Kayaking and Snorkeling the Kealakekua Bay

In 2015, I headed back to Hawaii for my second solo trip to Hawaii. During my first trip in 2013, I spent my time exploring Maui. For this trip, I decided to go to the Big Island. I wanted to visit Volcano National Park and also wanted to go kayaking and snorkeling the Kealakekua Bay in Hawaii. I had read and heard good things so I was excited to check it out!

On the Plane Ride from Houston to Kona

This trip was great from the moment I got on the plane. On the plane ride over, I sat next to a woman who I’m pretty sure is my kindred spirit..and definitely is my new inspiration. Her name is Sue and she was heading to Hawaii for 2 weeks to attend the wedding of her good friend’s son. After talking to her for a bit, she told me that after graduating with her teaching degree in the 60’s, she applied for jobs all over the USA (she was living in TX at the time). She ended up getting an offer in Oahu so off she went.

She expected to stay for a couple of years but ended up staying for 43 years. After being diagnosed with lung cancer in 2004 and given 3-4 months to life, she moved to College Station, TX to be closer to the hospitals in Houston. 11 years later, she is still beating the cancer.

While she is always enduring treatments and long flights are really hard, she was really excited for this trip. She was telling me about all of the traveling she has done over the course of the flight and asking me about my travels as well. Also, she told she has a black poodle that gives her sad eyes and acts out when she leaves…hmmm, sounds familiar (yes Stella, I am looking at you).

Sue and I right before landing in Honolulu. She was heading to Maui from there.I headed to Kona.

The Big Island of Hawaii from the air.

Kealakekua Bay – Some Background Information

Kealakekua Bay is located 12 mines south of Kailua-Kona on the Big Island in Hawaii. It is a Marine Life Conservation District. The bay is a great spot for scuba diving, snorkeling and kayaking. The bay’s  waters are filled with coral and schools of tropical fish. On one side of the bay, there is a very steep hill, almost a cliff.

The bay is an important historic location because it marks the site where the first westerner, Captain James Cook, landed on the island of Hawaii. Cook was the first British explorer to establish contact with the Hawaiian Islands. He did it in 1778 on Kauai. A year later, he was killed in a skirmish with Native Hawaiians in Kealakekau Bay. There is a white obelisk on the shore of Kealakekua Bay Historical Park to memorialize his death.

Kayaking and Snorkeling the Kealakekua Bay

I scheduled my kayaking and snorkeling adventure with Kona Boys, Inc. They had good reviews and seemed to have a strong concern for safety. I am not an experienced kayaker so this was very important to me. Due to a mix up, I ended up being the only person on the excursion. They had tried to contact me the day before to reschedule but I was on the plane and unavailable. I felt bad but they seemed to be fine with so they took me out anyway . And boy am I glad they did because it was SO WORTH IT!

I met the guide at the marina where he was getting our kayak ready to launch into the water. As we were preparing, he told me there was “a 110% chance” we would see dolphins while we were out on the water. That was amazing music to my ears.

And he was absolutely right!

We didn’t just see a few dolphins, we saw at least three pods. At 20-40 dolphins a pod, we likely saw over a hundred of them. And to top it off, there were BABY DOLPHINS!!!!!  The babies tended to be slightly bigger than the size of a football and they had pink bellies. It was amazing and memorizing! I have never been so content to just sit in a kayak and chill. They came so close to us. I couldn’t have asked for a better start to our kayaking and snorkeling adventure in Kealakekua Bay!

Kayaking and snorkeling adventure in Kealakekua Bay
Looking back at the dolphins (and fully protected from the sun).
Kayaking and snorkeling adventure in Kealakekua Bay
So many dolphins!

After spending a while observing the dolphins from the middle of the bay, my guide asked me if I wanted to jump out of the kayak and swim/snorkel the rest of the way across. I said “yes” and so that is what I did. It was one of those times where I said a big silent thank you to my mom for making me take all those swimming lessons and dropping us off at the pool every day during the summer. Between those swimming lessons and going through SCUBA certification where I learned the proper way to put gear on in water, it was a breeze!

