Hawaii/South Pacific: Kona

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Sail-away from Hilo was at 5:30. Even saw some whales spouting as we were leaving. Didn’t expect it in Hilo as the majority are found around Maui. We could see rain and lightning in the distance.

The Captain came on the PA system at 6:00 to announce that the COVID test results were in and all passengers and crew were healthy. A cheer went up. Not sure if we will have to have another test or not before this journey ends.

We also found out that Canada and the cruise industry have finalized their agreement regarding vaccination and testing requirements. So, it appears that our July cruise will be a go!

After the announcements, I wanted to get my sweater so we went back to the room and sat on the veranda. We spotted a whale surface not too far from the back of the ship. I was too slow for a picture.

At 7:00, we had a table for two and were seated in the same section. That is a first. I like these two waiters. All the waiters have been efficient but these two are also very friendly and chatty. I had the lettuce, seaweed, and edamame salad. If there was any seaweed in my salad, I couldn’t tell the difference between it and the other spring mix lettuce. We each had the beef stroganoff.

First time I have had a beef main course in the dining room. The waiter said it was the most ordered dish for the evening. I had the double chocolate cheesecake for dessert. It was so rich I had to share it with Chuck.

After dinner, we danced at the Dance Band venue. They are playing more contemporary songs than they do in the afternoons. More Eagles, less waltzes. As I mentioned, we like to watch people who can waltz, but we prefer to dance to other music. We went to the BB King show for a while until the show on the mainstage was set to begin.

The performers were 4 men called Jukebox Rogue and tonight they were doing a tribute to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Chuck did not care for the performance and snuck out early. I liked it and stayed for the encore. I still love the song “My Eyes Adored You.”

After the show, Ian, the Cruise Director, was encouraging everyone to stay up and watch the scenic sail-by of the Kilauea Volcano. We were scheduled to go by it between 11 and midnight. Nope. Fool me once in 2018, not this time.

In 2018, I stayed up past midnight to watch volcanic activity. I had visions of seeing flames roar skyward and watching lava pour into the ocean like the Mississippi River. I was sorely disappointed. We were miles away from the activity, and my pictures of the event were these pitiful red dots:

Instead, we went back to the room and got our snorkeling gear prepped for our first snorkeling tour of this trip.

Room service breakfast was delivered at 6:45. We were at the meeting point in the mainstage at 7:45. Kona is a tender port so we all trooped down to the gangway when our tour number was called. The tender is large so there were several tour numbers called at the same time. We would separate into our particular tours when we reached the Kona dock landing.

The waves were rocking and rolling so it was an adventure getting onto the tender. As you made a big step from the ship platform to the tender, you had two crew members from the ship holding you until two crew members from the tender could grab you.

If you are short, the step is what you worry about. If you are tall, you worry about hitting your head on the top of the tender door as you make your way into the tender. I always hold my breath when I see people with canes and walkers negotiate the tenders, especially days like this one where the tenders are bobbing up and down so much.

Once the tender got us to the dock in Kona, the water was smooth so the process of getting off was easier. However, it was a steep climb up the ramp to the port area. Some people had to stop and rest before making it to the landing.

There were 24 people on this snorkeling tour. We had to walk a short distance to where our zodiacs were waiting. These were traditional rubber zodiacs where you sit on the side and hold on with ropes (like the example below). We had 12 people per zodiac. We were with Captain Eric and his crew member Tara. Eric said he was from Indiana but fell in love with Kona several years back and just stayed.

stock image

The name of this HAL tour is Captain Zodiac Rafting and Snorkeling Adventure. The tour description is:

If you have a little pirate in your heart, step aboard matey and explore the scenic Kona Coast by 24-foot Zodiac ocean raft in an intimate, small group format.

Your captain/naturalist will “talk story” about Hawaii’s history and the beautiful scenery on your 12-mile exploration of the coast.

Seek out pods of dolphins, sea turtles, (whales January through April only,) and other marine life along the way.

You’re headed to Kealakekua Bay — site of the Captain Cook Monument, accessible only by boat, and an area of unsurpassed importance in Hawaiian history.

Listen to snorkeling instructions (all gear is provided); then hop into the waters of the Kealakekua Bay Marine Preserve — home to hundreds of varieties of tropical fish and coral formations. Its calm, pristine waters make it a perfect snorkeling spot.

Enjoy a tropical snack of fresh local pineapple, fruit, chips, soft drinks, water, and cookies while the captain tells tales of Captain Cook’s encounters with the Hawaiians and the history of the bay.

Photo opportunities abound as you get close to the many lava formations, sea caves and blowholes of the coastline. This tour is full of fun, adventure, and education.


