Snow joke in trop­ics

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - Escape - - COOL CLIMATE -

The un­ex­pect­edly var­ied cli­mates on Hawaii’s Big Is­land pro­vide just one of the high­lights of this trop­i­cal de­light, writes An­gela Sau­rine

WHEN you think of Hawaii cer­tain im­ages come to mind – palm trees, heav­enly beaches and blaz­ing or­ange sun­sets.

Snow is not some­thing you would typ­i­cally as­so­ciate with the US is­land state.

Yet there it is – a big patch of the white stuff sit­ting at the top of Mauna Loa vol­cano.

Eleven of the world’s 13 cli­mates can be found on Hawaii Is­land, nick­named the Big Is­land be­cause it is by far the largest of Hawaii’s eight is­lands.

Dur­ing win­ter, you can play in the snow on the moun­tain, then drive through desert or jun­gle to swim on the coast, where tem­per­a­tures are still in the 30s.

The vol­cano is one of five on the Big Is­land, two of which are still ac­tive.Mauna Kea is 4205m – the tallest moun­tain in the world when mea­sured from its base be­low sea level to sum­mit.

Fly­ing over the is­land on a tour with Blue Hawai­ian he­li­copters, we see steam pour­ing out of cracks in the Earth’s sur­face and vents and red-hot lava bub­bling from the crater of the most ac­tive vol­cano, Ki­lauea. Hun­dreds of years ago, na­tive Hawai­ians held hu­man sac­ri­fices at the vol­cano, our pi­lot Dale says.

Un­til last year you could do boat tours to see lava pour­ing over cliffs into the ocean, but the lava changed di­rec­tion and is now head­ing slowly to­wards houses.

Af­ter fly­ing over for­est be­ing burned by lava we re­fuel at Hilo, on the east side of the is­land, be­fore head­ing north up the Ha­makua coast. The land­scape changes dra­mat­i­cally, and we soar past two lush val­leys be­tween soar­ing canyons which meet the ocean sharply.

We fly into Waimanu Val­ley, twist­ing and turn­ing to see sev­eral 850m high wa­ter­falls – the tallest I have seen – get­ting so close we get wa­ter droplets on the wind­screen.

Af­ter reach­ing the north­ern­most point on the is­land we turn back and con­tinue along the is­land’s north­west, known as the Ko­hala Coast, where I am stay­ing at the beach­front Mauna Lani Re­sort.

Mauna Lani means moun­tain heaven, so named be­cause you can see five vol­ca­noes from the re­sort, in­clud­ing one on the neigh­bour­ing is­land Maui just across the way.

Sur­rounded by fields of black lava, the area was once a place of rest for chiefs who came to fish in nat­u­ral ponds formed from the lava dot­ted through­out the property.

The re­sort’s di­rec­tor of cul­tural af­fairs, Danny Akaka, fills me in on the his­tory of the 1300ha property.

Er­rol Flynn, Babe Ruth and Bob Hope are among the celebri­ties who stayed there as a guest of pre­vi­ous owner Fran­cis Brown, be­fore he sold it to a Ja­panese friend in 1972.

The Big Is­land has one of the big­gest cat­tle ranches in the US – Parker Ranch – as well as dairy farms and cof­fee plan­ta­tions.

It is also home to Awa­puhi Farm, where Paul Mitchell co­founded his well-known hair

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