It’s a Big, Big ISLAND
1. Get a Front-Row “Hot” Seat Madame Pele, the legendary Hawaiian volcano
goddess, continues to stay active from her home inside her favorite volcano, Kilauea. Things may have changed by the time you read this, but flows have been heading into new directions, a new eruption has started, and there was even a collapse of the crater floor! Lava flow updates can be found on the Hawai‘i Volcanoes
National Park site and at http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/hvo/activity/ kilaueastatus.php, or by calling (808) 961-8093.
There are several ways to get in on the excitement of Kilauea’s activity. Lava boat tours have become a popular attraction; boat companies like Lava Ocean Adventures will be ready to ferry passengers to a front-row seat. Meanwhile, alternate tours are available.
When fiery-hot lava, sometimes boiling at 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit, collides with cool seawater, the impact is staggering. Picture a powerful grenade that explodes into a fountain of steam and hurls volcanic debris every which way. Safe viewing is possible via several options, including hiking, biking and
nocturnal helicopter flights.
A 10-mile bike ride will get you to the show. BikeVolcano.
com has designed a tour that provides sunset views of lava hitting
the sea and includes a stop in Kalapana, a village ravaged by earlier lava flows.
Or take to the sky for a panoramic view of molten lava burning and oozing over black lava fields. Big Island Air conducts night flights, and Paradise Helicopters flies over the volcano in a chopper without doors.
2. Saddle Up
Horseback riding is unquestionably one of Hawai‘i Island’s premier attractions. The island’s diverse terrain, eye-popping vistas and wealth of working cattle ranches make it an
exciting location for horseback adventures.
Situated on Kohala Mountain within Ponoholo Ranch,
Paniolo Adventures specializes in open-range rides on its 11,000-acre working cattle ranch. The panoramic views, particularly at sunset, are stunning, and if you’re up for a workout, try a four-hour open-range trot through high country terrain.
Parker Ranch, in Waimea, was founded in 1847 and is one of the oldest and largest cattle spreads in the United States. Expect to come across plenty of historic sites on a ride over this 150,000-acre working ranch.
Waipi‘o Ridge Stables is well known for its horseback tours of Waipi‘o Valley. The beauty and rugged terrain of this valley is probably best seen on the back of a horse. One tour heads along the rim of the valley and then follows a stream through a rainforest to a hidden waterfall that can be viewed only on horseback.
Another company, Waipi‘o on Horseback, transports riders into the valley in four-wheel-drive vans. Guests then saddle up for a narrated journey through the history, legends and wild beauty of this revered Hawaiian valley. • Paniolo Adventures (808) 889-5354 • Waipi‘o Ridge Stables (808) 775-1007
3. Let Yourself Go on a Zipline
Somewhere in the gap between helicopter tours and hiking has emerged a rainforest adventure called ziplining.
Strapped safely in a harness, the zipliner races over a series of cables like Jeremy Renner in a Mission Impossible flick. Once you’re buckled up, you’ll dip through leafy-topped old-growth trees, fly over unique volcanic terrain and soar past waterfalls—lots of them.
On Hawai‘i Island, you’ll find two tours on the Hamakua coast and another operating in the North Kohala Mountains.
Umauma Falls Zipline Experience has a lock on an exclusive waterfall view. Expect to come face-to-face with a dozen spectacular falls (including a stunning three-tiered cascade) and, for good measure, a lava tube. The course, which also features a 2,000-foot line, is located on the Hamakua coast off of Highway 19 near Hakalau.
Big Island Eco Adventures, the island’s original zipline tour, has constructed its course in the gorgeous Kohala Mountains, where you’ll find quaint villages, like the charming town of Hawi, which also happens to be this outfit’s headquarters. Vast stretches of open space give way to tracts of
wild, breathtaking terrain and provide the backdrop for the eight-line run.
Perched amongst the trees of Halawa, Kohala Zipline’s
Kohala Canopy Adventure features elevated suspension
bridges, soaring tree platforms and thrilling ziplines. Exclusive
features, such as twin WhisperLinesSM and smooth-stop braking, ensure your safety and comfort.
Skyline Eco-Adventures— the first zipline operator in the
United States—takes guests directly above multiple waterfalls, and its newest awe-inspiring zipline tour, located just below
the world-famous Akaka Falls, has you soaring over a 250-foot waterfall! This new tour also happens to be the longest zipline
course in the entire state, measuring in at a staggering 3,350 feet! And situated within the spectacular World Botanical Gardens & Waterfalls in Hakalau, you’ll find Zip Isle Zip
Line Adventures. Just minutes from Hilo, Zip Isle Zip Line Adventures offers high-flying adventures on seven ziplines and a suspension bridge all located within a tropical rainforest.
Nighttime zip rides also are available. Zip Isle and World Botanical Gardens are located north of Hilo, off Highway 19, at mile marker 16 and open daily 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
Each of the courses offers its own distinctive characteristics, but all give safety a high priority. Before harnessing up, zipliners are given thorough instructions and safely outfitted. • Big Island Eco Adventures (808) 889-5111 • KapohoKine Adventures (866) 965-9552 or
(808) 964-1000 • Kohala Zipline (808) 331-3620 • Skyline Eco-Adventures (808) 270-8753 • Umauma Falls Zipline Experience
(808) 930-9477 • World Botanical Gardens & Waterfalls
(808) 963-5427 or (888) 947-4753
4. Pick a Beach
White-, black- and even green-sand beaches abound along Hawai‘i Island’s 266-mile coastline. Check out some of the most popular spots below: Kauna‘oa Beach at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel Hapuna Beach, just outside Kamuela town and popular for walking and body boarding, recently ranked No. 8 on a list of
America’s 10 Best Beach Towns by Parents.
Anaeho‘omalu Beach, known as “Bay,” great for windsurfing and kitesurfing Ka‘upulehu Beach at the Four Seasons Resort
White Sands Beach Park, near the Keauhou Resort, also known as “Magic Sands” because the beach can quickly disappear during high-surf winter months, only to return in the spring Kahalu‘u Beach Park, Kona’s most popular snorkeling beach Punalu‘u Beach Park, a well-known black-sand beach Mackenzie State Park in Pahoa, where there’s a lava-lined pool heated to 95 degrees Fahrenheit by a volcanic stream nearby
Coconut Island Park, near the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel, a local favorite for fishing and swimming
Laupahoehoe Point Park, created by a lava flow from Mauna Kea, it has a large grassy area great for camping
Waipi‘o Valley’s Black Sand Beach, accessible only with four-wheel drive or on foot from the overlook
Remember: Water conditions at Big Island beaches can be tricky and unpredictable. Whether swimming or surfing, follow these basic aquatic rules:
• • Take you Watch see caution the waves ocean if breaking you for notice at least far water offshore; 20 minutes moving before rapidly entering; or swirling, or if
• Never swim or snorkel alone;
• Always supervise children;
• Strong currents near shore are the most frequent and dangerous
hazards. Areas near river mouths are particularly dangerous;
• Obey warning signs. If lifeguards are unavailable, ask other
beachgoers about potential hazards; • Locate the lifeguard station, emergency phone or rescue surf
board when you arrive at a beach, and never turn your back to the ocean.
5. Relive Mission History
Nearly 180 years ago, a New England missionary couple in their early 20s arrived in Hilo. It was here that they spent the next 50 years of their lives.
Today, the Lyman Mission House is the oldest wood-frame building on Hawai‘i Island. Built in 1839 by David and Sarah Lyman, the house is constructed partly of the local hardwoods koa and ‘ohia and is furnished with original and period decor.
Take a guided tour to see this historic home and hear the Lymans’ story. The Mission House is adjacent to the only general Hawaiian history museum on the island. The Smithsonian-affiliated Lyman Museum has natural history exhibits on volcanoes and Hawai‘i Island habitats, along with world-renowned
collections of seashells and minerals. The museum is located at 276 Haili St. in historic downtown Hilo and is open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Visit www.lymanmuseum.org for tour times.
6. Ride an ATV from Mountain to Sea
North Kohala is a sparsely populated, wildly beautiful region, making it an ideal place for off-road exploration. Behind the wheel of an All-Terrain Vehicle and with a guide who knows the area’s terrain, history and culture, be prepared for a ride into parts unknown.
ATV Outfitters Hawai‘i is owned by long-time North Kohala residents who’ll ride with you on ATVs specifically designed for rugged off-road travel. Experience the real Hawai‘i on an unforgettable ride over private ranchlands, past spectacular 200-foot sea cliffs and through lush, tropical rainforests. Knowledgeable fifth-generation native Hawaiian guides lead you to a hidden waterfall and secluded beach
that King Kamehameha once favored. The only company to offer double-seat and side-by-side ATVs, it’s an adventure for the entire family.
This is more than just a rough-and-tumble ride through gorgeous terrain; it’s a remarkable opportunity to learn from experts about a place barely touched by time. Located just past mile marker 24 on the left of Highway 270. • ATV Outfitters Hawai‘i (808) 889-6000 • Kona Eco Adventures (808) 889-5111
7. Get Ditched
If you think going on a “ditch tour” means you’ll be splashing around in a few feet of muddy irrigation water, think again— Kohala Ditch Adventures is a multi-part adrenaline rush that involves kayaking and a number of stunning views.
