Hawaii has its fair share of defining landmarks, but few of them compare to the volcanic activity bubbling under Big Island’s surface. It’s through this phenomenon that Global Discovery Vacations members Joel and Stefanie P. captured this once-in-a-lifetime photo, earning third place in our Shoot for the Stars contest (Landscape category). Here’s how they got it.
GDV: Where did you take the photo?
At Volcanoes National Park on Big Island. In the photo, we are right on the side of the cliff. If you took another step you would fall into the ocean. There are lava eruptions throughout the year on the island since the whole island is an active volcano. We were talking with some of the park rangers and they said there were new lava breaks just that day, where little spots open up and flow into the ocean.
GDV: What was that experience like?
Stefanie: They are once-in-a-lifetime moments. It’s not something you can photograph on just any trip you’re on.
It was different than I thought it would be. When people talk about volcanoes, they make it seem like a mountain that erupts with lava spewing everywhere. We hiked up there just before sunset through the lava field, so you’re walking right on top of the lava as its flowing underground. All of a sudden, you’d get really warm and look over and see an open break with lava going through. It was pretty neat. After the sun went down, there was a bunch of red glowing spots everywhere. It’s more dramatic seeing hot lava hit the water and watching the steam coming out.
They do say to enter at your own risk. There are no rules, so you can get as close to the lava as you want.
GDV: What brought you to Hawaii?
Stefanie: Sightseeing and relaxing. We actually went two days earlier than our condo reservation so we spent two nights in Hilo area before we went down and explored. We went to Green Sand Beach, South Point, went to Kona. We got to see quite a bit of the island.
GDV: What other spots do you recommend people visit?
Stefanie: From our condo, you could walk down to the black sand beach where the sea turtles were sleeping. We went to Kona and did a kayaking trip, which was fun. It was about three miles round trip, and we explored a sea cave and jumped off a cliff. We saw a couple dolphins out in the distance and did some snorkeling. We went to South Point, which is the southernmost point in the US. There is a 65 foot cliff that drops into the ocean, which is famous for people jumping off. I didn’t get the courage to do it, but my husband jumped in.
From there you can go to the famous Green Sand Beach. There are only four or so in the world, so it’s really rare and you can only access it with four-wheel drive. We got to a point where driving didn’t seem safe, so we considered walking. A lot of people do hike, but it’s a long way. And there are locals along the way you can pay to drive you, but we decided we were going to drive the whole way. We put our jeep in four-wheel drive and off we went to this secluded beach in the middle of nowhere. That was definitely a highlight.
We did a helicopter tour our last day in Hilo to get an aerial perspective of the lava flow and the island. We got the best of both worlds, through the land and the air.
GDV: How did you like the resort (Sea Mountain)?
Stefanie: We absolutely loved it. It’s one of our favorites that we’ve stayed at so far.
We were very hesitant because the hotel we stayed at (not through Global) messed up our reservations. They ended up finding a room, but it wasn’t’ what we reserved. It put a damper on the experience. When we went to the resort, it was a small complex, not huge and elaborate. But it’s very cool. It’s kind of Polynesian style, very natural and authentic looking.
The girl at the front desk was one of the nicest people I have ever met. She was super sweet. I thought from the map that our condo faced the parking lot, so we asked if we could see the ocean from the condo. She said we had a good one. We didn’t think it was going to be that good. We walked into the room and you walk up a couple stairs and the whole kitchen/living room has windows, sliding glass doors and balconies. We had the whole panoramic view of the ocean. That was the best view we’ve ever had in a condo, hands down. We were close to the pool and the grill, too, which we used to barbecue. I watched the sun rise every morning. It was pretty amazing.
GDV: Have you thought about how you’ll use your free Expressway?
Stefanie: There’s a million places we’d love to go. But with our schedule and living in Michigan, which has fantastic travel opportunities, we can do a winter snowmobiling or ski trip. There’s also a place in the upper Wisconsin area that we’ve been looking at.
Sounds like you’ve got a lot of options to choose from, Stefanie! Wherever you decide to go, we hope you encounter another once-in-a-lifetime moment and share it with us in next year’s Shoot for the Stars contest.