But even when we got out of the water, we never stopped feeling its presence. Both the Pahuia and Beach Tree restaurants gave us decadent sunset views right on the beach. Here, 75 per cent of the dishes are prepared using local foods from nearby farmers: Try the white pineapple, Kona oranges, ahi poke (a raw fish salad) and Kona coffee-crusted steak. (Aficionados will already know that Kona is a sweet mild brew grown only on the Big Island; they may not know Four Seasons arranges boutique tours of Green Gecko Coffee Farm. It's a fascinating, personal wander around a small farm on the side of a volcano, and the owners brew up a fresh pot to share while you indulge in such exotic fruits as vee, star apples and magic berries from their orchards.)
On our last day in this slice of paradise, it's Kona coffee I'm drinking to prepare for our overnight flight home. I'm trying to pack when Jack cries out in horror: “Mom, there's lava in my shoes!” Sure enough, there are several large pebbles of lava in the treads of his sneakers. This is serious. Taking rocks off Pele's island brings bad luck – the park's visitor centre receives a lot of mail from tourists returning lava to erase any possible curse.
“We've got to take it back to Pele,” he pleads. But there's not enough time to cross the island again. Instead, I dig out the rocks with tweezers and we have a small ceremony on our patio. We thank Pele for sharing her volcanoes with us, promise we'll come back as soon as we can, and toss the rocks into the orchids and spider lilies outside. After eating that sacred Ohelo berry, I wasn't taking any chances.
IF YOU GO
What to do: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is open year-round. Check the website for information on current eruption activity. The $10 entrance fee per car is good for one week. There are no restaurants and few services in the park, so come prepared with lunch, snacks and water for a day of exploring. Volcano village, a mile east of the Kilauea visitor centre, has restaurants and lodging. nps.gov/havo
Kona Coffee Tour: Hawaii is the only American U.S. State to grow coffee, and on the Big Island Kona is king. You can sample the sweet, mild brew at several farms, but try to arrange a small, boutique tour at Green Gecko Farm built on the slopes of the Mauna Kea volcano. Owners Michael Katz and Lawton Allenby let you gnaw on ripe coffee cherries and eat the exotic fruits such as rambutans, loquit, vee, white pineapples and miracle berries as you wander their groves. The variety of exotic fruits and flowers growing throughout the property is unforgettable. 808-324-1600; www.greengeckocoffee.com
Get A Guide: It's easy to drive around the park in a rental car, but a local guide takes you off the map. Native Guide Hawaii is a one-man operation: Warren Costa is a Hilo local, is an archeologist by training (he used to work at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park), packs a great lunch of local foods, and knows how to make volcanic fact and folklore entertaining for all ages. 808-982-7575; nativeguidehawaii.com
Where To Stay: Four Seasons Resort Hualalai is easily the most luxurious getaway on Big Island. The 243 rooms feature L'Occitane amenities and some have outdoor garden showers. 72-100 Ka'upulehu Dr., Kailua-Kona; 888-340-5662; Fourseasons.com/hualalai; from $545 (U.S.).
More accommodation can be found closer to the park in Hilo (about a 30-minute drive) or Volcano Village, a mile outside the park gates. Find rain forest cottage rentals at hawaiivolcanovacations.com; and boutique hotel rooms at volcano-hawaii.com/accommodations.