Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park and the Lava Tour were the main highlights of our trip to the Big Island. We did, however, drive around the whole island and stopped to check out some cool locations.
The Island of Hawai'i is also known as Big Island or Hawai'i Island. It is larger than all the islands in the archipelago combined and located in the Southeastern most tip of the United States of America. The largest city on the island is Hilo. We landed on the Western side of the island, in the city of Kona. We had booked our rental car from Alamo and thought their service was great. We didn't have to wait at all. We got the keys and the car immediately. The car was in good shape.
From Kona, we drove to Volcano (South of the island) and spent one night and one day there. From Volcano, we drove to Hilo (East of the island) and spent one night and one day there. From Hilo, we drove back to Kona and spent a night and day there. Driving counterclockwise we got to see all parts of the island as well as a short trip to the middle where Mauna Kea (a million year old volcano) is located.
I've already spoken about my first stop at Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. Our next stop was Hilo. Hilo is closest to the park so if you ever plan to visit the park, Hilo could be a good place to stay. Although, many people drive down from Kona as well. Driving from Kona is a 2.5 hours drive.
Hilo is the rainy part of the island. It rains all the time. I can't remember any time of the day when it wasn't raining. But because it rains all the time, Hilo is a lot greener than any other part of the island. Hawai'i Tropical Botanical Garden is also located in Hilo. It is a 40-acre valley of natural green house and is a museum of living plants that attracts photographers, gardeners, botanists, scientists, and nature lovers from around the world.
There are lots of waterfalls in Hilo. My husband went off one morning to check these out. I was wayyy too exhausted after the lava tour to want to walk anymore so I slept the morning off.
Wailuku River State Park is home to the 80-foot Rainbow Falls and Pe'epe'e Falls which feeds the beautiful pools called Boiling Pots. Rainbow Falls is probably the more famous one because it is right in the middle of the city. Akaka Falls is another gorgeous waterfall that should be on the 'must see' list.
|Pe'epe'e Falls and Boiling Pots|
While you are in Hilo, do check out the Liliuokalani Gardens. I didn't get to go all the way in but just seeing it from the outside, it looked so gorgeous. If I had more time, I would've stayed here longer. The beach parks are beautiful. There was a cruise ship parked right outside our hotel. The food wasn't anything great. We tried a few places; we didn't like the food at all.
There was this one breakfast place which we went to. We thought it was better than other food places we checked out. It is called Just Cruisin' Coffee. Although, it is famous for its variety of coffees but I thought their milkshakes were way better than the coffee. It is a drive-through coffee shop with very limited seating in the shop itself. There are a few breakfast options but whatever we ordered was good.
|Veggie croissant at Just Cruisin' Coffee|
We read in a guide book that the best place to get good and cheap local cuisine was Cafe 100. We didn't like the food at all. Overall, I can't remember one good restaurants that I thought was worth spending money at.
From Hilo, we decided to take the Saddle road and drive to the summit of Mauna Kea. However, much of Mauna Kea is below sea level; when measured from its oceanic base, its height is 33,500 ft (10,200 m)—more than twice Mount Everest's base-to-peak height of 3,650-4,650 meters (11,980-15,260 ft). Mauna Kea is about one million years old, and thus passed the most active shield stage of life hundreds of thousands of years ago. Today, Mauna Kea's summit is one of the best sites in the world for astronomical observation because a number of factors create favorable observing conditions. We didn't have enough time to visit Mauna Kea in the night for star gazing (for what it is famous for) so we just went in the day and came back. Mauna Kea is one of the only places in the world where you can drive from sea level to 14,000 feet in about two hours.
Also, if you are wondering if it is safe to drive on the Saddle Road-- It is perfectly paved and there is nothing wrong with taking your rental car and driving down this road. It is the shortest connection road between Hilo and Kona.
|At Wailoa River State Park|
While you're in Hilo, check out the statue of King Kamehameha. It is located at the front of the Wailoa River State Park. Kamehameha I, also known as Kamehameha the Great, conquered the Hawaiian Islands and formally established the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi in 1810. He was one of the most striking figures in Hawaiian history, a leader who united and ruled the islands during a time of great cultural change.
Also, if you are in Hilo and have some time, go check out the Punalu'u Black Sand Beach. It was once wiped out by a lava flow and now there is black sand. Literally, black sand. I've heard it's gorgeous. I got to drive by it but didn't have enough time to stop and click some pictures.
|Walking along Alii Dr.|
Our next stop was Kona, where it was sunny, busy and touristy. Kona side is very different from the Hilo side. We heard that the Hilo people don't go to Kona and the people from Kona don't go to Hilo. Apparently they don't like each other and both sides think they are superior than the other. We left our hotel and walked along the street and it was filled with tourists and little souvenir shops. I thought it was gorgeous.
If you get time to do kayaking, I'd suggest to go to the Kealakekua Bay and kayak across to get to the Captain Cook Monument. This monument was built where Captain Cook died. To get there you can go by boat, kayak or hike down a mountain. I've heard the hike is hard. But I've heard snorkeling there is absolutely gorgeous. We only had three days at the Big Island and with a heavy heart, I had to chose to skip this.
I think my husband liked Hilo better and I liked Kona better. I would've liked Hilo more if it didn't rain there all the time. I feel happy where I can hold my camera in my hands and click pictures without worrying about it getting wet. I think the rain factor was the only thing that kept me from enjoying Hilo more, but I do agree that Hilo is way prettier than Kona. I'm a green lover; I love anything rich in the color green.
|Hawaiian Shave Ice|
While walking around, we decided to try the famous Hawaiian shave ice. I looooved it! I loved how there were just endless flavors that we could try. My best combination yet was litchi, mango and watermelon with lilikoi sauce. Condensed milk will also taste really good on the shave ice.
The next day, we went to check out Hapuna Beach. It is north of Kona and is considered one of the popular beaches of the Big Island. I really wanted to see the Mauna Kea beach as well. Apparently it is the only white sand beach here. But it was further north and had very limited parking space.
|At Hapuna Beach|
Hapuna Beach was beautiful and the waves were easy enough for a quick swim in the sea. The water was beautiful and crystal clear. The sea was this gorgeous color of blue. Very picturesque. There were some tourists but it wasn't awfully crowded either.
There are loads of gorgeous beaches on the Big Island. It all depends on how much time you have and what your priorities are. After a brief swim in the sea and soaking up the sun, we headed back to Kona and got packed up for our flight to Oahu.
|Ankit + Akoo = Ankoo|
I loved every moment spent on this island. I wish we had more time here.
Loads of love!