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READ ARTICLES – Hawaii Adventure & Romance Magazine Contents
ACTIVITIES ARTICLES – Air
A Thrilling, First-time Skydive Experience (new article)
I was nervous about skydiving, but that all went away when I did my first skydive at Big Island Gravity Skydiving. I was put at ease by the instructors, who were experienced and relaxed and I felt relaxed as well, until we got to the airplane. Then I got nervous again. For a moment, this fell away as we climbed over the seven sacred valleys and looked at countless waterfalls through the open door. I felt like I was on a flight tour, rather than just a skydive. Again I forgot to be nervous, until my instructor and I moved to the door, and rolled out into the sky. For a moment I felt fear, but then a feeling of flying took over and I smiled all the way down. Too soon the parachute opened and the ride changed from thrills to a peaceful canopy flight along the coast, my instructor even taught me how to fly and let me trace my own path across the sky. I’ll never forget the experience of skydiving on the Big Island, it truly must be the most beautiful skydive in the world.
When you skydive on the Big Island you get a very unique experience, unlike any other skydive in the world. The beauty is incomparable, and every flight to altitude is treated as an opportunity to share with you the amazing and inaccessible beauty of the Big Island. Every effort has been made to ensure that you have a quality experience including the airplane, which was recently overhauled with new windows, along with a new engine, paint and interior, to the staff which was chosen to be the most experienced in the industry. B.I.G. Skydiving offers the only skydiving on the island and they operate daily from the oceanfront Upolu Airport in Hawi Town, in North Kohala. Every skydiver is also given an edited video of their skydive complete with interviews of you before and after.
It’s best to book a morning trip with Big Island Gravity. Early in the day has the best views and allows for flexibility in case of island weather. Then you can plan to spend the rest of your day exploring the amazing beauty, secluded beaches and remote waterfalls in this region.
Call (808) 937-9258 for reservations
Soar Above the Island in a Helicopter (new article)
The views from above the Big Island are of the most incredibly diverse and interesting landscapes in the world…
You can see the beauty of the Big Island by car, but you can’t really appreciate the ecological diversity of this Island until you experience it from a helicopter tour. The experience of seeing the island from a bird’s-eye perspective is so enthralling, it may likely be one of the highlights of your trip. As the helicopter soars high above the beautiful unique terrain of the Big Island, so does your spirit. The most popular helicopter destination is the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where your airborne vantage point will allow you to see the volcanic creation of earth, with its incredible lava formations. If flows are flowing, you’ll hover above an once-in-a-lifetime view of them. Currently, the Halema’uma’u Crater is erupting and that is spectacular to view as well. There are also many other areas that are impossible or difficult to access except by air, including towering waterfalls, the deep valleys on the Hamakua Coast, South Point’s cliffs, majestic Waipio Valley, the verdant North Kohala Mountains and much more. Your safety and comfort are the top concerns for helicopter companies, which are FAA regulated. Enjoy the roomy seats and panoramic views through large windows. State-of-theart headsets cancel out engine and rotor noise, allowing you to listen to music and narration by the skilled pilot. Your pilot will describe the landscape, history and legends of the terrain below.
Some companies even allow two-way communication with the pilot and will direct your attention to special points of interest and hover over some sights. Helicopter tours vary in duration, route, and cost, with most offering between 30 minutes and 90 minutes of flying time. There are several helicopter companies to choose from, but we recommend Safari Helicopters or Paradise Helicopters. These well-established and well-known companies emphasize safety, customer satisfaction and value on their tours. They also use state-of-the-art aircraft that carry up to six people. Safari Helicopters is a family-run company based at the Hilo Airport and specializes in tours of the Hawaii Volcanoes. Safari offers air conditioning in its aircraft as well as a fourcamera system that records a DVD of your tour. Call: (808) 969-1259. Paradise Helicopters departs out of Kona. They offer sunset tours of the volcano and specialize in creating the most unique, fun, and flexible tours across the Hawaiian Islands. They offer authentic and unique culture tours, with an Aloha spirit that make the islands unlike any other destination in the world. Call: (808) 969-7392.
ACTIVITIES ARTICLES – Water
Beautiful Kona and Keauhou Boat Trips (new article)
If the idea of a Big Island boat ride sounds romantic, that’s because it is!
A boat trip off the Kona Coast adds a whole new dimension to your Big Island experience. Whether you go for a morning sail, kayak a tranquil bay, or enjoy a sunset cruise, there’s something about being out on the Kona blue ocean water that acts like a tonic to invigorate and refresh your mind, body and spirit. Plus, sharing that with a loved one lends a bit of magic to your vacation.
You can get into the hang-loose, island-style mood right away by going on a boat trip. Boats depart about an hour before sunset. The tours range from an intimate trip on a sailboat to a party-down cruise on a larger boat. on either trip, you’ll get a stellar view of the Kona Coast. You can watch the twinkling lights of evening as they appear and maybe catch the moon rising. What a way to end a perfect day in Paradise.
During the morning, Hawaii’s west side is normally drenched in sun and that’s a good time to step aboard one of the many boats that navigate the calm, crystal waters. You can enjoy adventures such as whale and dolphin watching, snorkeling, SCUBA diving, exploring sea caves or just watching the shore sights. Boats range from raft-like craft to 100-foot long boats with a couple decks and lots of space to walk around, lounge, and feel the warm sun and salty breezes. Many of these cruises go to the marine life sanctuary in famous Kealakekua Bay. others have their own preferred or secret anchorages for snorkeling or checking out marine life.
Here are a few we recommend: Body glove Cruises (808-326-7122) features a luxurious, new 65’ Catamaran, offering dolphin, scuba and snorkel trips.
Zodiac (808-329-3199) operates morning and afternoon snorkeling and whale watch tours in small groups on Zodiac rafts.
Fair Wind Cruises (808-345-4348) launches from Keauhou Bay with a new 55’ hydrofoil catamaran with first class amenities for their snorkel adventures.
Kona Boat Tours (808-568-0131) offers adventurous coastal boating tours.
Captain Zodiac Captain’s Log – Dec. 2017 (new article)
Guests are all boarded in our Zodiac raft as we power up out of the harbor. Together we’re on the lookout for Humpback Whales. These magnificent marine mammals make the long trip from Alaska to the warm Hawaiian waters every year from around mid-December until April. The great news is that their population is growing, so much so that most Humpback whale populations have been removed from the Endangered Species list. As a captain, that means sightings could be more frequent and I look forward to the whole crew seeing whales on our excursion. We cruise along the coastline looking for the telltale ‘spout’ or a tail fluke. Suddenly, I see a spout, just as lady at the bow yells “Whale!” It’s not more than a blow. The thirty-ton whale is breaching, surging out of the water and creating a huge splash. We slow down and approach, still within our respectful 100-yard limit. He breaches again and everyone smiles and cheers with excitement. The whale is not alone and I point out that there is also a calf swimming close to its mother. We watch them for a while and see another group a few miles away. With our speedy Zodiac we head over to observe the other pod. Whale encounters are common on all tours. Even during the off-season (May-November), we often spot many other species and dolphins on our Whale Watch and Kealakekua Bay snorkel trips. I hope you can join us because you’ll never know what we’ll see next!
