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Day 3: Korean Fried Coffee with Sea Turtle

So we woke up early, ate banana bread with macadamia nuts and drank overpriced coffee from a coffee shop in the hotel. Then, we all piled into the car again and headed to different destinations along the western coast of Hawai’i island.


One site has the quite potent name of Pu’uhonua O Honaunau, which is apparently a sacred site to the Hawaiian natives.

Pu'uhonua O Honaunau

Pu’uhonua O Honaunau


Sharp-eyed readers might note the “High Surf” sign on the right. Apparently, the surf is ridiculous today, with half the park actually being closed, largely due to being underwater. There’s a high wall you can kinda see on the left here:

Inside Pu'uhonua O Honaunua

Inside Pu’uhonua O Honaunua


There’s actually a large part of the site that’s behind there that visitors can walk through, but if you try, you see this:




Anyway, the part of the site that was open looked something like this:

Pu'uhonua O Honaunua

Pu’uhonua O Honaunua


There’s a bunch of historic buildings and statues, such as the temple (model) in the background of this picture. Apparently, all of the palm trees are planted in specific spots too:

(Specific) Palm Tree

(Specific) Palm Tree


Also, you can see a bunch of statues around the site like this one:

historic statue

Angry (?) Dude


And this guy, eternally mooning audiences while watching the sea:

that dude, watching the sea.

This dude.


Apparently, this building and tower are meant for offerings to the gods:

Offering tower + statue guard

Offering tower + statue guard


Of course, just because the site is sacred didn’t stop nearby kayakers from stopping in the bay:

Blasphemous kayaker who's really swole for her age

Blasphemous kayaker who’s really swole for her age


The woman in the kayak looked like she was 60 or so, but she looked like she was in incredible shape. Must be the results of a lifetime of fitness… maybe I should do some pushups right now (笑).


We started driving to our next destination, but stopped back in Kona by Da Poke Shack for some more delicious poke:

More delicious poke

More delicious poke

(while we were eating, this bird landed on the table and just… stared. Creepy.)

Creepy bird.

“Hey… you gonna finish that? …heeeey”


After filling our bellies with delicious fish, we got back into the car and headed up the hills. As a bit of an aside, the area around Kona is quite fun to drive though. There’s a lot of elevation, but you get to see a bunch of the city and the ocean as you go from high to low:

Driving through Kona

Driving through Kona


We made our way up the hills to an apparently well-known coffee farm called Mountain Thunder Coffee. They give free tours there regularly, and we more or less crashed a tour in-progress and joined the group as stealthily as possible. The guide walked through the whole process, showing things like coffee beans in the “cherry” phase:

Coffee bean cherry

Coffee bean cherry


Bringing us into the farm, they played a promo video talking about 100% Kona coffee as opposed to “Kona” coffee (that usually has like 10% or so Kona coffee beans blended). Also provided a bunch of teas and coffees to drink. The coffee was apparently from their reserve, which is compromised of peaberry coffee beans, which are more or less optimal coffee beans.

Afterwards, we were taken into the mill, where you can see all sorts of machines that sort and divide up the coffee beans depending on different filter grades and colors:

Coffee mills

Coffee mills


Working the mill

Working the mill


Then, we were led to where the coffee was roasted in-house, and given a quick rundown of how the roasting process relates to quality:

coffee beans coming out of the roaster

Get roasted.

Apparently, the best way to tell the quality of a crop is through light roast. It’s also the roast with the most caffeine. That happens at what they call “first crack”, which sounds something like popcorn cracking and happens for similar reasons.

If the batch isn’t too good, then it tends to go through a heavier roast, mostly because the inherent flavors in the beans disappear at that point. So, in grocery stores and the like, dark roasts tend to use lower-quality beans because, well, there’s no reason not to. Dark roasts also tend to have less caffeine. On the other hand, they also tend to have more carbon, which helps digesting. That’s why after-dinner coffees tend to be dark roasts.

Spin to win: Coffee

Spin to win: Coffee


After the tour, the gift shop was opened and the value of the free-tour format was revealed when all the tour-goers came out with lots of coffee beans, chocolate-covered Kona coffee beans, caffeine skin cream, etc. I definitely bought myself a bag of coffee beans that I plan to turn into coffee late on (when I also get myself a grinder and a pourover system…).

