Tales of a wandering lesbian

Around the island – part 1

Once a visit, my family piles in the rental car to head around the island of Hawaii.  On the agenda is a stop at several waterfalls, a trip to the Hilo farmers’ market, and a journey out onto the volcano.  Oh, and food – lots of food.

Kona is on the Southwest side of the island.  That’s where the condo is:  our starting point.  After a fabulous breakfast of avocado bagels and papaya, we set out in search of Akaka Falls – a fantastic waterfall on the other side of the island.  On the way, we drove through barren lava fields, lush grasslands, and tropical rainforests.  Hawaii is a feast for the eyes, as well as the mouth.  The deep red soil contrasts with the green vegetation, making agricultural fields especially beautiful.

Hawaiian fields forever

The drive to the falls was entertaining.  We looked out the windows, sang songs and I read my book from time to time.  The first part of the trip is always entertaining…

Once at Akaka Falls State Park, we piled out in search of the bathroom.  As instructed, we checked our belongings and made sure the car was locked.

Lock it!

Then we headed down the trail that leads through the rain forest to the falls.

Akaka falls sign

The park is truly beautiful.  The well paved paths and new handrails make the walk relatively easy, as it winds through giant bamboo, enormous banyan trees, and a thousand other exotic flora.  The foliage is so colorful and shiny that it looks like it could be part of a resort – planted specifically for our entertainment.

Feathery goodness Banyan Pretty plants

Pretty flower Fern head Freaky plants

The park houses two sets of falls:  Kahuna falls, the smaller of the two, and Akaka Falls.

Falling sign

When we visited, Kahuna was virtually non-existent.  Even though it’s winter right now, the precipitation seems to be less than usual.  Mauna Kea, the “white mountain,” which usually has a bit of snow visible, is brown this year.

Akaka falls was the main event, anyway, and it was beautiful, pouring out over the cliff and dissipating – falling as mostly mist to the valley floor.

Akaka falls

We took our pictures, and marveled at the gorgeous plants all around us.  And then we headed back up the trail to the parking lot and the truck.

Open door policy

Brilliant.  While we took our time along the trail, the door of the truck stood open.  Oh, it was locked, alright – just open.  We were probably suffering delusions from hunger…  Slightly aghast, we filed in and set off in search of our first snack of the day.  We’d seen a bakery on our way to the falls, in a set of little, old-west storefronts along the road in the little town of Honomu.

Bakery town

Most people were hoping for coffee.  I was hoping for malasadas – Portuguese donuts.  I’d been introduced to these little gems on a trip to Oahu with some of my Hawaiian friends.  They’re thick, airy, and coated in sugar – or as I like to think of it, pixie dust.

We walked inside Mr. Ed’s Bakery and found a case of fantastic looking pastries, most of which were clearly some variation on Hawaiian sweet bread.  But no malasadas.  So we picked out a good variety, including a guava bear claw, macaroons, monkey bread, and an ensaymada – something that was described as “Hawaiian sweetbread, butter and sugar.”  I thought that would translate into a butter cream frosting.  I was wrong.  It was whipped butter and sugar spiraled in a sweetbread Danish.  Amazing.

Hawaiian Pastry from Mr. Ed's

We then stepped from the bakery into another room of the shop.  The walls were lined with beautiful, colorful jars of preserves, butters, jams, fruits, all made by Mr. Ed.  (If you like this kind of thing, they ship.  The selection was incredible.)

Preserves at Mr. Ed's

I asked the woman behind the counter where we could find malasadas on our way to Hilo.  “Baker Tom’s.  It’s about three miles up the road on your right.”  Excellent.  Just enough time to inhale the pastry we’d bought at Mr. Ed’s.

Nobody else in the car was familiar with malasadas, but they were game to try new pastry, and my description gave them an alarming level of enthusiasm.  We climbed back into the car, and headed to the main road, checking the odometer first.  The bakery hadn’t had coffee, and we didn’t want to miss our chance for coffee and malasadas at Baker Tom’s.  We tore into the freshly purchased pastries, pulling long strips of the bread off and passing gooey handfuls of plastic wrap around the car.

At about mile 3 we’d consumed nearly everything, in a flurry of “mmmmmm”s and “yummy”s.   And by mile 4 we began to lose hope that we would find Baker Tom’s.  Maybe we’d missed it, zooming past.  Or perhaps it was the other direction.  We started rationalizing.  Oh well, we were rather full and sugared-out anyway…

And then we saw it.  “MALASADAS” the banner read, stretched across the front of a converted auto mechanic’s shop.  “MALASADAS!!!!” we all screamed as dad turned sharply into the drive.