Captain Bill Call us for an adventure of a lifetime: 808-329-3199.
Experience Live Lava with Local Hawaiians (new article)
For this Native Hawaiian ohana (family), born and raised on Hawaii’s presently active volcano, lava has always been a part of their heritage. They have witnessed the volcanic flows bury their beloved hometown of Kalapana. After growing up playing in their lava-field backyard, it is only natural that their mission became “Kalapana Cultural Tours,” to share their unique land and culture. Whether you choose to boat, bike or hike they will bring you close enough to the lava to hear it hiss, crackle and shatter. You can experience the edge of creation while listening to cultural myths, legends and history specific to this volcanic corner of the Big Island of Hawaii. During your hunt to active lava, you will venture past dried lava flows, winding lava tubes and new plant-life emerging straight from rock. The Kalapana coastline’s main event is the lava flowing into the ocean. On their boat tour, they will point out coastal caves used in ancient Hawaiian war strategy, secret black sand beaches, their favorite fishing spots, seasonal Hawaiian sea birds and local dolphin pods. You can choose your own cultural lava adventure vehicle: by boat, bike, or hike, where you can meet the boiling edge of creation on a lava hike or bike journey. You can also stroll at your own pace on a private hiking tour mapped to your own preferences. Within this vast lava desert is their grandpa’s house, also their office location and one of the only homes spared by the volcanic eruption. Locally known as Uncle Robert’s Awa Club. After you visit the lava, Kalapana Cultural Tours, welcomes you to join them for a Night Farmer’s Market, on Wed. night 5-9 pm or Sat. 8 am-noon, with live Hawaiian music, dancing, exotic food and artisan goods.
Kalapana Cultural Tours: (808) 345-4964.
Humpback Whales are Back (new article)
The Winter Holiday seasons; about Thanksgiving to Easter finds thousands of Hawaiian Humpback Whales migrating from the north Pacific to Hawaiian waters to mate, relax, give birth and raise their young. Visitors to the Big Island may be surprised to find the waters off the Kona and Kohala (the Hawaiian word for “Whale”), Coasts equally, if not more abundant in whale species than neighboring Maui. This is a time when the ocean excitement is all about the mammoth Humpback Whales and their surface displays. They can reach up to 40-feet in length, weigh up to 40-tons and can live up to 50 years in age. These giants annually migrate thousands of miles from Alaska, Canada and Russia to bask, mate and give birth in the warm Hawaiian waters. Humpbacks are highly intelligent creatures and have various means of communication, through movements and noises that they sing out.
They are most known for their variety of surface fin and tail slaps, blows, breaching behaviors, acrobatic and showy displays, including body-slamming breaches and spy hopping; where they raise their head up and look around and other unique surface movements, much to the delight and intrigue of anyone on a boat that is watching. If you are fortunate to witness a male Humpback mating display, you will be amazed at their power as they clash, full-force into each other and battle it out, in a brutal competition for the hopes of impressing and mating with an admiring, nearby female.While the humpbacks are only part-time residents to the Big Island Coasts, there are at least dozens of other cetacean species – which include whales and dolphins – inhabiting these waters year ‘round. Among these are false killer, pilot, pygmy, beaked, melon-headed and even gigantic sperm whales; the leviathans of Moby Dick fame.
Dolphin species include the bottlenose, Hawaiian spinner, spotted and roughtooth varieties. All of these cetacean species (except for sperm whales) are smaller and unlike the humpbacks, can’t usually be seen from shore, so they don’t get noticed as much. But, like humpbacks each whale and dolphin species is intelligent and interesting in their own right. And collectively – along with monk seals – comprise Hawaii’s marine mammal populations. In fact, since no large land animals occur here naturally, they’re considered Hawaii’s only native animals. Please pick up any beach or marine debris you may find to help keep the ocean clean and safe for all the marine life and support sanctions against illegal whaling. For an awesome whale watch adventure, please call any of these tour boat companies listed below and let them know you heard about them in Adventure and Romance.
Body Glove (888) 208-1683
Captain Zodiac (808) 329-3199
Dolphin Discoveries (808) 322-8000
Fair Wind Ocean Guides (808) 345-4348
Hawaii Oceanic Tours (808) 326-2682
Lava Ocean Tours (808) 966-4200
Kona Boat Rentals (808) 326-9155
Kona Boat Tours (808) 447-0080
Sunlight on Water (808) 896-2480
Kayaking Kealakekua Bay (new article)
Among the most scenic and historic places on the Kona Coast is Kealakekua or K-Bay. It is the largest deep water bay in Hawaii, where the English sea captain James Cook anchored in January 1779 during his third Pacific voyage, and where he met his untimely death in a skirmish with native inhabitants. Today, K-Bay is a State Historical Park and Marine Life Conservation District with a tremendous variety of marine life and extraordinary coral formations. The tropical fish and healthy corals found below Captain Cook Monument make this one of Hawaii’s best snorkeling destinations. The bay waters vary from cobalt blue in the middle to emerald green near the monument. Surrounding the bay are 600” high pali (cliffs) providing refuge and habitat for the Hawaiian tropic birds and a resting place for Hawaiian Ali`i (royalty). K-Bay is an ideal place for guided kayaking and paddling trips. With a guide, you can explore the protected marine and see Hawaiian spinner dolphins at eye-level. Paddling is quiet and clean and also allows you to view the dolphins easily. This adventure is a great for folks from 5 to 75. State of Hawaii permitted guided kayaks trips can be arranged with one of three companies with permits to land at Captain Cook Monument and snorkel from the land. The Bay is a Hawaii State Park and anyone crossing the bay by sea (the only way to get there), must have a State Parks permit, insuring coral reefs and archeological artifacts are protected and visitors are safe.
