For most people, Hawaii is at or near the top of their list of dream destinations. Hawaii invokes images of lush rain forest, white sandy beaches, clear turquoise waters, silky waterfalls, palm tree silhouettes against the sunset, and of course girls in grass skirt and coconut shells swaying to the mesmerizing sound of the steel guitar :)
Hawaii is a land of extreme contrasts. One of the most isolated places on earth, Hawaii is also one of the most accessible tourist destinations, thanks to its status as the 50th U.S. state. Tropical paradise it is, yet snow falls in the winter, forming the perpetual snowcap on top of Mount Mauna Kea. In fact, Hawaii is home to 21 of the world’s 22 climate zones.
Hawaii is a chain of islands formed by ancient volcanic activities. The 6 principal islands are Oahu, Kauai, Molokai, Lanaii, Maui, and Hawaii (aka the Big Island). The Big Island was the home island of native Hawaiian royalty. It is also home to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and several spectacular waterfalls. Kailua-Kona is the largest city, located in the west coast. The middle part of the island is mountainous and unaccessible to motorists. To visit the rest of the island from Kailua, one must drive along the coast.
Kailua beaches are not as good as those on the other islands because they are smaller and usually littered with volcanic rocks. It more than compensates for this with breathtaking sceneries and of course the amazing volcanoes.
Mauna Kea beach (Kaunaoa bay)
Mauna Kea is one of the nicer swimming beaches on the island. The wide crescent swath of fine white sand runs down meet the turquoise waters.
Directions: About 30 miles north of Kailua-Kona. The beach is accessible through the grounds of the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel.
In my opinion, the nicest beach on the Big Island. Located just north of Kailua-Kona, this long, shallow beach is perfect for swimming and body-boarding. Snorkeling isn’t very good, but there are some good spots at the north end of the beach. There are nice facilities on the beach including freshwater showers. Directions: Kailua-Kona. Go a few miles north on Highway 19 until you see Alii Drive.
Akaka Falls State Park
Diving 420 feet before crashing in a thunderous roar, Akaka Falls is surely an awesome sight to be hold. The grounds around the majestic waterfalls is covered by an impossibly lush layer of ferns. Akaka’s sister falls, Honauma Falls, is nearby. The trail picks its way among luxuriant tropical growth, hanging vines, bamboo groves, and wild orchids. you may be tempted to harken back to a time when dinosaurs still roamed the earth.
The Big Island is known for its giant macadamia farms. There’s a large one south of HIlo whose name I’ve forgotten. You can watch how macademia is collected, processed, and packaged. You can even taste samples in the giftshops. However, it turned out that the products sold here cost just as much as on the outside… Besides, macadamia nuts are pretty fattening :)
Pe’e Pe’e falls
A short drive up the road from Rainbow Falls is Pe’e Pe’e Falls. Judging from the empty parking lot, it probably doesn’t get as much exposure as its downstream sister. But it suits us just fine. The falls is far away, but the vista is breathtaking. Directions: Hilo
Rainbow Falls is in the vicinity of Hilo. The thunderous falls can throw up a veritable curtain of sprays, providing the background for its namesake. However it was cloudy when we were there, and no rainbows were visible. Directions: Hilo Rainbow falls is more reminiscent of café au lait
Black sand beach, Punaluu
South of the Hawaii Volcanoes NP, you’ll come across an astounding sight. Black-sand beach’s appearance is a result of ocean waves wearing down and crushing volcanic rocks and debris.
Kealakeua Bay south of Kailua is famous (or infamous) as the site where Captain Cook, the legendary English explorer, lost his life in a skirmish with the natives. An monument now stands at the site, although it is inaccessible by car. The best way to get there is to rent a canoe or kayak, put it in and paddle across the bay. You may even see a playful dolphin on the way across. You can also take a tour boat there, but it’s certainly not as fun. The waters around the monument is clear and teeming with tropical fish, perfect for snorkeling.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Hawaii is home to the world’s most massive volcano, Mauna Loa, and most active volcano, Kilauea. At the Volcanoes NP, you can get up close and personal with the landscape created by the earth’s primal force and, if you’re lucky, you can even witness it in action. If you’re looking for an explosive eruption like Mount St Helens, you’ll be disappointed. Here most likely you’ll see slow-moving lava flow more reminiscent of mudslides.
You can walk on the jagged rim of a crater, gingerly pick your steps on the gnarled surface of a lava field, drive along the Crater Drive for a look at the rugged coast shaped by lava flow, or explore a lava tube the size of a subway tunnel.
Wrath of the gods
You may be tempted to elope with piece of volcanic rock or a handful of sand for souvenir. Guess what, according to local lores, doing this would arouse the anger of the gods, goddesses and assorted local spirits who would ensure that all sorts of malevolent misfortunes befall you. Obviously too much hassle for a piece of rock. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.