In the previous post: beaches with hot spring pools, white and black sand; nude, new, snorkeling beaches, and the ones with turtles.
The islands of Hawaii are the most isolated landmass on Earth. It has an ideal climate year-round, no poisonous snakes, frogs, and spiders. 90% of plants native to the islands found nowhere else in the world. The Big Island of Hawaii, above all, is the youngest and biggest one. In the entire USA.
All the mentioned places you can find are on the map at the end of the post.
Big Island of Hawaii
1. Hawaiian volcanoes and their traces
Traces of Hawaiian volcanoes on the Big Island aren’t limited to Volcanoes National Park. Lucky for you (and often heartbreaking for locals), marks of volcanic activity are anywhere on the Island. (The freshest in Pahoa, Leilani Estates)
Key points: plan at least a day to explore Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. Leilani Estates (photo #5 and #6) is as close as possible to watch and feel volcanic activity but also residential and unofficial area. We were able to explore it because we stayed there.
2. Royal footsteps on the Kona Coast, Big Island of Hawaii
Our knowledge about Hawaiian culture was very limited until the trip to Maui in December 2020. (We discovered the self-driving audio tour “Shaka Guide”). There is an entire world to learn about: sad, fun, and captivating. Big Island is the richest in terms of history and traces of Royals among all other Hawaiian islands:
Key points: All we knew about Hawaiian culture and history, we got from Shaka Big Island self-driving guide (we paid $30 for all tours on the Island). Kids liked “Uncle Shaka” a lot too.
3. Magic Tree Tunnels, Big Island of Hawaii Route 137
If you are looking for an uncrowded, authentic Hawaiian experience, save a couple of hours for Big Island Route 137. Tree tunnels are hard to miss and something we didn’t find on the other Hawaiian islands, especially in such numbers:
Key points: Route 137 is also a scenic byway and covered in one of the most beautiful tropical vegetation on the island. There is also “Croods like” picnic tables made from lava, lava fields, hot pools (#4 in the post), and ocean vistas:
4. Exploring the Kaumana Caves, Rainbow Falls, and Boiling Pots in Hilo
Kaumana Caves, Rainbow Falls, and Boiling Pots are located very close to each other. We liked Kaumana Caves a lot: dangling roots and plants, flowers at the opening of the caves (lava tubes, actually). Kids didn’t want to leave them:
Rainbow Falls are one of the most photographed spots on the Big Island and are 4 minutes away from the Boiling Pots:
Key points: Kaumana Caves allows plenty of hiking for adventure souls: 1 and 2 miles long lava tubes. Boiling Pots and Rainbow Falls, on the opposite side, had no open trails during our visit, just observation platrforms.
5. Big Island of Hawaii: Akaka Falls. Walking through the lush tropical rainforest
Akaka Falls is a state park and one of the most popular hikes on Big Island. While the waterfall is gorgeous, the biggest gem of the park is a 0.4-mile loop trail through the lush tropical forest:
Key Points: We parked outside of the park to avoid the $25 parking fee. The entrance fee is $5 per person now.
6. Big Island of Hawaii. Watching the sea life: snorkeling with Manta Rays
If you adore marine life, in 10 minutes from the Big Island airport on the Kona Coast you can snorkel with huge beasts: Mantas. Alfredi Manta Rays can reach 18 feet in width and remain harmless to humans:
Key points: be prepared to float for 30 minutes during nighttime: Mantas are attracted by several large projectors. Zooplankton comes on a bright light and Mantas come to feed on plankton :). Seasickness is possible.
7. Kona Coast: Greenwell coffee farms, tour, and testing
Kona Coast is famous for “Kona Coffee Belt”: one of the best coffee growers in the world. The unique combination of rich lava ash, rain, sun, proper altitude, and drain do the trick. The process is very labor-intensive: almost everything is done by hand.
Key points: for learning about growing and processing coffee, about the area, (and many more) try Greenwell Coffee. No reservation required, tours, and coffee tasting are free. The territory is picturesque: dozens of fruit trees and large grassy areas. Kids welcome!
8. Big Island of Hawaii: local food. Ode to Poke; fruits, Lomi-Lomi, etc.
Want to feel Hawaiian? Then try Poke, a local culinary staple. With or without rice, from a grocery store, or a fancy restaurant. During lunch/dinner time there is always a line of customers. (Sometimes barefoot :)).
Lomi-Lomi is a traditional side dish, made from marinated salmon. As for the fruits, they are amazing on the Big Island year-round. You can also try a Hawaiian meal: kalua pork in banana leaves, rice, poi:
- Check the Covid-19 restrictions and regulations on the local website.
- It’s good to have an extra swimsuit, quick-dry towel, full-face snorkeling mask, closed-toe shoes, and mineral sunscreen.
- Please, don’t use chemical sunscreens, they are killing coral reefs!
- For photos and video we used and liked GoPro Hero 8 black.
- Don’t forget Annual National Parks Pass, if you already have it.
- Car is absolutely necessary to explore the Big Island.
- For the best rates, book a car and accommodation as early as possible.
- Our last trip to the Big Island of Hawaii was in April-May 2021. After checking almost every corner of it we decided to post just what touched our souls.
- We traveled with kids 2, 3, 6, and 11 y.o. If we’d come without little ones, our top places to visit would remain the same.
All the mentioned places on the Map
Oahu: visiting Pearl Harbor, pineapple farm, Honolulu, etc.
Road trip to Alaska: 14 days itinerary. Glaciers, panning for gold, Alaska Natives heritage, fjords, coastal communities.
Banff, Jasper, Yoho: Canadian most popular National Parks to see the wildlife, turquoise lakes, last glaciers, tea house hikes, and stunning canyons. Kids welcome!
Mahalo, a loaʻa he huakaʻi maikaʻi!– “Thanks, and have a good trip!” in Hawaiian