January 21, 2013 by oceangirl821
I decided to be adventurous my first day in Hilo. After all, everyone speaks English so it’s a good place to test my spontaneous travel abilities.
Of course I had a plan. Rent a car, go to wi-fi (yes, I’m ashamed to say this was one of my priorities but there wouldn’t be any pictures with my blogs if I didn’t), go to Akaka falls and then hit the beach and go snorkeling. I was doing this by myself because all my friends had booked a trip to Volcano National Park and I was going to be going there the next day with my class field lab.
I got my first lesson in the need to always have a plan B in spontaneous travel.
There happened to be a gargantuan cruise ship docked at our port. Every single rental car at every single company was gone. My first thought was that I would just cab it everywhere. Doable but pretty inconvenient. So, I just went over to the free downtown shuttle area to see what I could find.
There were all sorts of tour guides holding up signs for van tours. Most of them looked a little sketchy but I found one that looked legit and would take me to 6 different places (including Akaka falls) for $40! Oh happy day. So far I was the only one going and she needed at least 4 to make it happen. I started recruiting groups of students coming off the ship and not only did we end up with 15 people, but she reduced the price to $30!
Our tour guide, Maile (pronounced Miley), took us to a black sand beach, a formal Japanese garden (Liliuokalani gardens), Akaka falls, Rainbow falls and the macadamia nut factory (can you say free samples).
This was all amazing of course but what made the day so great was that she was so fun and called us her kids and called herself Mama Maile and really took care of us. When someone said they were hungry she immediately took us off to an authentic Hawaiian Poke shop. It was amazing. They had some really funky stuff! Poke is large chunks of raw fish with different spices and sauces. I had Ahi (tuna) Wasabi Poke. Absolutely wonderful. Later in the day she took us to get Shave Ice downtown. It’s sort of like a snow cone but way better. Then when I asked her to just drop me off at Starbucks (don’t judge) she told the kids if they wanted to run in and get something she would wait for them. It wouldn’t have been the same without her!
Later my friends came out to meet me at Starbucks and we found this great little diner that was filled with locals. We knew we’d hit the jackpot. I had Saimin which is sort of the Hawaiian national dish. It’s like ramen noodles in broth but they put all sorts of things floating on top like spam, scrambled eggs and cabbage. Again, wonderful.
Now, I shouldn’t even tell you this, but from there we went to the evil empire…yes, Wal-Mart! After being on the ship for 5 days you realize there are things you wish you had. The whole store was filled with people from our ship. Hilarious.
Pretty good day for wingin’ it. I’m so glad I didn’t book a trip in advance. It actually made me a little more brave for Japan. It also reminded me how experiences are not made meaningful just by sites or activities but by the people with which you share them.