With a State Park permit, one can still rent a kayak to visit KBay. There are restrictions in this process. Renting and launching is a problem because Napo`opo`o Pier is closed, so independent kayakers must launch off rocky cliff areas, a difficult task even without high surf. The rental permit forbids landing the kayak anywhere near the snorkeling area by Captain Cook monument. You can’t leave the kayak floating free or it will be swept away by currents and the wind, so you must tow the kayak or stand-up paddle board behind you while snorkeling. The difficulty of this process should not be ignored. Towing a kayak behind you requires strength and some skill to prevent the boat from hitting others as well as yourself. The only viable option is to take a State permitted guided kayak trip that permits landing kayaks at Captain Cook Monument. Guided kayak trip visitors can rest on land or sit under the shade of a tree. Kayaking is an ideal, ecofriendly adventure. Due to the low speed and noiseless transportation mode, kayakers often encounter spinner dolphins. And since the kayak trip route takes them only within protected bay waters, there’s less chance of getting sea sick. One of the local kayak outfitters permitted to land kayaks at Captain Cook Monument for snorkeling is Adventures in Paradise Kayak & Snorkel. For reservations & info call: (808) 447-0080 or (888) 210-5365
Night Diving Kona’s World Famous Manta Rays (new article)
Looking for a night time adventure? Manta ray snorkel and dive excursions offer you an out-ofthisworld experience that you’ll never forget! Year round, the giant manta rays, some with wing spans over 17’ across, congregate nightly to feed on their favorite meal of tiny plankton that are attracted to the glow of lights. With their deep, hollow mouths opened wide, manta rays gracefully swoop and swirl, performing great barrel rolls as they feast. At this underwater ballet, you’ll watch these gentle giants swoop and swirl through the night sea. These beautiful creatures will mesmerize you as they spin and twirl just inches from the surface. You’ll swear they are performing just for you! It’s a great way to spend a memorable evening for the entire family. Your boat company will outfit you with the snorkel or dive gear you will need – flashlights, wetsuits, etc. as well as refreshments. Some boats even have hot showers to rinse off in afterwards. Along with a local manta ray expert, Sheraton Keauhou Bay offers free Manta Talks at their Crystal Blue Terrace viewing area. A “Manta Experience” of nighttime snorkel and dives, departing from nearby Honokohau Marina and Keauhou Bay, allows guests an opportunity to closely observe the hauntingly beautiful manta’s night ballet as they glide like acrobats through the water filter feeding on plankton near the ocean’s surface.
Night Manta Ray Tour Companies:
Fair Wind: (808) 345-4348
Hawaii Oceanic: (808) 326-2682
Sunlight On Water: (808) 896-2480
Rent your own Private Boat in Kona (new article)
Looking for world class snorkeling and diving? The waters on the Kona (west) side of the Big Island are generally calm and safe year round. This makes for ideal navigable boating conditions and while there are a variety of boat-type excursions to choose from, why not enjoy the privacy and freedom of being your own captain?
You can – by renting a boat from Kona Boat Rentals (KBR) and setting out with family or friends on your own adventure, whether that be snorkeling, scuba diving, fishing, sightseeing, dolphin watching, or a romantic, private cruise and picnic.
KBR offers half and full day rentals of modern, 21-foot power boats that seat up to six people. The boats are roomy, quiet, stable, and easy to drive. They come equipped with comfortable seating, a Bimini shade top, complete electronics (GPS, VHF and Fish Finder), and a U.S. Coast Guard-approved safety package. You also get detailed charts to over 40 mooring locations, and directions to the cool spots. Sport-fishing rods, tackle and snorkeling gear are also available. Add it all up and this will be a day you’ll never forget.
Best of all, no license is required. KBR’s friendly and knowledgeable staff will provide a boating and safety orientation, training with all the equipment, and helpful tips on the best places to visit. For people who have little or no boating experience you can hire a guide or captain to teach you the ropes and give your family and you a private experience you’ll never forget. Why take a crowded snorkeling boat, when for about the same or less, you can rent your own boat?
The Kona Boat Rentals shop is located north of KailuaKona at the Honokohau Small Boat Harbor. Call them at (808) 326-9155.
Snorkel in Honaunau & Kealakekua Bays (new article)
A short drive from Kona and below the town of Captain Cook, is Pu’uhonoa, also known as “The City of Refuge” (see Kailua Kona map). It is a National Park and ancient Hawaiian archeology site, where under the kapu system (Hawaiian code of conduct, laws, and regulations) the ancient people could find refuge from their pursuers. Here you’ll find restored rock walls, wood carvings and reconstructed structures dating back to the 1500s. The fee to enter is currently $5.00 per car. There are historical exhibits, a white sand beach with coconut trees and a shoreline hiking trail. Pu’uhonua is located on the southern end of the clearwater Honaunau Bay, known as Two Steps, named for the easy two step access off the lava rocks. Here you’ll find a boat ramp, and an area to lounge to picnic on the flat rocks, with entrances into the bay. Mornings tend to be the best time to enjoy your snorkel adventure. You’ll watch the sun as it illuminates the water, making for great visibility. Parking can be tight and there are no showers available. Drive north from Two Steps and you’ll find Kealakekua Bay (see Kailua Kona map). This is the area where Captain Cook met his untimely end while trying to retrieve a small boat. It’s also the site of an ancient, highly revered Hawaiian Heiau. This is another excellent spot for snorkeling on the bay. Park by the bathrooms/showers and state park sign, then walk one block south to a gravel parking area where kayaks launch. This is an easy access snorkel spot. You’ll see abundant marine life with live coral formations. Spinner dolphins visit the area and you can spot honu (sea turtles) swimming or sleeping on the rocks. The Captain Cook Monument area of the bay offers incredible snorkeling, but because of the distance, it is not permissible to hike or swim there. Instead contact one of the tour boat companies (listed below) to visit this historical section of Kealakekua Bay. The boat companies allow you time to snorkel in the clear waters or hop back on board to enjoy a snack break. This is a must-do adventure for the entire family. It’s a beautiful sanctuary, resplendent with coral gardens, brilliantly colored tropical fish, and green sea turtles. You don’t want to miss this experience.
Recommend tour companies are:
Captain Zodiac: (808) 329-3199
Dolphin Discoveries: (808) 322-8000
Fair Wind: (808) 345-4348
Hawaii oceanic: (808) 326-2682
Kona Boat Tours: (808) 568-0131
Swim with Wild Dolphins (new article)
Among Hawaii’s most famous marine inhabitants are its dolphins. Four principal dolphin species reside in the waters around the Islands, including the Pacific bottlenose, spinner, rough-toothed and spotted varieties. Dolphins often greet boats as they leave harbors along the coast, playfully riding the bow wake created by the moving vessel. People are fascinated by dolphins and rightly so. These graceful creatures exhibit a high-level of intelligence. They are affectionate, social, and playful with each other. Like an extended family, they live in groups (pods) of five to thirty. The most commonly observed dolphins in the Kona area are the Spinner Dolphins (Stenella longirostris), also known as “Na’ia” in Hawaiian. As implied by their name “spinner,” these dolphins will flip and spin in the air, putting on a great show for everyone. Female dolphins are about five feet long, weighing 150 lbs. Male dolphins are a bit bigger, capping out at 170 pounds. Infant dolphins, or calves, are precious and you can instantly recognize them as they are smaller and often have pinkish hues. There is no specific mating/birthing season. During the day, pods rest and socialize in shallow coastal waters. They “sleep-swim,” a behavior in which they shut down one hemisphere of the brain and close the corresponding eye. The other hemisphere stays awake at a low level of alertness for breathing and swimming. Dolphins prefer protected bay-like areas, which provide a calm environment for them to rest before they hunt in deeper waters at night. Most people’s interaction with wild dolphins is limited to seeing them from a boat. But there are several boat companies that allow snorkelers to swim near dolphins, while being sensitive to the dolphins’ habitat.
