Our First Impressions of Big Island, Hawaii

Irina Abraham

Discovering our home for the next two months. 

After weeks in the Arizona desert, all of us—adults and children alike—were excited about new views, new people, new experiences. That’s the thing about nomads—we don’t stay in places for too long. Two weeks feels like a lifetime and a month is an eternity. But my husband had a mural painting gig in Phoenix, so we had to stick around.

The tall majestic cacti and spectacular sunsets were our backdrop for weeks, and as soon as we landed in Kailua-Kona, Big Island, I realized how much I had been craving the sight of the lush vegetation and the blue water. Even before we landed, I craned my neck to look out of the window from my middle seat and got my very first impression of Hawaii. I've got one word for you, and even though it’s not very original, it is accurate: Paradise. The wild greenery sprawls all the way to the turquoise water, while the thick mists hug the top of the island’s steaming heart: the Hualalai volcano.

Once out of the plane, we were not funnelled into the cold, white airport spaces pumped with AC, we were outside instead! The kids started rolling in the grass right by the luggage claim and we were able to greet the Hawaiian sun.

Next stop; the beach! The sky was clouded and the promised spectacular sunset was peeking shyly through the grey, but we could tell that on a clear day it would be breathtaking—something to look forward to. We dipped our feet in the water, and walked on the warm black sand, smiling, still incredulous about how lucky we were to be here in the dead of winter. But it was getting darker, our numerous kids were getting weary (we have four between our two families) and we had to head to the ecological community where we would be staying for a very, very long time; two whole months.

I've got one word for you, and even though it’s not very original, it is accurate: Paradise.

It was pitch dark when we arrived at Earthsong, and the jungle was thick around our cabin. The nocturnal sounds were so loud that if you think crickets have a party at night, you haven’t met the Hawaiian coqui frogs; the tiny creatures chirp up a storm.

After the tiny spaces of our most recent dwellings—converted school buses—the two-bedroom cabin seemed huge. Running water, a six-burner stove, and a shower in a bathroom with glass walls looking onto the jungle created sufficiently luxurious conditions for us.

Not for our teenager, though. The rustic cabin was built a few decades ago, leaving a sombre impression on our 15-year-old. He was scared to wake up to bugs crawling around him, and all our newly acquired space and amenities paled next to the home-made walls, damp sheets and thrifted furniture.

But the sun came up the next morning. And with it, the glorious jungle revealed itself in all its splendour. A young boy who had spent a month in the community showed us around: We had some passion fruit, tangerines, and mulberry right off the trees, we visited the yoga space, and our son was impressed with the view from the meditation nook where he was to sleep (it was too dark to explore it the first night).

The next day, the property caretaker gave us a tour to show us all the work planned on the land. With several reflection ponds, abundant plant beds, fruit trees, and the building up and the beautifying of the existing structures, Earthsong might as well turn into a tiny heaven. The best part is we have a chance to contribute to its making.

Before the start of the work week, we did one last outing, to the Punalu’u Black Sand Beach. You feel the hot heart of the Big Island once your feet touch the sparkling black sand formed by the basaltic lava flow. The endangered Hawksbill and green sea turtles rest peacefully by the water, and the bright Hawaiian February sun peeks out of the clouds and hides again. This part of the island has ever-changing weather with short rains and lots of wind, so you get to experience nature's various moods in one afternoon.

Our kids ventured out into the nearby wood and found plenty of coconuts ready to be cracked. We tasted the delicious meat while the kids happily lapped up coconut water straight from the shells. We enjoyed every drop of the ocean, the sun, and the abundance of nature that day, for the day after, we were to return our rental car and settle in the community with plenty of work to be done.

Add this article to your reading list
Published in Volunteer Abroad Blogs
Irina Abraham

Irina Abraham is an actress turned writer. Originally from Belarus, she spent most of her adult life in New York City. She writes about her travels on a short school bus and is currently volunteering with her family on Big Island, Hawaii. @kit_the_bus

Website: www.kittohappiness.com

Join the Verge Community

Verge Magazine Membership

Join our community of savvy travellers and put nearly two decades of inspiring articles, authoritative information and expert advice to work for you.

Show me more > Login >


Travel Intelligence Bulletin


The latest openings overseas—direct to your inbox.

Subscriber Login


Travel with purpose; travel for good. Articles, resources and events for ethical and meaningful travel, volunteering, working and studying abroad.

Verge believes in travel for change. International experience creates global citizens, who can change our planet for the better. This belief is at the core of everything we do.

Like what you see?

Follow us on social media