Aloha, welcome to paradise! Hawaii is the largest of a chain of eight islands, and is commonly referred to as the “Big Island”. Hawaii is the newest of its surrounding islands and is still growing due to the explosive eruption from Kilauea.
Hawaii is divided up in two regions the wet side and the dry side. The dry side is on the west side of the island. It’s referred as the dry side because it rains very little there and the landscape is mainly lava fields. Many of the lavish resorts are located on this side near Kona since it’s always sunny. The east side of the island is known as the wet side. I think the east side of the island is the most beautiful. This region is green and lush and has frequent tropical rain showers. Both regions are equally beautiful and worth visiting.
Many people come to Hawaii to enjoy the sun and beach. The resorts on the island are tropical paradises and offer many amenities which makes it even harder to leave them.
These are some areas I visited away from my resort that I think you will enjoy too. Since Kilauea is no longer erupting a dormant volcano to explore is Mauna Kea. This is no ordinary volcano and holds the title of the largest mountain in the world. Anyone can drive to the top of the peak which is 13,000 feet above sea level. I suggest when making this journey to go with a tour guide who can navigate the road to the top of the summit.
My tour guide was very informative, she was a native of Hawaii and shared her knowledge along my journey of Hawaiian folklore about the volcanoes and explained the importance of the volcano goddess Pele. Many Hawaiian’s still build temples for Pele and we cane across many driving to Mauna Kea. Listening to all the legends gave me a greater appreciation for the island and Mauna Kea.
The landscape at the peak of Mauna Kea looks like Mars. There is no life of any kind, it gives the impression of being on a movie set because it doesn’t look real and the scenery is fascinating to look at. The temperature is very cold once you reach the top of the volcano with the highs being in the 30’s or lower. Even in the summer you will need to wear a parka or warm clothing since some days the peak is covered with snow. Who would have thought it snowed in Hawaii!
It was a clear day on my visit to the Mauna Kea as I was standing above the clouds. I was fortunate enough to see its neighboring island Maui in the horizon.
Situated on top of Mauna Kea is the Keck Observatory. The observatories are closed to the public, but just looking at these massive telescopes perched on top of the mountain is spectacular. The road to the peak never closes and people are allowed to come to the area at nighttime and view the stars or watch the grand telescopes in action. I was told on a clear night the sky is filled with endless stars, a perfect location for astronomers from all over the world to be based.
A trip to Hawaii must include seeing a waterfall. Waterfalls are abundant in Hawaii, but not all of them are easily accessible. One way to experience waterfalls is hiking or taking an ATV tour. I opted for the ATV tour.
The waterfalls on my journey were located in the rain forest of Waimea; which is the rainy part of Hawaii. Zipping around on an ATV through the rain forest means you will definitely get rained on at some point making the trails muddy. It was worth getting dirty to be able to explore trails surrounded by countless exotic plants along the way.
If you prefer see a waterfall that is easily accessible than head to the northern part of the island to Akaka Falls State Park, in Hilo. To get a view of the waterfall is a short walk along a paved loop path. Akaka Falls is breathtaking watching the water cascade from 442 feet high.
There are many areas along the trail where you can get a picturesque view of the waterfall. While walking on the trail you will also encounter several smaller waterfalls that are surrounded by beautiful tropical plants.
Waipio Valley is also on the northeastern side of the island and absolutely stunning. The terrain in this area is lush and green. The valley consists of sea cliffs and several free falling waterfalls.
You can hike down the valley, or if you prefer there is an overlook point of the valley.
Another area I enjoyed visiting was the desert, when I say desert I don’t mean sand. In Hawaii it refers to miles of terrain of lava rock. Hiking in Hawaii is always an adventure I really enjoyed hiking the Pu’u Huluhulu Trails. These fields of lava trails were created from the eruption of Mauna Loa. It takes many years for nature to break through the lava therefore the lava fields are stuck in time virtually unchanged. It was an incredible experience to be able to walk the direction of the lava flow as if it happened yesterday.
A favorite hiking adventure was at Puako Petroglyph Park. This was a special treat since the trails were lined with Petroglyphs; which are images that are carved in stone. Petroglyphs are a huge part of the Hawaiian culture.
A fun activity that I enjoyed was kayaking and snorkeling in Kealakekua Bay. The water in the bay is vivid blue surrounded by black lava rocks. Snorkeling around the sea caves was amazing. The visibility underwater was very clear and I was fortunate to see an abundant of fish and beautiful coral reefs.
A vacation in Hawaii wouldn’t be complete without attending a Luau. This is the best way to experience the culture by being able to taste traditional Hawaiian cuisine and watch a variety of performances put on by the Polynesian dancers. They perform cultural dances from Tahiti, New Zealand and Samoa.
The Samoa fire dancers were my favorite part of the show.
Once a highly sought out tourist attraction to the island was seeing the erupting Kilauea volcano. Now that Kilauea is not active the lava has ceased to flow. The Volcanoes National Park has reopened several areas that you may see parts of the dormant volcano. Its best to check with the park beforehand to see what is available.
The resorts are amazing on Hawaii but it’s important to get out and visit Hawaii’s natural landmarks. I had a great time on my trip. My only regret is I wished Kilauea was still erupting so I could have witnessed lava flowing from a volcano. Remember when you visit the island there is an old myth that the goddess Pele curses those who remove lava rock from her island. I respected the Hawaiian culture and left only with store bought souvenirs. There is no place like Hawaii; make time in your schedule to watch the stunning sunsets! Aloha. Safe travels!!