Call these recommended companies for more info:
Dolphin Discoveries (808) 322-8000
Sunlight on Water (808) 896-2480
Hawaii Oceanic (808) 326-2682
Take an Incredible Lava Boat Trip (new article)
Take an Incredible Lava Boat Trip For over a decade, the Lava Ocean Tours has been drawing guests from around the world to experience a close-up view of the active Kilauea volcano as it flows into the Pacific Ocean and forms new land. You’ll feel the lava’s sizzling heat when it meets the cool water and you’ll be in awe of the robust red, orange, and yellow colors. There are incredible photo opportunities on Lava Ocean’s sunrise & morning tours (best for ocean conditions). They also offer humpback whale watching tours during winter months. These 45 foot, 80,000 pound gentle giants swim close to the boat. From December thru March, whale sightings are guaranteed on all trips; if you don’t see whales you are offered a free tour. Tours cruise along 40 miles of the serene Hamakua Coast. All year, this secluded coast is a lush oasis of amazing waterfalls cascading over sea cliffs. This coast is only accessible by air or boat. From the tour boat, you will see marine life, sugar mill ruins from the plantation area, hidden valleys, and black sand beaches. You’ll feel safe onboard their state of the art catamarans, which are inspected by the U.S. Coast Guard. Skilled Captains and friendly crews offer insightful information about Hawaiian ecology and geography. For reservations call: 808-966-4200 or 808-825-5530.
The Volcano is on the Move, New and Exciting Flows! (new article)
The Big Island is on the move with new and exciting flows! The Big Island is home to the world’s most active volcanoes. With activity constantly changing, you never know what you’re going to see on your visit there.
Recently, there was a gas explosion in the wall of Halema’uma’u Crater at the summit of Kilauea Crater, which threw huge rocks into the crater floor and over the top of the rim. This was the first such explosion there since 1924 when a continual plume of gas, ash, steam and smoke rose a mile above the crater as lava churned in the bottom.
A visit to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is a must-see. From fresh lava flows to barren fields to thick, earthy, fern forests, the Park is a unique geological wonderland. It is located on the rim of the Kilauea Summit Caldera and overlooks the active Halema’uma’u pit crater and Kilauea volcano. The recent eruptions resulted in closures of some parts of the Park, due to geological instability and a thick haze of sulfur dioxide gases. The increase in gasses is responsible for the overcast sky, “volcanic smog” or “vog,” that blows west towards Kona during normal tradewind weather. The National Park draws millions of visitors per year. You can access the Park for free, after 7pm to view the light show at the Crater from the Jaggar Museum look-out. Outside the Park, lava is flowing, sending new rivers of it from the east rift zone into the sea four miles from the village of Kalapana, already partly destroyed by lava in 1990. A new gravel road is located at the end of Highway 130, which is open for vantage points of these flows as they make their way to the ocean.
To physically get to the flows, it’s an 8 mile round trip via hiking or biking. If you go at night (for the best viewing), make sure to bring flashlights, water, and appropriate clothes for the temperature drop. The gravel hiking/biking road ends about 100 yards from the flow. Follow the rope trail to the left to view the current ocean lava entry from a distant vantage point. These active flows shift like rivers and are potentially dangerous. Therefore, guided tours of the area are recommended for your own safety. An alternative to the long land trip is onboard a fast and comfortable boat. Once you arrive at the flow area, you’ll feel the heat of the eruption and see the magnificent lava as it streams into the ocean. It’s an otherworldly, dreamlike experience. Flows are subject to change, so check with all Lava Ocean Tours about current activity.
Lava Ocean Tours offers epic guided land lava tours and world famous lava boat tours from Isaac Hale Beach Park, to the where the lava meets the sea. You’ll get as up close as safely possible and feel the heat, while viewing the red, orange and yellow colors of sizzling hot lava flow into the water. Incredible photo opportunities. Your licensed Captain and friendly crew offer lots of insightful information from years of experience, seeing nature in the actual act of land formation. Call for reservations: (808) 966-4200.
For some truly mind-blowing, lava photo prints check out Lava Light Galleries located on Alii Dr. in Kona and at Queens Market Place, Waikoloa. Phone: (808) 756-0778.
ACTIVITIES ARTICLES – Land
Go Back in Time to Hawi Town, North Kohala (new article)
Drive north to the town of Hawi to enjoy an old Hawaii environment. It’s like an island unto itself. There are green, rolling inland hills that lead up to Waimea or you can drive the remote, windswept coast there from Kawaihai. Both drives led to the sleepy town of Hawi with shops and eateries. A few miles past further on is the end to the road, with the beautiful coastal overlook of Polulu Valley. It’s is only about a half-hour drive from the Waikoloa Resorts, but the area really gets you off the beaten track and a great way to do that, is to plan an ATV backcountry tour with ATV Outfitters.
Past Hawi is the incredible, green, tropical and slower-paced area of North Kohala. This remote district is perfect for an ATV adventure; with its dramatic scenery and landscapes, which include waterfalls, mountain streams, forests and grasslands, sea cliffs and ocean vistas.
ATV stands for All Terrain Vehicle and they are specially designed to transport you off-road into a variety of rugged but beautiful landscapes. Modern day ATVs have minimal environmental impact because the tour operators guide guests in an eco-friendly manner.
ATV Outfitters is owned by a fourth-generation Hawaiian family from North Kohala, who knows this land like the back of their hand. They offer single, two-seater and sideby-side ATV rides, so couples can share the adventure, making it a great romantic trip. There are three tours to choose from: the Historical Ocean Cliffs Adventure, a 15mile Waterfall Adventure, and a 22-mile Rainforest and Waterfall Adventure.
Call ATV Outfitters at (808) 889-6000 for information
Hike or Bike Around Active Volcano (new article)
Experience Kilauea Volcano Up Close and Personal Nui Pohaku is a family owned company that specializes in in-depth tours of the breathtaking Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. Whether you’re interested in hiking, biking or casual sightseeing, their National Park Certified guides will do much more than just show you around. Small group tour options include visiting the summit by leisurely hike or bike, during the day or night, and also extend to detailed tours that take you backstage where you can see (and feel!) how the lava flows have shaped this beautiful island and the lush coastline that surrounds it. For reservations and information please call (808) 937-0644.
Ride the Rim Waipio Valley (new article)
Known as the “Valley of the Kings,” mystical and majestic Waipio Valley on the northern end of the Hamakua Coast is an important Hawaiian cultural and historical place. It was once home to thousands of Hawaiians, who grew taro and lived a life of abundance and peace here. Today, Waipio Valley is quiet, serene and sparsely populated, with a wide black sand beach, streams, wild horses, 2,000- foot-high sheer walls and the twin Hi‘ilawe Falls, Hawaii’s highest single-drop waterfall.
