Semester at Sea: Climbing Kilauea – Aloha from Hilo
Editor’s note: Lauren Jones, a third-year student majoring in English and Economics, is blogging about her Semester at Sea experience. If you’ve missed her earlier entries, start at the beginning: Ready to Set Sail on Semester At Sea
After six full days with no land in sight, we woke up Friday to watch the ship pull into beautiful Hilo, Hawaii!
I’ve loved the looking at the endless blue ocean outside my window these past few days, but seeing land for the first time in a week was a surprising relief. When you’re floating in the sea, and your vessel is the only sign of human life for days on end, seeing land feels like coming home. Especially if, you know, that land happens to be a tropical paradise.
So, after waiting for an hour to get through security, everyone piled off the ship and into the various tour buses and taxis that were waiting outside the port. The Big Island lacks the heavy tourist traffic you’d find in Oahu or Maui, so we saw a more local side of Hawaii, sans the upscale hotels and skyscrapers. Several groups of students walked downtown to the Farmer’s Market, and then took a cab to the beach or to go kayaking nearby, while others departed for their field labs or programs (labs are class field trips and come free of charge, while programs are paid excursions organized by Semester At Sea).
Though I’ve heard great things about SAS field programs, I’ve decided to do most of my traveling independently to see where it takes me. I caught a cab with four people to Volcano National Park, where we decided to take a six-mile hike around Kilauea – the only volcano in the world that is frequently active, yet docile and monitored enough to be approachable. We traveled around the caldera, or the sunken basin that forms around the crater after the lava cools.
Though Hawaii is still part of the U.S., and the ship really just needed to stop here to get fuel, the Semester at Sea staff wanted the student body to get the best cultural experience possible out of our day in the island. At the pre-port session the night before we docked, they prepped us with useful Hawaiian phrases, great places to get a traditional Hawaiian meal, the history of the islands and the science behind volcanoes.
My group definitely didn’t want to skimp on the food. We made sure to have pineapple for lunch, and later that night we traveled to downtown Hilo and had some of the freshest (and cheapest) sushi I’ve ever had, which, incidentally, helped me prep for our next stop – Japan!