Getting To Florida Cruise Ports

Florida Cruises – Getting There…

Florida has become one of the largest destinations in the U.S. for people taking cruises. While passengers come from all over the U.S. and even the world a large number come from the Southeast and especially Florida. The close proximity to the Florida ports offers a number of advantages to cruisers from the region but it also presents some interesting challenges. The following is as complete a rundown on how to get to your cruise ship regardless if you come by planes, trains or automobiles. Okay, maybe not trains.

Miami from the Port

Florida has four major cruise ports; The Port of Miami, Port Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale, Port Canaveral at Merritt Island (sometimes called the Orlando port) and Tampa. Each one has its own environment that makes getting to your cruise ship different for each port.

 

Flying In

Tampa

The port is some distance from the airport but there is generally a fixed taxi fare for the trip of about $25 (plus luggage fees and tip). There are also a number of shuttles as well but expect to pay between $15 and $20 per person for these. A cruise ship transfer at last check was over $15 per person.

Disney Cruise Shuttle

Orlando

The nearest major airport to Port Canaveral. Expect to pay over $100 for a taxi to the port which is a 47 mile trip. There are a number of shuttles that charge as little as $15 per person. Booking a transfer thru your cruise line can cost above $35 per person. At last check Disney offers a bus service from Orlando airport and hotels at Disney World to their cruises at $35 per guest.

Ft. Lauderdale

Port Everglades is only about 2 miles from the airport and while the airport taxi stand will usually quote a flat fare of $20 to the cruise ship if you go with the meter on, it should cost less and if you are going from the ship to the airport it should cost about $15 with tip (no delay exiting the port because of security). The cruise ships also offer transfers but they average $16 per person, which for two people makes a taxi the better choice.

Miami

If you are going from the Miami airport to the cruise terminal, current taxi charges are a $27 flat-rate fee. That’s not per person. So if you are traveling with a family of four, that’s just $7 per person (or $14 round-trip) — not a bad deal. Buying a transfer from your cruise line will cast around $17 per person though or $68 for four.

Rental Cars (In City)

Often people will fly into the port city a day or two early and if that is the case it is a good idea to rent a car. Depending on the city rentals can be very inexpensive and give more flexibility on how you get around. Be sure you check with the agency and make sure you can drop the car off near the port.

Miami

It is common in Miami for rental car agencies to allow a rental to be picked up at the airport and dropped off somewhere else in Miami. At between $25 and $40 a day this is a very economical way to get to the cruise port with the advantage of seeing some of Miami in the process. In the case of Avis and Budget*1 they both have drop-offs near the port with free shuttle service to your ship, which saves the cost of a short taxi ride.

Tampa

While it is possible to also pick up a rental car at the airport in Tampa and drop it in the city, there are no drop offs really near the port. When we come in to Tampa on a cruise it usually costs between $10 and $20 to get a taxi to the nearest rental car location.

Port Everglades

Ft. Lauderdale

Because the port and airport are so near each other, unless you plan on spending some time in the area before your cruise, there is little reason to rent a car. It is also worth noting that Avis and Alamo have free shuttles from their airport locations to Port Everglades and back (you must have a copy of the rental car reservation to board the shuttle though).

Orlando

It has become popular to rent a car for the one-way trips between Orlando or airport and Port Canaveral and the rental agencies have been very accommodating in recent years. A recent check showed three agencies (Avis, Budget and Alamo) offering cars between $50 and $75 per day for the one-way trip including free shuttles to the ships in Port Canaveral.

One Way Car Rentals

Even if you live within convenient driving distance to a port, sometimes port parking can become an expensive proposition. This is especially true if the cruise is longer than seven days. Except for the Orlando – Port Canaveral connection, one-way drop-off fees can make renting a car very expensive. The one notable exception to that is if you live near Orlando. Because Orlando is the number one destination in Florida the rental car companies are always trying to balance their inventories and are usually not charging drop-off fees between Orlando and major Florida cities. Renting a one-way car is our normal method of getting to and from Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Tampa and Orlando. We have rented cars for as little as $29 from Orlando to Ft. Lauderdale. One trick is to make reservations way in advance and check the rate a few more times before the cruise.