The tour starts with an off-road excursion on Pinzgauers to a jungle setting high in the Kohala Mountains. From here, guests
hike over a 150-foot flume bridge overlooking a waterfall to get to the beginning of the kayak segment of the trip. Tour guides then lead adventurers along 2.5 miles of Kohala ditch system, which weaves through a Hawaiian rainforest lush with island flora and fauna, 10 tunnels and water flumes. Finally, after paddling to shore, visitors finish their tour through Kohala’s macadamia nut
orchards that overlook the ocean. Tour guides spice up the tour with local history and
Hawaiian lore. Located just past mile marker 24 on the left of
• Kohala Ditch Adventures (808) 889-6000
8. Take a Farm Tour
Don’t be misled by the Big Island’s barren lava fields. The
majority of the state’s agricultural products are grown and processed here.
Hawai‘i Forest & Trail conducts a unique tour of local farms that are using sustainable agriculture methods. First, the tour heads to Kahua Ranch in the Kohala Mountains, where cattle and sheep are ranched (not to mention you’ll get a great view of the coast from its 3,000-foot elevation). The next stop is
Honopua Farm, where organic vegetables, lavender and cut flowers are farmed. After these stops, attendees will be served dinner at the award-winning Merriman’s Restaurant in Waimea, where chefs prepare gourmet dishes using fresh, local ingredients.
To truly appreciate the Polynesian agricultural heritage, visit the Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden, where you’ll see more than 200 varieties of plants cultivated by early Hawaiians. The 15-acre garden is landscaped to reflect plant life in the Kona area before foreign contact. It also is the only garden in Hawai‘i solely devoted to Hawaiian ethnobotany, a discipline that combines the study of human culture with the plants that support it. • Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden
(808) 323-3318 • Hawai‘i Forest & Trail (808) 331-8505
9. Swim with a Manta Ray
They may look fearsome, but manta rays, known in Hawaiian as hahalua, are really quite tame.
Though related to sharks, these amazing sea creatures have no teeth and no tail stingers, making them harmless to humans but no less intriguing to watch. Noted for its resident manta ray population, the Kona
Coast is one of the best places in the world to get close to them. Many local diving and snorkeling companies conduct
nighttime manta ray runs, or you can hope to catch a peek from the shore. The water off the Sheraton Keauhou Bay
Resort & Spa is a regular feeding spot for manta rays, and a good place to see them on-shore is from the lanai off the resort’s
Rays on the Bay restaurant. The resort will turn on its outdoor lights when the manta rays appear.
Dive shop owners say manta rays can be found most days from as far north as waters off the Keahole-Kona International Airport to Keauhou Bay. Divers are instructed to stay near the bottom and snorkelers on the surface to allow the manta rays room to maneuver. • Adventures in Paradise (800) 979-3370 • Aloha Kayak Company (808) 322-2868 • Fair Wind Cruises (808) 345-0244 • Hawai‘i Island & Ocean Tours (808) 313-1116 • Kamanu Charters (808) 329-2021 • Manta Ray Dives of Hawai‘i (808) 325-1687 • Neptune Charlies Ocean Safaris
(808) 331-2184 • Ocean Eco Tours (808) 324-7873 • Sea Paradise (808) 322-2500 or (800) 322-5662 • Seaspace Diving/Espace Plongee
(808) 323-3011 • Splasher’s Ocean Adventures (808) 326-4774 • SunLight on Water (808) 270-8765 • Wahine Charters (808) 325-2665
10. Hike with a Guide
The Big Island is too big and too full of secrets to grab a hiking stick and head into the wilderness on your own. If you want to get the full experience of this island’s wild and beautiful landscape, take a guided tour.
Hawai‘i Forest & Trail, an award-winning eco-tour company, offers innovative and informative nature adventures and is known for designing hikes that combine exceptional tours
with environmental integrity.
The company’s playlist changes frequently. Choose from a 12-hour trek that culminates in a twilight view of erupting Kilauea Volcano and its sizzling lava flow, or venture to Waipi‘o
Valley, a largely inaccessible destination known for its natural beauty. HF&T gets you there on a trek that follows a path 1,000 feet above the floor of the valley.
HF&T offers a variety of other outdoor adventures, including hikes in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park and Kilauea Volcano, the Mauna Kea summit, several waterfall hikes, and a culinary and farm tour. Birding and wildlife treks also are available.
Hiking Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park is not your garden-variety wilderness trek. This is lava land, a national park that features a live volcano with all the daily uncertainties of nature unleashed. The 333,000-acre park, located on the slopes of Mauna Loa, is a trekker’s paradise. Pick a trail through a lava field, around the smoldering Kilauea caldera, on the hot seacoast of Puna and Ka‘u or at the 13,677-foot summit of Mauna Loa. The longest loop is the Crater Rim Trail, the grand tour of Hawaiian
volcanism. The 11.6-mile trip takes about eight hours on a fairly level path past lava, cinders, steam vents, rifts, craters, tree molds, a lava tube and views of past devastation and struggling new life. Check with the park service for hiking information about
active lava flows, as well as areas that may be closed due to dangerous conditions. Park rangers also can provide information about the more-challenging overnight hikes in the coastal region and Southwest and East Rift Zones.
The Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park (808-985-6000), the Hawai‘i Division of Forestry and Wildlife (808-974-4221) and the Hawai‘i Division of State Parks (808-961-9540) all handle the administration of Hawai‘i Island’s many public access trails. Contact these agencies for permits, reservations and current information concerning hiking. • Hawai‘i Forest & Trail (800) 464-1993 or
(808) 331-8505 • Kalapana Cultural Tours (808) 936-0456 • KapohoKine Adventures (866) 965-9552 or
11. Dive Hawai‘i’s Waters
Mauna Loa is the world’s largest active volcano and one of two volcanic peaks that dominate the Big Island; in fact, Mauna Loa, which literally means “long mountain” in Hawaiian, spreads over half of the island! From sea level, Mauna Loa reaches 13,680 feet in height, but when measured from its base at the ocean floor, this mammoth of a mountain clocks in at 30,080 feet. This great bulk of underwater expanse is today a scuba
diver’s fantasy of lava flows, submerged caves, canyons, cliffs and colorful coral reefs. Indeed, diving the ocean off the Kona/ Kohala Coast is a world-class experience that stands out for its relatively young lava formations with walls, archways, lava tubes and abundant marine life. Charter dive companies offer guided tours and courses
in certification. Some include scuba specialty courses like photography and videography. Many local dive shops also offer more-advanced courses, ranging from rescue and dive master to specialty classes and open-water checkouts. If you’ve got the time and the inclination, you can work toward full certification, or C-card, which is good indefinitely and honored worldwide. • Lava Ocean Tours (808) 966-4200 • Ocean Eco Tours (808) 324-7873 • Seaspace Diving/Espace Plongee (808) 323-3011
12. Bike Volcano Country
There’s no better way to witness the fury of Kilauea and get close enough to really feel the heat than on a guided bicycle tour through Volcano Country. For the complete bike tour experience of the Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, there’s BikeVolcano.com’s all-day trip (10 a.m.-3 p.m.) that takes cyclists on a mostly downhill, paved, 15-mile course through the park. For those who don’t have time for the full-day tour, there’s the Summit Tour, offered 10 a.m.-1 p.m. daily. Both tours offer pick-up at the Port of Hilo, making them the perfect activity for cruise ship visitors. The mostly downhill course runs 8.5 miles and takes guests from the Kilauea Overlook along the rim of the caldera to the steam vents, through a Hawaiian rainforest and on to Thurston Lava Tube.
Riders can get a first-hand view of Kilauea’s fiery lava on the 10-mile bike course of the Bike to Pele tour. The tour runs Mondays, from 1 to 8 p.m. After the bike ride, there’s a mile hike
to a black-sand beach, where one can catch glimpses of the lava flow. This tour includes an interesting side trip to Kalapana, an old Hawaiian fishing village that was buried in 1990 under a relentless lava flow. Bicyclists can plan on a tour that will end where super-heated lava collides with cool ocean water and explodes into plumes of steam.
Tours include mountain bikes, helmets and other provisions. • BikeVolcano.com (808) 934-9199 • Kalapana Cultural Tours (808) 936-0456
13. Soak in a Natural Hot Tub
Pele also deserves kudos for her pioneering work with thermal ponds; long before anyone invented hot tubs, Hawai‘i Island was gurgling and steaming with naturally heated models fueled by warm thermal springs.
These naturally heated hot tubs form when ground water moves through magma-hot rocks on its way to the sea, and then mixes with cold water.
Kapoho Tide Pools are a series of interconnected thermal tide pools that sometimes extend up to 200 yards into the ocean. Nearby Isaac Hale Beach Park also is the site of a series of hot springs. This site is found on Poho‘iki Bay at the juncture of Poho‘iki Road and Kamu-Kapoho Road.
‘Ahanalui Pool, in the beach park of the same name, is a spring-fed thermal pool where the water temperature tends to hover around 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The pond, a mixture of hot water from thermal springs and ocean water, is crystal clear and generally safe enough for small children. The park has restrooms, showers and a picnic area, but there are no drinking water or camping facilities.