The water itself was so warm and calm. It was the perfect condition for snorkeling. I did not even use a life jacket. There were only a few people out snorkeling so I wasn’t being kicked in the head every 30 seconds like it seems I usually am when snorkeling. There were also no motorized boats so I could just float along and not be concerned about what was going on at the surface.

Once I reached the other side of the bay after snorkeling for a while, we checked out Captain Cook’s monument. We then had a snack and then headed back to our vehicles. On the way back to the hotel, I stopped at the grocery store and picked up my two Hawaii staples, poke and pineapple, before hitting the pool with a book for the rest of the afternoon.

This is the steep hill I referred to earlier. Before I jumped into the bay to snorkel, I asked the guide if there are ever sharks in the area. He said the only time he remembered a shark sighting in the bay was when several grazing cows accidentally fell over the top of the hill and tumbled into the water. Sharks showed up for the feast. In the end, officials ended up towing the cows’ bodies miles from shore. The sharks followed them.

It was such a great day! If you are planning a trip to the Big Island in Hawaii, I highly recommend adding a kayaking and snorkeling adventure in Kealakekua Bay to your itinerary. it is a great activity for all experience levels and you may see dolphins while you are out there!

Want to read more? Check out some things you should know before traveling the Road to Hana in Maui in this post.

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A Day in Stettfeld Germany

One of my favorite parts of the trip to Germany was our day in Stettfeld, Germany. While in Stettfeld, we met with extended family currently living there.

The morning we met them, we went to church and then met up with George and his daughter, Annika, who led us to their home. George’s wife, Simone, prepared an amazing meal for us, including the powdered sugared doughy goodness in the photo below. The food was delicious and the company was even better, even though most of the German family didn’t speak English and we did not speak German. It is always interesting how people can still find ways to communicate. In this case, we bonded over beer. 🙂

George and Simone’s son, Andreas was there along with Simone’s parents and her brother. Her brother’s family joined us later on as well. Simone’s dad, Ludwig, used to work at one of the local breweries. He enjoyed explaining the different types of beers he brewed and letting us sample them.

A Day in Stettfeld Germany
All of us from the USA
A Day in Stettfeld Germany
Everyone at the house during our visit (except for me, I took the photo 🙂 )
A Day in Stettfeld Germany
I don’t remember what this was called but it was delicious!
A Day in Stettfeld Germany
Ludwig helping Tim choose a beer from the selection

After lunch, we continued our day in Stettfeld, Germany by walking though the town and then over the the church and cemetery. The town is tiny but it was nice to be out and walking.

The church (pictured below) is where my great great grandmother was baptized. The church balcony included old, wooden, uncomfortable benches and kneelers. Aunt Julie joked that it was where the sinners would sit so I slid on in. I figured it’s where I belonged.

A Day in Stettfeld Germany

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A Day in Stettfeld, Germany
The kneeler for sinners. I belong here. 🙂

 

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Yellow House in Stettfeld Germany
I love buildings with pretty flower boxes in the windows.
Court house
More pretty window boxes.

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a Day in Stettfeld Germany
Just hanging out in the cemetery in Stettfeld

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A Day in Stettfeld Germany
Julie doing research for her book.

The picture below is of an ancient canoe carved from a log. It was inside the Stettfeld courthouse building and was over 200 years old.

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Next up on our journey through Germany? Dachau and Munich. You can check out that post here.

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Family Trip to Germany

While I often travel alone and enjoy it, traveling with a group can be great too, In October 2014, my Aunt Julie organized a family trip to Germany. Our ancestors came to the U.S. from Germany and she is very passionate about genealogy. This trip was a great opportunity to spend time with family, see where my ancestors are from and tour Germany. The trip included Julie and her husband Al, their son, Tim, my Aunt Sandy and her husband, Tom, my cousin, Deb, and me.

Frankfurt

We flew from the U.S. on various flights and met in Frankfurt. After checking into our hotel and resting for a bit, we set out for a walking tour of the city. I found this walking tour on Trip Advisor and it was also listed in Rick Steves’ Germany guidebook.