You can experience this majestic location on a single rider ATV, a side-by-side double rider ATV or one of our open air buggies that take you along the rim of the valley, giving you one-of-a-kind view of the spectacular scenery below. Ride the Rim Waipio Valley ATV Tours, takes you on a 3hr journey through a limited-access trail among forests of eucalyptus and ginger, over the former Royal Lands of Hawaii. Wear bathing suits under your clothes and swim in a refreshing waterfall pond at the headwaters of Hi‘ilawe Falls and take in the panorama of this beautiful valley. Knowledgable guides share the history and culture of Waipio Valley with you as you enjoy complementary refreshments. You can choose from morning – 9 AM and 1 PM tours. Check in is at the Waipio Valley Artworks near Kukuihaele. The ATV’s are automatic (no clutch) and easy to drive – no experience is necessary – with safety gear, orientation and demonstration/ instruction ride prior to the tour. Minimum age for riders is 16, though youngsters or adults not wishing to ride an ATV can join the tour on an open air buggy. This is one of Hawaii’s most spectacular and remote natural areas. For more information or to make reservation call (808) 775-1450.
Umauma Experience, Zipline & Hiking (new article)
Take the coastal drive north of Hilo to see one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world. The famous triple-tiered Umauma Falls is rated in the top 5 waterfalls of all the Hawaiian Islands. It’s one of the few drive-up waterfalls in the world. This beautiful series of three falls can become a raging torrent after heavy rains – a site to behold! At the Zipline Visitor Center you’ll view the mighty Umauma River and Falls from their welcoming deck.
This spectacular setting is the site of an incredible 2-mile long, 9-line Zipline course that takes you flying over 14 beautiful waterfalls. Race your companion down 4 dual Ziplines, and sail down over 2000 feet of line directly over many waterfalls of the Umauma River. Venture across their new 200 foot-long suspension bridge above a 100 foot-high river gorge and fern grotto. Watch rushing water disappear into a lava tube flume and cascade over a waterfall as it reappears on the other side. You’ll see waterfalls from Zipline only viewing areas and enjoy views of the Pacific Ocean. Their friendly and well-trained crew will ensure your safety and make sure you have a great time! They can accommodate zipliners ages 5 and up, weighing 35 to 260 lbs or more (call for details); people with disabilities; and large groups.
Not into ziplining? Experience their tranquil Tropical Garden and Riverwalk, which begins near the drive-up viewing platform for the triple-tiered Umauma Falls. You’ll experience a self-guided leisurely stroll along the gorgeous Umauma River with breathtaking ocean views. Pass through natural palm forests, cross over wooden bridges, and zigzag through beautiful tropical gardens. Be sure to stop at the Garden of Peace to bury any stress or fear, etc., in their mock cemetery.
Maybe a Zip n’ Dip is more your style. You’ll swim and kayak in a natural pool below a dual waterfall. This pristine, secluded location coined “Lover’s Leap” was the film site for the TV series, “The Bachelorette.”After your dip, enjoy lunch at their rustic pavilion.
Consider their guided excursion to the Upper-triple Falls with it natural river flume and lava tube. You’ll follow the old sugar cane trail along a historic flume as your guide shares stories from the era. This 1-1/2 hour hike includes swimming above the flume dam, and for the brave, a cave you can swim into. Enjoy lunch afterwards in a secret location. Advance registration is required for this hike (groups of 6 or more.)
From Hilo (30 min): Take Hwy 19 north towards Hamakua. Before mile marker 17, turn left on Kauniho Road. Turn left on Old Mamalahoa Hwy and go 1/3 mile to Umauma Experience sign on the right.
From Kona (2.5 hours): Take Hwy19 towards Kawaihae. Turn right at Kawaihae towards Waimea/Honokaa/Hilo. Follow Hwy 19 through Waimea and pass Honokaa towards Hilo. After mile marker 17, turn right on Kauniho Road. Left on Old Mamalahoa Hwy and go 1/3 mile to Umauma Experience sign on the right. Tours tend to fill up, call for reservations. Call them at (808) 930-9477
Zip Isle Zip Line Adventure Has It All! (new article)
From the exhilarating 7-stage zip line canopy tour to the peaceful serenity of the lush Hawaiian flower gardens at the Rainbow Walk, Botanical World is a one-stop adventure discovery with something for everyone.
The Big Island Botanical World offers an unique off-road rain forest Segway Tour. Riders silently glide across historic bridges, through the dense rain forest and see the impressive Kamaee Waterfall — all while driving their two wheel “personal transporter.” Visitors can ride their Segway on any of three exclusive rain forest Segway tours, from a 30 minute Aloha Introductory Tour up to a 2-1/2 hour rain forest, gardens and waterfall tour. Segway at Botanical World is a Segway Authorized tour, with local, certified, Segway guides.
Step up to the “Thrill of a Lifetime in Less Time” Zip Isle eco zip line tour. Their safe, accredited zip lines and thrilling suspension bridge culminate in the Dual 1/4 mile zips where friends race each other while zipping towards the ocean. Zip Isle takes about two hours of your precious time in Hawaii.
Relax and stroll the hundreds of acres at Botanical World Gardens. Experience the beautiful gardens at your leisure or enjoy a special, one-of-a-kind educational guided tour by the island’s noted Horticulturist, Dr. Lanny Neel. Take the new River Walk trail to the cascading Hanapueo Falls, just recently opened to the public. Don’t miss the huge Hawaiian Family Maze only at Botanical World. The family maze, gardens, waterfalls, trails and hikes are Free with admission to either Zip Isle or a Segway Tour of over one hour.
Visitors tell their friends to make sure to go to Botanical World — 16 miles north of Hilo at mile marker 16 on Highway 19. Open daily from 9am – 5:30pm. For additional information, please call (808) 963-5427 (toll free: 888-947-4753)
ACTIVITIES ARTICLES – Land Tours
A Volcano Experience with Kailani Tours Hawaii (new article)
My family and I are standing in the lobby of our hotel, ready for an unforgettable trip to the world’s most active volcano – Kilauea. The kids can’t wait to see what they’ve been studying at school and my husband and I are looking forward to relaxing while someone else does the driving; vacation has officially begun. We’re greeted by our uniformed guide with an enthusiastic “Aloha” and board the luxurious Mercedes Benz Sprinter mini-coach. Traveling with three other couples, we recline our leather seats and listen to our guide “Uncle Jim” regale us with Hawaiian legends, history, geology, and folklore. On our journey from Kona to Kilauea, we’re surrounded by an ever-changing landscape from desert to rainforests, white-capped mountains and crystal blue ocean waters. We make stops for a delicious picnic lunch, Rainbow Falls, and this incredible place called Big Island Candies. After loading up on cookies, coffee, chocolates, and ice cream, we prepare for our ascent up to the volcano! As we entered Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, we’re overwhelmed at the sites of Kilauea. Uncle Jim takes us off the beaten path to explore steam vents, old lava flows, deep volcanic craters, and a rainforest of rare birds and exotic ferns. We head into Kilauea Lodge for dinner as the sun sets for a fabulous, four-star dinner in a European style lodge. We had soups, salads, homemade bread, fresh caught ahi, and steaks. After dessert, we drive to the erupting summit at night, where Uncle Jim set up high-powered binoculars as we viewed the bubbling caldera below. Under a starry sky, we get a front-row view of this magnificent volcano. We took pictures and videos with our phones and shared them with our travel companions. We couldn’t have planned a better day. We love Kailani Tours Hawaii and their Deluxe Volcano Experience. Seats fill up quickly so please call Kailani Tours Hawaii at (808) 938-4057.
