30ft to the ocean floor and sit in a giant circle around some very bright lights. What makes this dive world famous is the graceful giants that come gliding through the illuminated water column. Pass after pass, these massive manta rays gorge themselves on plankton that are attracted to the light. As they barrel roll in the water above the strobe lights feeding, you’re sitting front row seat to the buffet!

The manta rays that live here in the Hawaiian waters belong to the sub species manta alfredi, they are smaller than the larger migratory species of manta birostris, and are found to live in shallower, more coastal habitats. These so-called reef mantas are the second largest species of manta rays in the world and they can have a wingspan of up to eighteen feet (5.5m)! On average, the manta rays you see here will be around twelve feet. It is truly an amazing experience and one that should not be missed, even with the hefty price tag attached.

3. Pololu Valley:

Pololu Valley is the northern-most point of the island, located at the end of the windy Highway 270.  Make your way down the first decent from the road and look out into the beautiful valley below. Cross the fresh water stream that bisects the valley and find the path that continues up the other side.

There are seven valleys along the trail, each one is slightly different but equally rewarding. As you climb and descend each of the divides the trail gets less and less maintained, but still easy enough to follow. Most people stop after the first valley and by the third you will most likely be by yourself, walking through lush rainforest, towering bamboo, old palm tree fields and massive ferns.

Swimming in these valleys is for experienced ocean swimmers only. I hate being one to say not to do something, but there are very strong rip currents, ocean currents, and large swells. There are no lifeguards and limited to no cell service here, so if you do want to jump in and cool off stay in the shallows.

Once a lifeguard, always a lifeguard.

4. Volcano National Park

Do I need to say anything at all here? The Big Island has active volcanos!!! My only thought other than you have to go see the lava flow, is how to do it. We drove to the end of highway 130, where the lava flow has covered over it! There are a ton of bike rental places along this road and the prices all seemed similar. Ask a few vendors about pricing and go with one that has mountain bikes with several gears. It’s a dirt road and only takes about half an hour to forty five minutes of relatively easy peddling to reach the end. I would strongly recommend going a couple of hours before dark, the lava is amazing anytime, but to see it glowing in the dark after sunset is unreal!!!

Hiking out to the lava flow.

Make sure to bring plenty of water, a camera and some little snacks. Be prepared to hike after the bike ride, you will have a fairly strenuous hike over sharp uneven terrain to get to the lava flow (if it’s flowing). I recommend a pair of shoes that you won’t mind getting ripped up or even slightly melted. Bring a headlamp or ask your bike rental place for an extra flash light for your bike in case the batteries die or they just are not that bright.

This was truly one of the most amazing experiences that we have ever had! To see, feel and even smell the molten lava flowing from the hillside and under the massive plates was amazing!
Make sure to look up or call ahead to see where and how much lava is flowing. Sometimes the volcano is more active than others, and occasionally it’s so active that they have to close the entire area.

Mordor!

5. Papakōlea Beach:

Also known as the Green Sand Beach, it gets its name from the green, glassy olivine crystals that make up most of the sand on this beach. The olivines are washed out of a 49,000 year old cinder cone that once spewed olivine-rich lava, and is visible on the east side of the bay. Getting here is as easy as it appears on google maps. From the parking lot it’s only 2.5 mile hike down a dirt road to get to the beach. Make sure to go early to beat the crowds!

Papakōlea Beach or the Green Sand Beach

If you really hate walking or can’t hike that far, you can also drive to the beach but you will need a high clearance 4X4 to get through the ruts and soft, powder-like sand. For the best view of the beach and the green color, it’s best to view the beach from the point just south.

Lucky enough to have the beach all to ourselves for bit!

6. South Point:

While visiting the Green Sand Beach you should also stop by and check out South Point, the southern-most point in the US. This is a beautiful area to walk around and to see the power of the Pacific as the massive, deep blue ocean swells crash onto the dark lava cliffs.

If you are feeling a little more adventurous, there is also a popular 40 foot cliff jump into the surprisingly warm and clear water. If you do plan on jumping bring a mask and snorkel, hold on to it but don’t wear it on the jump. The visibility in the waters below the cliff is amazing (depending on tide and swell) and there are many underwater ledges and swim throughs along the wall.

7. The City of Refuge (Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Park):

The simplified history of this National Park is that in the ancient Hawaiian culture the City of Refuge was a safe place where no one could hurt or capture you. If you had broken the Kapu, or law that was often punishable by death, you could escape here as fast as you could to find safety and even be forgiven by a priest. The calm waters and small bay also offered a protected place to land canoes and fish, which now makes it a perfect place to snorkel.

8. Punalu’u:

This beach is your best bet to see the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle, locally called honu, sunbathing on the coarse jet-black sand. Green Sea Turtles like to relax on the warm sand, just like us visiting humans. The combination of colors from vibrant green coconut trees, charcoal black sand and shimmering blue waters create a fairy tale like backdrop, making this the most popular black sand beach on the Big Island.