I find walking tours to be a great way to explore and orient myself to cities I am visiting for the first time. While we paid for our walking tour in Frankfurt, many cities have free walking tours through their Visitors’ Center. Another good resource for walking tours in European cities is Rick Steves and his books and app. For some cities, he has audio tours that you can use to navigate a city (I used his audio walking tour of Athens and it was great!). He also has walking tours listed in his books that are helpful (I followed along with his walking tour of Zagreb, Croatia when I was there).

I was able to find a private guide after reading Rick Steves’ book and consulting Trip Advisor. Our guide, Jo from Frankfurt on Foot, gave us a wonderful tour of the city. She spoke great English, went at our pace and was very knowledgeable about the city. She also recommended a great restaurant for dinner.

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Family Trip to Germany
I loved this old town street in Frankfurt.

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The evergreen wreaths below are pretty but don’t buy them for a loved one. They are grave decorations. The bull is a statue outside of the board of trade.

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Frankfurt is known for their green sauce and apple wine. I liked the green sauce on schnitzel (below). I was not a big fan of the apple wine.

Family trip to Germany
schnitzel with green sauce

After spending a day in Frankfurt, our family trip to Germany continued as we set out to explore other areas of the country. We split up on day 2. Al and Julie went off to do some genealogy stuff while the rest of us spent the day in Bamberg.

Bamberg

Bamberg is a wonderful city. The city center is a listed UNESCO world heritage site. The most well known building is the Bamberg Altstadt, which is the building/bridge in the first three photos below.

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During our exploration of Bamberg, we passed by the bar below several times. Everyone who spilled out seemed to be very happy and having a great time so after walking around the city for a few hours, we decided to check it out. It was worth the stop, other than they were not serving food (we were very hungry by this point in the day). The beer was very refreshing and the atmosphere was fun (sort of cave-like inside).

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Family Trip to Germany
Not the best photo but I feel like it sums up our time in Bamberg well. So many laughs. 🙂
Family Trip to Germany
I love this building!   

The two photos below were taken in the area of Bamberg known as “Little Venice.” If you squint and use your imagination, you can almost see Venice, Italy.

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We finally found food – a brat from a street vendor! It was really good, even competing with the brats from the Edgewood Locker in my opinion (I think it was the bread that made it so good).

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Continue reading about our family trip to Germany here.

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Exploring the Greek Islands

After a couple of great days in Athens, it was time for my next adventure: exploring the Greek Islands.

First up, I stopped by Skiathos to meet Amy and her two friends for a few days. Amy lives in London and is originally from South Africa. I met her in 2011 during my first trip to Europe. We kept in touch and I saw her again when I was in London in 2012. I was excited to meet her in Athens this time.

Skiathos

The hotel we stayed at in Skiathos was just outside of town and had many beautiful flowers, grapevines and olive trees on the property. There was a wonderful college aged girl, Vanessa, working at the hotel. She was on the island for the summer and didn’t know many people. We invited her to go to the beach with us on the first day (she worked late afternoons and evenings) and she became part of our group for the remainder of our time in Skiathos, as shown in the photos below. Meeting new people from different places is my favorite part of traveling.

We spent most of our time in Skiathos at the beach and exploring the town. We also did a boat trip to other islands nearby one day. The highlight of the boat trip was the island where the “Mamma Mia” movie was filmed. We got to stop on the island and visit the church where ultimately, Meryl Streep and Pierce Bronson’s characters were married.

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The view from my hotel room
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Olives!

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Photos from our boat tour of neighboring Islands

Exploring the Greek Islands
Chilling on the rocky beach

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Mykonos

After several days in Skiathos, I ventured on to Mykonos because I seems no trip to exploring the Greek Islands was complete without visiting Mykonos and Santorini.

Mykonos is very beautiful! There was a great photo opp everywhere I looked. It was so great to set out and explore the island with no intended destination.

Exploring the Greek Islands
So many pretty colors everywhere!

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One of the things I was most surprised about in Mykonos was how windy it was. At night in my hotel room, it sounded like a Midwestern blizzard was brewing outside. On my last day in Mykonoes, the wind ended up being a problem because it forced them to keep delaying the ferry I was supposed to take to Santorini. They finally canceled all ferries so I had to scramble around at 11pm to find a last minute hotel room.