The people sitting on the little picnic table in front of the shop must have heard us yelling or seen the insane glint in our eyes as we came hurtling through the parking lot.  At once, they all stood up from the work they had been doing, scattering to different parts of the building, and making room for us.

We were crazed.  Mom practically ran up to the register, asking frantically, “you DO have malasadas, don’t you?”  The lady behind the counter, dressed in a Hawaiian print apron, looked down at us with an expression of concern, and nodded.  She pushed her head through the swinging door that separated the small storefront from the crowded bakery, checking with someone in the other room.  She reemerged and motioned to a case.

Malasada racks Baker Tom's Menu

“We’ve got lilikoi, strawberry cheesecake, and original, and then the meat filled ones.”

Our hands still sticky from Mr. Ed’s, we placed our orders and received the fried wonders with awe.

Malasada madness!

It’s possible that we got a little carried away.  But the malasadas were good.  They were chewy and sugary and good.  Even the slightly burned coffee tasted perfect to us, perched on the picnic table.

As we were brushing the last remnants of sugar from our faces, a lanky guy in a hairnet and a harlequin apron appeared.  Baker Tom wasn’t exactly what we expected, talking with Dad about a custom leather shop.

Baker Tom

But he could have had 2 heads for all we cared.  He made a mean malasada.  And we were all high on sugar.  We yelled our thanks to the folks at Baker Tom’s as we returned to our chariot.

From there, our engines fueled, we headed toward Hilo, where we planned to have a nice lunch (heaven forbid we didn’t have a plan for eating).  But first, there were more waterfalls to see.  The spectacular Rainbow Falls, known for its horseshoe-shaped falls, was just a tiny trickle, splashing almost comically into the giant pool below.

Rainbow Falls

Our tour book told us that the “boiling pots” were just a mile up the road, so we headed there.  Supposedly, the formation of the rocks is such that, during periods of high rainfall, the water rushes through the lava basins, boiling into the air.  Evidently, in periods of not-so-high rainfall, the water trickles through the pools, creating a peaceful, comfortable atmosphere, but no boiling.

Boiling Pots

The pots were definitely more than a mile up the road, but we eventually found them, just as we were getting ready to turn around.

I really liked the feeling of this park.  A wide grassy area buffered the falls from the parking lot, and the view down onto the pots was pretty spectacular, even with the low water flow.  We were almost the only people there, which added to the sense of peace and privacy.

I snapped a couple of pictures, listened to the water, and then ran around the park, still jacked up from the sugar explosion, and hoping to blow off a little of the nervous energy flooding through me.  It’s a lot harder to pile into an enclosed space with four other people when all I want to do is run around.  Still, the ride to Hilo wasn’t a long one.

Saturday is market day in Hilo.  Vendors bring their produce and baked goods, and they also bring their crafts, arts and other stuff to sell.

My favorite booth was a display of beautiful glass panels, drizzled in red or blue; capturing the fire and water of the island.  I chatted with the owner, who was very proud of the process he has developed for creating the beautiful pieces.

Firey glass art

The food area of the market is jammed full of vendors selling their home-grown products.  Along with avocados and papayas there are more exotic purple sweet potatoes, and ferns.

Fern heads

And there were more pastries.  Ensaymadas, malasadas and mochi lined the little tables.

Farmers' market pastry

Even though it had been like an hour since we ate pastry, we held off this time.   Instead, we headed to the Pesto Café for lunch.  There was a wait, so we put our name in and walked into the little discovery center next door.  Cool.  The walls were papered in underwater pictures, with little doors opening onto video screens or aquarium tanks.  A digital screen doubling as a tabletop in the middle of the room explained the formation of the Hawaiian islands.  And, hidden in the back corner, was a mock-up of a submarine interior.

I grabbed Dad and we headed in.  There were two stations set up, each with a little round window onto an underwater salvage scene, and controls for the underwater robotic arms.  Too fun.

Full steam ahead!

We played with the robots until we got the call that our table was ready.  I would have stayed longer in the little room, flipping switches, and making the metal fingers grab at the sand on the other side of the glass.

The Pesto Café is set in a high-ceilinged colonial-feeling building with slowly turning fans and big windows.  Lunch was good, consisting mostly of tasty pizzas, and overfull cappuccino.

Pizza at the pesto Cappu at the pesto

We ate about half of what we ordered, and packed the rest with us for an afternoon snack.  Our next stop was the volcanoes, and the volcanoes always make me hungry.

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February 2, 2010   1 Comment