Sunday started with the now familiar drive North on the interior Hawaii Belt Road to Kamuela, also known as Waimea. We had read good things about Hawaiian Style Cafe and planned to stop there for breakfast. However, there were numerous people outside the small restaurant and the wait was 30 minutes or more. Instead, we settled on the Paniolo Country Inn. I was a little skeptical when the bouncer turned out to be our waiter, but the food arrived quickly and it was a good standard American breakfast. I had a two egg omelet with ham, mushrooms and green peppers and sides of bacon and toast. My girlfriend had scrambled eggs with sausage.
Satisfied and full, we continued Northeast on the Hawaii Belt Road for the first time. I took a scenic route parallel to the main road for about 10 miles, which ended in Honokaa. We then went Northwest for about five miles until the road ended at a spectacular lookout of the Waipio Valley. (This was actually about 10 miles away from the Pololu Valley lookout we had seen on Friday.) We were asked which one was better. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves and only say that they are equally as impressive.
On the way to Hilo, we stopped at the Kalopa Native Forest State Park, which is basically in the middle of nowhere. There were only a handful of people in this park, which was reminiscent of a rain forest.
Our next stop was Laupahoehoe Point Beach Park, which is one of our favorite parks to date. In 1946, a tsunami wiped out the community living in this picturesque spot. In 1988, the Army Corps of Engineers constructed a harbor with concrete barriers. There is no real beach at this site, but rather a boat launch and lava rocks. However, the water is a brilliant blue as you can see from the pictures.
We then went to World Botanical Gardens and Umauma Falls. The falls were nice, but to be honest, it was kind of a letdown. I was expecting something more impressive. The Botanical Gardens were nice, but nothing extraordinary. I guess this is the “B” tour; we hope to hit nearby Akaka Falls and the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens, which is located on the coast.
Speaking of the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens, we drove past the entrance on a four-mile scenic drive. However, we did not stop as it was getting late, we were hungry and Hilo was ahead. (Before the four-mile scenic drive, we did make a quick stop at Kolekole Beach County Park, which is located underneath a bridge on Hawaii Belt Rd. Not much to report, other than it was probably a nice park in the 70s.)
Our next stop was Hilo. And with hindsight being 20/20, I should have kept driving. I wasn’t expecting much in Hilo, yet I was still let down. At 4 p.m. on a Sunday in the main downtown area, how hard should it be to find a restaurant that is open? In Hilo, the answer is extremely difficult. We had read good things about Pescatore, but unfortunately it didn’t open until 5:30. We kept walking. We also heard good things about Royal Siam Thai Restaurant. The sign in the window said they were on vacation until Sept. 31, which I guess is either forever or means they won’t be coming back. We finally found a restaurant open, which was Cafe Pesto. Too bad they weren’t closed, as well. While I did really like the shrimp chowder and my girlfriend enjoyed her tomato vanilla soup, the entrees were average, at best. I had the beef stroganoff and used about 1/4 of the salt shaker on it. My girlfriend used another 1/4 of the shaker on her dish. The service was spotty, as well. This place gets a definite thumbs down. And if Zagat’s has this as “Hawaii’s Top Restaurants” that is bad sign for food on the island.
We left Hilo and made the long drive back to Kona using the same route through the Northern mountains. That was another mistake. While the Southern route may have been longer, it would have been a lot easier driving than the 1 1/2 hours I spent navigating the winding, mountain roads in pouring rain.