Cruise through Kona Coffee Country (new article)
The Kona side is to taste samples of world renowned, 100% pure, flavorful Kona coffee.
If you’re driving through the uplands above Kailua Kona and in the Captain Cook areas, you’ll likely notice a distinctive aroma wafting through the tropical air. That smell tells you that you’re in the heart of a region famous for a gourmet product known around the world: Kona coffee.
This incredible tasty, aromatic, and strong coffee is grown on farms called estates. Because of the precipitation, morning sunshine and afternoon cloud cover, along with rocky soil and hand-picking, the Kona area produces the most flavorful and award winning coffees in the world. Don’t be fooled by Kona coffee blends, which generally contain 10% Kona coffee and 90% foreign fumigated beans from another country.
There are nearly 700 estates in the coffee belt (see our Kailua-Kona map), most of which range from two to eight acres. Most estates offer free samples of their coffee and occasional other coffee products as well. They usually offer coffee souvenir and gift items as well. Some give free educational tours of their estates. Each estate has something unique about them, with no two estates having the same presentation.
If you are driving to the volcano from Kona, plan to stop at Ka’u Coffee Mill, located before just heading up to Volcanoes National Park, past South Point. You’ll pass the last Black Sand Beach, then turn left off the Hwy between mile marker 52 & 53. Ka’u Coffee offers tasty samples of mac nuts and their award winning coffee as well as tours of their estate and mill. (808) 928-0550
Magical Seahorse Tour (new article)
Ocean Rider is the first and only seahorse farm in the world dedicated to preserving the endangered seahorse with the world’s only living gene bank of live, breeding seahorses and seadragons housing over 30 species here on their 3 acre oceanfront farm at Keahole Point, Kona. On this tour, you will be able to hold a seahorse in your hands, and see babies, pregnant males, leafy sea dragons and seahorses from all over the world including Hawaii and Australia.. You will also be able to enjoy the world’s only sustainable aquarium where more than half the worlds 36 species of seahorses are on display. There is also an interactive tide pool and fish feeding station for the children and a seahorse only gift shop where the proceeds go to the seahorses. Plan on setting aside 1 1/2 hour for your visit to the seahorse farm. We are sure you will leave in awe! For reservations and ticket sales, contact (808) 329-6840
RESTAURANTS & NIGHT LIFE REVIEWS
Live Music & Happy Hour Reviews (new article)
KAILUA-KONA AND ALII DRIVE
Huggos on the Rocks, has live entertainment nightly from 6-10pm. On the Rocks has put together a weekly line-up of the island’s most passionate and talented musicians, singers and dancers.
Humpy’s Big Island Alehouse, has live easy listening acoustic music on Monday nights at 8pm. So you think you’re a wiseguy? This is a test show, on Tuesday nights from 8-10pm, where you face off against the finest minds in Kona. Join your Quizmaster, Andrew Kolios for a night of fun and tons of great prizes.
Don’s Mai Tai Bar at Royal Kona Resort. This oceanfront bar features HD televisions broadcasting current sporting events and every Thursday at 5pm enjoy live music from our Legends of Hawaiian Music concert series.
Rays on the Bay, at the Sheraton Keahou has live, local music 7 nights a week from 6-9pm. On Sun. it’s Hawaiian Trio music, Mon. No music, Tues. Hawaiian Trio Contemporary music, Wed. Jazz Trio, Thurs. Hawaiian Trio Country music and Fri. is Reggae.
Tropics Ale House, located within Waikoloa Beach Resort, offers live reggae, island style music on Friday and Saturday nights from 7:30-10:30pm.
Lava Lava Beach Club, has live Hawaiian music every night from 5-9 pm, Fridays feature the likes of renowned Henry Kapono or John Cruz from Oahu and the Big Island’s own, LT Smooth.
Hilo Town Tavern, Has a variety of live music every night. On Mondays it’s, open mic from 7pm -12am with all ages welcomed until 10pm.
Hilo Bay Cafe, offers every second Wednesday of the month from 6:00-8:00 pm, live jazz music in their special event room. There’s a $10 cover charge. Reservations recommended.
Kaleo’s Bar and Grill has live, local Acoustic Hawaiian entertainment nightly starting at 6:30pm.
