Written by Angela Brya.
On our third trip to Hawaii in May, we decided to visit the much talked about “Big Island” Hawaii. Big it is, stretching almost 4000 square miles. All of the main islands could be placed inside the borders and still have extra space. It is so large that Hawaii host two airports, one on the west side of the island outside the city of Kona and one on the east side in the city of Hilo.
Hawaii is one of the most unusual looking islands that I have seen. The vast differences throughout the island are part of its charm. To fully appreciate the Big Island of Hawaii, you will need to stay at least a week. Its striking appearance is due in part to Kiluea, the world’s most active volcano. Which continues its periodic spurts of lava. Parker Ranch is the largest privately owned cattle ranch in the United States. In other areas you will find, waterfalls plunge into jungled valleys, macadamia nut orchards, coffee plantations and Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano.
We opted to stay at the Royal Kona Resort in the heart of Kona, with a spectacular setting overlooking beautiful Kailua Bay. This was the perfect location for to explore the west side of the island. The northwest coast has two of the most luxurious accommodations on the island, The Four Seasons Hualalai and the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel. Both have been deemed one of the best resorts in the world.
A couple of favorites are the Puako located on the Kohala Coast, north of Kona. This is a white sand beach shaded by kiawe trees. You will find rewarding snorkeling around the tidal pools. A 20-minute walk leads to the Petroglyphs off Puako Road. Petroglyphs are pictures that were carved in lava before it dried. It is quite a site to see.
South of Kona, is the Puuhonua O Honaunau (Place or City of Refuge). This park requires a minimal entrance fee. This is a mock Hawaiian village with exhibits that explain everything from dietary habits to land ownership. Sights include old-style thatched roof hales, burial caves, a stone for playing konane (a royal game something like checkers), a fishpond and canoe landing. Staff members demonstrate various aspects of the ancient life and traditional skills and crafts.
Hilo, on the west side of the island is the easiest and best location for seeing Volcanoes National Park. The most visited attraction takes up over 344 square miles, encompassing Kilauea and Mauna Loa volcanoes. Bring your hiking shoes, for there are closed to 150 miles of hiking trails and scenic drives. The terrain ranges from moon-like craters and steaming firepits to thick rain forest. The Volcano House is the current hotel and the park even boast a golf course.
Most of the beaches are not ideal for swimming, although offer some wonderful snorkeling. Two of the most unique on the island are the black and green sand beaches. If you drive directly south you will come across palm shaded Kaimu Black Sand Beach. Papakolea or green sand beach is one of the most difficult beaches to get to on the island. It is about an hour and 45-minute drive from Kona, and then about an hour’s hike. Located at the bottom of steep cliffs, there is no shade and the waters can be dangerous.
As you can see, the “Big Island” has something for everyone. It certainly was a wonderful destination for my husband and I to celebrate our 10-year anniversary. I have visited four of the Hawaiian Islands, Kauai, Maui, Oahu and Hawaii. What’s next Lanai or Molokai? Please call me when you are ready to visit this destination of overwhelming beauty.