• Mauka Makai Adventures (808) 640-7557
14. Get Loopy on a 4-D Movie Ride
Feeling a little out of touch? Head over to The Shops at
Mauna Lani and get zapped. The Kohala Coast shopping destination features a zany attraction guaranteed to tickle your funny bone and jolt your senses into full alert. It’s called The 4D Adventure Ride, and in Hawai‘i, it’s one of a kind.
The 4-D theater is a souped-up version of the old 3-D technology. You’re still wearing the glasses, but now the on-screen action is enhanced by simulated side effects, like full-range motion seats, blown air, water spray and other environmental teasers.
The 4-D Adventure Ride is staged in a 24-seat theater with a 19-foot widescreen and full surround sound. Imagine watching Journey to the Center of the Earth, National Geographic’s Sea Monsters with your senses fully loaded! Or, experience thrills with
Hawaiian Coaster 4D or Sub-Zero 4D. Shows run from 11:30 a.m.
to 9 p.m. daily.
• The 4D Adventure Ride (808) 747-8544
15. Discover King Kamehameha Country
While South Kohala attracts most tourists, just 11 miles upslope is a land developers forgot. North Kohala is lush and green, sparsely populated and unpretentious; it is South Kohala’s country cousin— a breath of fresh mountain air in a landscape barely touched by contemporary influences.
The region’s neighboring hamlets of Kapa‘au and Hawi, comprising the most-densely populated area in the district, retain a country feel, and merchants take an inventive approach.
And nowhere is King Kamehameha the Great, who united the islands in 1810, more revered than in North Kohala. His birthplace, marked by a simple plaque, is west of Hawi on a dirt road near the ruins of Mo‘okini Heiau. To get there, take the turnoff to Upolu Airport and turn left at the airfield.
For another Kamehameha view, check out a more-than-centuryold, nine-foot statue of Kamehameha that commands a hill in Kapa‘au and is easily visible from Highway 270.
16. Get Your Hands Dirty
Travelers are finding that one of the best ways to discover the “real” Big Island is to sign up for a volunteer project and get their hands dirty working with local residents on conservation assignments.
Sign on for afternoon or multi-day trips to help with a variety of projects, such as trail building and maintenance, planting native plants, controlling invasive species or clearing coastlines of marine debris. “Volunteering on Vacation” is an idea that’s catching on worldwide. Get started by calling one of these agencies: • Hawai‘i Forest & Trail (800) 464-1993 or (808) 331
8505 • Nature Conservancy of Hawai‘i (808) 939-7171 • U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (800) 344-9453 • Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park (808) 985-6000
17. Take a Break in Holualoa
Take 600 specialty coffee farms, add a smattering of mills, roasters, retail outlets and museums, then cluster them along 20 miles of scenic country roads and you’ve got the makings of a self-guided coffee-tasting tour.
Most people begin their tour from Kailua-Kona and head north on Palani Road (Highway 190). If Mountain Thunder Kona
Coffee Plantation is your first stop, drive on Palani for about 4.5 miles and turn right on Kaloko Drive. Then go 3 miles to the third sign for Hao Street. Turn right again and follow Hao for about a mile. Mountain Thunder will be on the right side of the street.
To continue the tour, return to Palani Road, then back to the junction of Highways 180/190 and head south to the old Mamalahoa Highway toward Holualoa Town.
Before you reach the tiny mountain village of Holualoa, you’ll find Ueshima Coffee Company’s Kona Coffee Estate. Down the road you’ll come to Kona Blue Sky Coffee Company, a large 500-acre estate. Holualoa Kona Coffee Company is further south on Highway 180. End your tour at the Kona Coffee Living History Farm on Mamalahoa Highway in Captain Cook, which provides a wealth of information about the unique lifestyle of Kona’s coffee pioneers. For an even richer taste of Kona’s nearly 200-year coffee heritage, be sure not to miss out on the 43rd annual Kona Coffee Cultural Festival Nov. 1-10, just in time for the harvest season. Coffee, food and festival fans around the world visit each year to take part in this iconic 10-day
award-winning celebration that promotes Hawai‘i’s unique culture and diversity and reflects the personalities behind the independent farms that make up the Kona coffee belt. Admission to the festival requires the purchase of a $3 button, available at the event. For more information and full details, visit www.konacoffeefest.com.
18. Roast Your Own Private Label
Stop for a cup of coffee and a chat at Ueshima Coffee (UCC Hawai‘i) Corp., a picturesque coffee estate just north of Holualoa Village. The 26-acre hillside property is crowned with a grand view of Kailua-Kona and the sparkling Pacific Ocean.
Ueshima Coffee (UCC Hawai‘i) Corp. offers free farm tours and hot Kona coffee to visitors who stop at the roadside kiosk near the entry to the property. The company’s signature Roastmaster Tour also is now available at the Mamalahoa Highway kiosk, where you can try roasting a one-of-a-kind private Kona coffee reserve. These original labels make great keepsakes or gifts for special occasions. • Ueshima Coffee (UCC Hawai‘i) Corp.
(808) 322-3789 or (888) 822-5662
19. Go Organic
The largest organic coffee farm in the United States is located 3,200 feet above sea level in a mist-cooled rainforest about 7 miles from Kailua-Kona. Trent Bateman, a mainland transplant who left a career in engineering to come to Hawai‘i, is growing award-winning Kona coffee on his farm, and breaking all the rules.
For starters, the property he purchased didn’t fit the mold—it was too high above sea level. Then, he decided to grow organic coffee. He and his family hand-tilled the soil and then purchased some Chinese geese, St. Croix sheep and Kona Nightingale donkeys to handle weed control and provide organic fertilizer. Today, both Hawai’i and California regulatory agencies have certified Mountain Thunder Kona Coffee
Plantation organic. Call for tour times and other interesting coffee activities at Mountain Thunder. • Mountain Thunder Kona Coffee Plantation
20. A Town Built Around Coffee
A slight detour off Highway 11 leads to the funky upcountry village of Holualoa.
You’ll know you’ve reached this eclectic little town when you see a fluorescent-pink building called the Kona
Hotel. Built in 1926, the hotel is still maintained by its founding family members. With the exception of the exterior paint job, there’s not much to indicate the passage of time—it has maintained its original early 1900s style. The homey 11unit establishment offers rooms with shared bathrooms at rates that range from $20 to $30 a night. In Holualoa, you’ll find an interesting blend of artisans
and crafters. The half-mile stretch of Mamalahoa Highway (180) that is Holualoa Village features more than a dozen
historical buildings that have now become world-class art galleries, studios and shops, along with a cafe and
restaurant, bed-and-breakfast inns that range from cozy to exclusive and a general store that features farm-fresh Kona coffee and produce.
A 3-mile winding drive up the mountainside reveals a cool, lush Kona most visitors never see, a step back in time to a lifestyle centered around art, coffee and history.
21. Scout out an 18th-Century
Two centuries ago, Hawaiian rulers worshipped a powerful war god named Ku. King Kamehameha the Great, who fought numerous battles to unify all the Hawaiian Islands, sought Ku’s support by building a massive stone temple 400 feet above Kawaihae Harbor in North Kohala. Construction of the 20-foot-high lava rock temple, or
heiau, began in 1790 and was completed a year later. By 1810, Kamehameha had conquered the islands and established a monarchy. He died in 1819, after which his son, Kamehameha II, abandoned the religious practices that had ruled Hawai‘i and ordered destruction of the heiau. Pu‘ukohola, the last religious heiau built in Hawai‘i,
is now a 77-acre National Historic Site operated by the
National Park Service. One of the most imposing and
dramatic Hawaiian temples in the island chain, the temple has been largely restored.
Pu‘ukohola heiau, which means “Temple on the Hill of the Whale,” is open daily from 7:45 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free. The park is located a mile south of the harbor at Kawaihae on Highway 270.
22. Stroll Through a Botanical Garden
Not far from Hilo, two public gardens are laid out in exquisite natural environments: the Hawai‘i Tropical Botanical Garden and the World Botanical Gardens & Waterfalls.
Hawai‘i Tropical Botanical Garden, opened in 1984, is nestled in a 40-acre valley edged by the Pacific Ocean. Here you’ll find more than 2,000 species of exotic plants that include orchids, palms, heliconias, gingers and bromeliads, among others. Located on Highway 19, it is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
World Botanical Gardens offers great fun for everyone. Fly through the rainforest on Zip Isle’s seven-stage Zip Line Eco
Tour. Glide past beautiful gardens and magnificent waterfalls on Hawai‘i’s only botanical Segway tour. Get up-close to amazing Hawaiian beauty, immersing yourself in lush gardens with hundreds of orchids and exotic plants on the guided tour (reservations required). Don’t miss the impressive Kamae‘e Falls and other waterfalls. Open daily from 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
On the other side of the island, Pua Mau Place is a botanical garden and arboretum laid out on the west slope of the Kohala Mountains near Kawaihae. The gardens feature a maze planted with 250 species of hibiscus, an aviary
populated by about 150 exotic birds, and a collection of
original sculptures. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Finally, take a journey back to a time before Captain Cook landed at Kealakekua Bay with a visit to the Kona Field System— a rich agricultural complex teeming with gardens
and groves. The Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden is a 12-acre garden built to reflect plant life in Hawai‘i prior to foreign contact. Here you can learn about how Hawaiians cultivated various species of plants and what uses they served, from materials for tools to clothing, fishing, cooking and building implements.
