Do you use travel guides? Before traveling, I always do a google search of guides like Lonely Planet and Trip Adviser to see what others consider the top sites, and that definitely influences my plans. After returning home, Alan and I think back over our experiences and make our own assessment. Today, I want to share some photos and a few thoughts about our best experiences on Hawaii’s Big Island, and hopefully over the next couple of weeks, I’ll go into more detail on some of the best of the best!
#1. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park was rated as the top site
by all the guides I checked, and I whole-heartedly agree. This national park is on Mauna Loa, the earth’s largest active volcano, and it’s a unique experience to see lava bubbling up from a lava lake with your own eyes. (See the speck of red in the middle and the areas of glowing red further out?)
If you get to the Big Island, don’t miss it! #2. Stargazing on Mauna Kea is another unforgettable experience!
The world’s best stargazing if from the summit of this mighty mountain,
and I was totally bedazzled! #3. Helicopter Tour of the Big Island. This is hugely expensive, so if you go, make sure your tour covers both Volcanoes National Park and the waterfalls. #4. Waterfalls. Akaka Falls is the most accessible, although some say Rainbow Falls is the most beautiful. However, Waihilau Falls (estimated 2,600 feet) in the Waimanu Valley is one of the highest waterfalls in the world. It’s magical! #5. Hapuna Beach…swimming, walking, surfing…whatever. Hapuna is super family friendly and considered by some the best beach, but there are so many!
Hawaii’s beaches are fantastic. #6. Dolphin and whale watching. You can pay big money and take a tour,
but you can also see them from the shore or from the sky. Dolphin Quest offers very fun, very pricey adventures, but I think you could also just walk over to Hilton’s Waikola Village Resort and view them. At least, we were staying there for the conference,
so we enjoyed watching their antics every day.Also, we saw lots of whales playing at a distance from our hotel and at various places along the western coast (although I never got a really great shot).
#7. Snorkeling. Many say the best snorkeling in America is off the beaches on the Kona (leeward) side. We enjoyed great swims with green sea turtles and many colorful fish right at the Hilton. Kealakekua (also known as “Captain Cook”) has an underwater marine sanctuary with dolphins and green sea turtles. #8. Waipi’o Valley. There’s an outbreak of Dengue fever there right now, so no one is allowed in the valley, but there’s a great overlook not far from Akaka Falls. It has the steepest road descent in the U.S. and possibly in the world (4-wheel drive only). If you know what you’re looking for, you can see the valley from the window of your airplane (“A”/left side going to the Big Island and “F/right side if you’re flying back to the U.S.). If you take the helicopter tour that includes waterfalls, you’ll get some great views of the valley. Mosquitoes don’t fly that high! 🙂 #9. Enjoy your hotel! Remember that you’re going to spend a third of your time or more at your room, so go to a lot of bother to find a property where you’ll enjoy that time. We stayed at the Hilton Waikaloa Beach Resort because that was the Mayo Clinic conference site, and it was amazing. You don’t need “amazing,” but even on a budget you ought to be able to find “pleasant.” #10. This never gets in the guidebooks for “top sites,” but Alan says he always travels for the culinary experiences. You’ve got to eat anyway, so make every meal count. There are always delicious new dishes to try, so go for it! I’ve got some great ideas from our time there, which I’ll try to write up for you tomorrow.
So, that’s my “best of the best” experiences on the Big Island. If you read this and have some ideas to add, please do! I’m a firm believer in research and learning from the experiences of others, aren’t you? What about heaven? Is it on your bucket list? Are you hoping to go? Planning to go? Have you read the guidebook (the Bible)? Jesus says he’ll take you there if you ask!“All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:37-40)
(First picture of Waipi’o Valley taken by my cousin, Jim H. Thank you! The rest are mine, taken last week during our trip to Hawaii’s Big Island.)