On January 18th we had the privilege of going to Hilo, Hawai’i! Pulling into the Hilo Harbor was unbelievably beautiful because the moon was setting as the sun was rising; it was extraordinary.
I’m glad we had Hilo as a transitional port to see what it’s like to break off into groups and to see how we adapted traveling with different people. My friend Kara and I decided it would be best to travel as a duo this time considering how small the town was, and I couldn’t have asked for a better travel partner.

We walked from the ship to Hilo, which was approximately three miles. Apparently Hilo was supposed to be 65 degrees and rainy that day, but it turned out to be 81 and sunny (I miss San Diego!!) so the walk was a little long. When we got there we went to a bakery (recommended by Lauren) called Moonstruck Patisserie, and shared two cakes: lemon raspberry and almond with apricot preserves. Though not traditional Hawaiian cuisine, it was a fantastic break from the ship food.

Then we walked around the Hilo Farmers Market which had phenomenal looking fruit and flowers. Unfortunately we can’t bring any fruit back onto the ship, but we bought some passionfruit jam that has made its way into our hearts and onto many Ritz crackers once we were back on the ship.

We did a good job eating our way through Hilo. We went to a cafe that only had two workers. There were three tables and a mini kitchen where they prepared everything, which was really cool because we were able to ask the workers where we should go without there being an overwhelming touristy vibe to it. Kara and I got sandwiches (mine appropriately named “Best Veggie Sandwich Ever”) and then wandered around until we got to a shaved ice shop (got sweetened condensed milk on top! So good!!)

I like how casual Hilo is, and I think this may have been the last port where we could wander independently without having to worry about anything. Everyone we met was friendly and helpful. By a local’s suggestion, we made our way up to a waterfall called Rainbow Falls where we hiked around (in flip flops and dresses!) through forests and rocks until we got to the top of the falls. What a view, and what a perfect day!

During my sophomore year of college I took a class on Asian American studies. A portion of the class focused on native Hawaiians and my professor was very adamant about rejecting the exploitation of Hawaiian culture through typical tourist attractions. She encouraged us to avoid the tourism of Hawai’i if we were to go there, and when I found out we were stopping in Hilo I felt a sense of guilt expecting to be bombarded with tourism. I was relieved to see how normal it was. I didn’t hear of anyone participating in lu’aus, nor did I think of Hilo as this idyllic portrayal of island life. I saw homeless people and run-down buildings and beaches with trash scattered around it. This is a reason I love Semester at Sea; they throw us into places that we adapt to and learn from.

Because we cross the international dateline, when I go to bed tonight I will wake up and it will be the 22nd of January! I skip an entire day!

Japan in eight days!!!!