Back in the 1980′s, when Hilo was making its move to become a major tourist destination in the Hawaiian Islands, There were several major airlines that flew direct from the US mainland to Hilo Airport. In recent years smaller airlines such as ATA have done so on a non-regular basis. After they went bankrupt, there was no longer air service to Hilo without first connecting through Honolulu International Airport. Until now…
Below excerpt from USA Today:
United Airlines merger partner Continental announced on Wednesday it will add service to the “Big Island” of Hawaii. The carrier will fly to Hilo International from both San Francisco and Los Angeles, which each are major hubs for United. Continental will fly one round-trip flight each Saturday on the routes using Boeing 737-800 jets.
Continental’s Hilo flights will become the airport’s only nonstop links to the U.S. mainland.
“These flights will offer customers convenient, nonstop service to the Big Island without having to connect in Honolulu,” Jim Compton, chief revenue officer of United Continental Holdings, says in a release announcing the new routes.
One of the most striking things first felt by new and recurring visitors to Hawaii, is the overwhelming sense of fertility, the lush vegetation, the sweet smelling flowers and orchids right when you get off the plane in the open air airport. Right as you arrive, the wonderful smells of plumeria flowers, blooming orchids, and tropical flowers and fruits will overcome you. Although the big Island boasts nearly a dozen different climate zones, the most memorable is the tropical vegetation. You get a great sense of this as your aircraft circles the north eastern slopes of Mauna Kea on your arrival into Hilo airport and as you look below and to the right of you, you see dense green jungle weaving its way on the eastern slopes of the volcano. As you peer down through your airline window, you will make out many streams and river tributaries spilling from waterfalls that are carved into the sides of the ocean cliffs. On the Hamakua Coast, the lush jungle vegetation creeps right up to the edge of the rocky shoreline carved out by steep gullies and the occasional dousing rain shower. The beautiful tropical flowers are everywhere, starting right there at the airport with the sweet smelling leis hung from visitors necks. The ever present lightly blowing Pacific breeze brings all the fresh smells of nature right to you. Even the rainstorms here on the big Island, bring an added sense of freshness that you just don’t feel from the precipitation on the mainland.
You can get a sense of the wonderful harmony of green trees and perfectly manicured flowers at the local Japanese gardens such as Queen Liliuokalani Gardens in Hilo. For greater adventure, take a trip to the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens situated on the Hamakua coast. Here, you can indulge yourself in an extensive garden that offers winding nature trails surrounded by tropical flowers, plants, trees, and great views of the dramatic coastline as it gets pounded by the waves. To get a real sense of the dense vegetation that covers such a large portion of the big Island, all you need to do is take a short trip and hike around the rain forests nearby. You can come up close and personal to the beautiful rain forest in the volcanoes national Park. As you drive down the Chain of Craters Road, you’ll wander through the canopied rain forest and see prehistoric-era ferns swarming the sides of the road. Also, close to downtown Hilo, is Rainbow Falls where you can see the swollen falls after a rainstorm and admire the tall trees and fertile wilderness. At the edge of Hilo town, is the Panaewa Zoo where you can also get a very good sense of the rain forest. On the surrounding hills, is foliage so thick walking through will bring ground brush up your thighs or waste. Yes, Hilo is the green side of the island and you can expect nothing less than a fertile aromatic paradise – in between rainy downpours.
Who says the diving in Hilo isn’t good? I recently went back to Leleiwi Beach Park, where I have dived dozens and dozens of times. I still enjoy it each time – there is abundant coral and fish life, and the main attraction the 10-30 turtles that you will see each dive. I’ll make this post more of a photo essay:
The water conditions were exceptional this dive – great visibility, especially for Hilo. I saw more fish on this dive than I have in the past at Leleiwi; in fact, the water was teeming with colorful tropical fish! The coral was colorful, diverse, and lush. The water entry was a little tricky with high tide and a surging surface state – we simply timed our entry in between sets and made it fine.
I have seen more than thirty turtles on a dive here at Leleiwi. I enjoy observing their impressive presence underwater; some of the adult turtles here are without a doubt older than I am. I see many of the turtles resting gently on the reef, in caves and holes between the coral, and in sandy clearings underwater. Some of the younger adolescent turtles are happily swimming about, curious of me as I am of them.
If you are lucky you will see a turtle cleaning station where fish help the green sea turtle by cleaning his shell. This turtle happened to pose ever so patiently for me to steady my camera and take the shot!