The Big Island, as rightly named, is the largest and the southern most of the islands on the state of Hawaii. It was our second location on our trip to Hawaii. We flew from Honolulu to Kona which is a 40 minute flight ride. Unlike the island of Oahu which is famous for the beaches and greeneries, the Big Island more ensembles adventure activities. Wither way there is more the island has to offer, whether it be the Volcanic sites, black sand beaches, waterfalls, hikes, beautiful coastal drives, farms and ranches, cruises and so on.
Chase waterfalls around Hilo – Hilo is a small town on the east coast of the the island. It is a great place hidden in the valley surrounded by lush greeneries all around. While in Hilo, it is a good spot to go chasing waterfalls, probably a dozen of them, depending on what time of the day. There is Rainbow falls, which figures a rainbow everyday during the dawn and hence the name, Akaka falls, which is tallest in the region, and few others where you can even take a dip.
Kaumana Caves (Lava tubes) – Another spot near Hilo, is the lesser known and unguarded Kaumana caves. These are lava tubes which are formed due to the lava under current and when they solidify leaves hollow spaces between the earth. As per geologists Hawaii has lava tubes everywhere beneath the earth on various depths, but they are all unexplored. Kaumana caves open upto the earths mouth and runs as deep as 18 miles beneath the earth. These caves are open 24 hours, less visited and not supervised. While it is safe to explore the caves, make sure you have enough battery power on your torch lights to guide you back.
Watch whales on the go – Every winter the humpback whales travel thousands of miles from the poles towards the equators in search of warm and safe water for giving birth to their calves. Shallow waters of Hawaii are one of the most preferred ocean waters where the whales hang out during winter time, before heading back just before summer. December to April is good time to spot lot of humpbacks and there are numerous options to get to a boat service to watch whales from Oahu, Big Island and Maui.
Black sand beaches of Punalu – It is pne of the most popular and black sand beach in the Big Island. The black color is due to the high content of solid lava which over the period of time was turned into smooth sand particles by the sea waves. It is also famous nesting and basking site for Hawaiian turtles. Another beach for picnics and beach activities.
Waipio Valley – On the northern coast of the island, is the Waipio valley, a.k.a the valley of the kings. It is a beautiful beach surrounded by mountains 2000 ft high on the three sides. It is a sacred place historically for the Hawaiians and open to visitors for daily visits. It is infamous for its steep slopes, which is 800 ft grade in 0.5 mile distance from top of the hill to the valley. Hence driving is not allowed unless you have 4×4 and hiking not ideal unless you have good pair of boots. a very good spot of family picnic, beach vacation or even hike around the valley.
Night Snorkeling – Watch Manta Rays. Manta Rays are very large in size and dwell in oceans in the tropical regions. Their natural habitat consist for coral reefs where planktons are found in abundance. In Hawaii there are few local tour agencies offering snorkeling trips to see the Manta Rays up close at night.
Spoiler alert – Its illegal for us to touch the rays as they are sensitive and might get defensive, but real fun if you get braced by few Manta Rays around you.
Volcanoes National Park – No trip to Hawaii is complete with out visiting the Volcanoes National park. It is one of the most active volcanoes in the world today and also the most visited. In 2018, the volcanoes in Big Island did a dramatic turn around and stopped emitting lavas and during our visit in Dec 2019, the volcanologists say these craters have turned into deep sleep mode and never know when it is going to erupt again. The recent series of eruptions started on late 1970s and went on till 2018. There are no molten lava present in the park and the boat rides showing the lava flow into the oceans are also not operating any more. Inside the park there are many new roads that are opened around the crater rim for visitors to drive and explore hiking. The fee is $30 and good for a entry/exit for a week. Make sure you take good catch of the steam vents, sulfur banks, lava banks from various years of eruption including the 2018 lava fields and drive around the crater rim.
Mauna Kea – Once an active volcano, Mauna Kea is the largest mountain in the world, if measured from the bottom of the ocean, beating Mt.Everest by few meters. Above the sea level it rises up to 14000 ft and is a sacred place for the Hawaiians which is as old as the hill. There is a small road that takes you to the top of the mountain, and make sure you have a 4×4 (we had a sedan, and we were asked to stop at the Park entrance).
Last but not the least, make sure you drive around the island. There is always more to the trip in exploring the island and you will sure find the best of Hawaii.
Read my previous blog on Hawaii https://sreeramharidas.wordpress.com/2020/01/01/hawaii-islands-oahu/
Love and peace, Ram