Note: All photos taken by Kate Poss unless otherwise noted.

Here we are on the Big Island already a week and we are loving the aloha living.

Monstera vine overwhelm a native Hawaiian tree at Zoe and Keoni Thompson's farm. Banana trees frame the vine. Zoe tells us the vines are thick and tough and difficult to remove.
Monstera vine overwhelm a native Hawaiian tree at Zoe and Keoni Thompson’s farm. Banana trees frame the vine. Zoe tells us the vines are thick and tough and difficult to remove.

Live news: one of the ewes on the farm we are staying at is bawling for her new lamb who was born yesterday and was stuck behind a fence and couldn’t find her way back to her mom. The mama was panicked. The ram, another ewe, her three kids, the horse, and Kala the miniature Australian Shepherd, all ran up to the pasture above the banana trees to lend their support. Zoe our host thought their other ewe was giving birth. “It sounded like it,” she said, of the new mama’s bawling.

A Palomino named Sugar at our Captain Cook Airbnb as seen from the kitchen window

It is heartening to see the deep connection of the farm’s animals here.

Where are we? On the southwestern side of the island of Hawaii’, between Captain Cook and Ocean View. We are staying in the home of Zoe and Keoni. The young couple have a radiant eight month-old son. We are on the slopes of Mauna Loa. The home was built in the 70s of redwood and cedar by a master craftsman of guitars. His wife was a nurse who hosted visiting nurses. We wake up to the sound of cardinals, doves, wild turkeys, pheasants, Saffron Finch, and a chorus of other birds. We go to sleep to the sound of coqui frogs singing to the harmony of croaking frogs. The property boasts avocado and banana trees, loads of attractive but invasive monstera vine, also known as Swiss cheese leaf, and plants of all kinds.

Beautiful but invasive monstera leaf, easily five feet long, grows on a vine and can overwhelm native trees. It is prominent on the Big Island.
One of the wild turkeys at Zoe and Keoni’s farm where we are staying.

The North:

We flew in to Kona from Maui Tuesday Feb. 28 and were picked up at the airport by our friends of 40+years Jim and Tracey Gilmore. We took them for lunch at a Kona beachside restaurant before they drove us to our Turo rental car parked near a Costco. Turo is like the Airbnb of car rentals. We rented a older model Toyota Corolla. It is white with a gray hood. Looks like a local car.

Our friends Jim and Tracey Gilmore picked us up at the Kona airport. We took them for lunch at this Kona beachside restaurant. Photo taken by our server

Jim and Tracey live near Waimea, in the Kohala District on the northern thumb of the Big Island.

March 1 brought torrential rain, which kept us inside visiting for half the day. Finally when the rain lifted, Tracey drove us to a nearby farmer’s market where we bought a local berry pie, much enjoyed later. Later we visited the Issacs Art Center for its Wood Guild Masters Show. Remarkable craftsmanship. Reminded me of Langley’s talented woodcrafters who host the annual Woodpalooza.

Wizard at Waimea Farmers Market

What really impressed me was the art of Madge Tennent, a British naturalized American who painted images of Hawaiian women and their pleas for peace during WWII. Her watercolor of Queen Ka’ahumanu Sunning Herself, painted in 1938 is a powerful image. The Queen dismantled the kapu or taboo system of death for those who walked on a chief’s shadow or to men and women who ate together. In this painting the Queen radiates power while a missionary is diminished.

‘Queen ‘Ka’ahumanu sunning herself’ watercolor by artist Margaret Tennent. Painted in 1938.
Molly is a friendly docent at the Isaacs Art Center near Waimea on the north end of the Big Island

The weather improved with temperatures in the upper 60s the following day. Jim and Tracey were wowed by the amount of snow that fell on Mauna Loa mountain. They say it’s the most they have seen in the past 13 years they have lived here.

Bill and Kate join their friends Tracey and Jim Gilmore beneath the snow-capped Mauna Loa Peak. Photo taken by Bill Poss

We drove from where they live at 2500 feet to the coast, where Tracey works at Kohala Divers. We snorkeled at a nearby harbor, noting that there are 75% more reef fish than we saw in Maui, which is suffering from over tourism. The result on Maui? The coral reefs are becoming overwhelmed by pesticide runoff, erosion debris and bleaching.

A kiawe tree frames a man in the ocean at Kohala Coast

Enjoyed delicious fresh fish lunches upstairs at Kawaihae Marketplace, followed by lilikoi ice cream at Anuenue Ice Cream and Shave Ice. Really friendly people running both businesses. We drove to Puʻukoholā Heiau , a National Historic site honoring King Kamehameha’s rise to power. One theory is that King Kamehameha slayed a foe at this temple as prophesied by three kahuna or priests in order to unite Hawai’i. Like the story of Jesus, prior to Kamehameha’s birth, a prophesy chant predicted that a ruler would be born who would become the future chief and ruler of Hawai’i. Many chiefs were threatened by this news and wanted the baby killed. Soon after his birth, Kamehameha was spirited away by his guardian and raised in secrecy.

King Kamehameha was the first ruler to unite the kingdom of Hawai’i in 1810.

During the evenings Tracey made us delicious dinners and we watched a notable National Geographic documentary about whales. Hoping to go out on a whale watch with Tracey and Jim when we return to their place in mid-March.

Southwest on the Big Island

We left Jim and Tracey’s March 2 heading to crowded Kona for supplies. Glad to leave the busy shopping centers behind us, we drove south on Hwy. 11 toward Captain Cook, where we passed through the famous Kona coffee plantations. We arrived at our farm in the late afternoon.

The following morning we saw five ducks out the kitchen window grazing in the grass as we ate breakfast.