If you are heading to the Big Island on vacation, you are more than likely going to want to spend at least one day just hanging out on a beautiful sand beach. This is not as easy as it is on some of the other islands, as the Big Island is a newer island and hasn’t had the time to develop as much sand as the others, but there are still some amazing sand beaches.

Here again are just a few of our favorites near where we were staying in Kona: Kua bay, Makalawena Beach and Mahaiʻula Bay, Aiopio Beach, Airport Beach, and Magic Sands.

‘Akaka Falls

9. Waterfalls:

Everyone loves a good waterfall and Hawaii has many! Our favorites were Rainbow Falls, Boiling Pots and ‘Akaka Falls. Most falls are over near Hilo where the rainforest thrives, and they were definitely worth the drive to go and see.

Rainbow Falls
Boiling Pots

I have to say that after spending two weeks on the Big Island exploring, it’s now my favorite island, with Kauai coming in for a close second. In fact, Rachel and I both agree that this is one of the few places on a very short list of places that we could see ourselves living and starting a family. We loved every moment with our family here in Hawaii, from swimming and hiking, to pool side BBQ’s and sunsets in the KTA parking lot, the Big Island’s laid back vibe enchanted us and we look forward to visiting again soon.

For more information on the island of Hawaii, check out the website LoveBigIsland.com.

Van Life: Adventures of Ron Burgundy Video

While stateside for the offseason this year we finally had time to do a road trip through California, Arizona, Utah, Idaho and Wyoming. Of all the places we have seen so far, some of our favorites are right here at home in the United States. We drove over 4,200 miles and saw countless national parks and public lands, and we can honestly say that we didn’t even scratch the surface! We hope you enjoy this short video.

To see more about our road trip and a few tips for your next adventure, check out our previous post: Adventures of Ron Burgundy: 4,000 Miles out West.

Adventures of Ron Burgundy: 4,000 Miles Out West

TO ESCAPE THE HEAVY RAINS AND ROUGH SAILING CONDITIONS BROUGHT ON BY HURRICANE SEASON IN SOUTHERN MEXICO, RACHEL AND I DECIDED TO FLY BACK TO THE STATES AND TAKE OUR VAN, RON BURGUNDY, FOR A ROAD TRIP!!!

Driving through Capitol Reef National Park.
Capitol Reef National Park.

I think that as American travelers we have underestimated and taken for granted all of the amazing places that the States have to offer. California alone is almost as large as all of Central America combined! And although hiking for miles while being eaten alive by bugs as you translate directions down some mud road in the middle of the jungle in Guatemala has its own allure, there is something to be said about the ease of access that our National Parks and public lands offer.

Sunrise at Utah’s salt flats.
Bryce Canyon.

We drove over four thousand miles in just under a month trying to soak up and see as much of California, Arizona, Utah, Idaho and Wyoming as we possibly could, although we only scratched the surface!

Mojave lava tubes.
Our campsite in Yellowstone National Park.

Public lands are a hot topic in current legislation and we on Agape feel it is one of the most important issues on the table. Rachel and I have been fortunate enough to see first hand these beautiful places and the difference that federal protection can make on the land and animals that call it home.

Traffic jam on Antelope Island.

On our trip we were amazed at how easy it was to go and see the parks, and we appreciated all the conveniences they had to offer. From showers and clean drinking water, to campsites, bathrooms and even laundry services, we were impressed! After spending so much time traveling abroad we had grown accustomed to going without. Our parks and monuments have made it possible for everyone to experience our public lands. From the young fit hikers and travelers, to the elderly and disabled, our public lands are truly accessible by everyone!

Horse Shoe Bend, Arizona

Almost all the parks have campsites located within their boarders, but to help pay for their upkeep and the facilities they offer there is generally a fee of $10-25. However, there is usually BLM (Bureau of Land  Management) or National Forest land near by that you can disperse camp on for free within their borders. Although they are a little more rustic, these locations are usually great and most of the time there is no one near by.

Road block in Yellowstone National Park.
One of many geysers in Yellowstone.

We think that for a lot of avid outdoorsmen part of the allure is getting away from people and away from civilization, and although the National Parks can sometimes get crowed there is always plenty of trails that will lead you off the beaten path. Our parks enable everyday urbanites to also experience and learn about why it is so important to protect these lands. If you have never had an experience in these wild places, chances are you don’t have a reason to want to protect them. Our parks enable everyone to have that experience and see the amazing wonders that make up this country.

Monument Valley, Utah
Wild horses roaming in Utah

Some of our favorite parks out west included Zion, Bryce Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Arches and Grand Teton National Park. Other must see’s are Sequoia National Park, Capitol Reef, Joshua Tree, Horseshoe Bend, Bears Ears National Monument, Antelope Island and Kings Canyon.

