From Waterfalls to Exotic Plants and Delicious Poke!

Good morning Big Island! After a good night sleep, we were refreshed and ready to go explore the island! I liked the fact that sunrise at 7 am so I don’t need to wake up my poor hubby to watch the sunrise with me or something crazy like that LOL! Alarm was set to 8 am but as usual, I wake up before the Alarm just before sunrise. I got all ready and packed for our mini road trip – insect repellent check, sunscreen check, water check, batteries check! While hubby is getting ready (yep, it took him longer to get ready than I do haha), I was searching for place for breakfast. Breakfast usually gave me the biggest headache in our trip. Having breakfast in the hotel is expensive for a breakfast and not much place open that early in the morning for us. I did managed to find some good ones in the Big Island though! However, the first one on my list Chubby’s Diner, the GPS was completely lost! We kept going circle in that plaza and could not find it! We ended up getting a quick breakfast to go from Burger King yikes. Later days, we found our favorite breakfast place: 808 Grindz Cafe, we loved it so much that I have to say it now!!!

So while hubby driving, I fed him with the mini burger and fries hehe!

Itinerary for today:

  • Waipi’o Valley Lookout (48-5546 Waipio Valley Rd, Kukuihaele, HI 96743)
  • Akaka Falls (Honomu, HI 96728)
  • Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden (27-717 Old Mamalahoa Hwy, Papaikou, HI 96781)
  • Rainbow Falls

I have asked in Tripadvisor on which way to go…clockwise from Kona to Waimea to Waipi’o, to Hilo via Hawaii Belt Road or counter-clockwise from Kona to Hilo first via Saddle Road? Many suggested clockwise so we followed. As the name Big Island indicates, it is really big! Driving from Sheraton Kona to Waipi’o Valley Lookout took almost two hours but we were entertained by beautiful landscape. Do not count on the radio for some music for entertainment, 75% of our way, the signal was really bad or no signal at all! The Big Island has different kind of landscape, few minutes we saw all black lava field and then the next lash green valleys! And not to mention if one side is perfectly blue sky with white clouds, the other side could be cloudy and might rain! From the Kona or west side, we started off with sunshine blue sky!

We didn’t stop at Waimea so we could made it to Waipio Valley before noon. We reached it before 11 am, the reason was Waipio Valley faces east, if we get there after noon, the sun will not shine directly on it to lit it up and instead will cast complete shadow of it. As photo enthusiasts, direction of light is very important!

We parked on the side of the road as many people did the same and then walked down, it was a steep walk down but with handrails so hold on to them!

It was not the clearest day when we reached the east side of the island 🙁

For the long driving time, hubby was not impressed by the view, I said to him, he was spoiled by the beautiful places we traveled to in the past four years! We spent probably 5 minutes there to take few photos and use the restroom there (the restroom was acceptable, very important to note the restroom stops lol as the next place will be another 1 hour away)!  The way to Akaka Falls on the Mamalahoa Hwy was scenic and lots of horseshoe curves so slow down!

We passed many fields filled with white wheat-like grass, it was so pretty! The road is not wide enough for us to pull over for some photos so I lowered the window and snapped a photo, isn’t that nice?

We arrived Akaka Falls State Park, parking was full there so we had to park off the side of the road. Price is $5 per car if parked there or $1 per person walk in. Are those coconut trees?

There is a sign for the walking routes:

Of course we took the longer way the circle route to see both falls, I didn’t know they have two there! It was very easy walk!

I am thinking to myself, I am suppose to be on a volcanic island, but this looks like a forest!

I was amazed by the lush green trees and plants there!

Forgot to mention, we applied insect repellent before the walk and it worked very well!

We somehow missed the other falls and arrived at the famous Akaka Falls!

It was overcast when we got there so the photos could be better!

I enjoyed listening to the sound of the waterfalls! More greens, streams, and mini waterfalls on the short walk back! All photos were handheld, we didn’t bring along the tripod, but I tried to expose as long as I can to create the bridal veil effect, the overcast sky did help so my photos were not over-exposed by the longer exposure!

We came out and saw this map….ahhhh we turned instead of continue on to that lookout to see Kahuna Falls!

Akaka Falls to Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden was around 10 miles through narrow and winding roads and many one lane bridges, we were thinking….where are we heading to?

We did passed the restaurant: What’s Shakin’  and many people were having lunch there, we delayed our lunch until we reach Hilo. Hubby was joking that it better not be just few plants for the driving he did! (We went to one botanic garden….I think we were in Maui? and only a few plants there LOL). The admission fee was $15 per person, it better be good! We had a restroom break here too since we paid $15, it must be clean LOL!

The admission is paid inside the gift shop and then we were given a ticket to hand to the guy across the street – entrance. They also sell water and insect repellent; we had our own 🙂 We did re-apply the insect repellent, definitely needed it! Inside the gift shop:

We were given a map so the place is huge!

Exotic plants already in front of the gift shop:

Note that the path walking down was insanely steep; it was a lot of sweat walking up on return! They could also drive you down and up on a golf cart for $5 per person so if you have walking issue, you have an alternative to enjoy the garden.