Hotel rooms were hard to come by since it was busy season so I considered myself very lucky. I should have held that thought because I overslept the next morning and missed the 5:30am rescheduled ferry. Ugh!

While Mykonos is very beautiful and I was so lucky to be there, I was getting tired of being stuck on the island by that point. Dragging my luggage around while trying to find the ferry docks and a hotel was starting to take its toll on me. I decided at that point that if I wasn’t on a ferry heading to Santorini by noon, I was booking a flight back to Athens. I would spend the rest of my trip there.

Upon arriving at the port where the ferries departed (after oversleeping), I found out the next ferry to Santorini departed at 10:30am. But just my luck, it was fully booked. I decided to stick around the port to see if anyone canceled and realized after the ferry arrived that it was a situation where you got on and showed tickets later. I decided to get on, figuring they wouldn’t toss me into the sea en route.

The risk was worth it. The ticket taker wasn’t too pleased about me not having a ticket for that particular ferry but I talked so much trying to plead my case that I think he just wanted me to go away. He told me to pick any available seat and let me go.

Whew! My time exploring the Greek Islands could continue!

Exploring the Greek Islands
The ferry I took from Mykonos to Santorini

Santorini

The ferry ride to Santorini took several hours. On the ferry, I met a wonderful woman from Ukraine who was also traveling alone. It worked out well because we were able to save each other’s seats and watch each other’s stuff. Getting up to walk around or go to the restroom was so much easier!

Once in Oia, Santorini, we checked into our respective hotels and then met up to explore the island together. It was so nice to have someone to take photos for me (and vice versa). We also had dinner together. Any meal I don’t have to eat alone while traveling alone is a bonus.

One of the main attractions in Oia is the sunset. People arrived in droves on buses from other parts of the island to see it. It was overwhelming for me.

I scoped out my spot to watch the sunset early. As I was backing up to let someone past while waiting, my finger hit a metal piece in the wall behind me. Next thing I know, my finger is bleeding profusely. I borrowed some napkins from a restaurant and was offered tissues and bandages in four different languages from people around me. It restores faith in mankind when people are so concerned and helpful. Of course my mini first aid kit was in my suitcase at the hotel. I managed to get my finger to stop bleeding and bandaged without getting any blood on my white shorts (a miracle!) and enjoyed the sunset.

I spent the next day (my last full day in Greece) exploring more of the island in the morning and then relaxing by the hotel pool to avoid the massive crowds in the afternoon.

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Exploring the Greek Islands
The famous Oia, Santorini sunset. 

Interesting in reading more about my trip to Greece? Read all about my time spent traveling solo in Athens here.

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Traveling Solo in Athens, Greece

Anyone who knows me well knows I am almost always up for a trip and an adventure! Just name the place and I will be there. So what did I do when my good friend, Amy, invited me to join her and a couple of her friends on a trip to Greece? I requested the vacation time and booked pronto, of course! Amy and her friends were going to spend the entire week they were in Greece on the island of Skiathos. Since it is such a long trip to get there, I decided to split my time between Skiathos and other parts of Greece. I spent two days in traveling solo in Athens, met them in Skiathos and then finished the trip with solo visits to Mykonos and Santorini.

Greece is an amazingly beautiful country. The Greeks I encountered were very friendly and the food is delicious. I ate a lot of seafood and Greek salads, which were perfect for me because I don’t like lettuce and Greek salads have no lettuce, just veggies, feta cheese and seasonings. It was the perfect light meal!

Day 1 – Out and About in Athens

I figured since I was flying all the way over to Greece, I should spend a couple of days traveling solo in Athens to explore the city and visit the Parthenon. I toured the city using Rick Steves’ Walking Tour. If you do not know who Rick Steves is, he is the author of European travel guides and also has a TV show on PBS. His books are my go-to when I am booking trips to Europe.

I downloaded the app and then the audio walking tour (both for free!) onto my phone. When I set out on the tour, I used one of my ear buds to listen to him so I could also be aware of my surroundings at all time. It worked out perfectly! The best part of his tour is that I was able to listen and then stop the tour and take photos before continuing on.