Port Canaveral

Buses Etcetera

Back in the day buses were good, inexpensive transportation between cities and there still is a number of options for economical fares. MegaBus offers a one-way ticket from Orlando to Ft. Lauderdale for $26. The problem with them as with most bus service is that you have to get to their terminal and to your destination at the other end. This can be a major additional expense impacting the economy of bus transportation. We should also note that some people live in communities with active travel groups that normally arrange charter buses as part of a cruise package

Parking Near the Ports

Most parking structures inside the various ports are owned and operated by the ports and, on average, are fifty percent higher than private services near the port. Over the years there have been some interesting fights between these venues. Mostly it has been the ports trying to make it difficult for the private lots to compete and survive. Generally private enterprise finds a way.

Port Canaveral

Parking at the port garage inside the port is currently $17 per day and they charge for each portion of a day (that means full fare for the day you arrive and the day you leave). There are at least four dedicated private lots with shuttles near the port that average under $10 a day based on 24 hour days. There are also companies that contract with some local hotels for parking spaces and provide van service to and from the port.

Miami

Parking at the Port of Miami currently is $20 per 24 hour day with a daytime rate of $7. Because the port is located right in the heart of downtown Miami it is difficult to find reasonable rates nearby. There are a number of companies offering reduced rates but it would be recommended that you investigate where these lots are and how much security they provide.

Ft. Lauderdale

Parking inside Port Everglades currently is $15 per day but offers a location right next to the ships. Because the port is located near the airport there is a great deal of parking available in the area. There are official remote lots associated with the airport with shuttle service to the terminals as well as more than a few private lots not far away. Again it would be recommended that you investigate where these lots are and how much security they provide before reserving.

Notes & Links:

*1 Avis at Port of Miami with Shuttle to Cruise Ships. Address: 99 Southeast 2nd Street, (Cruise Ship Passengers Only), Miami, FL,33131. Phone: (1) 305-379-1317. Hours of Operation: Sun 8:00 AM – 2:00 PM; Mon – Fri 8:00 AM – 6:00 PM; Sat 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM

Miami Budget location with a free shuttle to the port. 89 SE 2nd St, Miami, Florida.

A Parking option at Port Canaveral

Shuttle from MCO to Canaveral 

Alamo Port Canaveral 

Advertisements

Savannah, Georgia’s Grand Lady

Jack Leigh’s 1993 image titled “Midnight.”

 

If Charleston is a Southern Belle than Savannah is the South’s Grande Dame. The city is built close upon the deltas of the Wilmington and Savannah Rivers at the confluence of the Savannah River and Little Back River. Traditionally, the culture of Savannah is rooted in the coastal “low country” just like its’ sister city of Charleston a hundred miles to the north.

Savannah Map from 1818

The city of Savannah, Georgia was laid out by James Oglethorpe in 1733 around four open squares. Each square was surrounded by four residential (“tything”) blocks and four civic (“trust”) blocks. Once the four wards were developed in the mid-1730s, two additional wards were laid out and the city grew out from this plan. Almost three hundred years later it is those squares (http://www.savannah.com/savannahs-historic-squares/) that make Savannah so unique and attractive.

East River Street

James Oglethorpe was a British soldier, Member of Parliament, and philanthropist, as well as the founder of the colony of Georgia. As a social reformer, he hoped to resettle Britain’s poor in the New World. Savannah was the beginning of his Georgia colony. The charter allocated each family a city plot to build a house on along with a larger garden plot outside the settlement proper and an additional large farm plot farther out into the countryside. The inner city design was originally intended to allow for defense from the Spanish to the south and the native tribes around the area.

The SCAD Theatre

Today it doesn’t matter if the plan was a result of genius or luck or centuries of dedication, Savannah is one of the world’s most beautiful, walkable and livable cities. It is home to SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) which is a dominant force in the culture of the city. Be sure to make time to visit their gallery and museum and ShopSCAD .

Savannah is also one of America’s most historic cities having played major roles in the colonization of America, the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. It is also known for food, ghosts (there are dozens of haunting legends as well as tours) and a vibrant lifestyle. When people think of this city they usually think of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, the birdgirl statue, cemeteries and grand steepled churches.