Something interesting I learned talking with the guide was that a potential reason react badly to coffee might not be in the caffeine but rather that coffee beans from other countries are apparently required to be either irradiated or fumigated when they enter the US. So, some people might be reacting badly to the chemicals in the fumigation.

Also, there’s a bunch of animals that seem to have free reign in the coffee farm:


rooster in the coffee

Dude just wandered around the whole time.


Cat Tank. Dude didn't move at all the whole time.

Cat Tank. Dude didn’t move at all the whole time.


I learned a lot about coffee, the preparation process, and the coffee trade during this tour, but I also randomly learned that apparently taking lava-related stones away as souvenirs is extremely bad luck since Pele (the volcano goddess) will curse you. (This is more or less what that episode of the Brady Bunch is referring to). I had heard of this before, but I didn’t realize that Volcanoes National Park is specifically the park I had heard about. Apparently, every year, they receive packages from a whole bunch of tourists who return lava rocks that they took (and apparently were consequently cursed with bad luck). Luckily, I didn’t take anything like that with me. (Also, don’t pick the Ohia flower, that’ll get you killed)

Also randomly, I took the opportunity to take a picture of a Hydrangea right outside the place:

Random Hydrangea

Random Hydrangea


Caffeinated, we headed back on the road:

Back on the road

Back on the road


After getting a little lost due to GPS troubles, we decided to eat lunch at an amazing Hawaiian food place called Pine Tree Cafe that had basically everything:

Korean fried chicken and friends

Korean fried chicken and friends

I was just excited that they had Korean fried chicken, which I’ve been trying to eat at various cities that I’ve visited for a while now. To get an idea of the variety of food the place served, my plate lunch had kalbi, korean fried chicken, kimchi, etc., my mom had a vegetarian burger while my dad had steamed fish and later ordered bread pudding. The Korean chicken, by the way, was everything I hoped for and more.


Bellies full, we then headed to a nearby historic site called Kaloko-Honokohau, which also happened to have the only open beach in the area (due to high surf like with the previous site):




When we got there, there were a whole bunch of people frolicking in the beach nearby, including two massive sea turtles:

Sea turtle who really should watch his back

Sea turtle who really should watch his back


Apparently, state and federal law requires people to stay 20ft away from sea turtles (which this dude is clearly not doing).


I though was exactly 20ft away when I took this pic.


After having our fill of turtles, we started a drive to our next lodging on the northern part of The Big Island, which you can see in green on this map:

Day 3 Route

Day 3 Route


Tonight (and tomorrow night), we’re more or less renting a home up in the hills that overlook the north coast of the island.

Rental vacation house

Rental vacation house

Overlooking the north coast

Overlooking the north coast


I thought that the cabin in Volcanoes National Park was rural, but this place is actually in the middle of nowhere, Non Non Biyori-style. When we were checking in, the location didn’t have cell reception, making it hard to figure out where exactly we were going.

The place is really nice, with all the conveniences of having an actual house like an actual kitchen and a washer/dryer. The only problem is that there’s too much nature. Specifically, too many nature sounds. Since it’s pretty warm, all the windows are open, but then all you can hear are a bunch of loud chirping noises. My sister and I were wracking our heads to figure out what birds were making the chirps, but it turns out that it’s actually the Coqui Frog and apparently there’s an entire chorus line of them outside this place.  (At some point, I actually go outside and pick up some stones, thinking about throwing them in the general direction of the chirping to drive the birds away, but when I stepped outside, I realized that the sounds were surrounding the house. At that point, I felt True Despair, dropped the stones, and turned back.)

Seeing as it was getting dark and we were out in the rural areas, we just headed to the nearest grocery (which was about 8mi away) and bought food to cook for dinner:

Malama Market @ Honoka'a

Malama Market @ Honoka’a


I really just want to point out that this town is called Honoka’a.

Honoka, Hawaii

Honoka, Hawaii


Overall, this day was educational and delicious. Mostly delicious.

Also randomly, now that I’ve achieved one of my food goals of this trip (Korean Fried Chicken), I should take the time to think about what else I want to eat:

– Loco Moco

– Katsu (preferably Katsu Curry)

– Saimin

– Fish. Lots of fish.

– More poke

– Everything.

That should about cover it.

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