Hawaii is one of those places that is on almost everyone’s bucket list. About three years ago, I was lucky to spend 11 days exploring the Aloha State. Hawaii is made up of 8 major islands, but most visitors spend their time on the 4 major islands: Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and the Island of Hawaii (nicknamed the Big Island). We were able to visit 2 of these 4 during our stay; Oahu and Hawaii. While I enjoyed my time on Oahu, the Big Island is where I felt at home. It has more of a country feel, whereas Oahu feels more city. It is a lot less populated than Oahu and its variety of landscapes that offer endless activities. Here are some of my recommendations on what to check out should you find yourself on this particular island in paradise.
Below some of the beautiful coastline that awaits on the Big Island.
A Kona Coffee Farm
Being a coffee lover, this was a must for me. Great kona coffee is some of my favorite to drink in the world. I figured if a beer tasted great fresh from the brewer; imagine how good coffee will taste. My wonderful husband did some research for me and found the highly rated Hula Daddy Kona Coffee. When we first pulled in, I slightly surprised how small the facility was to my expectations. I figured this award winning coffee maker would have this massive farm. Yet this place was charming and did not disappoint. As soon I stepped through the doors, I gasped at the panoramic view of the ocean and valley below. Shortly after arriving we took a tour that explained the coffee making process. It was interesting as I hadn’t realized how much goes into creating liquid java goodness. Even the non-coffee drinkers in my group enjoyed the experience. The real highlight was after the tour when you got to sip the heavenly brew. I was pretty hyped up for a while after this visit. Though in hindsight 8-10 cups of coffee may have been too much for someone who typically only has 2-3 a day.
Some of the coffee beans growing from our tour pictured below.
Naturally no list of mine would be complete without a waterfall. This 442 feet high waterfall plunges down into a gorge in a picturesque rain-forest setting. From the parking lot, It is a short, easy, hike through a loop trail. When you get there you can go the short way to the falls, or the longer. I suggest the longer. Its really not that long (I think the whole loop is less than half a mile). The longer route offers a view of a small falls along the way, and you get to walk through a tropical forest.
Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park
It’s a tongue twister and I”m not sure I ever got the name 100% correct that day, but pu’uhonua means place of refuge. This is where those who broke kapu (ancient sacred laws) could escape to avoid a death sentence. It was also used as a place of safety during a battle. These grounds feel sacred as I wandered the beach trails, while listening to the waves of the Pacific Ocean crash. Without being told, I could feel this place was of importance and got a sense of how early Polynesian settlers lived. The history of this places came alive in front of my eyes. I can’t forget to mention the beautifully handcrafted totem poles.
This carving seemed almost a warning of sorts.
Two of the totem poles looking out over the water.
The main reason to stop here is to see a black sand beach. I saw a black sand beach after this in Iceland . That was pretty cool, but I preferred this one. The tropical setting with the palm trees really adds to the ambiance. The ocean was very rough there, so it wasn’t a beach to swim but to admire. The highlight is the sea turtles laying their eggs on the sand.
Do you see the turtles? Almost look like rocks.
When one thinks of Hawaii, the image of snow is not one that comes to mind. Yet most forget that this volcanic mountain stands 13,802 feet above sea level and is often snow capped in the winter months. A local told me that sometimes on Christmas, residents drive up there and gather up snow in their coolers. They bring it back down to play on the beach. At its summit there are several observatories, as its location is ideal for astronomers. Driving up the mountainside is a little daunting. The road to access it goes through a pretty barren and desolate part of the island. As we ascended, we went through some clouds that felt like part of another dimension. There is a visitor center at about 9,200 ft and we stopped there, as recommended. The road to the top can be extremely hazardous and this center will gives the most up to date driving status. There is a wealth of information including history, handouts, displays, and telescopes to utilize. Stopping at this center is suggestion for another reason. To acclimated to the higher altitude; as altitude sickness is a possibility. In fact It is not wise going further than this center if you are pregnant, in poor health, or have scuba dived in the last 24 hours. It is also significantly cooler there, so I was glad I brought a jacket (though shorts were still very chilly). We did not go much further up the mountain than the visitor’s center due to night quickly approaching, and our travel companions started to get uncomfortable. Even if you are planning and not sure about going the whole way up; just go to the visitor’s center. It was an incredible feeling to be physically standing above clouds. It was hard to tell in some spots where they ended and the ocean began. These are views I have only experienced in an airplane but from the ground.
Steve's panoramic as we watched the sunset.
Volcano National Park
I saved the best for last. This National Park is one of the coolest places I have been ever. We only allowed ourselves roughly a full 24 hours there and it wasn’t enough time. First stop by to view the steam rising out of the active Kilauea crater. Make sure to return at night, to catch the glow of the lava. Take a brief stroll through the Thurston Lava tube before driving down the road named Chain of Craters Road. Along the way, be amazed at the volcanic landscape and stunning vistas. Then end of this road is the real highlight. Park and see the Holei Sea Arch, as well as see the spot where a volcano eruption took out the road. Climbing over the hardened lava and seeing a road closed sign stuck in the midst of rocks, sends a pretty clear picture from Pele (the Hawaiian Goddess of of fire, lightning, wind, and volcanoes).
There are lots of trails to explore but with limited time, we had to be selective. Kilauea Iki Crater is a volcano crater one can walk down into, across, and around. We didn’t have time to do the whole trail but still descended into the crater. There are steam vents the expel heat from underground. The owner of the B&B we stayed at the previous night, suggested we take hot dogs. He said that one can actually cook them in those cracks of the earth. Though we didn't do this, we did see pics of people who have successfully.
Kilauea Crater through the day, an image we took.
Kilauea Crater at night. Picture from Pixabay as the pictures we caught din't turn out as nice
The road closed sign that was once among an actual coastal road.
Holei Sea Arch was created by lava flow about 550 years ago.
Part of what was once a road that remains.
Kilauea Iki Crater that we hiked down into from above. Picture from Pixabay.
There you have it. There are so many wonderful gems you will find as you explore the Hawaiian islands. Views that never get boring and a chance to truly understand what aloha means.
Come back soon and I will share my favorite things to do on the island of Oahu.