The Fountain in Forsythe Park

The last time we visited Savannah was a year ago in August, during the heat of summer. We came back in November and the weather and temperatures were glorious. We spent most of our time touring on foot, taking time for frequent stops to shop and snack. While walking along the river late one afternoon we decided, for old times sake, to stop into The Charte House for happy hour. In addition to good happy hour drink prices and snacks we were pleasantly surprised with an order of fried green tomatoes, some of the best we have ever had.

Crystal Beer Parlor

While strolling around the outskirts of the historic district we stopped for lunch at Crystal Beer Parlor, a local treasure on West Jones Street. Located in a former grocery store the “Crystal” is Savannah’s oldest restaurant, dating back to 1933. Its’ menu features solid American fare and an extensive beer list including a nice selection of local brews.

Market Square

On a previous visit to Savannah we took a walking “Famous & Secret East Side Food Tour” which was the most fun we’d had for lunch in a long time. We started at Smith Brothers Butcher Shop  and visited a half dozen spots for everything from tea and sweets to gyros. One of the stops was at Angel’s Barbeque, which had garnered a reputation for some of the best barbecue and homemade sauces in Savannah. We enjoyed delicious pulled pork sandwiches. I’m glad we stopped at that time as the owners, Andrew and Alieen Trice, have now sold the building and retired. To some this amounts to a tragedy.

If you are spending a day doing a walking tour of the city, a popular lunch idea is to stop by Smith Brothers Butcher Shop and order a sandwich to-go or pick up some items for a picnic in one of Savannah’s many squares.

For an introduction to the flavors of the city one should consider a number of dishes that the city is known for like low country boil, Shrimp and grits, Crab Savannah, oyster roast, crab cakes, beans n rice or red beans, fried green tomatoes and for dessert look for Georgia Peach Pie or cobbler, pecan pie and pralines or gophers.

Some must have treats in this historic city are legendary Leopold’s Ice Cream , Savannah’s Candy Kitchen for pralines or gophers, Southbound Brewing Company  for a tour and samples and one of Savannah’s popular and eclectic coffee shops.

 

 

Historic Charleston, South Carolina

A Southern Road Trip Part One: Charleston

We started our November road trip in Charleston, South Carolina with a stay at the Barksdale House Inn, a beautiful bed and breakfast located on George Street in the historic district. It has been a number of years (actually a few decades) since we last visited and, while it is hard to believe that a city, which is over two and a half centuries old, can change a lot in that time, it really has.

The restaurant scene here has simply exploded. A wide range of culinary styles are offered with special emphasis on the “Low Country” recipes of the region. Seafood is featured in Southern dishes like shrimp and grits, oyster stew and she-crab soup. We stopped into Pearlz for happy hour at the bar and ended up turning it into dinner. Afterwards, walking back to the B&B, we finished the night by picking up pralines at Savannah’s Candy Kitchen of Charleston. The next day we sampled and purchased cookies from Byrd’s Famous Cookies and also stopped for lattes at a local coffee shop of which Charleston has more than a few.

There are a large number of high-end retailers that have moved onto King Street creating a unique shopping venue in the historic district. Another mecca for tourists and visiting shoppers is the city market on East Market Street. The market stretches for a number of blocks east from Meeting Street with both indoor and open-air buildings. Stalls include local food sellers, crafts, jewelry, art and a limited amount of clothing. There are also a number of stalls featuring traditional Gullah hand-woven sweet-grass baskets which are unique to the region.

The Gullah are the descendants of African slaves of various ethnic groups who live in the Low-Country regions of Georgia and South Carolina, in both the Coastal Plain and on the Sea Islands. They developed a Creole

language, the Gullah language, and a culture rich in African influences which makes them distinctive among African Americans.

Other big draws to Charleston are the Colonial and Federalist architecture and the revolutionary and civil war historic sites. Good ways to see the town are with narrated horse-drawn carriage tours operated by several different companies or walking tours which can be self-guided or with a tour company.

Cedar Key, A Piece of Old Florida

If you travel west on Florida State Road 24 from Gainesville to where the road ends, you find yourself in a bit of old Florida. Out in the middle of nowhere on Florida’s northwest coast is the little village of Cedar Key with its’ population of around 700.

A post office named “Cedar Key” was established here in 1845 and by 1860 Cedar Key became the western terminal for the Florida Railroad, connecting it to the east coast of Florida. The town grew as a result of the railroad but in the late nineteenth century when shipping terminals and a railroad line where built in Tampa, the town got passed by.

