Things to Do in Big Island of Hawaii - page 3
The best way to learn about coffee is to drink it and that’s exactly what they want you to do at the Royal Kona Coffee Center. Come prepared for a caffeine infusion. A multitude of coffee carafes are lined up, one after the next on a table with cups stacked high. Along with tasting an assortment of different types of coffee, there’s chocolate, cake and even tea. You just might find a new favorite way to start your day.
As you make your way around the property you’ll learn a thing or two about Kona Coffee. See where Kona coffee cherries are processed, where the beans are separated from the fruit, and where the beans are set out to air dry after they are hulled. Step into the museum to learn more about the history of Kona coffee farming.
Wear comfy shoes and give yourself plenty of time to wander the grounds to enjoy some non-coffee fun. Visitors can walk through a lava tube and enjoy the views of Kealakekua Bay. There’s also a gift shop if you want some coffee to make the trip home with you.
The Crater Rim Drive is an 11-mile (17.7-kilometer) route encircling the active Kilauea volcano in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The road takes you past Kilauea’s summit caldera and large pit crater. Along the way, you’ll find museums, a lodge, lava tubes, numerous overlooks, and trails to explore deeper into the park’s environment.
Kailua-Kona, the largest town on the Big Island of Hawaii, is the epicenter of activities and tours on the Kona Coast—part of the island’s western (leeward) side. The antithesis to the lush, often rainy jungles of Hilo on the island’s eastern (windward) side, dry and sunny Kona’s activities put a huge emphasis on long days in the outdoors. Kailua-Kona is the jumping-off point for the Big Island’s best coffee-farm tours, superb reef snorkeling, all levels of hiking, and experiencing ancient Hawaiian culture, while downtown’s seaside shops and dining come with spectacular sunset views.
Kula Kai Caverns features miles of 1000-year-old lava tubes that can be explored with experienced cavers. This cave system on the Big Island, is one of the planet’s youngest and attracts scientists from all over the world. Kula Kai offers a range of tours, from an introductory geology tour to demanding crawl and spelunking adventures.
The gateway to Hawaii’s largest and southernmost island, Hilo Cruise Port offers easy access to some of the state’s most popular attractions. Use the Big Island of Hawaii’s cruise port as a jumping-off point for trips to Kona and the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, or visit secluded black-sand beaches, rain forests, and historic Hilo itself.
Best known for Rainbow Falls, Wailuku River State Park is a collection of waterfalls and eroded pools only 10 minutes from downtown Hilo. Make a stop at Rainbow Falls to watch colors dance in the mist, and then continue five minutes up the road to the area known as “Boiling Pots.” These deep, circular, roiling pools seem to boil during periods of high water, and Pe‘epe‘e Falls toward the back of the pools cascades 60 feet toward the rocks below.
The waterfalls and pools here are at their most dramatic after a period of heavy rain. Flash flooding is a common occurrence, so swimming in the pools is a high-stakes gamble no matter how enticing they might seem. Since the trails down to the pools can often be slippery, the pools and falls are best enjoyed from the easily accessible lookouts. Bring a picnic and linger in the grass with rushing water as your soundtrack, or simply kill an hour in Hilo with a quick jaunt up to the falls. Not only is this Hawaii’s longest river, but it’s also one of the most popular getaways for Hilo locals and families.
More than anything else, the town of Kalapana is a town that was, not a town that is. It is a sad, black, graveyard of homes where dreams, memories and material possessions were incinerated by nature’s fury. Prior to the eruption of Kilauea volcano, Kalapana was a sleepy town along the Big Island’s eastern coastline. All of that changed in 1990 when Kilauea literally rolled through town. By the time the molten carnage was through, over 100 homes had been burned and swallowed by the shifting orange magma.
Today there are still about 35 homes remaining in Kalapana, although the main highlight is where visitors can hike to watch lava spill into the sea. Ever since Kilauea began erupting in 1983, over 500 acres of new land has been created along the coastline, and even though it isn't officially a part of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Kalapana is often the best place to watch the drama unfold.
Before the golf courses, condos and luxurious resorts, sleepy little Keauhou Bay was the birthplace of a king. In 1814, when Queen Keopuolani gave birth here, it was first believed that her infant son had died a stillborn death. When a priest managed to revive the infant by placing him upon a stone, the child would live to be Kamehameha III—the longest ruling monarch of Hawaii.
Today the Kauikeaouli Stone is on the National Register of Historic Places, and the bay is also the launching point for snorkeling tours to Kealakekua Bay. At night, dozens of manta rays visit Keauhou to feed on schools of plankton, and twilight snorkeling tours and evening scuba dives have become some of the most popular activities on the Big Island. In addition to snorkeling and diving, standup paddle and kayak rentals are available at the oceanfront park.
Much like the neighboring town of Hawi, Kapaau is a town in North Kohala that is experiencing an artistic resurgence. Eccentric artisans and shabby chic galleries now populate sugar-era storefronts, and the pocket-sized town has an intriguing allure that is impossible to pass without stopping.
More so than any other sight, however, Kapaau is known for the King Kamehameha statue that stands just off the highway. Constructed in 1880 in Florence, Italy, the statue was lost during a terrible shipwreck off the coast of the Falkland Islands. For 32 years it sat at the depths of the Atlantic sea floor before it was amazingly found and eventually delivered to its rightful home in Hawaii. The statue was placed in Kapaau since it's considered the birthplace of the king, who was born in a field on Upolu Point only a few miles from town.
Behind the statue, a small museum has a bulletin board with a timeline of Hawaii's history, although you get the feeling that time ticks slower here than in the rest of the state. Continue six miles to Pololu Valley for a sweeping view of the ocean, or descend the rocky, switchback trail down towards the historic, rock-strewn shoreline. For an enjoyable picnic along the coast, pick up lunch from a Kapaau restaurant and head to Keokea Beach Park, a comfortable stretch of grass and picnic tables that fronts the crashing surf.