My first stop along the walking tour was the Parliament House. This building was once the palace for the first King of Greece after the Ottoman occupation and now seats the members of Parliament.

The gentlemen in red caps are the guards, also known as Evzones. The Evzones is a special unit of the Hellenic Army who guard the Monument of the Unknown Soldier in front of the Hellenic Parliament and the Presidential Mansion. Through the historical movement of Greece, the Evzones have become symbols of bravery and courage for the Greek people.

They have a Changing of the Guards ceremony similar to the one in front of Buckingham Palace in London (just on a much smaller scale). I love the uniforms these guards wore, especially their shoes! The pom pom on the end is awesome! According to Rick Steves, it is a huge honor for Greek men to be guards and they take their positions very seriously.

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A guard outside of the Parliament House in Athens, Greece. I love their shoes. 🙂

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Changing of the guard ceremony at the Parliament House in Athens
Traveling Solo in Athens
Parliament House in Athens, Greece

After spending time at the Parliament House, I set off to explore other areas of the city. Athens reminded me a lot of Rome in that there are lots of ancient structures all around.

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Seen along the walking tour of Athens
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I loved all of the colorful buildings and flowers. I couldn’t get enough and have lots of photos of both
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And of course I loved all the blue that I think of when I picture Greece.

At the end of my walking tour was the statue below. This statue saved my sanity the next night after dinner.

I found a neat restaurant to eat at that evening and somehow took a wrong turn on the way back to my hotel. I ended up getting completely disoriented and could not figure out which way my hotel was. There was definitely a moment or two of panic where irrational thoughts set in – “I’m lost and am going to wander around this city forever, never to be found again.” My usual crutch when things like this happen – my phone – was not available which only added to my anxiety.

I pushed the thoughts aside for a bit and decided to keep walking. After a bit, I came to a courtyard area…and saw this statue, which I knew had seen earlier in the day on the walking tour. Once I saw him, I was able to orient myself and realized I was just a couple of blocks from my hotel. Whew! (And let’s face it, I could have stopped at one of the many restaurants around and someone would have helped me find my hotel…so I really didn’t need to worry).

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Day 2 – Acropolis and the Parthenon

My main goal for Day 2 was to visit the Parthenon. The Parthenon is located on a big hill overlooking Athens. I could see it from my hotel. It was a sight to be seen at night because it was all lit up. It is a hike up to the top of the hill so if you go, make sure to wear comfy shoes and bring water.

The Parthenon is the main ancient structure on the Acropolis, the hill pictured below. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the symbol of Athens and the most famous of the surviving structures from the world of ancient Greece. The building was originally built in honor of the goddess Athena, the city’s patron. There was a lot of construction going on while I visited because they are working to restore and preserve the site.

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The Parthenon from my hotel 

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These are 4 of the 6 women -columns of the Erechteion temple, which is located near the Parthenon on the Athenian Acropolis hill. They are named Caryatids and are copies of the originals (which are at a museum).

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With that, my time traveling solo in Athens came to an end. I know a lot of people skip Athens and head straight to the islands when they visit Greece. I really enjoyed my time in Athens and recommend you spend a day or two there when you head to Greece. It is worth your time.

To read about my time with Amy and her friends on Skiathos and my time on Mykonos and Santorini, including how I got stuck on Mykonos, click here.

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Hello

Welcome to my blog! I have been wanting to start a blog for a couple of years but didn’t know where to start. As usual, fate puts people in our lives at the right time. Upon starting a new job at my current company, one of my co-workers, Chika, shared her blog with me and encouraged me to get mine started up. Her blog has been an inspiration to me and I am so thankful for her friendship and advice.

I look forward to sharing my stories, adventures and lessons learned. The name of this site – Vicariously Through You – is a phrase I hear from family and friends a lot. I hope this site helps them not only live vicariously through me, but to be adventurous and plan trips of their own.

You should go check out Chika’s blog too! https://antibland.wordpress.com/

Maui
Me in Hawaii in 2013