At the start of the twentieth century, fishing, sponging and oystering had become the major industries but, when the oyster beds played out, the town became primarily a draw for sport fishing. It probably looks much now the way it did sixty years ago but, behind the façade, there have been some changes. The town now has a thriving art community and attracts tourists to the galleries and shops and fishermen to the Gulf.

We made our first ever visit to Cedar Key in July of this year and, while the town has its’ appeal, summer is not the time to go as a good deal of the town is actually closed. When we went looking for a cup of coffee in the morning we simply could not find anything open. The town has a few coffee shops and a donut shop and they were all closed for vacation when we were there. There are only a few hotel/motels in town and none of them received much in the way of inviting reviews. The one we chose, The Beach Front Motel, was basic and nowhere near a swimming beach.

You arrive in the town as Florida 27 turns into D Street. It crosses 2nd Street which is the main thoroughfare and offers a number of nice shops. If you turn left on 2nd Street and in a block make a right on C Street you will find yourself heading toward the Gulf and Dock Street.

Back in town at the corner of D and 2nd is Tony’s Seafood Restaurant which is famous for award winning clam chowder. That was where we went for our first meal and we were not disappointed as the chowder was remarkable. You can also take some cans home with you or mail order later. If you are looking for white tablecloths and atmosphere in Cedar Key you’re probably going to be disappointed.

Along the waterfront on Dock Street there are a number of gift shops and five or six restaurants worth considering. We tried Steamers Clam Bar and Grill which offered a fairly extensive menu including lots of fresh seafood in both small plates and entrees. They also featured a nice selection of local craft beers and a full bar.

Cedar Key is not the sort of town you just discover since it is so far off the beaten track. There is very little in the way of a beach to draw people and nothing like a resort area vibe. Unless you are into fishing, it’s hard to think of a reason why you would spend more than a day here. There is one recommendation we would make, however. If you are spending time in north central Florida say near Gainesville, Cedar Key is an excellent choice for a day trip. It is less than an hour and a half drive. It has a character that reminded us of the Florida Keys thirty years ago – a laid back place with good seafood, fishing and salt air.  The town has a vibrant art colony and the galleries and craft/gift shops are worth perusing. Also, in winter when more things are open, we were assured that we would find more to make a trip off the beaten path worth the time.

Hawaii – Planning a Trip

Hawaii is a destination on many bucket lists and if it’s not on yours you should add it. There are eight major islands in the Hawaiian archipelago so it is important to decide how to handle a visit. Our first choice is cruising as you are able to see several of the islands in one trip. Alternatively, you can select an island to visit and just stay, with Oahu being our first choice. There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches so be sure to do research before making your decision.

If you go with a cruise, only one company at present does weekly sailings around Hawaii and that is Norwegian. They offer 7 night trips in and out of Oahu with stops usually on three other islands. Alternatively, if you have around 14 nights available, you

Honolulu & Waikiki Beach

can sail round trip from several different California ports or one way from Vancouver Canada or even consider an Australia – Hawaii cruise. The advantage to the one way sailing is that allows you to spend extra days on the island where the cruise begins or terminates and only pay for a one way plane ticket. With any of these options, you are likely to visit four or five different ports giving you the ability to do some exploring on your own or taking a ship’s tour to see the island.

Rainbow Falls

The advantage to cruising is that you know many of the costs upfront and you know you will have good meals and a comfortable bed every night. You get sea days to relax and port days to see as little or as much as you want. You also have the option to try food and drinks ashore and see highlights in each port (like volcanoes), and shop at local stores and galleries. Some ships also bring on board Hawaiian performers and craft instructors to teach you things like making leis. Our last cruise had a naturalist on board giving lectures on whales and other things you MAY see. The disadvantage to cruising Hawaii is that your time in port is limited so you may not get to all the highlights on a particular island.

The island of Maui
O’hau
O’hau

If you decide to fly, you need to select which island you want to visit. Roundtrip air can be pretty expensive and, if you want to visit more then one island, you will need additional inter island flights, also not cheap. Flying is the main transportation between islands as there is only one ferry service and it only connects Lahaina (Maui) and Lanai. Hotels are also fairly expensive as many of the hotels are beach resorts. Food is more costly then what you find on the mainland, especially in restaurants. If you don’t mind fast food, there are lots of options available to help keep costs down and Hawaii has some unique offerings that we hadn’t seen before. Because of the Asian influence you will see lots of sushi and noodle places and don’t pass up the food trucks.

