The sun. The surf. The food. The flowers. Hawai’i’s Big Island is a place of beauty and magic.
Say aloha to Kona, Hawai’i. From surfing 10-footers to walking through lava tubes and even snorkeling with manatees, the Big Island will take you higher than you’ve ever been. Literally.
Myth: You need a passport to visit Hawai’i. No. But, as the islands are disconnected from the contiguous states, they have continued with a culture that remains all their own. And each island is unique. Arrive with a friendly face and an open mind, and enrich yourself with passion for a community that prides itself on tradition.
First and foremost, there should be no doubting the island as a powerful source of energy. Whether it greets you with fields of avocado, and guava hanging from the stems of trees ripped straight from the set of “Jurassic Park,” or shocks you with tumultuous waves that snap your boogie board in half while sending your helpless body soaring through the air at Magic Sands Beach, Hawai’i is an island that gives—but one that could also violently take away. However, after speaking with the locals, it seems that if you respect the island, Pele, in return, will shower you with the same love and care.
It’s best to acquaint yourself with the island’s history before diving straight into paradise. Drive over to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, explore the Nahuku-Thurston Lava Tube, marvel at the Crater Rim, stroll down the Devastation Trail, and soak up all the information you can at the Kilauea Visitor Center.
Continuing your appreciation for the massive transformation the island underwent after the volcanic eruptions, cruise down the Hawai’i Belt Road and gaze on acres upon acres of black soil and charcoal that now dominate several hillsides throughout the island.
Ready for fun in the sun? Continue the lava theme, and visit Punalu’u Beach. This popular destination inspired the hit surf-rock song “Black Sand Beach,” and is characterized by, yes, black sand.
Drive north, and visit Hilo for cold drinks and some of the island’s most mouthwatering entrees. Conscious Culture Cafe & Big Island Booch Kombucha not only creates some of the best kombucha found anywhere near the Pacific Ocean, but it also lays claim to the absolute best dining the island has to offer. Whether you’re eating with the world’s pickiest vegetarian or grabbing some grub with a seafood purist, this essential stop will satisfy all appetites.
After watching the sun set over the Pacific at sea level, it’s time to head straight up Mauna Kea and gaze at the world’s greatest star show. Stop at the Visitor Information Center, located at 9,200 feet, adjust to the thin atmosphere and expand your mind while experts give you a detailed guide to the stars. From witnessing a nebula to viewing the outer rim of Andromeda, there’s no telling what you’re going to see when you take a peek at the stars through some of the world’s biggest telescopes.
Drive on towards the heavens until you reach 14,000 feet above sea level (not recommended for small children or those with heart and respiratory problems). Stepping out of the car will create a sense of atmospheric displacement unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. Reaching the peak of Mauna Kea is akin to landing on a foreign planet, and truly an experience worth remembering.
Before you leave the Big Island, it’s imperative to visit Papakolea Beach, one of only four beaches in the world with green sand. Rumored to be the landing location for the earliest Polynesian settlers, the beach radiates history and tradition with every crashing wave. Many locals consider the area to be a sacred spot.
Located within a few miles of the green sands beach, Ka Lae is the southernmost part of the United States. With an almost endless ocean separating Ka Lae from Antartica, there’s no better way to end your visit than by jumping off the cliffs and plunging 60 feet into the crystal blue Pacific Ocean.
Leave all your previous problems and anxieties behind, and return to the mainland with a renewed sense of self, and also a greater appreciation for the culture of the Hawaiian people. As you leave the island, just know that you are now Ohana, and that the Hawaiian spirit will always reside inside you. Remember, “he mau ke aloha...” (the aloha is everlasting).
For more information about visiting Hawai’i, The Big Island, go to gohawaii.com/en/big-island
Photo courtesy the Hawaii Tourism Authority