Rain in Paradise

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We briefly escaped Iowa’s snowy winter and went to Hawaii’s Big Island.

Before our scheduled trip, we were daydreaming of basking in the sun, and perhaps lie lazily on the beach, or maybe do a not-so-strenuous hike at the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, or perhaps even chase some waterfalls.

The Big Island of Hawaii boasts to have the most waterfalls in all of the Hawaiian islands and is home to the most picturesque ones.

However during the several days of our stay, the Hawaiian sun barely peeped behind the dark clouds and the dark clouds kept bringing on the rain. We stayed in Hilo for a few days, which is the wettest city in the US, where it rains an average of 211 days a year. But even with Hilo’s standard, residents there claimed that it was extremely rainy during the days we were there. We also spent some time in Kailua-Kona, but it rained there too. (For geographic reference, Hilo is in the eastern part, and Kailua-Kona which is 77 miles away, is on the western part of the island.)

For visitors from outside of Hawaii, when we think of this place, we presume that they have eternal sunshiny summer days. But rain is indispensable part of the islands. Its people viewed rain as a blessing. There’s an Hawaiian saying that goes, “Uwe ka lani, ola ka honua” (When the sky weeps, the earth lives).

The Hawaiian language has more than 200 words for rain signifying how entrenched it is in their culture. For example, kili noe, means a fine, light rain, kili hau means chilly rain, ua nāulu means showery rain, ua hōʻeʻele means drenching rain, ililani is for unexpected rain, and ua lani pili refers to torrential downpour. And that’s what we experienced – ua lani pili.

But the wet weather did not dampen our spirits. Even though it was raining, we still tried to chase some waterfalls. However during our drive to the falls, because of the heavy downpour, we kept on receiving emergency alerts of extreme weather warnings and flash flood warnings on our cellphones.

Video below is when we got stopped while we were on our way to the Akaka Falls State Park, as there were big branches of trees that had fallen on the road and it took some time for emergency crew to clear them out.

When we reached Akaka Falls State Park, there were some emergency crew there too who informed us that the park was temporarily closed due to some knocked down trees and debris blocking the path to the falls. We end up not seeing that falls that day. There were other falls that required some hiking to view them and we were not able to, due to the rain and flood.

That was true to most of the places we wanted to visit in the Big Island. We wanted to drive to the summit of Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano, which is the highest peak in Hawaii at 13,800 feet above the sea level (though considered the highest mountain in the world at more than 33,000 feet if you measure it at its base from the sea floor). We made it to the Mauna Kea Visitors Center at 9,200 feet, but the road to the summit was closed due to poor visibility and rains (snow at the peak) which made it too dangerous to drive.

We also planned to hike Mount Kilauea, which is an active volcano and see some live lava flow. However the torrential rains made that impossible to do as well.

Despite the apparent days of disappointments, we kept a positive attitude and still found some fun times during our visit. It was after all, a memorable trip. As the saying goes, “We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust our sails.”

Then one morning when the rain was pelting down really hard, a funny thought grazed my mind – we were chasing waterfalls all over the place while there was one just outside the window of our hotel. Video below is our own ‘mini’ waterfall.


Bonus: We were still able to see a real waterfall. Here is Akaka Falls which we finally reached 3 days after our first attempt to visit it. Yes, it was still raining.

From the Big Island Hawaii,


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