Delicate Arch, Arches National Park
Great Arch in Capitol Reef National Park.

A FEW TIPS FOR YOUR NEXT ROAD TRIP:

GET THE ANNUAL PASS

If you are planning on visiting more than four National Parks, we highly recommend buying the annual pass. In the end it will save you some cash. Yes they are expensive ($80), but they are good for all National Parks for one year. This will save you money if you plan to make multiple trips, and it allows you access to the parks that you would otherwise bypass. Plus it helps support our parks!

Utah’s salt flats

BULK FOOD BINS

The stores that offer bulk items are a great place to find snacks, nuts, trail mix and dried fruits. It’s cheaper and a better selection than gas station food.

Grand Teton National Park
One of many beautiful lakes in the Grand Teton National Park.

IF IT LOOKS COOL, STOP!!!!

So many times we have thought about stopping but continued on and regretted not pulling over. If you even think about stopping for a second, just do it! Some of the coolest things we’ve seen have been last second decisions to see what’s down a dirt road or was a stop for a quick picture.

 

Freediving Utila, Honduras

AS FULL TIME VOYAGERS, MOST OF OUR LIFE IS CENTERED AROUND THE OCEAN; WE ARE HIGHLY AWARE OF THE WEATHER, TIDES AND SWELLS. FOR US THE SEA IS A WAY OF LIVING — IT SUSTAINS US AND TAKES US TO NEW PLACES. THE OCEAN IS OUR HOME AND WE STRIVE TO GROW AND LEARN MORE ABOUT HER EVERYDAY.

One of our favorite places in the world! Photo by Willie Kessel.

After exploring Guatemala for a few weeks we journeyed to the island of Utila, Honduras to learn the tips and tricks that would equip us to be better divers. This would be my fifth trip to the island and Josh’s third, we’ve been coming back here for years since I complete my dive masters course back in 2009. Utila is located on the second largest barrier reef in the world and is known for it’s renowned diving. It’s also a backpacker’s paradise and one of the cheapest places in the world to learn how to dive!

Dock view from Ecomarine. Photo by Willie Kessel.

The small island has only a few roads and most of the island is impenetrable wilderness, accessible only by the sea. The island also has beautiful beaches, a huge lagoon surrounded by mangroves (perfect for kayaking), and tons of snorkeling. It truly is a magical place to get away, slow down and enjoy the sea.

Photo by Willie Kessel.
Sunset kayaking on the lagoon. Photo by Willie Kessel.

Our previous trips to the island have always been about scuba diving and visiting friends, and this trip wouldn’t be much different. Only this time we planned on taking an Apnea free diving course with Freedive Utila.

Lionfish hunting with our friends at Ecomarine.

The beginner’s course was two and a half days. We spent a few hours in the classroom learning about the different disciplines of apnea free diving, breathing techniques and the dangers of the sport. Our first day in the water we would be practicing our breathe ups and diving to a depth of 12 meters/40ft. We were amazed at how relaxed we were! The breathing techniques we were taught were like a meditation, our bodies and minds were completely at rest and we were able to dive to 40ft relaxed and comfortable. We were even able practice our breath holds at depth.

First day of class with Freedive Utila. Photo by Willie Kessel.

The second day we learned a new breathing technique that would help us dive deeper. That day we reached a depth of 21 meters or 70ft. We dove the same shipwreck that we had scuba dove years earlier with heavy tanks and cumbersome gear, only this time we were free diving and waving to the scuba divers.

I shall call him Squishy and he shall be mine and he shall be my Squishy. Photo by Willie Kessel.
Photo by Willie Kessel.

Being relaxed is key. Slowing down your heart beat is so important, and for deep dives a breathe up can take up to five minutes. Don’t breathe quickly trying to hyperventilate, since that increases your chance of a shallow water blackout. Think of your breathe up as a meditation, recognize tension in your body and try to release it, as tense muscles use more oxygen than relaxed muscles do. Keeping your body and mind relaxed and calm will help you achieve longer and deeper dives. Long deep breaths starting from your belly and into your chest will help fill up more of your lungs and give you more air for your dive.

Swimming with pilot whales off of Utila. Photo by Willie Kessel.

We learned lots of specifics in the course, many pertaining to safety. If you are interested in pursuing freediving and want to be able to dive deeper and longer, we highly recommend taking a course with a professional instructor.

Pumpkin Hill beach. Photo by Willie Kessel.

By the end of the advanced course, Josh could hold his breath for over 5 minutes and dive comfortably to 100ft!

Photo by Willie Kessel.

Learning how to relax in the ocean is a vital tool for anyone who surfs, dives, or enjoys swimming in the ocean. The ocean is so humbling; after growing up and spending our lives on the ocean, there is so much more we can learn from it. We have more respect for it each and every day.