Minimum age is 4 years. Maximum weight is 320 lbs. Ride will be bumpy. Waiver must be signed and medical conditions disclosed. Participants must be able to step from dock down into the zodiac. You will view the Captain Cook Monument from the boat only, as going ashore at Kealakekua Bay is strictly administered by National Park Service lottery and permit system. Wildlife sightings are likely but are not guaranteed.

We did this tour in 2018 and loved it so much I booked it again. This time, we spotted some whales which we did not in 2018. However, in 2018, we got a close-up look at spinner dolphins and today the dolphins did not come close.

When we arrived at Kealakekua Bay, sometimes referred to as Cook’s Cove, I noticed that the monument now had red paint smears which I did not remember from 2018.

The guide explained that some Hawaiians have not been happy about the monument. Hawaiians did not erect it – the Australian government did. They are especially annoyed that the inscription has in it “Cook discovered Hawaii” – conveniently forgetting that Polynesians have been there for hundreds of years.

Of course, I shouldn’t have been surprised. After all, this is where Cook died fighting the Hawaiians after trying to take the Chief hostage.

Our guide gave us the safety information and then asked if anyone was a first-time snorkeler. No. Did anyone need masks or snorkels? No. There were some of us that wanted to use their fins. He was really surprised that we all had our own gear.

There were several catamarans and other zodiacs at this location so a lot of people in the water. There was a lifeguard on a stand-up paddle board going back and forth across the Cove warning people about the shallow water. You do not want to cut yourself on the coral or get stuck by a something spiny while you are admiring the fish.

We were first to jump off the zodiac. The water was cold, but I had my neoprene shirt on, so I quickly adjusted. I was glad to see that the coral looked good. Some coral in the Caribbean doesn’t look so good. Too much damage from careless humans. And there were a lot of fish. I just love the yellow tangs. Saw a beautiful Angel fish also.

The current wasn’t bad swimming from the zodiac to the coral. The water got warmer as the water got shallower. That is, I hoped the water was warm because of the depth and not because of any person using it as a bathroom – eew. 😬

We drifted with the currents and then swam to different sections. We were fortunate that not too many people were swimming around us. Although one lady bumped Chuck’s leg and I could hear his muffled yelp as if a creature from the deep had gotten him.

Only real annoyance were the people in the kayaks going back and forth. You had to watch for them as they would run you over. Don’t know why people would bring kayaks into the shallow part. You can’t see anything unless you jump in. Most people in kayaks stayed out in the deeper parts hoping to spot dolphins. We did see a pod swimming out there.

After about an hour, we noticed people getting back into the zodiac so we swam toward it. Had a very short ladder to step on and then you had to pull yourself up with a rope hand over hand. Glad I have been going to the gym.

Once we were back seated in the zodiac, we realized we were last to get back on board. Our masks and gear did so well in the water today, we just didn’t want to get out. Sometimes, our masks fog up or the fins get loose but not today.

The captain and Tara had snacks and soft drinks ready for us. We headed back to the ship. Along the way, he stopped along the shoreline to show us ocean made caves that sometimes the water pressure in there is so great that it will form blow holes to let the water come surging up.

We saw some awesome blow holes on our tour in Maui in 2018. If you stand too close, the suction is so great that it can drag you into the blow hole when the water begins to recede. You might come back out when it blows out again, but you won’t be in one piece. Our guide that day wouldn’t let us get close at all. He said he got paid for how many people he brought back to the ship. 😁

The Captain also showed us old lava tubes that had formed when the Kona volcanoes erupted. He said they can stretch for miles from the volcanos to the ocean. We also got to see a rock formation that some people say looks like the Hawaiian goddess Pele.

Further down the coast, he showed us three very large houses that sit on the edge of the cliff. Under one, you can see a large cave that has formed under it. He said that the rumors are when the water rushes in, you can feel the vibrations in the house floor. He also said that if the cave ever does form a blow hole -the force of the water spewing up will tear the house apart. Location. Location. Location.

Back to the dock, back in the tender, back to the ship, and back to the Lido in time for a late lunch. The afternoon was dedicated to relaxing on the balcony after a great tour.

Travel Trivia

Kona, Hawaii

Kona is a moku or district on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Kona coffee is one of the most expensive coffees in the world. Only coffee from the Kona Districts can be described as “Kona”. 

It is the location of the Ironman World Championship Triathlon which is held each year in October.

In the Hawaiian language, kona means leeward or dry side of the island.

The Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park in Kona marks the place where Captain James Cook was killed in 1779.

The region served as the basis of the Beach Boys’ song “Kona Coast” from their 1978 album M.I.U. Album.

*Travel trivia provided by Wikipedia and Holland America documents.

Author: mmmtravelmemories

A retired college administrator who loves to travel. I write to remember the experiences and, I hope, to inspire others to make their own travel memories.

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