Our 1st trip to Hawaii after visiting the Cayman Islands and it was to the Big Island. Why Big Island? cause it’s damn big, has 3 volcanoes and there’s plenty to do outdoor both under water, on land and in air.
Yap, if you want to let yourself loose and get back in touch with nature then this is the island you should be visiting. If you want to party and have a night life then this isn’t your island. Matter of fact, just head out to Ibiza if you want to do that.
Note: You can click on each of the pictures below to open up a larger version on my flickr account. Enjoy!
We stayed on the Big Island
Just the Big Island. As you will see below there is plenty to do there. We stayed at Keauhou Beach Resort, hired a car from Alamo (read my car rental traps before you get one) and off we went on our adventure. Here’s what happened.
Stuff to watch out for
Like any place you visit in this world you will no doubt come across few areas that get you under your skin.
- Roads are very narrow. Both for driving and for parking. Kind of reminds me of the roads in Australia and very unlike American wide roads.
- Most roads do not have street lights. Night driving gets frilly especially when you see those signs to watch out for Donkey’s crossing or Mongoose sliding across the road like snakes. Use high beams. I’m sure this is done on purpose since the Big Island is the home of Mauna Kea Observatory.
- Average speed limit is… wait for it.. 35 mph. wtf! yes, driving around this island is slow and nerve wrecking when time is precious. Stay away from driving on major roads during the traffic window 3.30-5pm – it crawls. At the resorts, tourists are taught to pull over and let the faster locals pass by since they need to get their kids to school – so are there 2 speed limits.. locals and tourists.
- Expedia affiliations with Wyndham Vacation Resorts. They will try to lure you (not a pleasant experience) for a 2 hour of your time to listen to their sales staff try to sell you “Timeshare Accommodations”. For your time, you will get $100 off any Expedia booking you do on the island. You work out whether it’s worth it for you. I gave it a shot since I wanted to learn more about this Timeshare I hear people talking about and quiet frankly it reminds me of Bartercard in Australia (thumbs down). Also in light of AirBnB disrupting the rental market, timeshare accommodation is just a waste of money for me. However I got my $100 off Expedia booking – yay!
Cool stuff to do
Since we only had 1 week to do this we needed to make sure that we covered as much in/on water, land and air as much as we could in that week.
- Lava everywhere!! don’t get scared. First thing you will notice when you fly in is plenty of black rock that looks like unfinished land renovations. That is the laval from over 100 years ago. It’s all over the island. A’a (as in a a it hurts when you step on it) is the most common and looks like sharp small rocks stacked on top of each other. 2nd most common is Pahoehoe, like frozen liquid water.
- Kapoho Tide Pools. Spectacular location. A place I could live. The pools are great for snorkeling and only a meter or so deep.
- Helicopter ride over the Island. This is the BEST way to see the whole island inc. Hilo falls (if not in dry season). The ride is around 3 hours and it is spectacular. We went with Paradise Helicopters and flew in a 6 passenger Bell 407 helicopter. The seating of this chopper basically allows for 5 people to have window seats. The only downside was seeing other choppers get really close to the lava while we always stayed up really high.
- Punallu Beach. Know for the black sand and often called the black beach. You get to see many turtles beaching and feel the unique black grains that make this the black beach.
- Kealakekua Bay. Also know for the memorial resting place of Captain Cook. The bay here is the BEST location for snorkelling. PLenty to see underwater and beautiful crystal clear visibility.
- Waipio Valley. “Waipiʻo” means “curved water” in the Hawaiian language. It was the location of the ancient grass palace of the ancient kings of Hawaii with the nioi stands. You can go horse riding down into the valley if you have the time else just admire the views, take some photos and go to Pololū Valley.
- Pololū Valley. The word Pololū means long spear in the Hawaiian language. It is the Northernmost of a series of erosional valleys forming the east coast of Kohala Mountain on the Island of Hawaiʻi. Go for a hike down the mountain and onto the beach where you will find many Zen like rock structures and a peaceful atmosphere that you can fall asleep to. Lovely place! The hike down is around 15 mins.
- Beaches to see– A Beach, Makalawena Beach, Hapuna Beach, Kaunao Beach and Kua Bay. If you are from Australia or Asia then these beaches are the norm but still a great place to catch a wave.
- Night swimming with Manta Rays.There is a 90% chance you will see them. The adventure starts in the evening as a bunch of boats (with you on one of them) go out onto the ocean. All the boats park in a large circle and wait for the sun to set.
A bunch of divers jump into the water with flood lights and light the ocean from the bottom up. This attracts plankton which in turn attracts massive Manta Rays. You enjoy the 40 minute feeding fest from above as they Manta’s swoop in loops consuming the plankton.
Swimming with Manta Rays at night. VIDEO:
- Dolphin & Whale experience. Get to see spinner dolphins famous for their acrobatic displays in which they spin longitudinally along their axis as they leap through the air. These dolphins return from the deep ocean in the morning after a long night of hunting and cruise along the shore line to bay to sleep. So choose a crew that will leave as early as 7am so you don’t have to swim with the dolphins when they sleep rather when they are cruising along the shore line. We went with Dolphin Discoveries, threw ourself in-front of a pod of 80 dolphins 4 times, got to see whales breaching and we also snorkeled. Heaps of fun!Swimming with the Dolphins VIDEO:
Humpback Whale watching with breaches VIDEO: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yq6Y1RGqJ2Y
Stuff you can skip the tour and do yourself
- Volcanic National Park including lava cave– this costs around $180 per person and is an all day driving adventure around the island. Stuff you can do if you hire a car. If you don’t have a car, then do this one.
- Sunset Lava cruise.Dont expect to see lava pouring into the ocean. We didn’t. However we did see an amazing coast line created by the lava, lava tubes and steam where the earth was still cooling from a previous flow.If you want to see an amazing sunset stop anywhere on a hill as the sun sets over Hawaii and enjoy – like we did below.
Stuff I wish we got to see
Here is stuff I didn’t get to see since 1 week isn’t enough to see everything. This is for my next visit.
- Mauna Kea Observatory – because the sunsets there are amazing and being able to see the night sky like never before. This is the closest you will get to see our milky way without being in space. Also you get to star gaze through big 11″ telescopes and see planets. Check this out: http://www.ifa.hawaii.edu/mko/
- Zipline – fly between trees. More here: http://www.zipline.com/
- Atlantis Submarine. Go underwater in this cool submarine. More here: http://www.atlantisadventures.com/hawaii/
Enjoy your Big Island adventure, I’m sure you will enjoy every minute of it!
PS. If you want to go here shoot me an email. Supposedly this is a private beach!
PPS. I have more photos of the Hawaii trip on my Flickr account here.