Once you get over how expensive Hawaii can be, having several days to explore a particular island is a plus. You can walk, ride public transportation or hail a taxi but if you want to do a lot of exploring, renting a car is the way to go. If you book in advance, rental cars are not expensive but you will need GPS either in the vehicle or on your phone (our Verizon iPhones worked great for navigation). The islands are easily drivable but the long and unusual road names make navigation a bit of a challenge.

Kona on The Big Island

Whichever way you decide to visit Hawaii, plan your trip in advance so that you can get the most out of it. There is so much to see and do, it will be difficult deciding on priorities.

 

 

To get you started here are a few ideas:

  • Visit the volcanoes on the Big Island and Maui
  • Take a walk on Waikiki Beach
  • Learn to surf and/or paddle board
  • Have a Dole Whip at the Dole Plantation on Maui
  • Go snorkeling among the 250 marine species that call the area home
  • Sample coffee on Kona*
  • Have a Hawaiian shave ice
  • Visit Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial on Oahu
  • Hike or bike one of the many lush nature trails
  • Spend time on a beautiful beach
  • Bring home Macadamias* or coffee

* Oahu now has a new coffee grower and café located in the neighborhood of the Dole Plantation

 

Honolulu and Diamond Head

**Hint: When you go shopping for Macadamia nuts visit the grocery and drug stores and save over the tourist stores. We visited the Mona Loa factory on The Big Island and their prices weren’t any better. Long Drug is the big Hawaiian drug chain and their prices are usually the best we’ve seen. They have also recently been acquired by CVS so if you have a CVS loyalty card be sure and use it and take your coupons and bucks with you.

Disney World Fun for All Ages

 

Beyond the Parks there is a whole collection of experiences and things to do at Walt Disney World. Some are designed for all ages and some just for adults. Some are available year round and some are special events. Most require reservations that need to be made way in advance.

Here are a few selections to consider when you get “parked out.”

  1. Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue at the Fort Wilderness Camp Ground is one of the longest running and most popular dinner shows at Disney. A great evening for the whole family.
  2. YeHaa Bob Jackson at River Roost Lounge (  ). If you are staying at Riverside or Port Orleans try to catch Bob’s show in the lounge. Bob usually performs to standing-room-only crowds, so try and get a spot early. There is piano playing, comedy and of, course, sing-along.
  3. An evening at Disney Springs. Evenings at Disney Springs usually feature a number of free shows and concerts and a Strolling Piano (yes a strolling piano act that motors around the Springs). Plan on dinner, some shopping and fun.
  4. Eat with some characters. Pick from a number of restaurants featuring breakfast, lunch and dinner with the kids’ favorite Disney characters. Check with your hotel for locations and reservations.
  5. Take the family bowling at Splitsville (  ) over at Disney Springs or
  6. Have dinner or lunch with a movie at the AMC Dine-In-Theatre also at Disney Springs.
  7. Every evening the Boardwalk Resort area features a series of entertainers that include jugglers and magicians. Along with the performers you can enjoy funnel cake, ice cream, pizza, margaritas, popcorn and carnival games.
  8. The Boardwalk area also offers some adult fun at Jellyrolls Dueling Pianos (one of our favorite things to do). There is non-stop music, a full bar and free popcorn (admission is $12.50, higher on some nights like New Years Eve).
  9. Again, for the grown-ups, is the Atlantic Dance Hall  also at the Boardwalk. Dance the night away to selections from a DJ at an iconic Atlantic City boardwalk dance hall.
  10. Go over to the Animal Kingdom Lodge for animal viewing and narrative by naturalists. At night they pass out night-vision goggles on the viewing patio. Relax around the fire-pits with a drink (both outdoors and in the lobby). Spend a little time looking at the exhibits in the lobby and strolling around the grounds.
  11. Play Fantasia miniature golf at two 18-hole courses based on Disney’s classic animated film Fantasia. One designed for family fun and one for people with some serious skills. The complex is located near the entrance to the Swan Hotel.
  12. Watch some fireworks. Find a location with a view of the evening fireworks. For the Magic Kingdom there are a number of good locations
    Fireworks over 7 Seas Lagoon

    around Seven Seas Lagoon. Some of the restaurants offer tables sited for watching. Over at the Boardwalk you can catch the Epcot fireworks from the bridge between the Boardwalk and the Yacht Club resorts or on the Boardwalk down near the Atlantic Dance Hall. There are also a couple of locations on the Boardwalk where you can catch a glimpse of the Magic Kingdom fireworks across the lake.