The garden offers guided Plant Walks at 1 p.m. daily. Located in Captain Cook, 12 miles south of Kailua-Kona on Highway 11 at the 110 mile marker. • Hawai‘i Tropical Botanical Garden
(808) 964-5233 • World Botanical Gardens & Waterfalls
(808) 963-5427 or (888) 947-4753 • Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden
23. Find Eden in Waipi‘o Valley
Located north of Honoka‘a on the Hamakua Coast,
Waipi‘o Valley is the largest and southernmost of the seven valleys on the windward side of the Kohala Mountains. Measuring a mile wide at the coast and almost 6 miles deep, the Eden-like valley is sheltered by cliffs reaching almost 2,000 feet. Waterfalls and flowers cascade from the walls of the cliffs, and a stunning black-sand beach defines the coastal area.
Waipi‘o is known as the “Valley of the Kings” because it was once home to many ancient Hawaiian rulers and is said to be the place where King Kamehameha the Great received his training.
Ancient burial caves are located within the walls of the cliffs, and the valley inspired many myths, chants and songs.
Reaching Waipi‘o is difficult. Access is limited to fourwheel-drive vehicles; most car rental companies prohibit use of their vehicles on the steep road. You can get there on a
narrated tour by a local guide aboard the Waipi‘o Valley Shuttle. If you wish to see more of the valley, there is an option to be dropped off and picked up later.
The most convenient and accessible view of the valley is from the scenic point at the end of Route 40, about 10 miles outside of Honoka‘a. Take an ATV tour with a company called
Ride the Rim, hike the rim with Hawai‘i Forest & Trail, or see the splendor of the valley from horseback. • Hawai‘i Forest & Trail (808) 331-8505 • Waipi‘o Ride the Rim (808) 775-1450 or
(877) 775-1450 • Waipi‘o Ridge Stables (808) 775-1007 • Waipi‘o Valley Shuttle (808) 775-7121
24. Discover the Elegant Mac Nut
More than a century ago, a Big Island sugar plantation manager introduced macadamia nuts to the island. Although native to Australian rainforests, mac nuts thrived in Hawai‘i, and the state became the site of the world’s first commercial plantations. Today, these delicious, hard-shelled nuts are one of the Big Island’s largest crops.
Macadamia nuts aren’t picked from the tree; instead, they fall to the ground fully ripened. However, don’t pick one up expecting to shell it and pop it in your mouth—it requires 300 pounds of pressure per square inch to crack a mac nut shell.
Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Corp., located 6 miles south of Hilo on Macadamia Road, welcomes visitors to tour its 2,500-acre orchard, processing plant and chocolate factory. For more information, look up the Great Hawaiian
Mac Nut Trail, a self-guided tour of Hawai‘i’s macadamia nut industry. You’ll find everything from processing plants to small family-owned farms and bed-and-breakfast stops where visitors can pick macadamia nuts.
25. Travel a Scenic Byway
Hawai‘i has four official “scenic byways” (designated as part of the National Scenic Byways Program), and Hawai‘i Island is home to three of them: The Mamalahoa Kona Heritage Corridor, Royal Footsteps along the Kona Coast, and Ka‘u Scenic Byway-the Slopes of Mauna Loa.
The Mamalahoa Kona Heritage Corridor takes you through an area of historic importance, telling the story of the area’s evolution from a pathway for ancient Hawaiians to its most recent development. Located on Highway 11, the Ka‘u Scenic Byway-the
Slopes of Mauna Loa offers the longest stretches of unspoiled natural scenery found anywhere in the state. The route is the same travelers normally follow from the Kona direction when driving toward Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park and offers views of landscapes that run from mauka (mountain) to makai (ocean), including a rainforest reserve, well-vegetated volcanic terrain, sweeping vistas of the ocean as well as the
volcanoes Mauna Loa and Kilauea. The Royal Footsteps along the Kona Coast uncovers the history of the area that’s hidden in plain sight. Travel along Ali‘i Drive and you’re no doubt taken in by beautiful vistas on one side and bustling energy on the other. However, look a little closer and you’ll see that this 7-mile stretch also is home to many important sites of historical significance, like Hulihe‘e
Palace, Pa o Umi (the residence of the ruler Umi-a-lilioa [ca.
A.D. 1490-1525]), breathtaking bays and beaches, churches, the Holualoa Royal Center and more. For more information on the Hawai‘i Scenic Byways, log on to www.hawaiiscenicbyways.org.
26. Explore an Ahupua‘a
Early Hawaiians used a system of land management that was defined by wedge-shaped divisions that stretched from the uplands to the ocean. Called ahupua‘a, these land divisions were environmentally sound and fostered good stewardship practices among the occupants of each division. One of the best ways to grasp ahupua‘a land management is to visit
Lapakahi State Historical Park, which is located about 14 miles north of Kawaihae on Route 270.
Here you’ll find the reconstructed village of Koai‘e. Hawaiians first settled in the Lapakahi area during the 1300s, and the fishing village of Koai‘e served as the center of activity in the Lapakahi ahupua‘a until the late 1800s. The 265acre park encompasses a variety of partially restored sites, numbered to coincide with information in a free brochure available in the park’s visitor center.
Moving through the village, it’s not hard to imagine life in this ahupua‘a: farmers growing crops in the mountains and families catching fish and trading for other goods closer to the sea. There are examples of games like konane (sometimes called Hawaiian checkers) and ‘ulu maika (a form of bowling using stones) that children are encouraged to try. Throughout the area, flowers, shrubs and trees are identified, and park
guides are in attendance daily between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.
27. Escape to an Ancient Refuge
Pu‘uhonua o Honaunau was, in ancient times, the destination for people seeking asylum from severe penalties imposed on all who broke kapu (taboo) laws.
Once inside the compound’s 10-foot walls, sanctuary was guaranteed. The resident kahuna, or priests, were obligated to offer absolution to all fugitives, no matter how great or small the infraction.
Refuges like Pu‘uhonua o Honaunau ceased functioning in the early 19th century, when the kapu system was abolished, but this site remains intact to provide a glimpse into a time when people could be sentenced to death merely for eating with their husband or walking in the shadow of a chief.
Now a national historical park, Pu‘uhonua was reconstructed by local artisans using traditional tools. One of the major features of the complex is a reconstructed temple called Hale of Keawe. The original temple, built around 1650, housed the bones of at least 23 chiefs, and fierce wood-carved
statues known as ki‘i guard this oft-photographed temple today.
Pu‘uhonua o Honaunau is open from 7 a.m. to sunset daily; the visitor center is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily. There is an entrance fee of $5 per car. Call (808) 328-2326 ext. 1702 for current park hours.
To get there, drive south from Kailua-Kona on Highway 11. Turn toward the ocean on Route 160 at the Honaunau Post Office and watch for the historic park sign.
28. Take a Road Trip to Hip Hawi
The hip little enclave of Hawi is only about an hour drive north of Kailua-Kona, but this upcountry hamlet (population 938) is worlds apart from its neighboring city.
A major piece of Hawai‘i’s history is tied to this tiny village. Hawi is the birthplace of , the great warrior-king who united the islands and laid the foundation for today’s state. A plaque designating the king’s birthplace is located on the grounds of an ancient sacrificial temple near a small coastal airfield.
Beyond its historic significance, Hawi demonstrates a proclivity for a self-sufficient lifestyle spiced with a sense of humor. Find a take-home treasure created by local artisans at
Elements Jewelry and Fine Crafts. The store features jewelry created by owner John Flynn, as well as pottery, paintings, prints and photography by other artists.
Lighthouse Delicatessen is a buzzy New York-style deli that can cure hunger pangs both small and large with choices from a house-made soft-baked pretzel to a satisfying salad or a meatball Parmesan hero.
The Kohala Coffee Mill churns out 100 percent Kona coffee, gourmet ice cream and an array of sandwiches, pastries and Hawaiian gifts.
The Bamboo Restaurant is a Hawi institution. The popular restaurant and gallery is a taste of vintage Hawai‘i that never grows old.
• Bamboo Restaurant (808) 889-5555
29. Bikers: Saddle Up, Ride ’Em Out
Just because you’re on the seat of a Harley doesn’t mean you’re ready to go everywhere. Even the most-seasoned bikers need to plan their Big Island trips carefully.
Think of the island as circular in shape with a few zigzagging connector roads. There are two key highways (11 and 19), while Saddle Road (Highway 200) provides the shortest route from Kailua-Kona to Hilo.
Hawai‘i Island offers great day trips. You’ll find the roadways well marked and signage easy to follow.
Kilauea Volcano is a must-see and a unique drive. You can see snow on Mauna Kea and experience 90-degree temperatures on the Chain of Craters road all on the same day!
