Hawai’i – The Big Island
Hawai’i, being almost twice the size of all the other Hawai’ian Islands combined, is often referred to as ‘The Big Island’. Perhaps most famous for Volcanoes National Park and its active lava flows, the big Island has lots more to offer. Just North of Kona the island has huge desert like lava fields rolling right up to secluded beaches and ancient heiaus. Head further North of there and you find magnificent Waipio Valley and Kapa’au offer amazing sea cliffs and verdant valleys. Heading South towards Hilo you will pass by the prairie lands of Parker Ranch hiding in the shadows of Mauna Kea. Waterfalls await a little further South before reaching Hilo. All of this is between Kona and Hilo and you haven’t even thought about Volcanoes National Park or the whole South Coast of the island. Wow!
Captain Cook, Kealakekua Bay
This beautiful bay is the storied site of Captain Cook’s arrival and ultimate demise. If you would like to visit the Captain Cook Monument it is best to rent a kayak and travel across the bay. This is a great spot for snorkeling or diving with calm crystal clear waters and plenty of coral and colorful fish. Turtles are commonly sighted here and spinner dolphins have been known to enjoy the waters of this bay as well.
Kealakekua is also home to many coffee roasters. In fact this is where you can find the Kona Coffee Museum.
This is the tourist heart of the Big Island. You will find most of your larger resorts in this area of the island. Many snorkel and diving trips leave from the harbor here, and Kona is home to the famous manta ray feeding dive. Kona itself, has a touristy main drag where you can find numerous shops and restaurants, including Hard Rock Cafe, Sam Choy’s, Bubba Gump’s and the Kona Brewing Company.
Kona is also the home to UFO Parasailing. UFO makes parasailing safe and easy with boat deck launch and return. So if you want to soar high above the ocean and take in Hawaii from a different perspective, this is the place to be.
Parker Ranch is one of the largest ranches in the United States. Seated in the shadows of Mauna Kea this ranch covers almost 200,000 acres. This was home to the paniolo, Hawaii’s cowboys, driving herds of cattle across the vast fields. The history of Parker Ranch reads like the tv series Dallas, and is well worth looking into. Today Parker Ranch is where you can live out your paniolo fantasies and go for a horseback tour across the beautiful countryside. If horses aren’t your thing, you can saddle up on a brand new ATV for an adventure spanning acres of the ranch. There is even an airfield if you would like to take to the air in a glider. If you have the urge, you can jump out of a perfectly good plane for the skydiving experience of a life time.
The Kohala Coast sits on the Northernmost corner of the island and has some of the most secluded beaches along its coast. Here is where ancient Hawaiian’s built fishponds and farmed fish and also erected a heiau with stones carried by hand nearly the entire length of the island. Waipio Valley overlook lets you look into unspoiled valleys surrounded by massive seacliffs. A thirty minute hike will take you down to the valley floor where King Kamehameha was raised. The waterfall in the back of Waipio is one of the most amazing sights in all the islands. Here is a place where you can get a feel for how the ancient Hawaiians lived.
The Hamakua area of the Big Island is relatively undeveloped but offers plenty of photo opportunities. The drive through this area includes a designated scenic drive that is definitely worth taking. Ocean views along this road are unforgettable and the road is extremely pleasant. Make time to stop at Akaka and Rainbow Falls. Both sites offer leisurely hikes perfect for the whole family. The less than half mile trail at Rainbow Falls park leads you through lush Hawaiian vegetation to a 440 foot waterfall that empties into a beautiful gulch pond straight out of the movies. On the half mile loop at Akaka Falls State Park you will first see the hundred foot Kahuna Falls a beautiful view for sure. Enjoy learning the names of some of the plants that grow along the trail. Akaka Falls, the star of the show, is a gorgeous 420 foot waterfall surrounded by flourishing bright green flora. Many of the van and bus tours we offer will include this as a stop along their route.
Hilo, the Big Island’s largest city, is on the Southern windward side of the island, making it one of the wetter areas of the island. The rain has made Hilo Hawaii’s largest producer of commercial plants and flowers. There are many orchid and botanical gardens that you may wish to tour in this area because of this. You may find Hilo an inviting place to stop, walk the city and do some shopping. There are many historical sights, including Banyan Drive. Along Banyan Drive you will find trees planted by stars and statesmen. Each tree has a plaque denoting who planted it and when. The downtown area offers an old fashioned small town city center with plenty of shopping.
Volcanoes National Park
The most popular attraction on the Big Island is without a doubt Volcanoes National Park. Kilauea is the world’s most active Volcano. It has been active since 1983 and shows little signs of slowing down. Crater Rim Drive is where most people start, winding through green ferns and rare high altitude flowers, you can stop and visit historic lava flows, giant walk through lava tubes and beautiful views around every corner. The Kilauea Visitor Center can provide any information about the park you might want. The staff at the visitor center is well informed and can tell you where recent flows have been spotted as well as fill you in on any historic information that might interest you. The chain of craters road ends where you may hike to the ocean cliffs and witness the boiling steam released when lava hits water. The hike can be a little rough, so be sure to wear sturdy shoes. Oh yeah, you may want to make sure to leave all the rocks behind. Local Legend says taking rocks from this area can be REALLY bad luck. So many rocks have been returned to the post office with tales of the bad luck they brought that an entire book has been written.