The Big Island has something for everyone. There are sandy beaches, trails, spectacular views, mountains, rugged coastline, volcanoes, wildlife, cities, dining, and wonderful people. The Big Island has all climate zones from desert to snow. If you could vacation on only one island I would suggest the Big Island because of its diversity. Here are a few of my memorable experiences on the Big Island:
Big Island Ranger: (full article) On our first trip to the Big Island we stopped at the Visitor’s Center at the Pu’ukohola Heiau. We adopted a ranger for a couple of days and had some very fun adventures.
Captain Cook, Big Island: Captain Cook is a small bay that is a stunning snorkeling area. There is also a Heiau next to the bay. We stopped to see the Heiau and met two women selling souvenirs and fresh honey. I asked if it was OK to take photos of the Heiau because I did not want to accidently show disrespect for the place. She told me that is was OK and she thanked me for asking. After taking photos she told me that she was the family storyteller. In each generation a family member is charged with keeping the family’s stories and oral traditions and passing them to the next generation. She told us about Captain Cook and how he was killed by the natives. However, she told the story from the perspective of the Hawaiians and it was completely fascinating. These are the stories and perspectives that you may never read about in history books. Again, I must emphasize that when you are in the Islands talk with the locals and really listen. You will gain insight and new perspectives.
Turtle Encounter, Big Island: As I did some morning snorkeling a small group of us were in a circle talking. While talking a curious turtle came in the middle of our small circle and popped his head out of the water. The turtle reminded me of Crush from the Finding Nemo movie. He looked at us and then went back under the water and slowly swam away. I swam after him at a safe distance watching as he appeared to fly through the water. Turtles are protected they have no fear of humans and they routinely interact with people. Be sure not to touch the turtles because microorganisms on our skin can adversely affect them.
There are so many wonderful places to see on the Big Island. Here is my short and humble list of places that I enjoyed the most.
Spencer Beach, Big Island: This is just a small beach with a campground. It is a quiet spot where you can swim, snorkel, and watch sea turtles. They have hot showers, picnic tables, and their own parking lot. It is just a pleasant place to enjoy the water and have a snack. I saw my first sea turtle here. I was in the water and saw a large dark creature swimming towards me and I had NO idea what it was. As it got close I could see it was just a friendly and curious sea turtle swimming by. The Pu’ukohola Heiau Visitor’s Center is walking distance from the beach.
Waipeo Valley, Big Island: (full article) This is a spectacular place! The road down is VERY steep and you should not even attempt it without a four wheeler and a lot of courage. On my first trip to the Valley a waterfall fell into the ocean from the overlook. It was a very impressive sight. On the way down you can see the very tall and slender Hiilawe Falls. This is one of the tallest waterfalls in North America.
Pololu Valley, Big Island: (full article) This beautiful valley has dark sand and an impressive overlook. The trail to the beach offers great views of the valley. The road ends at the trailhead parking lot. It is a short but relatively steep trail to the beach that is well worth the effort.
Volcanoes National Park, Big Island: (full article) This vast area of volcanic activity and devastation is a must-see place. Be sure to explore the lava tubes and walk the trails.
Place of Refuge, Big Island: (full article) This is an ancient walled, self-contained community. People in need of safety went there to escape their attackers. One of my favorite memories was meeting and talking with their master carver.
Botanical Garden, Hilo, Big Island: (full article) This is a seriously impressive garden that must be seen to be believed. In one section alone there are over 100 varieties of orchids. Be sure to wear insect repellent because the moist, humid air and the plants make this a favorite spot for insects.
Places I Have Yet to See
While reading through some travel magazines I found these recommendations. These are NOT places that I have see but I will need to find these the next time I am on the Island.
- Manini’owali Beach: Reported to be one of the best beaches that is a bit hard to find. Drive north from the airport on Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway and turn left when at the sign for the Veterans’ Cemetery on the right.
- Anaeho’omalu Beach is reported to be a great place for swimming and snorkeling with sea turtles.
- Pauoa Bay is 22 miles north of Kona Airport is reported to be an excellent snorkeling reef that teams with fish and corals.