Kona Happy Hours
Habanero’s Grill – Daily 3-6pm
Humpy’s Big Island Alehouse – Mon-Fri 3-6pm
Kenichi Pacific – 4:30-6:30pm
Huggo’s on the Rocks – Daily 3-5pm
Sam Choy’s Kai Lanai – Daily 3-5pm
Jackie Rey’s Ohana Grill – Daily 3-5pm
Splasher’s Grill – Daily 3-6pm
Kona Canoe Club – Daily 2-5pm
Kona Brewing Company – Mon-Fri 3-5pm
Oceans Sports Bar & Grill – Daily 3-6pm
Harbor House Restaurant at Honokohau Harbor – Daily 3-6pm
Waikoloa, South Kohala Happy Hours
A-Bay’s Island Grill Hawaii – Daily 3-5pm
Lava Lava Beach Club – Daily 3-5pm
Roy’s Waikoloa – Daily 5-6pm
Tommy Bahama Restaurant at Mauna Lani – 4-6pm
Seafood Bar and Grill in Kawaihae – Daily 3-5:30pm & 9:30pm-Closing
Pueo’s Osteria – Daily 5-6pm
The Blue Room at Qeen’s Market Place – Daily 3-5pm
Hilo Happy Hours
Hilo Burger Joint – Daily 3-6pm
Coconut Grill – Daily 2-5pm
Ponds Hilo – Daily 2-5pm
BIG ISLAND SHOPPING REVIEWS (new article)
Some of the main Big Island shopping areas by location:
Hilo: Downtown Hilo by The Bay Downtown Hilo offers a unique, local shopping experience in a few easy-to-walk blocks. Discover gifts and souvenirs, galleries featuring Big Island artists, sports adventure stores, vintage Hawaiiana, and more, as you stroll along covered walkways. Join us for Experience Aloha Fridays – downtown stays open late on the first Friday of every month with live entertainment in many venues. Prince Kuhio Plaza The Big Island’s only enclosed shopping center. Features a variety of great department stores, unique specialty shops (including many with a Hawaiian theme) and a 9-screen stadium seating movie theatre. Kona: Keauhou Shopping Center, above Keauhou Bay Enjoy shopping, dining and helpful services in a truly legendary location. Keauhou Shopping Center is the centerpiece of Keauhou Resort, a modern getaway surrounded by rich Hawaiian history. Once the birthplace and playground of kings, the center offers an incredible shopping experience and the chance to learn about the heritage of the Kona coast through special entertainment and educational programs. Kona Commons Kona’s newest shopping destination. Clothing, hair & nail salons, restaurants, Ross, Target, Petco, and Office Max. Kona Inn Shopping Village This mall with clothing boutiques, gift shops, art galleries & restaurants runs along the water. Kona Coast Shopping Center The favorite choice for savvy shoppers because of the ease of having one-stop shopping at name-brand stores. Whether it’s clothing, shoes, electronics, or entertainment, you’ll find top values in one convenient location. WaIKoloa / KoHala Coast: Kings’ Shops is Hawaii Island’s premier shopping and dining destination. Located in the heart of the Kohala Coast, the center offers a great collection of brand name stores such as Michael Kors, Tiffany & Co. and Tori Richard along with island favorites, fine art galleries, casual eateries and fine dining. Queens’ Marketplace A fun family life style resort destination shopping experience with something for everyone, visitors and residents alike, Queens’ Marketplace presents an exciting collection of boutiques, galleries, shops and services, plus a delightfully diverse Ono Food Court, upscale restaurants and a full schedule of free Hawaiian cultural activities and entertainment. The Shops at Mauna Lani Resort Step into open-air walkways and enter into the most chic shopping destination on the Kohala Coast. Stop by and enjoy the fresh, succulent cuisine at one of The Shops five premiere restaurants including Tommy Bahama and Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. The Shops at Mauna Lani offers free Polynesian Hula Shows on Mondays and Thursdays at 7pm at center stage. WaImea: Parker Ranch Center Convenient shopping in Waimea with over 30 retail stores, eateries, specialty shops and salons! Parker Square The Gallery of Great Things is this center’s star attraction, it’s also worth looking in at the Waimea General Store; Sweet Wind, for books, chimes, and beads; and Kamuela Goldsmiths, which sells locally crafted gold jewelry.
Pure Kona Green Market, Captain Cook, Sun, 9AM-3PM
Keauhou, Sat, 8AM-12PM
Kona Sunset, Wed, 2PM-6PM
Kamuela, Sat, 7AM-12PM
Ho’oulu at the Sheraton Keauhou, Wed, 9AM-2PM
Waimea Homestead, Sat, 7AM-12PM
Waimea Town Market, 7:30AM-12PM
Farmer’s Market, Kings’ Shops, Wed, 8:30AM-2:30PM
Hilo, Wed & Sat, 6AM-4PM • Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri, Sun, 7AM-4PM
Orchids on the Big Island (new article)
Known as one of the largest orchid collections in Hawai’i, Akatsuka Orchid Gardens is a fully covered and protected garden showroom and conservatory offering a collection of a variety of orchids; Cattleyas, which produce some of the brightest, most uniquely formed blooms and sizes in the orchid world, as well as other popular genera such as Phalaenopsis and Dendrobium.
They grow some of the biggest and hardiest Cattleyas ever, which are in great demand and are shipped all over the world. Explore a variety of orchids in their garden showroom, walk through 8,000 sq. ft. of orchids on display in their Orchid Maze. Learn about orchids and caring for them properly with interactive and educational kiosks. All Akatsuka’s plants are agriculturally inspected and certified, and can be shipped anywhere in the U.S. Located 22-1/2 miles from Hilo on Highway 11, just before the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. Open daily from 10am to 4:30pm. Closed on major holidays. Tel: (808) 967-8234.
Big Island’s Magnificent Beaches (new article)
Hapuna Beach State Park is a beautiful white sand beach located at Mile Marker 69 on Hwy 19. The beach is suitable for body surfing, swimming and snorkeling. With plenty of parking and public facilities, this is one of the best white sand beaches on the island.
Just south of Hapuna in the Waikoloa Beach Resort, you’ll find ‘Anaeho‘omalu Beach or A Bay. This expansive gray sand beach is good for swimming, snorkeling and surfing. There’s a trail that runs along the shoreline that leads to the Anchialine (AN-key-a-lin) Ponds.
Heading south towards Kailua-Kona, is Kua Bay which is a beautiful sand bay. There can be snorkeling on the northern side of the beach and the boogie-boarding and body surfing when the surf is up. There are showers and bathrooms there.
Nearing the Kona airport is Kekaha Kai State Park. Kekaha Kai has a sand bay, two beaches, fresh water springs and tidepools, with surf spot and snorkeling options, compost toilets, but no showers. A gated, non-paved lava road is the access.
Kailua-Kona is known for its smaller, more intimate white sand beaches. In downtown, there is a small protected beach on either side of the pier that is good for snorkeling and swimming. Most of the time this beach is calm enough for young children.
Magic Sands Beach (that turns into a rocky shore in the winter) is just south of Mile Marker 4. It is a favorite spot for swimming and snorkeling, boogie boarding and body surfing.
A mile and a half further south is Kahalu‘u Beach Park, a great place to learn to surf and to snorkel with fish and turtles.
Near south point is Punalu‘u Beach Park, a beautiful black sand beach with bathrooms and showers.
Green Sand Beach, just past South Point, is accessible via a dirt road or about a 30 minute hike. Its green sand is produced by an accumulation of olivine from volcanic eruptions.
Use caution when entering in the ocean as the surf and currents can be powerful and potentially dangerous.
Get Married, Renew Vows or Have an Awesome Honeymoon (new article)
This special, spiritual celebration can be an awesome experience on the Big Island. Couples have many options, from a simple ceremony in a secluded garden or beach to a completely arranged event at a luxury resort. Whether it’s a big party with lots of family and friends or a small, intimate affair, ceremonial packages can be customized for your preferences.
Using a professional resort or an independent wedding coordinator, they can advise you how to avoid any hassles as you customize your own special occasion. Local photographers and officiates can assist you with all the detailed arrangements.
Many couples find that island resorts can create beautiful wedding memories. One of the best ones is the romantic Waikoloa Beach Resort, with luxurious hotel facilities and restaurants alongside ‘Anaeho’omalu Bay. Lovers, young and old, can choose from soothing spas and rousing ocean adventures, to world-class golf, dining, and accommodations at Hilton Waikoloa Village, Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, and the relaxing Lava Lava Beach Club.
Surround yourself with aloha and natural splendor. Enjoy the moon rise and stunning sunsets at ‘Anaeho’omalu Bay, while you dance to sweet Hawaiian music at Lava Lava Beach Club and walk to an intimate bungalow. At Waikoloa Beach Resort, you can enjoy a romantic getaway when you swim side by side with dolphins at Hilton Waikoloa Village. Celebrate a special anniversary with couples’ lomilomi at Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa.