After the first few minutes, I can say is this: if you are a plant lover or someone who likes to take macros, this is the place for you!!! I wished I had my macro lens and tripods! I stopped at almost every plant to take a photo. I didn’t post all, but here are some of my favorites, let the slide show begin! I apologized for not including the names of the flowers, I was attracted by the beauty of the flowers that I completely didn’t pay attention to their names! Majority was the first time I ever seen those exotic plants in my life!

The string of weird looking red plant…hum…what’s inside?

See the little lizard in the picture above?

The garden not just have exotic plants, but also waterfalls!

We saw a photographer with tripods (well prepared) with a graduated filter, he must had a great time photographing in the garden!

Don’t just look down, look up too!

Hum…another exotic plant growing out of a tree trunk:

That’s jackfruit:

There’s also an orchid garden, we love orchids!

We both loved this one, the pattern on the orchid was like a painting itself:

I really liked this one too, I named it the plumeria orchid:

And much more exotic flowers:

These looked like berries!

There’s also a ocean view trail:

We spent at least 1.5 hours there and I started to feel starving so we left and drove to Hilo. Was the $15 worth it? It was definitely not “what a waste of money” but we thought it was a little bit too much, probably $10 would be reasonable and pocket friendly for a family!

We drove to Suisan Fish Market, we had one of the best poke ever, we felt in love with poke since! It has the cheapest poke as well at $9.99 a lb or $7.99 a poke bowl of two choices and white rice, it was such a great deal! Since we got there around 2 something, it was late and some poke were almost gone! I picked the spicy poke and sesame poke, hubby picked a seaweed kind and forgot what’s the name of the other one.

Suisan Fish Market is a fish market, we saw locals there to buy their seafood! There are few tables and chairs outside to eat 🙂 The poke portion was huge and we were so full afterwards! I am not a raw seafood person; I don’t even eat sashimi, but the poke there was so good! Our favorite was the spicy poke!

After the delicious and inexpensive lunch of $16.65, we went to our last trip: Rainbow Falls. Overcast sky so no rainbows 🙁 Rainbow Falls is very easy access to it, it was just few steps away from the parking lot!

There are pots of water that people can walk up to on top of the waterfalls:

To get there, you have to walk through a “forest” of huge trees!

Are those roots, branches, or what??

It was already after 3 and we had to leave since sunset around 6 pm and it took 2 hours to get back through the infamous Saddle Road! I have read a lot of posts about the condition of Saddle Road on the way down from Mauna Kea after stargazing and decided not to go. We had been up to Haleakala in Maui for sunrise but driving down will be daylight instead of stargazing driving down would be complete dark which made it much more difficult! Saddle Road, it wasn’t bad at all at first, just at one point where we encountered fog, it was scary as we couldn’t see anything in front of us!

We were driving into to the dangerous fog…..

Then next minute, it was cleared up like this:

We could blame the GPS, we supposed to be continue keeping left and stay on the “new” Saddle Road aka Daniel K. Inouye Highway at the split. It said could not locate the road so we thought we made the wrong turn and we turned back and made a right turn into the “old” Saddle Road. It was the scariest road we ever driven, literally (I am not exaggerating) I felt like we were in a roller coast, going up and down so steep that we couldn’t see what was ahead of us, and making tight turns and break at the same time! I did screamed out, it was that scary! Afterwards, hubby said he passed the driving test!

After the scary part, it was like this:

I bowed to those who live up here and drive this road everyday!

We made it back to Hawaii Belt Road, phew, I was able to breathe again! It was definitely the longer way to get back to our hotel, it was all the GPS’ fault!!! We made it back to the hotel before sunset and as hubby took a little break from the intense driving all day, I went to the pool area this time hoping for a beautiful sunset. It was not vibrant kind but it was not bad!

We did ventured out to town for dinner, we had it at the Lemongrass Bistro. Parking spaces were limited there and very small, great if you have a compact car but we didn’t!

For appetizer, we ordered the garlic beef:

It was tasty 🙂

The jumbo shrimps….a little bit disappointed 3 for like $9 so it was $3 each woah!

But it was huge and tasted good, although I think $3 per shrimp is a bit too much! Hubby ordered pineapple fried rice, we love fresh Hawaiian pineapples!

I had Pad Kee Mao aka Drunken Noodle but first time I had it with udon, they didn’t have the flat noodles! It was pretty good although not the best I ever had!

I like the wall decor in the restaurant:

We enjoyed our meal, it was filling, and only $54.00 included tips! We went back to the hotel and I saw many stars wowwww. I found out that December is one of the worst month to see the Milky Way because it’s near the sun at this time of the year 🙁 So I just got some stars photo from our room balcony:

We did and see a lot today! We covered the east side of the Big Island in one day!

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8 thoughts on “From Waterfalls to Exotic Plants and Delicious Poke!

  1. Awesome post. Reminded me of our family trip this past September to Maui. Also thought how a macro lens would have been a good thing to take. Thanks for the pics!

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