I sit in an open and airy living room in Kona, belly stuffed full of kalua pork as I listen to the ocean waves just across the volcanic sea wall in front of our condo. It’s a great way to spend an evening.
We’re back on the grid, mixing with society again after a couple of nights in a treehouse five minutes from one of the world’s most active and continuously erupting volcanoes. As I write that I realize it doesn’t exactly boast of my finest parenting decisions to date. Still, we managed to not only survive, but enjoy ourselves as well. It is nice to have potable water again, though. Oh, and not have to open all the windows and doors because your propane stovetop will suffocate your child otherwise.
Propane and babies don't mix
Leaving Honoka’a was welcomed, in my opinion. Two days was plenty of time there, and while I enjoyed the downtime and exploring more of the Big Island than I would have had we stayed put in either Kona or Hilo as main bases for exploration, it was kind of boring. It was therefore with relief that we packed up and headed toward Volcano, a small town less than a mile outside of the Volcanoes National Park.
Treehouse in Volcano
I found a tree house on Vrbo.com that looked pretty fascinating and decided to book it. We weren’t able to check in until 3 p.m., so we stopped in Hilo along the way and enjoyed a cup of coffee at a coffee shop with sharks hanging everywhere, sharks in the name, and even a menu with shark titled sandwiches. It’s like it was built just for me.
Sharks, sharks, sharks!
We also stopped by the The Two Ladies Kitchen, which was recommended as a place to pick up divine mochi, which we happily did. Full disclosure: I don’t like mochi. Not really, anyway. I still don’t, but the baseball size strawberry mochi with red bean paste and fresh strawberry in the center was delicious.
The bakery, another run down hole in the wall in Hilo
Mochi for days
Size of a baseball
We didn’t stay long in Hilo, knowing that D would need a nap and opting instead to finish the drive to Volcano while he napped. It’s multitasking parenting and vacation! Yay.
When we’d made it to Volcano D was still asleep so we opted to head into the park for a looksy before heading to the treehouse. Entry into the park is $10 and is good for 7 days after purchase. The park itself is open 24 hours a day, so overall I’d say it’s a pretty good deal. D woke up mid exploration and we walked him out to the Kilauea crater.
Zac and I have been to the volcano park before and enjoyed the Kilauea Iki trail down into the caldron on our last visit. We knew this wasn’t an optional hike with D. Aside from the steep descent into the crater over slick, sharp, and jagged rock, there are steam vents that we wanted to keep him away from and we wanted to limit his exposure to any sulfuric gases. We eyed a park map for some ideas for hiking the next day instead. All but one trail were open to us (as per the rangers) and baby-friendly (meaning there weren’t toxic gases that were going to poison him).
Soon it was time to head to the treehouse. Pulling up was delightful. Volcano is lush, green, and absolutely beautiful. There are neighborhoods and streets tucked away in unsuspecting cul-de-sacs immediately off the highway, and while small, the village has a few shops, restaurants, and small stores to visit. Our house was a half mile off the highway or so, and even though it was extremely accessible and within walking distance to the village it felt to be completey secluded.
No, really. This is the treehouse.
Built atop a lava tube, the treehouse runs completely on solar power, collected rainwater (and thus no potable water), and generators. There was a compostable toilet, cedar soaking tub on the deck, and an outdoor shower that was absolutely fantastic to enjoy on a rainy morning.
Outdoor shower. Even D enjoyed it.
To get to the treehouse involved hiking along a small and well kept rainforest path, over the lava tube, up some volcanic rock steps, and finally to the wooden steps of the house. The steps were steep, and closer to a ladder than anything else, which required us to wear D in the Ergo to get him in and out.
Volcanic rock steps to real steps
The ladder/steps up
Hike to the treehouse
Once inside the house there was a ladder up to the bedroom with a trap door that was a careful two person operation to get him up to his pack and play, which I skillfully managed to get into the room. At night the trap door was secured tightly so none of us fell through.
Trap door from the bedroom down to the main living area
Everything about the treehouse was wonderful--except there were no curtains or blinds to be found. Without a baby this wouldn’t be an issue, but try napping a baby in a house above the trees with plentiful windows and tons of sunlight and you’ll go batshit crazy. It. Just. Doesn’t. Happen.
Beautiful but also kind of hated French doors in the bedroom
We had to get skillful and nap him in his Ergo, which never happens. After an exhausting (for him) THREE hours he finally napped while we walked to the village to pick up dinner. He went down for the night very easily and slept while Zac and I ate our delicious Thai food, soaked in the cedar tub as the rain came down, and ate chocolate covered macadamia nuts until we (mostly me) finished them.
The next morning I awoke to rain on the tin rooftop. It was such a lovely sound. I showered outside in the rain and even though we’d had a rough nap session with D the day before, I felt happy I’d chosen this place to stay. Zac and I have stayed in a treehouse before and it was so much fun. It’s unique, and provides an experience that you normally wouldn’t have while on vacation. It’s not the Four Seasons. Bugs are everywhere. Sometimes it gets cold. There’s always the fear that something (yes, someTHING) is watching you from the bushes. Still, it’s an adventure, and traveling (even with a six month old--maybe especially with a six month old, actually) is an adventure.
