Adventures on the Big Island of Hawai’i

I recently had the opportunity to explore Hawai’i’s amazingly rugged and beautiful Big Island. Here’s my list of top destinations to check out.

Just south of the Kona International Airport by Honohokau Harbor, sea turtles bathe on the shoreline in the late afternoon. At Kaloko-Honokohau National Park, it’s an easy stroll along the beach to see multiple green turtles in the tide pools and all along the beach. It’s a quiet destination with few visitors and easy access as long as you respect the space of the turtles.

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The drive North on highway 19 offers incredible views of the coastal landscape and access to a ton of beaches. But keep heading North until the 19 joins the 270, all the way around the Northwest coast to Pololu Valley lookout. There is a great view of the coast and a black sand beach, which is accessible via a hike down to the ocean.

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is probably one of the most popular destinations on the Island, where visitors can look at two of the world’s most active volcanoes: Kilauea and Mauna Loa.

Mauna Loa, at 13, 679 ft above the sea is a destination for backpackers given the rugged landscape. Kilauea is more accessible with a variety of sights to explore. Kilauea Iki trail thru-hikes the crater and offers scenery that looks like a barren moonscape. Chain of Craters drive in the park takes you all the way down to the ocean with a natural sea arch just off the road. While the end destination is worth the trip, take time to stop in any of the pull outs and explore the amazing patters in the hardened lava flows.

En route to the National Park you can also check out both a black sand and green sand beach. You can take South Point Cliff drive to the Southern most point in the United States and from there access the Papakolea green sand beach via 4WD or a short hike.

Akaka Falls State Park is located on the East coast of the Island. The falls are 440 ft tall and accessible via an easy paved trail – or you can opt to zipline over private land near the park, going over 3000 ft on a line above the 250 ft Kolekole falls. Again, drive the coast along the Mamalahoa highway for gorgeous views of the ocean and opportunities to explore the rocky shorelines with powerful waves crashing at your feet.

Close encounters of the Manta kind – night diving or snorkeling with dozens of manta rays. Staring down the mouth of a 16 ft ray within inches of your face is an epic experience. A quick boat ride at sunset out to Keauhou Bay is the starting point for this experience. Lights attached to your snorkel gear and big spotlights attract mantas that feed off the plankton which are illuminated by the light. This is why the rays have large, gaping mouths. You can check out a video of the experience here!

The Kona Coast is the best place to spot manta rays in Hawaii. At night, spotlights are used to attract mantas that feed off the plankton illuminated by the light.

Of course there are also a ton of beaches to relax, swim, snorkel, surf, and paddle board. The Island is a spectacular destination with tons of wilderness for both exploration and relaxation.

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