In addition to the four theme parks and the two water parks, the people at Disney World have added a few seasonal park specials and premium events. One of the most popular is “Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party” which is a special evening admission ticket to the Magic Kingdom on specific nights over the holidays. Similarly, there is “Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween” at the Magic Kingdom in the Fall. You can purchase tickets through the Disney web site or at Disney Stores.

Epcot has two seasonal events that do not require special tickets. (Entry is included with your Epcot ticket.) Both festivals tend to be much busier on weekends then during the week as there are more lectures and demonstrations during that time.

The “Food & Wine Festival” in the fall, usually runs from early September to mid October. The festival has the look and feel of a street fair where you can purchase sample foods from around the world as well as a number of featured wines and beers. In addition there are cooking demonstrations and lectures. The other event is the “International Flower & Garden Festival” usually running from early March to late May. This festival is all about flowers, featuring sample gardens, topiary, lectures and demonstrations. Weekends during this festival also include music concerts.

There is also a selection of dessert parties around “The World” including:

Celebration at the Top – Sip, Savor, Sparkle

Ferrytale Fireworks: A Sparkling Dessert Cruise

IllumiNations Sparkling Dessert Party

Pirates & Pals Fireworks Voyage

Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular Dessert Party at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Tiana’s Riverboat Party

Fireworks Dessert Party at Tomorrowland Terrace

They all require reservations well in advance, some also require park admission and all have a fee involved.

For an up-to-date listing of special events around Walt Disney World click HERE.

The Geology of Hawaii

Hawaii

The Royal Hawaiian Waikiki Beach
Waimea Bay

When you visit Hawaii it doesn’t take very long to realize you have come to a place like no other on earth. Isolated from continental land by at least 2,400 miles of ocean. It is blessed with year round average temperatures in the eighties and abundant rainfall. Its history is both ancient as well as recent. First populated by the Polynesians over fifteen-hundred years ago it was not discovered by the European explorers until January, 1778, when the English explorer Captain Cook set foot ashore. The native Hawaiians speak a language unique to them and proof of this is everywhere from highway signs to greetings from the locals. Because of Hawaii’s isolation the flora and fauna are a blend of unique as well as introduced species from all around the world. Modern Hawaii has also the most ethnically diverse population found anywhere with seven races each representing over five percent of the population. This includes the Polynesians, Asians with Japanese being the largest segment, whites, Filipino, Blacks, Hispanics with twenty-one percent of the population being of mixed race decent. Even the geology and origins of this island chain are unique. Welcome to paradise…

The shore at Lanai Lookout, Oahu

Hawaii – a Geological Wonderland

Most of the earth’s islands are found at tectonic plate boundaries either from spreading centers (like Iceland) or from what are called subduction zones where one tectonic plate slides under another (like the Aleutian Islands). Hawaii is geologically unique because it is caused by a ‘hot spot.’

Illustration from the Jaggar Museum, Hawaii

 

There are a few ‘hot spots’ on earth and the one under Hawaii is right in the middle of the Pacific Plate, one of the earth’s largest crustal plates. A geologic ‘hot spot’ is an area under a crustal plate where volcanism occurs. It is easy to geologically explain volcanism at plate spreading centers and subduction zones but not as easy to explain a ‘hot spot’ where molten magma breaks through the crustal plate. (Some theories describe this as a particularly hot part of the molten magma).

Another hot spot under the American plate is Yellowstone National Park with its geysers and other thermal features. The Hawaii hot spot is under the seafloor producing undersea volcanoes. Some of these volcanoes build up to the surface of the ocean and become islands. Over millions of years the plate moves across the ‘hot spot’ and the original volcanoes become extinct and new volcanoes begin to form in the area of the ‘hot spot.’

