Hawaii the Big Island travel guide
If you like Jurassic Park, this is the perfect place to visit. The trail leads you through a lush valley where an old saw mill used to be. All that remains is old abandoned buildings that have been consumed by the fast advancing jungle. The old refinery buildings are an eery place to spend the afternoon exploring. The river that you follow to the beach is worth seeing, along with the black sand beach at the end of the trail. The surf can be big, so always be cautious. The best part about this valley is that there never is a crowd.
Spectacular Akaka Falls drops impressive 135 meters down. For breathtaking unobstructive views follow the paved trail from the parking lot to the viewing deck. The trail is a loop of about 0.6 km and pass through lush rainforest with tall trees and giant bamboos. There is also a lookout for another and almost as tall waterfall, Kahuna Falls (100 m), but unfortunately it's partly hidden by vegetation.
The setting of Green Sand Beach is more spectacular than the greenish colour of the sand. Located at the bottom of an aqua blue horseshoe-shaped bay at the foot of steep cliffs, the first look of this secluded beach will for sure take your breath away. To reach the beach from the parking lot you have to hike for about 5 km along the wild barren coastline on a beaten track. Locals have set up a thriving business by driving peple back and forth in their beat up 4x4s.
It's easy to understand Hapuna Beach's reputation as one of the finest in Hawaii. A gorgeous sliver of white sand enclosed by black lava rocks. However, when the waves are big (in winter), the shore break can get rough and flood the entire beach. Luckily, you can always retrieve to the grassy patches on higher ground at the beach park. Here you also find showers, toilets, and shady pavilions along with a big parking lot (a hint of its popularity).
The Volcanoes National Park on Big Island used to be world famous for its flows of red glowing molten lava. However, the eruption in 2018 put an end to that. Today the national park is all about crater lookouts and hiking over old lava flows. To see where the lava once flow, head to the end of Chain of Craters Road. Since the landscape is constantly changing, start your visit at the well organized visitor center, which has the latest information about what is open or not. The national park is Hawaii's only UNESCO World Heritage site.
Kona's coast offers world renowned sport fishing. Whether you are looking to catch big pelagic fish, or sit at the Harbor Bar and drink ice cold scooners (pints of beer in a frozen glass) and look at the view. Just watching the action at the harbor is something worth seeing. At night time, large tiger sharks come into the harbor looking for fish remains. If you don't like fishing, going out on a boat is worth it for whale watching, dolphins, occasional whalesharks, and world class sunrises/sunsets.
Probably the most scenic road trip on Big Island is Kohala Drive. It's a loop, which passes through many of the different landscapes of Big Island. The route follows Hwy 270 from Kawaihae along the beautiful northwestern coast through dry grassland. During winter you might spot humpback whales off the coast. Continue now through lush forest and the small towns of Hawi and Kapa'au (statue of Kamehameha) before reaching the lookout at Pololu Valley. Backtrack to Hawi and take Hwy 250, which takes close to the summit of the sleeping volcano of Kohala. Here the landscape changes again to a green world of grassy hills with pasture for cows. After a lot of zigzag Mauna Kea (4,205 m) will appear. On clear days you can see the white observatories on the summit. From this point, it's just downhill back to the coast.
Lapakahi is an archaeological complex set along the shore of Koai'e Cove. The first settlers came here 700 years ago and the area was inhabited until 1920. The trail leads through some of remnants of this once thriving settlement, mostly stacked rock walls. There are sweeping views of the beautiful North Kohala coastline and in season you might be able to spot humpback whales.
Magic Sands Beach is a gorgeous beach with tall palms. The powerful shore break is very popular with both body surfers and boogie boarders. As the beach is small, it can get packed, particularly at sunset. The real name is La'aloa Beach, but the nickname "magic" refers to the fact that the beach can vanish during high surf in winter. The picture is taken on a day, when it was closed due to dangerous surf.
The highest volcano in Hawai'i is Mauna Kea (4207 m) and if measured from its underwater base, it's the tallest mountain in the world. The volcano is dormant and has several observatories at the summit, which can be covered in snow. If you have a true 4x4, you can drive all the way to the summit, else you have to park at the Visitor Information Station (VIS) at 2804 m. The hike to the summit will then take about 10 hours roundtrip. Since you drive from sea level to high altitude in two hours, altitude sickness is a possibility.