The night before we were greeted by Kitty, a tortoiseshell cat who ran into our room, leaped on the bed and began kneading our soft fleece blanket. The following morning she was seen herding the ducks, who bunched together when she approached. She greets us morning and night, wanting to be petted.

Queen of the place is Kitty, our hosts’ friendly tortoiseshell cat, who greets us morning and evening.

Keoni Thompson grew up on the island and after graduation knew all he wanted to do was play Hawaiian music. He played with some of the great artists, like Pōmai Brown, and told us he bought this property last year with his music earnings. Zoe is a horse trainer who arrived on the Big Island from Florida. She and Keoni were married last year. Their land is magical and wild and real.

On our first morning, we drove to Two Step Beach, being amazed at the schools of yellow tang feeding under the water. For me it was tricky to walk on the slippery lava steps and leap out into the water. The reward was swimming with colorful reef fish. Exiting was a challenge as well as we let the strong wave force wash us back onto the step.

We drove south to breakfast at the Coffee Grind where a young woman with beautiful blue eyes served us. She looks like a young Hedi Lamar. I could imagine all the men falling for her. She acted as if her beauty were no big thing and there were always more customers to serve.

That afternoon we visited Miloli’i Beach, about 10 miles from here. It is a local Hawaiian beach and families gathered at the picnic shelters. Turquoise water surrounded lava from the 1926 lava flow. Clear cucumber green tide pools with inch long baby reef fish. We set up our host’s beach chairs under a monkeypod tree at the edge of the beach. Our musical score was the sound of chirping mynah birds. High tide was two feet! I think of our high tides on Whidbey averaging 10 feet.

Miloli’i Beach is a Hawaiian locals’ beach, about 8 miles from where we are staying.

A local dad arrived from spearfishing in a wetsuit and handed his catch to his son. His lady took his fins which were half as tall as she was.

While nearby Miloli’i Beach is primarily for local Hawaiians, we sat for a while under the shade of a monkeypod tree and saw this boy return with his dad’s spearfishing catch of the day.

Bill read about another beach we could visit, about half an hour’s walk through steamy dragonfruit and invasive thorny kiawe forests over open lava to an amazing beach with palm trees. At one point, hot and bothered, I groused whether this trek was worth the walk. As often happens when I complain, someone appears to change my perspective. A local guy, looking radiant, told us to keep going, it was worth it. We reached a beach like you would imagine in your fantasies, secluded with coconut palms blowing, their fronds sounding like shamans shaking their rain sticks. Heavenly to swim here, but the beach is hell on the feet with its burning hot surface. Bill yelped and I ran to him with his sandals. This beach is Honomalino Bay.

After a hot and steamy trek across lava briquets, lava fields, dragonfruit and kiawe forest we reached this idyllic beach at Honomalino Bay
Painted euphorbia near Miloli’i Beach. The plant is related to the poinsettia

Early the next morning we were wakened by a terrible high pitched screaming. The frogs went silent. It sounded as if something was being murdered. We learned the following morning that wild pigs came foraging in the night and startled the couple’s dog Kala, which set the pigs to squealing.

Near Two Step Beach is a roadside bakery with delicious baked goods, including GF Ube mochi cakes and Ube halaya (purple yam) cream pie. Two Step Bakery is our favorite place to visit when driving this way. The bakery stand is updated daily by a young mom named Gia.

Ube halaya (purple yam) cream pie–one of delicious GF items at Two Step Bakery
Two Step Bakery on the way to Two Step Beach

We’ve stopped by the nearby National Park Service twice to visit Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historic Site. It is one of the most sacred places in all of Hawaii. The Hale O Keawe contains carvings made to honor dead chiefs, once considered gods. It also provided sanctuary to people who broke kapu, and swam to the place to be cleansed of their error. On another visit we said hello to singer/cultural artist Pōmai Brown and his wife Toni, who weave traditional baskets. The park also has a coconut palm-shaded beach to picnic at.

Male and Female Guardians at Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau
Pōmai Brown and his wife Toni teach weaving techniques at the Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park near Captain Cook Hawaii. Pōmai and Toni are well-known local music, film and cultural artists.
Beach at Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau
Bill’s feet rest on one of the many patterns of lava from the 1919 flow. This photo was taken at the beach of Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park.

Our Langley friend and dental hygienist Catherine Marshall recommended we visit Ho’okena Beach, our favorite in the area. Easy access. Loads of beautiful fish. Yesterday we stood at the shore watching a young female turtle feed on the nearshore rock algae. We looked through the waves and saw hundreds of yellow tangs, like golden aspen leaves in the breeze. We have driven there twice.

Our favorite place to swim on southwest Big Island Ho’okena Beach.
Kate emerges from an exhilarating swim at Ho’okena Beach. Photo by Bill Poss

Zoe recommended we visit Tai Shan Farms, a home/farm/restaurant at 3000 feet near Ocean View. We drove up Monday March 6. Esther welcomed us as if we were family. Her husband Kevin is the chef with a couple of other fun women in the outdoor kitchen. Esther said they believe in spreading love and hope that people who eat there come away enriched in their lives. A local guy in a hippie print shirt serenaded us with tunes, many of them written by the late singer Doc Watson. We enjoyed delicious French fries, an ahi cake, hand crafted dragonfruit soda and the sweet community atmosphere. The place is popular. Zoe said her family is going there tonight with her visiting sister. Dinner here was a peak experience, as was the day.

Esther, who runs the wonderfully welcoming Tai Shan Farms restaurant with her husband Kevin, greeted us warmly. The food is excellent and local.
Neighbor Don plays ukulele at Tai Shan Farms

Zoe kindly let us use the outdoor wash machine next to our room. She reached up and pulled out a retractable clothes line. We liked the way our laundry looked at sunset.

Hawaiian dryer at our farm stay on the Big Island
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