Parker Ranch is a great step back in time and a nice cruise up the coast. Ali‘i Drive in Kailua-Kona is the best place to cruise at night.
30. Visit a Vintage Palace
Hulihe‘e Palace, located in the heart of Kailua-Kona, has undergone a $1.5 million renovation and is receiving guests again. Damaged in a 2006 earthquake, the vintage palace has resumed its full schedule with public, self-guided tours.
Gov. John Adams Kuakini built the palace, located on Ali‘i Drive, in 1838 for his daughter-in-law, Princess Ruth. The princess used the palace primarily for entertaining visitors, but when she wasn’t entertaining, the princess preferred sleeping outside in a large grass house she had constructed on the grounds. In 1884, King Kalakaua bought the stately oceanside
mansion. It was then remodeled to include a kitchen and furnished with distinctive koa wood and commissioned Victorian pieces. The palace was used as a vacation spot for
Hawaiian royalty until 1916, when it was sold and all its contents were auctioned off. In 1925, it was purchased by the Territory of Hawai‘i and leased to the Daughters of Hawai‘i, who tracked down many of the original pieces of furniture and convinced the owners to return the items for display.
Today, there are more than 1,000 artifacts on display, including javelins, spears and a 180-pound lava rock used by King Kamehameha the Great as an exercise ball.
The palace is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tues. through Sat.
• Hulihe‘e Palace (808) 329-1877
31. Go Wine Tasting in Paradise
Imagine enjoying the fresh air and peaceful views of Mauna Loa at 4,000 feet above sea level, a glass of wine in hand. For those with a taste for the exotic, Volcano Winery can turn this dream into reality.
Created in 1986 by retired veterinarian Lynn “Doc” McKinney, the Hawai‘i Island winery creates and bottles its own varietals of vintages inspired by volcanic fire and the bounty of the islands. Doc passed the torch to friend Del Bothof in 1999, and today the family-owned business continues to thrive with its line of award-winning wines made with aloha.
Tropical fruits like yellow guava and jaboticaba berry are blended with traditional wine grapes and transformed into
vibrant creations available nowhere else in the world. And its Macadamia Nut Honey Wine, made from blossoms of the macadamia nut tree, is a sweet after-dinner treat that is a favorite with kama‘aina (locals) and visitors alike.
Those with a more traditional palate are welcome to sample an Estate Cayuga White, which made its official debut this fall, or Volcano Winery’s Symphony Mele of pure grape white wines. Red wine lovers also will delight in the lush
Pinot Noir. Or partake in a specialty Infusion Tea Wine, a recent addition made with leaves from tea plants grown at the winery as well.
Volcano Winery is located at 35 Pi‘i Mana Drive at the 30 mile marker in Volcano, near the golf course. It is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day of the year except Christmas Day. Call (808) 967-7772 for more information, or visit www. volcanowinery.com.
32. Where the Ocean Melds with Science
Located at Keahole Point, just a mile south of the Kona International Airport, the Natural Energy Laboratory
of Hawai‘i Authority is a sprawling 800-acre complex populated by entrepreneurs engaged in innovative technology and product development. Here, the State of Hawai‘i is developing an array of
renewable energy sources. Scientists explore geothermal energy (stored at the Earth’s core), wind power, hydrogen energy (pollution-free energy carriers) and various biomass energies (a renewable resource drawn from plant matter).
NEHLA also is the only place in the world where the vast natural resources of sunlight and seawater are harnessed to support exciting new aquaculture technologies. Huge intake pipelines are used to deliver cold deep-sea water from 3,000 feet below to tropical, warm surface seawater.
“Techno-magicians” use the cold seawater to cool buildings as well as grow creatures like cold-water abalone, lobster, Japanese flounder and more—all creatures that couldn’t exist in Hawai‘i’s warm waters. The abalone farm conducts regular
tours in conjunction with a general presentation and offers a taste of the fresh delicacy.
For more information about NELHA or tour reservations, call (808) 327-9586 or visit www.nelha.org.
33. Ka‘u: South by South
The sparsely populated Ka‘u District at the southern tip of the island is known for its rich environmental diversity. A large chunk of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park is located in this district, as are wind farms, highland forests, the parched Ka‘u Desert and enticing black-, white- and green-sand beaches.
But the area is largely distinguished by its geographic location. South Point, at the bottom of the district, is considered the southernmost tip of the United States, and the village of
Na‘alehu is its southernmost town. More properly called Ka La‘e, South Point is located at a latitude that’s 500 miles farther south than Miami. Its roots go back to A.D. 150, when it is believed the first Polynesian explorers set foot on the island.
Na‘alehu (population 900) is located 19 degrees north of the equator on Route 11. It’s a good place to take a break on the drive to Volcanoes National Park. Check out Punalu‘u Bake
Shop, which is, of course, the southernmost bakery in the U.S. • Punalu‘u Bake Shop (808) 929-7343 or
34. Look Through the Eyes of Mauna Kea
The largest astronomical observatory in the world is located at the 13,796-foot summit of Mauna Kea. Here, international scientists work with a sophisticated array of telescopes to gather data about the vast celestial universe.
The mountain currently houses 13 working telescopes, and plans have been announced to build another, slated to be the largest on Earth. The new $1.2 billion telescope will be built by a consortium of California and Canadian universities and will be capable of tracking stars and galaxies some 13 billion light years away.
Mauna Kea means “white mountain,” so named for the snow that covers its slopes. It is the highest island mountain on Earth, rising 32,000 feet from its base on the ocean floor.
The view from the summit is like stepping out of an airplane just above a bank of clouds. The last stop before the summit is the Onizuka Center
for International Astronomy. Located at the 9,300-foot level, this is a good place to stop for a while to acclimatize for the rest of the trip. From there, it’s a 30-minute trip to the summit navigating a mostly unpaved road.
A guided tour of the summit is the safest and most educational way to go. Several companies conduct tours, which can last seven or eight hours. Because of the very thin air at the summit, children under 16 years of age and people with respiratory, heart and severe overweight conditions are not advised to go beyond the Visitor Center. • Hawai‘i Forest & Trail (808) 331-8505 • Mauna Kea Summit Adventures (808) 322-2366
35. Walk Through Ancient Petroglyph Fields
Centuries ago, Native Hawaiians carved images of humans, canoes, turtles and other forms into lava rock. And though the true meanings behind these ki‘i pohaku, or petroglyphs, are unknown, it is widely believed that these ancient carvings are records of births and other significant events that occurred in the lives of the people who lived on these islands long before Western contact.
Petroglyphs can be found today at various spots around Hawai‘i Island—you just need to know where to look. Start at the coastal end of Chain of Craters Road in Hawai‘i Volcanoes
National Park, where you’ll discover the largest petroglyph field in Hawai‘i. You can see more than 23,000 ki‘i pohaku during a
guided tour, or take the 0.7-mile hike on your own; it ends on a boardwalk, from which point the carvings are easily visible.
Kaloko-Honokohau National Park, located about 3 miles north of Historic Kailua Village, is the home of many mysterious petroglyphs. They are scattered throughout the 1,160-acre historic park, which also is the site of Hawaiian fishponds, kahua (house-site platforms), a holua (stone slide) and heiau (temple).
Other great viewing places to see hundreds of wellpreserved etchings include Pu‘ako Petroglyph Archaeological
Preserve, found just a short walk from The Fairmont Orchid Hawai‘i (ask the Fairmont Orchid Beachboys for a narrated tour of the nearby site) along the Kohala Coast, and the
Anaeho‘omalu Petroglyph Field, located on the grounds of the Waikoloa Resort. Many of the fields in this area can be found on the Ala Kahakai Trail, a 175-mile corridor full of historic
sites and settlement ruins.
36. Shop Big Island-Style
Whether you’re planning a Big Island shopping spree or just a window-shopping walkabout, don’t expect to hit a mall stocked with mainland look-alikes. Part of the island’s charm is the fact that it’s not riddled with department store chains. Don’t get us wrong, you’ll easily find all that you need; it’s just that shopping on Hawai‘i Island is an intriguing mix of island-style apparel and one-of-a-kind things.
Ali‘i Drive in Kailua-Kona has wall-to-wall shopping. Wander through the small shops and find island wear, sandals, gifts, jewelry and art.
For resort shopping, head to the Kohala Coast. Two chic destinations are the Queens’ MarketPlace at the Waikoloa Beach Resort and The Shops at Mauna Lani.
With stores in Kona and Hilo, Hilo Hattie is known for its large selection of Hawaiian fashions. The store may be the only place in the islands that stocks sizes up to 5XL.
Holualoa Village is a shopping destination just waiting to be discovered. A short and scenic drive from Kailua-Kona, the village is set in Kona coffee country and features a collection of
galleries and shops with friendly proprietors and intriguing, original merchandise.
The Hilo Shopping Center, just minutes from the airport, is a refreshing oasis from overcrowded malls. Enjoy lunch or dinner at one of five restaurants or relax with a cup of gourmet coffee. The
mall includes a large natural foods store and a variety of apparel shops. The shopping center is located at the corner of Kekuanao‘a and Kilauea streets.
