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.

Kilauea caldera

From the top of the Kilauea caldera, we could see steam rising up from the central crater, where the action happens. Though we missed out on the lava flow in the morning, other SASers sighted lava seeping from the crater after nightfall.


Caption: Inside the caldera. The ground is covered in dried lava rock, but plants are starting to sprout through the cracks.

Inside the caldera the ground is covered in dried lava rock, but plants are starting to sprout through the cracks.


Though the volcano itself was an ash-packed wasteland, the trail around the border of the caldera was bursting with life!

Though the volcano itself was an ash-packed wasteland, the trail around the border of the caldera was bursting with life!

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!

5 Comments on “Semester at Sea: Climbing Kilauea – Aloha from Hilo

  1. I am so ready to retire and go for a semester at sea as a lifetime learner (only 13 years away)! Totally enjoying this blog and looking forward to the next post!

  2. I hope you continue to have a great time. I really liked Japan when I was there, you will have a great time. The Japanese people are very nice.

  3. I got behind and didn’t get your blog read until today. Sounds like a lot going on all the time. As everyone says, I know it will be a “lift time” type experience. Enjoy hearing all the great things you are experiencing. Anxious to read your next post.

  4. This looks like such a great learning experience. I love reading the blog. Keeping writing so that those of us that are dry docked can still “see” the world.

  5. Lauren! Great to read your blog and see that one of my former students is using writing to keep the world tuned in to Semester at Sea. I was born on Oahu but have never been to the Big Island–though your latest post has me longing to go hiking (and eating) there. All of us from our Memoir class wish you the best!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>