At the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, terms like “lava lake” “vog” and “fissure eruption” are just part of the daily vocabulary. This informative center is one of the most popular stops while visiting the national park, as it precariously sits on the scorched rim of the Halema‘uma‘u Crater. Be careful of the noxious vog, however, as this sulphur dioxide emitted by the volcano can make it difficult to breathe. To take a break from the volcanic fumes, step inside the Jaggar Museum located next to the observatory. Watch as a seismograph traces the rumbles as they happen beneath your feet, and look at the clothes scientists wear while handling lava in the field. You can also gawk at old photos of fiery Kilauea explosions, with the current eruption running unabated since 1983.
As night falls around the park and the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, a flickering, violent orange glow can be seen from the Kilauea overlook. This paved viewpoint is a short drive from the observatory and Jaggar Museum, and offers a panoramic view that gazes out at one of Earth’s most powerful corners.
Please note: The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory is currently closed as a result of the 2018 eruptions. It was reported in 2019 that the Observatory is looking for a new permanent site.
More Things to Do in Big Island of Hawaii
If you’re like most travelers, Hawi is a town that you didn’t plan on visiting but you end up not wanting to leave. A one-street thoroughfare of art galleries and charm, browsing and lingering are about the fastest pace you will ever manage to attain.
Stop to nibble on locally made fudge and poke your head into art galleries, and browse the local bulletin board to get a feel for the sense of community. Cool off with a guava juice in a funky mom and pop restaurant, and watch as fellow passersby become ensnared by the small-town charm. The wet climate in North Kohala is a welcome change from Kona, and the lush surroundings and fresh tradewinds almost come as a surprise.
Inland from town on Kohala Mountain Road, the winding journey through the pastures toward Waimea is one of the most scenic drives in Hawaii, and in the other direction toward the north end of town, the verdant recess of Pololu Valley is only a short, eight-mile drive. Visitors will soon find that despite the proximity of further adventures and the beauty of the surrounding area, trying to pry yourself away from Hawi is easier said than done.
Kolekole Falls is nestled in the lush jungle-like Kolekole Beach Park on the Big Island of Hawaii’s Hamakua Coast. The falls’ plunge pool is a popular swimming spot, just up from where the stream meets the seashore. With many visitors heading to nearby Akaka Falls instead, Kolekole Falls is an ideal spot enjoy a picnic away from the crowds.
Perched on the slopes of Hualalai Volcano, Mountain Thunder Coffee Plantation produces renowned Kona Coffee and offers free tours of the farm, which is located in a cloud forest overlooking the ocean on Hawaii’s Big Island. Visitors can sample fresh coffee and see the entire process, from where the coffee grows to how it is served.
Family owned and operated, Honopua Farm is an organic farm located in the South Kohala district of the Big Island. When the farm was first planted more than 30 years ago, Marie and Bill McDonald grew mostly flowers. Once they retired, their daughter Roen and her husband Ken Hufford took over tending the soil and added a variety of organic vegetables to mix. Today, the site is especially known for its vegetables, lavender and cut flowers.
Kahua Ranch showcases traditional Hawaiian cowboy (paniolo) culture at a working cattle ranch in the Big Island’s West Kohala mountains. You can take part in authentic ranching experiences, from trail rides and roping to line dancing and songs around the campfire, while learning about the role that ranching played in Hawaiian history.
When Kilauea erupted in 1960, the entire town of Kapoho burned to the ground with the sole exception of a lighthouse. Nearly 100 homes were swallowed by the lava, and the entire community opted to move elsewhere as opposed to rebuild the town. Ironically, however, while nature may have destroyed this town, it’s also the reason that visitors to Hilo still flock here with masks, fins, and snorkels.
Along the coastline where Kapoho once stood, a series of tidepools offer the best snorkeling on the eastern shore of the Big Island. Unlike Hilo which can be rainy and wet, this eastern outpost is often sunny when Hilo is drenched in drizzle, and the protected tidepools offer clear waters that teem with colorful fish. Nearby, at the Champagne Pond, thermal vents help heat the water of this naturally spring fed pool, and it’s the perfect spot for unwinding in nature when the mists of a storm roll in. More easily accessible than Champagne Pond is Ahalanui Park, a public park where a volcanically heated pool sits right on the edge of the ocean. The temperatures can rise to 90degrees and the pool has a soft sand bottom, and small fish can enter the pond through a narrow connection with the sea.
The town of Waikoloa Village is near the western shore of the Big Island of Hawaii, just south of the Kohala Peninsula.
Waikoloa Village is less than nine miles inland from the beach (following the road – not as the crow flies), but it's home to several hotels and resorts. There's also a popular golf resort at Waikoloa Village. There are even more resorts along the water, however, a short drive from the town.
The town of Puako is the narrow strip of land that sits between Waikoloa Village and the ocean, where you'll find many of the resorts. Waikoloa is more residential, whereas Puako is more tourist-centric.
On the Big Island’s Kohala Coast, Puako Bay is a secluded inlet popular with divers and snorkelers for its lava tubes, impressive coral reef, and myriad colorful fish and other marine life. The rocky tide pools are also vibrant, fun places to explore. It’s lovely to relax on the bay’s long white-sand beach, but swimming can be dangerous.
Kailua Bay Cruise Port is situated on the west side of Hawaii’s Big Island in the Kona district, and travelers shuttle to land via the Kailua Pier, located just a stone’s-throw from Kailua Village. The port serves as the ideal jumping-off point from which to explore the Big Island's major attractions, including volcanoes, waterfalls, and sandy beaches.
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