37. Indulge Your Candy Cravings
Big Island Candies is a decadent destination for chocoholics of all ages and tastes. For more than 30 years, the Hilo institution has been known for the quality, irresistibility and innovation of its products.
Big Island Candies is located in a 40,000-square-foot facility on Hinano Street near the Hilo Airport. Candy and cookie makers work in plain view behind a glass window at the rear of the store. Daily tours and free samples are available. Be sure to try the company’s award-winning macadamia
nut shortbread cookies, diagonally dipped in dark chocolate, milk chocolate and white chocolate. The company also has a line of truffles with names that’ll make you drool: Mocha, Hibiscus, Dark Chocolate, Yuzu and Coconut. And that’s only the tip of the candy jar.
The store is open every day from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. with factory operation viewable between 8:30 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. Mon. through Fri. (except holidays). • Big Island Candies (808) 935-8890 or
38. Get an Uke of Your Own
Inspired by Eddie Vedder’s ‘Ukulele Songs? Think you could be the next Jake Shimabukuro? Or just want to be able to strum
along to songs such as Sitting, Waiting, Wishing by Jack Johnson or Iz’s version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow? Check out local musical instrument shops in Hilo or Kailua-Kona to try strumming the instrument’s four strings yourself and even buy your own uke to take home with you.
As for the history of the ‘ukulele (pronounced “oo-koo-leh-leh,” not “you-ka-le-le”), it arrived in Hawai‘i with Portuguese immigrants in the late 1800s along with malasadas and sweet bread. Since then, the ‘ukulele has been a key part of kanikapila (backyard jam sessions) and popular Hawaiian tunes.
Buy one for yourself and learn all about the different sizes, styles and woods at Kiernan Music in old-town Kainaliu. Here you can talk to expert luthiers at the only fully staffed repair and custom-made ‘ukulele and guitar shop on the island. They carry a full range of new, used and vintage instruments for beginners and expert players alike, and offer a variety of learn-toplay books and DVDs, as well as referrals to local instructors for short visitor lesson programs.
• Kiernan Music (808) 322-4939
39. Track the Underwater Kingdom
Hawai‘i Hawai‘i Island’s Island’s cerulean cerulean waters waters are are teeming teeming with with life. life. Living Living coral coral can can be be found found in in 57 57 percent percent of of the the waters waters surrounding surrounding the the island—the island—the highest highest percentage percentage in in the the main main Hawaiian Hawaiian Islands. Islands. And And where where there’s there’s coral, coral, there there are are fish. fish.
At At least least three three island island tour tour boat boat companies companies specialize specialize in in underwater underwater views. views.
Blue Blue Sea Sea Cruises Cruises investigates investigates the the view view down down under under in in its its glass-bottom glass-bottom boat. boat. Viewing Viewing wells wells provide provide live-screening live-screening action, action, while while narrators narrators fill fill in in the the details. details. Expect Expect to to see see schools schools of of fish, fish, dolphins, dolphins, manta manta rays, rays, turtles turtles and, and, in in the the winter, winter, humpback humpback whales. whales.
Naturalists Naturalists shed shed light light on on historical historical sites sites along along the the coastline, coastline,
and and a a hula hula show show tops tops off off the the excursion. excursion. Better Better yet, yet, the the Evening Evening on on the the Reef Reef tour tour provides provides not not only only manta manta ray ray viewings viewings but but also also a a premium premium dinner dinner and and hula hula show show package, package, along along with with stunning stunning sunsets. sunsets.
Atlantis Atlantis Adventures, Adventures, a 65-foot, air-conditioned submarine with 26 large portholes, conducts tours off Kailua-Kona. The sub cruises past hundreds of tropical tropical fish fish that populate an 18,000-year-old, 25-acre fringing coral reef that lies some 100 feet below the surface. The company, which throughout 2013 is celebrating its 25th 25th year year of sharing the magnificence of Hawai‘i’s marine environment and message message of of conservation conservation with guests from around the world, offers package package tours tours that include a combination submarine/volcano air tour and, from December through April, whale-watching tours.
Kailua Kailua Bay Bay Charter Charter Co. Co. runs 50-minute reef tours in a glass-bottom boat, which affords up-close up-close views views of of underwater underwater features like “shipwreck “shipwreck rock,” rock,” where the reef rises to within inches of the glass, then plunges to more than 100 feet. Expect to see turtles, frolicking dolphins and seasonal whales. You also can charter the company’s boat to create your own tour for you and your friends.
All of these tours depart from the Kailua-Kona pier. • Atlantis Adventures (800) 548-6262 • Blue Sea Cruises (808) 331-8875 • Captain Zodiac (808) 329-3199 • Kailua Bay Charter Co. (808) 324-1749 • Wahine Charters (808) 325-2665
40. Go Snorkeling
Snorkeling the Big Island’s crystal-clear waters is an easy way to spot marine life.
Kealakekua Bay, an underwater marine preserve that is a resting area for dolphins and the site of the Captain Cook Monument, is a popular destination. So are the pristine waters off the Kohala Coast and Pawai Bay.
Snorkel gear can be rented or purchased. In either case, all you’ll need is a mask, a snorkel and some fins. Gear comes in many sizes and shapes, but be sure you find a good fit.
You also can go snorkeling in style aboard a catamaran. This typically includes plenty of food, cocktails, restrooms and lots of flotation equipment.
Here are a few safety tips: 1. Never snorkel alone. Hang with a buddy. 2. Whenever possible, snorkel in the morning, when fish are
more active and water clarity is at its peak. 3. Marine life tends to congregate around structures, so stick
to reefs for a face-to-face encounter. 4. Don’t feed the fish. 5. Even on the cloudiest of days, use waterproof sunscreen. 6. Take a small cooler with bottled water, snacks and food. 7. Snorkeling isn’t so much about swimming as it is about
floating. Stay relaxed, float and kick only when necessary. 8. Be respectful of the ocean. Avoid standing on coral, as
broken coral takes many years to grow back. 9. Don’t combine snorkeling with alcohol or drugs. • Adventures in Paradise Snorkeling Trips
(808) 323-3005 or (800) 979-3370 • Aloha Kayak Company (808) 322-2868 • Body Glove (800) 551-8911 • Captain Zodiac (808) 329-3199 • Dolphin Discoveries (808) 322-8000 • Fair Wind Cruises (808) 345-0244 • Hanamana Boat Charters (808) 936-5855 • Hawai‘i Island & Ocean Tours (808) 313-1116 • Kamanu Charters (808) 329-2021 • Lava Ocean Tours (808) 966-4200 • Sea Paradise (808) 322-2500 or (800) 322-5662 • Sea Quest (808) 329-7238 • Seaspace Diving/Espace Plongee (808) 323-3011 • Snorkel Bob’s Kona (808) 329-0770 or Mauna
Lani (Kohala Coast/Waikoloa) (808) 885-9499 • Splasher’s Ocean Adventures (808) 326-4774 • Wahine Charters (808) 325-2665
41. Learn to Snuba
You’ve seen the photographs and films of colorful reef fish undulating in the warm, deep-blue ocean currents, and now you want to experience the sensation of meandering alongside them. But diving with heavy tanks seems a bit much, and snorkeling only scratches the surface.
There is a compromise. Snuba, invented in 1988, is a dive experience that combines the best of both scuba and snorkeling. It allows participants to go deeper than snorkeling by using a
shallow-water dive system that makes it possible to dive as deep as 20 feet below the surface for up to 30 minutes without wearing heavy air tanks. Divers wear masks, fins and weight belts. What sets snuba apart is the mouthpiece (or regulator) attached to a hose that extends to the surface, where air tanks float in a raft.
Children as young as 8 years old can snuba, as long as they are comfortable in the water.
• Body Glove Cruises (800) 551-8911
42. Catch a Wave
Legends about surfing are found in the earliest stories of ancient Hawai‘i. Around A.D. 400, a form of belly-boarding on small wooden planks was introduced. Later, Tahitian explorers brought their tradition of riding waves with canoes. The Hawaiians merged the two techniques to create the sport of surfing.
Learning how to surf is a rewarding adventure. Students generally begin their training by riding soft longboards and are introduced to surfing fundamentals, safety and ocean-awareness rules in a land lesson before entering the small surf to give it a try.
Ocean Eco Tours, located in Honokohau Harbor, specializes in beginners’ training. The company holds the only surf permit for Honokohau National Park and offers lessons at the popular Kahalu‘u Beach Park on Ali‘i Drive in Kailua-Kona.
Kahalu‘u is a popular surfing site particularly attractive to beginners. The park’s reef-protected lagoons attract crowds year-round, and the beach is guarded and popular with both snorkelers and surfers.
One of the most popular and consistent surf spots on the east side of the island is Honoli‘i Point, near Hilo. This is a great place to watch surfers and bodyboarders.
• Ocean Eco Tours (808) 324-7873
43. Ride the Swells in an Ocean Raft
Riding the swells of the great Pacific tucked away safely in a powered rigid-hull inflatable boat is an experience that puts a whole new perspective on an adventure at sea. Commonly called ocean rafts, these stable, high-performance boats resemble rescue crafts, which is one thing they’re used for. They’re also used for fun and adventure. Typically carrying no more than 35 passengers, a rafting trip almost always includes snorkel stops in Kealakekua and Honaunau bays. In a raft, you can enter sea caves and lava tubes and get a good look at dolphins, sea turtles and whales. The waters off the South Kona coast are among the calmest in the state, which makes rafting here generally comfortable.