Hawaii’s Most Beautiful Waterfalls (new article)
Want a romantic way to spend the day? Explore The Big Island’s waterfalls. With more than 130 inches of rainfall per year at the coast, and over 200 inches in the mountains, the Hilo side produces some of the most abundant waterfalls in Hawaii. The 18-mile Wailuku River (“water of destruction”), the longest river in the state, funnels Hilo’s massive rainfall into cascades of power and beauty.
Three waterfalls are a ten-minute drive from downtown Hilo.
Rainbow Falls drop 80 feet into a large pool, creating a prism of rainbows. (From downtown Hilo, take Waianuenue Ave – drive mauka, mountain side, about 1.6 miles and bear right. Follow the signs for the falls).
The Boiling Pots Falls are a testimony to the awesome force of rushing water as it barrels downstream and bubbles up from layers of submerged lava. Take the dirt path to the right of the viewing platform just a few feet for the best view of the churning pots below and the five-spouted.
Pe’epe’e Falls to your far left. (From Rainbow Falls, continue up Waianuenue Ave another 1.4 miles, following the signs and turning right onto Pe’epe’e St.
A lush 20 min. walk through a dense forest will take you to the top of Waiale Falls where you can meander from one pool to another, except during heavy rainfall when it’s dangerous. Be sure to stop at all the lookouts along the way for a view of the falls. From Boiling Pots, continue up Waianuenue Ave just under a mile, cross the first bridge and park. Take the trail to the right of the bridge on the waterfall side of the street.
Perhaps the most photographed natural attraction on the Big Island is Akaka Falls, a magnificent waterfall that plunges in a vertical 442 ft. drop into the gorge below. Akaka Falls is accessible via a half-mile circular footpath through lush rainforest where you’ll also see neighboring Kahuna Falls. (Ten miles north of Hilo: take Hwy 19 north, then just past Mile Marker 13 turn left onto Rte 220 toward Honomu and follow the signs.)
The three-tiered and beautiful Umauma Waterfalls are located at Umauma Zipline, (808) 930-9477. Further up the Hamakua coast, the falls of the remote Waipio Valley cascade from the valley’s cliffs at various points. A 4WD vehicle is essential to get down into the valley.
Hawaii’s Little Big City Historical & Cultural Hilo (new article)
Hilo town, on the north-east side, is where you’ll find the classic spirit of old Hawaii. It’s a port city center and home to the University of Hawaii at Hilo. The town is famous for the tsunamis of 1946 and 1960. To learn more about the tsunamis, visit the Pacific Tsunami Museum located in the heart of downtown.
This eclectic town is full of local charm and color. Downtown Hilo or Bayfront, is the main street area. It’s easy to explore Bayfront by foot. Here you will find a wide variety of unique galleries, vintage stores, tasty restaurants and three museums – the Pacific Tsunami Museum, the Lyman Museum, and the East Hawaii Cultural Center. Visiting Hilo town feels like going back in time. It is fun and quaint, complete with street music and two beautiful parks.
Hilo is located between incredible environmental features of the island – the Volcano area, the Hamakua Coast (see Volcano and Hamakua articles) and the Puna District. In Puna, you’ll find the Lava Tree State park, which is a petrified tree forest. The coastline of the east side includes Ahalnui Beach Park, with its natural, geothermal-heated (to 90 degrees), Olympic-size tide pool.
The following are recommended features in Hilo.
Pacific Tsunami Museum
To learn about tsunamis, or waves generated by seismic events, this museum is the place to visit. You’ll see historical photos, exhibits, maps, and survivor stories of the major tsunamis that hit Hilo last century along with lots of tsunami science, books, videos, and a theater. Located on Kamehameha Ave. in the heart of downtown Hilo, open 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Tuesday – Saturday. $8 general admission. Phone (808) 935-0926.
Ken’s House of Pancakes
Ken’s is a classic attraction, drawing locals and visitors alike. As its name suggests, pancakes are a staple here with the famous macadamia and banana pancakes. The menu features a vast selection of omelets and other favorites that will please any palate. Located on the corner at the intersection of Kamehameha and Kanoelehua Avenues near Hilo Airport. Open daily 24 hrs. Phone (808) 935-8711.
It’s a short drive from downtown Hilo to this spectacular wonder (see Hilo map). It is named for the 80-foot cascade that falls into a pool in the river below, sending up mists that fill the air with rainbows. From the parking lot take a stone stairway that leads to a private viewing area over the falls. (In Wailuku River State Park on Wainuenue Avenue). If you’d like to spend the night in Hilo call the Naniloa Hotel, phone (808) 969-3333.
Historical Hamakua Lauapahoehoe & Papaaloa (new article)
There is something for everyone in the heart of the Hamakua Coast.
It’s all in the name Hamakua, Hawaiian for “Breath of God,” green, lush and blessed with abundance, the Big Island’s very own Garden of Eden. This often overlooked North East corner of the Big Island, holds a unique distinction as one of the last coastal agricultural tracts in the State. The Hamakua Heritage Corridor, is a beautiful drive stretching the coast from Hilo to Waipio Valley. This coast was once the jewel of the Plantation Era and “king cane,” but has now evolved away from mass produced monoculture and given way to dozens of thriving small scale farming operations. Smack in the heart of the Hamakua lay the rural communities of Laupahoehoe and Papaaloa. Once thriving mill towns, they now cater to those seeking a mellow country life, with dozens of vacation rental havens for tourists escaping the bustle of the more crowded Hawaiian destinations. Laupahoehoe (leaf of lava), was established on an ancient lava flow that formed a small peninsula out into the ocean, now the site of the Laupahoehoe Beach Park, famous for its amazing rugged coastal vistas and tragic past (c. mile 27). In 1946 the “April Fools Day Tsunami” swept the lower reaches of town into the sea, crippling the mill’s rail line and taking 23 children and 4 teachers with it. The rich history of this coast is well documented at the Train Museum in town (c. mile 25).
A mile down the road off the highway, is the unique Papaaloa Country Store (c. mile 24). A must stop from a respite of the road or a refreshment break. This restored plantation era store is a must. Serving the growing community, the store champions local produce and farm to table dinning, with most of their produce, fish and meat coming from the surrounding farms, highlighting seasonal specials. The building was built in the 1800’s and has quaint local charm and plenty aloha for visitors.
The Volcano Art Center (new article)
The Volcano Art Center, in Volcano Village offers Free Forest Tours Monday mornings at 9:30 am. You’ll learn about the Hawaiian rain forests and the last old-growth koa and ’ōhi’a rain forests, protection and restoration and ethnobotanical uses of Hawaiian flora. The hourlong walk takes place rain or shine along an easy, level gravel trail. Reservations are not required but are appreciated for groups of five or more. Be prepared for rain in the rain forest. Donations are appreciated; they help the rain forest restoration and education efforts. Custom Rain Forest Tours are also available for a small fee. Call (808) 967-8222
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