My fiancé and I were traveling on the NCL Hawaiian Island Cruise and had a day to spend in Hilo. After searching the many reviews on TripAdvisor, I decided on Kamaaina Custom Tours. We were dead set on Kalapana Lava Flow Tour since we wanted to get up close to the lava. We received an email two nights before our day in Hilo mentioning that they had talked with the park ranger and that the lava flow had shifted and was no longer a 4 mile hike from the road, but now 10 miles. They had offered to refund our money for our trip, but thankfully, we decided to use our reservation for another one of their tours.
Our day in Hilo arrived and we ended up meeting our tour guide, Coconut Joe, in the waiting area after disembarking from the cruise ship. Coconut Joe is the most relaxed, happy go-lucky individual that we have ever met. He asked us what we were in the mood to do and built a tour around what interest us most, we didn’t stop anywhere that we didn’t want to and we spent extra time at the places that we wanted more time to spend.
Our first stop of the day was Akatsuka Orchid Gardens. This place was incredible, the flowers smelled amazing, we bought some souvenirs and we were able to use the restroom on the way to Volcanoes National Park. After departing we made our way to Volcanoes National Park.
Volcanoes National Park was really one of the highlights of the trip. Coconut Joe was more than happy to take pictures of the two of us since as a couple traveling by ourselves, there are many times were finding someone to take our picture is difficult. After stopping by the Steam Vents, we headed up to the museum where Coconut Joe took more pictures and then he knowledgeably spoke about everything inside the museum. We even had people from other tours listening in on him to learn something that came from a local. After the museum, we stopped at the lava tubes and hiked along a trail to see of the great scenery in the area. After spending a few hours at the park, we made our way to the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Farm.
The Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Farm was such a fun place to visit. Coconut Joe knew everyone there so we didn’t feel pressured by sampling every flavor of nut that they had for sampling. We grabbed some food there before heading out to the beach.
On the way to the Beach, we had mentioned that we would really like to snorkel. Coconut Joe said that he had borrowed out his snorkel gear to a friend, but had an additional set at his house. Instead of telling us that we were out of luck, he drove to his house to pick up his gear to accommodate us. While we were there, he grabbed some Lychee and other various fruits, for us to chow down on at the beach.
We then went to Richardson Ocean Park. On the way, we found out that Coconut Joe’s family had owned this plot of oceanfront land while he was growing up and the family had gifted it back to the community. Coconut Joe’s childhood home still resides on the property. This place was the highlight of our trip by far! It was a black sand beach, but seemed relatively undiscovered by tourists. We found out that this is also one of the few beaches where the Green Sea Turtles come and sun themselves on the rocks and beach. We probably got over a hundred pictures of these amazing creatures. While we were snorkeling, we also ran into one of the largest turtles I had ever seen in my life. This was one of the most incredible places that I had ever been to in my life.
Enjoying this amazing experience, we didn’t realize that we were well past the time that our tour was supposed to last. Did we hear a complaint from Coconut Joe? Not a peep, he never rushed us and was more than happy to treat us as one of his family.
My fiancé and I couldn’t have asked for a better tour guide that knew the area, made us part of his family and let us have one of the most memorable adventures on our Hawaiian Adventure. He is truly one of the best people we had ever met and we can’t wait to go back and share another great experience with him. 5 Stars does not do him justice.
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