Most rafting tours depart from Honokohau Marina near Kailua-Kona and travel along the Kona Coast to snorkeling destinations. Adventure X Rafting launches from Puako, 30 minutes from Kailua-Kona. Morning and afternoon tours are available and generally take three or four hours to complete. Some boats are equipped with canopies for shade and ladders to provide water access. Widely known as the “original ocean rafting company,”
Captain Zodiac has been entertaining guests with rip-roaring ocean tours aboard its fleet of military boats since 1974. Its “Beat the Crowd” tour arrives at Kealakekua Bay Marine Preserve when fewer people are there, ensuring intimate, unobstructed views of marine life, dolphins and whales. Captain Zodiac’s signature
exploration of sea caves and blowholes along the coastline is another popular option. • Body Glove (808) 326-7122 or (800) 551-8911 • Captain Zodiac (808) 329-3199 • Kamanu Charters (808) 329-2021
44. Latch onto an Outrigger Canoe
Designated the state’s official team sport, outrigger
canoe racing draws hundreds of paddlers to clubs throughout the islands. However, it is more than a popular activity—it’s a culturally significant link to the legendary seafaring traditions of Hawai‘i.
Hawai‘i’s first settlers arrived aboard double-hulled sailing canoes that they paddled across 2,000 miles of uncharted
ocean using only the stars and flight patterns of birds to guide them. They found the islands more than 1,000 years before European explorers arrived in 1778. Canoes were used for
interisland travel, fishing and sport, to transport warriors
into battle and for exploratory voyages.
Typically, a modern-day outrigger is powered by six paddlers in a 45-foot fiberglass, single- or double-hulled canoe. The canoe
features the ama, which is a pontoon attached to one side of the hull to provide added stability.
• Aloha Kayak Company (808) 322-2868
45. Go Sea Breeze Sailing
One of the best ways to fully experience the fabled attributes of sailing the Kona Coast is to book a tour on a catamaran or sailboat. It is a fine place to sail, protected as it is from the blustery east-northeast trade winds by the volcanic mountain slopes. The mountains create a wind shadow, or lee, along the west side of the island that provides sailboats and fishing boats with protected, smooth-surface conditions. The heating of the landmass by the sun causes warm air to rise, pulling the “Kona
breeze” off the ocean and providing gentle winds. There isn’t much “white-knuckle” sailing on the Kona Coast, nor do you have to be an accomplished swimmer or diver to enjoy the trip. And if you’d rather pilot your own craft, some companies rent small sailboats and pontoon boats for sightseeing, fishing and snorkeling. • Corsaire Hawaii (808) 426-6269 • Fair Wind Cruises (808) 345-0244 • Kona Boat Rentals (808) 326-9155
46. Get High on Kitesurfing
From the technological advances of windsurfing, paragliding and wakeboarding has come a hot new water sport called
kitesurfing, or kiteboarding. This extreme sport takes wind, guts, the right equipment and a lot of practice.
The surfer stands on a kiteboard (a small surfboard with straps) and is pulled across the water by a big kite. Sounds easy enough, but don’t be fooled—it could take many sessions of kitesurfing before a pilot becomes competent.
Kitesurfing enthusiasts say the sport, though challenging and sometimes dangerous, is more fun than and not as dependent on high-wave and wind action as windsurfing. Lessons and rental gear are available all over the island.
47. Soar in a Parasail
Parasailing Parasailing in Kailua Bay is an easy-to-master thrill thrill ride ride in a gorgeous surrounding. The water in the bay is so clear you can almost see the ocean floor, and most days you’ll be drifting through cloudless blue skies.
UFO UFO Parasail, Parasail, the only operator in Kona, loads parasailers in a boat and then attaches them to a towline and a parachute. As the towline is released, you soar soar into into the the sky. sky. With a ride running from seven to 14 minutes, this is a quick thrill. Most parasailing companies employ state-of-the-art state-of-the-art
equipment, equipment, ensuring dry landings and safety. You can fly single, tandem or triple. No experience is necessary.
• UFO Parasail (808) 325-5836 or (800) 359-4836
48. Rent a Power Boat
When Mother Nature set out to design Hawai‘i Island, she
came up with 11 distinct climate zones ranging from tundra to tropical forest—and she saved the best for the Kona Coast. In the summer, less than an inch of rain falls a month; in the winter, that changes only marginally to 1 to 3 inches a month. The waters off the coast are typically calm, creating a perfect setting for boating activities.
Kona Boat Rentals has devised a great way to explore the coastal waters on your own. The company rents easy-to-operate, environmentally friendly u-drive boats that accommodate up to six adults, with room to spare. No license is required.
Kona Boat Rentals, located at Honokohau Small Boat Harbor in Kailua-Kona, offers full- or half-day rentals. The company’s 21-foot center-console boats are roomy and come equipped with a full electronic package including GPS and fish finders. Take the wheel and go explore. • Kona Boat Rentals (808) 326-9155 or
49. Land a Winner
Sport fishing on the Kona Coast is big business. Many anglers come to pursue the storied 1,000-pound Pacific blue marlin and other hefty catches of broadbill swordfish, yellowfin tuna, mahimahi and sharks.
Since water depths drop off to 6,000 feet just a few miles offshore and continue to get deeper as you head out to sea, most of Kona’s “grander” marlins have been found between just 2 to 5 miles from shore.
More than 60 charter boats are available for hire, most of them out of Honokohau Harbor, north of Kailua-Kona.
You can also get a look at Kona whoppers in the lobby of King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel. Check out a 1,166-pound blue marlin, the record catch at the 1993 Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament.
Or catch the live weigh-ins daily at Honokohau Harbor’s Fuel Dock at 11 a.m. or 3:30 p.m. The Charter Desk is located just above these weigh scales at Honokohau Harbor.
If you don’t want to hang with the Kona crowd, drop your line in the more remote eastside waters, where LavaKat Fishing
Charters, offered by Lava Ocean Adventures (located in Hilo), promises some serious sport fishing. The rule is a guaranteed catch, or the crew buys dinner. • A‘u Struck Sport Fishing (808) 640-4181 • Hanamana Boat Charters (808) 936-5855 • Lava Ocean Tours (808) 966-4200 • Ohana Sportfishing Adventure (808) 854-7760
or (808) 854-7761
50. Power a Jet Ski
Looking for some action? Try getting wet and wild on a Jet Ski. This is a safe and fun water activity for nearly all ages, and anyone can learn to do it. Riding the waves on a personal watercraft is a good bet in Kailua Bay, where the water is relatively free from fast boats, water skiers and other vessels.
Rental companies typically rent by the hour, but for some, 60 minutes may be only the beginning of a good time. Beginners are welcome, with life vests and operating instruction included.
• Kona Jet Ski (808) 329-2754
51. Go Ocean Kayaking
Ocean kayaking is a great way to slip away from the crowds and get lost in the irresistible tug of nature. Whether you rent a kayak to go or book a guided tour with an activity company,
expect to move through some of the island’s most-inviting
seascapes and abundant marine life.
It’s possible to rent one- or two-person kayaks ranging from a wide, virtually untippable kayak to sleek fiberglass racing kayaks.
Rentals usually come equipped with soft racks designed for any vehicle and are able to handle up to three kayaks at a time.
Another option is a jet-powered kayak that speeds over the water at 15 miles per hour. These excursions begin at Puako Bay.
Guided tours range from a lazy paddle along the North Kohala Coast to more adventurous tours on the South Kona coast, where sea caves and secluded beaches prevail. • Adventures in Paradise Snorkeling Trips
(808) 323-3005 or (800) 979-3370 • Aloha Kayak Company (808) 322-2868 • Ocean Eco Tours (808) 324-7873
52. Paddle to the Captain Cook Monument
British Captain James Cook, thought to be the first Westerner to set sight on the Hawaiian Islands, spotted the islands of O‘ahu and Kaua‘i on Jan. 18, 1778. Almost a year later, on Jan. 17, 1779, the explorer found his way to Hawai‘i Island. He anchored his ships in Kealakekua Bay, where the annual
Makahiki Festival was in progress. Thinking Cook might be the god Lono, Hawaiians welcomed him with a great feast.
On Feb. 4, Cook left the island, only to return about a week later after a severe storm damaged one of his ships. This time, the Hawaiians, who had discovered Cook was not a god, were quite hostile. Cook and four of his sailors died in the battle that ensued.
A small bronze plaque at the northern end of Kealakekua Bay marks the spot of his death. Near the plaque is a 27-foot obelisk erected by Cook’s countrymen.
Kayaking Kealakekua Bay is a great way to see the monument and explore the surrounding reef. As Kealakekua Bay is a Marine Life Conservation District (MLCD), it presents a unique aquatic experience. Landing a kayak is only permissible with a permit, of which there are only 10 available per day. Aloha Kayak Company, in addition to renting kayaks and snorkel gear for your trip, makes the link to the landing permit available on its website at www.alohakayak.com.