We napped D as long as we could in the bright room before getting him up and heading back to the park for our first hike. We managed two trails and the Thurston Lava Tubes while D slept in the Ergo and were able to get over two hours of hiking in before we needed to feed him and care to his diaper needs. We decided to break for lunch, stopping at nearby Cafe Ono. Ono in Hawaiian means delicious, and delicious this place was. It’s a vegetarian restaurant in a beautiful home setting with an on site art studio, garden seating, Koi pond, and even a resident goat, Ernest. The food was amazing, plentiful, fresh, and made with local ingredients. It was exactly what we needed.
After a hearty lunch we headed back to the park for another hike. We drove down the Crater Rim Drive so D could get another nap in while we took in the view of some of Kilauea’s most recent lava flows. This is some of the youngest earth on the planet, which is pretty cool to think about. There were lava flows straight into the ocean, and the drive was really enjoyable.
Lava flows into the ocean
After D was up again we headed back toward the visitor center This time we hiked the upper rim of the Kilauea Iki trail, choosing to avoid the caldera and enjoying the view from above.
When all was said and done we left the park around 4:30 p.m. We were impressed with our ability to hike for as long as we did with D, and we patted him on the back for a job well done. Unfortunately he decided to forgo his last afternoon nap, causing him to be awake for FOUR hours this time. Yes, four hours. At six months old he shouldn’t go more than two hours between naps. He was going batshit crazy. When D goes batshit crazy it is literally crazy. He doesn’t cry, he goes CRAZY, which is almost worse. It seems like a hug would comfort him if he were crying, but when he goes BSC on us there’s an unleashing of raspberries being blown left and right, screeches and whines, high pitched yelps, zombie eyes...oh man, it’s tiring. We’re in this awkward time of dropping his afternoon nap, which he is clearly trying to do on his own. Instead of trying to get the nap we just let him be awake for three hours in the evening and then start our bedtime routine at 6 pm instead of 7 pm. Little turkey wants two naps a day, I guess. This wouldn’t be an issue if those two naps were good quality naps, but since we’ve had him out and about recently and he’s had to nap on the go they aren’t particularly restful.
That will change, though. Yep, because we left Volcano this morning after D’s nap. He actually napped well, despite the morning sun coming in. It was a beautiful sunrise for us to see, but I tell ya, without curtains I prayed for a stormy day with dark clouds. In Kona we can fortunately do more in the immediate area and be able to bring him back to the condo to nap during the day.
While D napped for the last time in Volcano I took a walk around the area and stopped at the Aloha Candy Co to get some coffee.
Aloha Candy Co, another hidden gem
I chatted a bit with the owner, a very lovely German woman who’s been living in Hawaii for 30 years, baking and providing the Big Island with delicious goodies. She prepares breakfast and lunch items as well, all from scratch, and all with local and fresh ingredients. She gave me a sampling of treats before I headed back to help Zac pack up and get D ready to roadtrip it up to Kona.
We enjoyed our drive, and the south end of the island is just beautiful. It was overcast, which is pretty typical, but the flowering plants and bright greens of the foliage more than added a little cheerfulness. The two lane road ranges in speed from 35 mph to 45 mph on average and even though it was a couple hours, the drive was a bonus for the day. It’s actually faster to drive from Volcano back through Hilo and into the center of the island, but we wanted to stop by the Black Sand Beach and Punalu’u Bakery.
The beach was fairly quiet today and we showed up in time to see a turtle make his or her way onto the beach and sprawl out for all to fawn over. D had little interest in the turtle, and was far more interested in how he could get the black sand into his mouth while his parents weren’t looking. The little bugger was successful, and Zac spent a good amount of time cleaning the inside of D’s mouth while I took to work cleaning his hands and feet.
We stopped at the Punalu’u Bakery for some malasadas. The bakery is well known for their sweet breads (no, not cow thalamus), and even though everyone and their mom insists that it’s a good place to stop, I find it to be over rated. Zac got a passion fruit glaze and guava malasada, neither of which impressed me enough to have more than a bite. We ordered sandwiches and against my better judgement I selected a chicken sandwich. I assumed it would be grilled, but it was fried. Uh-oh. I have never once, NOT EVER eaten a fried chicken sandwich and not gotten diarrhea. I can eat a fried fish sandwich. I can eat fried chicken. There’s something about a fried chicken sandwich that leaves me with unpleasant gastrointestinal distress. So while I felt bad about wasting $5 on something I threw out, I decided that $5 isn’t worth an evening of the squirts. In fact, I’d pay twice that to avoid fire butt.
Hanging out, being cute as per usual
Disappointed that I stopped at a bakery and didn’t enjoy myself or gorge myself, I sadly ate an english muffin in the car and some apple slices
We continued northbound toward Kona, stopping in Puuhonua o Honaunau Park, which is where Jenna and Jesse got married three years ago. We walked D around, looked at the tidepools, and then continued on our way.
About 40 minutes later we were in Kona, and boy did it feel good to arrive.
Ocean front condo
Our condo is on Alli drive, right in the heart of Kona-Kailua. We’re directly on the ocean and our balcony, long and filled with comfortable outdoor furniture, is ripe for sitting and watching sunsets while eating amazing food, which is what we did. D is sleeping in a dark room. There are curtains. Life is good.
We’re within walking distance to many of Kona’s most popular restaurants, the farmer’s market, and a beautiful beach. We have a condo that provides full beach gear. We are loaded with a list of restaurants to eat at. We are ready to enjoy the hell out of our last four nights here.
A short sunset stroll to dinner
A stop at Umeke’s for dinner was a good start. My very full belly and very happy heart agree. I can’t imagine a better place to be right now than with my favorite people on this beautiful island.