Understanding all of this explains why in the Hawaiian islands, the more southeast you go, the more active the volcanoes are. This shows that the plate is moving northwestThe island farthest south is the big island of Hawaii with no fewer than five volcanoes with some active most of the time. The farther north you go, the islands are older and the more time erosion has washed away the land. Niʻihau is the largest and last lightly inhabited island before the ten islands and atolls in the uninhabited Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

He iconic profile of Diamond Head east of Waikīkī Beach on the island of Oahu is the crater of a long extinct volcano.

Hawaii – The Big Island

Volcanoes of the island of Hawaii, Illustration from USGS exhibit

Kīlauea

The three largest volcanoes on the big island are Kilauea, Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea. Volcano National Park encompasses Kilauea with a number of different volcanic features.

Picture caption: Halema’uma’u, a pit crater, inside Kilauea Caldera started erupting in 2008 creating an almost constant plume of steam and volcanic gases (sulphur dioxide).

Halema’uma’u crater

On a recent visit to the big island we went up to Kīlauea. The caldera was shrouded in rain and fog so we didn’t have an opportunity to see much but we did get to Halema’uma’u. We spent time at the USGS museum and also hiked thru the Thurston Lava Tube.

Thurston Lava Tube

Thurston Lava Tube is part of a trail in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Visitors enter through a ‘skylight’ (collapsed roof of a lava tube), walk a ways through the tube and exit via another ‘skylight.

Lava & sea at the edge of creation

Lava tubes develop as the lava flows and hardens on the outside. The inside continues to flow and may drain out of the ‘lava tube’ entirely. Some of these lava tubes are small but some are very large (as much as 20 feet in diameter). Many of the lava tubes have a flat bottom as the lava hardens when it slows down and look like subway tunnels. When the top of a lava tube breaks through it is called a ‘skylight.’

Midnight off the southeast coast of Hawaii

Due east of Kilauea, lava from Pu’u O’o volcano travels downhill for miles in lava tubes to reach the ocean where it spills out along the shoreline creating large clouds of steam and volcanic gas. Our cruise ship crossed around the southern coast at night and around midnight moved to within one mile of the lava flows as they poured into the ocean. Viewing the display at night from the sea is an awesome event. There are also trails that allow hikers to get down near the area where the lava spills into the sea but we’ve been told that the hike down and back can take most of the day.

In addition to the volcanoes on the island of Hawaii there is a new eruption just south of the island called Loihi. This volcano has been erupting from the sea floor and currently its peak is at a depth of 3,000 feet. At its present rate of growth it will probably break the surface of the Pacific after another 10,000 years.

Maui

Looking down from 10,000 feet up on Haleakala

 Haleakalā Volcano

The summit of Haleakala
Haleakala

Haleakala is home to the highest peak on Maui, at 10,023 feet. It also holds the world record for climbing to the highest elevation in the shortest distance- a mere 38 miles from sea level to the top! Because Maui is north of Hawaii the volcanic activity is dying down. It is believed that the last major eruption was in the seventeenth century with only a few smaller events in the twentieth century. The USGS lists the eruption risk now as normal. A Normal status is used to designate typical volcanic activity in a non-eruptive phase.

We visited the top of Haleakalā a couple of years ago and it is almost like traveling to another planet: bare peaks and slopes covered in a spectrum of colored rock, dirt and sand. Clouds hung near the slopes with vistas across the crater* that stretch on forever and views back across the island are breathtaking. The drive to the top of the volcano is an adventure in itself as the road snakes back and forth up the slope with temperatures dropping as you ascend and winds blowing as you reach the summit.

O‘ahu

The profile of Diamond Head on O‘ahu is the western rim of an extinct volcano and is perhaps one of the most recognized volcanic mountains on earth. In addition to Diamond Head there are a few additional extinct vulcanoes on the island including Hanauma Bay, Koko Head, Punchbowl Crater, Mount Tantalus and Aliapa’ak.

Diamond Head

Throughout the Hawaiian islands the high and jagged peaks catch the tropical trade-winds causing huge amounts of rainfall. This micro-climate results in a lush landscape crossed with rushing streams and dotted with beautiful waterfalls. The islands are noted for their vertical cliffs, isolated valleys, incredible beaches and acres of farm land. This tropical climate and rich soil yields plentiful cash crops that include pineapples, macadamia nuts, coffee and cacao nibs used for making chocolate. Welcome to paradise…