• Aloha Kayak Company (808) 322-2868
53. Schmooze with the Dolphins
There’s something spellbinding about squinting into the Pacific and spying a pod of wild dolphins spinning like shiny toy tops out of a sun-polished sea. These marine mammals may appear out of the blue and put on a show for you. And when they do, there’s an almost irresistible urge to get in the water with them.
A number of Big Island tour boat companies understand that urge and provide the opportunity to do so. Most of them follow self-regulatory guidelines developed to safeguard dolphins, as well as humans.
Dolphin Discoveries pioneered Hawai‘i Island dolphin swims 15 years ago, developing the guidelines currently in use by most companies that offer dolphin tours. The company specializes in small group tours, and their guides are trained marine-mammal naturalists. Another way to get to know dolphins is to participate in the
Dolphin Quest marine research and education program at the Hilton Waikoloa Village. SunLight on Water, a tour company with 15 years of experience in dolphin encounters, guarantees dolphin sightings and the opportunity to get in the water with them on its Kona Coast tours.
You also can swim and snorkel with wild dolphins on ocean rafting tours with Adventure X Rafting, Neptune Charlies and Captain Zodiac. • Captain Zodiac (808) 329-3199 • Corsaire Hawaii (808) 426-6269 • Dolphin Discoveries (808) 322-8000 • Dolphin Quest (800) 248-3316 or (808) 886-2875 • Hawai‘i Island & Ocean Tours (808) 313-1116 • Kamanu Charters (808) 329-2021 • Neptune Charlies Ocean Safaris (808) 331-2184 • Ocean Eco Tours (808) 324-7873 • Splasher’s Ocean Adventures (808) 326-4774 • SunLight on Water (808) 896-2480 • Wahine Charters (808) 325-2665
54. Walk on Water
Standing upright on a board and navigating the surf with a lightweight paddle is wildly popular on the islands. It’s called
stand-up paddle surfing, or SUP, and it has been revived on the islands in the past few years, quickly spreading to the mainland and beyond. Originating in Waikiki about 60 years ago, “beach boy
surfing,” as it was known then, was commonly used to get around on the occasional flat day in Waikiki and for taking pictures of visitors learning to surf.
Today, some of Hawai‘i’s surfing greats (Laird Hamilton, for one) have latched onto the sport, taking the idea to a new, more rigorous level. • Aloha Kayak Company (808) 322-2868 • Kona Jet Ski (808) 329-2754
55. Snorkel, Dive at Pawai Bay
Pawai Bay is an exquisite spot for snorkeling and scuba diving. A protected marine sanctuary, the bay is populated by more than 600 species of tropical fish, moray eels, manta rays, green sea turtles and the occasional dolphin. Underwater ledges, caves, shallow shelves and steep drop-offs all add up to an interesting terrain fit for exploration.
Though it is located near the old Kona airport not far from Kailua-Kona, Pawai Bay is not easily accessible, which is one reason a lot of people pay for a seat on a cruise boat equipped with snorkel and diving gear.
Body Glove gets you there in style on a state-of-the-art, 65foot catamaran equipped with freshwater showers, a 15-foot-high dive platform and a 20-foot-long water slide. The company offers both snorkeling and diving.
Kamanu Snorkel Sailing Charters has been taking visitors to Pawai Bay for 30 years. Kamanu caters to nonswimmers and novice snorkelers with a wide assortment of gear carried onboard the vessel. A brief orientation will be provided before passengers enter the water.
• Body Glove (800) 551-8911
• Kamanu Charters (808) 329-2021
56. Wade in a Tide Pool
Tide pools are mini-ecosystems boasting everything from moray eels to coral reef life and fish. These pools tend to be shallow with calm, clear waters for casual snorkeling or toe dipping, and Hawai‘i Island has numerous great spots to splash around.
Kikaua Point Beach, near Kailua-Kona, is a kid-friendly option with a sand-bottom pool only around 3 feet deep. Arrive early, since there is limited parking, and check in with the golf resort’s security so that they can give you a hang-tag and directions. Located on Kukio Nui Road, near the 87 mile marker.
Wawaloli Beach is more of a sheltered swimming hole, perfect for when the surf is high. This spot offers tide pools that boast fish, anemones and scuttling crabs. This beach park also features benches, trees, restrooms and plenty of space to picnic
or rest, though it doesn’t have a lifeguard. It is located in Kalaoa on Queen Ka‘ahumanu Highway, near the 94 mile marker.
Waiopae Tide Pools Marine Preserve, south of Pahoa, isn’t exactly a sandy beach; instead, the area is a maze of tide pools full of fish and sea life. It is rarely crowded, since it’s so far off the main drag. To get here from the Hilo side, head south on Highway 132, then go east on Highway 132 to Highway 137. After traveling a little more than a mile, turn east on Kapoho Kai Drive and follow signs to a small public parking lot and access point.
WARNING: The tide pools near the open ocean are fronted by powerful waves. Never turn your back on the ocean. Don’t walk on rocks that look wet near breaking surf. Bring shoes or sandals to wade, since lava rock can be sharp.
57. Cruise Humpback Territory
Each year, humpback whales swim 3,000 miles from their summer feeding grounds in Alaska to mate and calve in Hawai‘i’s clear, warm waters. The whales don’t arrive en masse—last year’s first reported sighting occurred in late August off Hawai‘i Island’s Kona Coast—but researchers say there is a predictable
order to their appearance in our waters. Generally, numbers peak in late December through
Protected under endangered species laws, the humpback
population is growing. An estimated 7,000 to 10,000 humpbacks are expected to cruise through Hawai‘i’s waters this season, coming and going at their own pace.
Humpbacks exhibit a variety of behaviors that should be visible in one form or another from boats and shoreline lookouts. And although the humpbacks are the seasonal stars of the show, the waters off this island are home to substantial populations of lowerprofile whales that are here year-round and equally intriguing to observe, like the false killer whale, pilot whale, pygmy whale, beaked whale, melon-headed whale and even the sperm whale.
There are many ways to observe a humpback whale in the wild. Snorkel cruises are a good bet. Powered rafts and fishing boats also travel humpback territory. Two good shoreline viewing sites are Lapakahi State Historical Park, north of Kawaihae at mile marker 14, and Kapa‘a Beach Park off Highway 270. Traveling north, turn left on the onelane paved road just past mile marker 16.
• Adventure X Rafting (808) 937-7245
• Blue Sea Cruises (808) 331-8875
• Body Glove Cruises (808) 326-7122 or 1-800-551-8911
• Captain Zodiac (808) 329-3199
• Corsaire Hawaii (808) 426-6269
• Dan McSweeney’s Whalewatch (808) 322-0028
• Dolphin Discoveries (808) 322-8000
• Fair Wind Cruises (808) 345-0244
• Ohana Sportfishing Adventures (808) 854-7760 or (808) 854-7761
• Hanamana (808) 936-5855
• Kailua Bay Charter Co. (808) 324-1749
• Kamanu Charters (808) 329-2021
• Kona Boat Rentals (808) 326-9155
• Lava Ocean Adventures (808) 966-4200
• LavaRoy.com (808) 883-1122
• Manta Ray Dives of Hawaii (808) 325-1687
• Neptune Charlies Ocean Safaris (808) 331-2184
• Ocean Eco Tours (808) 324-7873
• Sea Quest (808) 329-7238
• Splasher’s Ocean Adventures (808) 326-4774
• SunLight on Water (808) 896-2480
58. Help Protect Hawai‘i’s Marine Animals
The Big Island’s shores are alive with wildlife. Some of these animals, like humpback whales, Hawaiian monk seals and sea turtles, are considered endangered species and are protected by federal laws. Dolphins and other whales, though not endangered, are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Hawai‘i’s marine mammals are fascinating and easily observed creatures, which is one reason nature-based tourism is a popular segment of the visitor market. Scores of tour boat companies and water-based activities on Hawai‘i Island cater to whale and dolphin watching.
Rules and guidelines to follow when viewing marine wildlife are:
1. Stay at least 100 yards from humpback whales and 50 yards from dolphins, monk seals and sea turtles.
2. It is against the law to approach, chase, surround, touch or swim with marine mammals, including dolphins.
3. If approached by a marine mammal or turtle while on a boat, put the engine in neutral and allow the animal to pass.
4. Do not harass, swim with, hunt, capture or kill any marine mammal.
5. Feeding marine mammals is prohibited under federal law.
6. To report suspected violations, call the NOAA Enforcement Hotline at (800) 853-1964.
Local author and proprietor Robert Wintner, also known as Snorkel Bob, has several books available that dive deeper into the topic of Hawai‘i’s protected reefs and the marine animals that call them home. Every Fish Tells a Story records the tales of fish and their underwater communities through stunning photos taken by Snorkel Bob himself, while the tome Neptune Speaks and the novel Flame Angels both underscore the values of wilderness and the need to protect our natural resources.
All books are available at Snorkel Bob outfitters on all islands, and 100 percent of proceeds from book sales accrue to the campaign to stop the aquarium trade.
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