This May, I visited the Big Island of Hawaii with my husband, named for the fact that it’s the largest island in the archipelago. We planned to stay there for 5 days and chose Kailua Beach on the west coast as our base to explore this beautiful island.
From the moment we landed, lush green trees, black volcanic rocks and crystal blue waters welcomed us everywhere we looked. We started our trip with a day relaxing on the beach in our hotel. The waters were crystal clear, albeit a little cold to swim in.
We started our vacation with a drive to Anaehoomalu Beach, famed for it’s beautiful sunsets and were rewarded by a breathtaking view of the horizon.
On day 2 we went on a scuba diving trip with Kona Diving Company, a PADI certified diving center. I was a licensed diver but it was my husband’s first time diving so he did the ‘Discover Scuba’ 1-day course. The experience was tremendous. We started the day on a boat to the open waters. The diving instructors were fun, friendly and emphasized safety. All the equipment was clean and fit perfectly. The instructors introduced us to some of the underwater life we would see. The dives themselves were amazing! The water was warm and clear, we could see all kinds of sea life – from fish of all colors, shapes and sizes, to octopus and turtles – it was a great way to explore the waters of Hawaii!
The next day we drove to Akaka Falls – an hour and a half long ride across the island. We followed the Saddle Road which took us through a variety of flora and vegetation. We saw rainforests, a massive volcano and drove past numerous cliffs overlooking the ocean. The drive itself made the experience worth it!
The falls themselves were underwhelming, unfortunately. Global warming seems to have reduced this massive waterfall into a small stream but the vegetation in the national park was very interesting!
On our fourth day, we drove to the Volcanoes National Park. Volcanoes are a critical part of the geology and ecology of the Big Island, which was created by the eruptions of 5 volcanoes. 2 of them – Kileaua and Mauna Loa are still active and located within the Volcanoes National Park and may contribute to further expansion of the island.
We did a moderately challenging hike to the crater of Kileaua Iki. I was blown away by how vast the crater was – beyond anything I could have imagined. There were still some holes that were spewing gases like Sulphur dioxide and you could still see the cracks which the molten lava must have created.
On our return from Volcanoes, we stopped by the Punalu’u Beach, famous for it’s black sands. The black sands come from the erosion of the volcanic rocks. Though it was a visual spectacle, the beach was extremely rocky and difficult to lie on. Wading into the water was out of the question, with it’s rocky floor and rough currents. It did make for a great Instagram moment though!
That night, we went on a night-time snorkeling expedition to see the Manta Rays in their natural habitat. The snorkeling company took us into the water, illuminated the water to attract phytoplankton, which are the main food for the mantas. The manta rays were majestic, with their large fins of 10+ feet, massive bodies and elegant swimming style. The 1000-pound mantas swam below us and one even touched us! I highly recommend this experience to anybody visiting the big island!
Some tips for travellers:
- It is extremely sunny during the day – so dont’ forget your sunblock, sunglasses and a wide-rimmed hat
- The evenings can be breezy and even cold, so bring a jacket or sweatshirt
- A car is a must – there are great, low-cost rental options at the airport
- We stayed only on the west coast, however, I recommend you split your time between the east and west coast (Hilo and Kona)
- Food is very expensive in most parts of the island – so be prepared!
- Look for Groupons if you are planning the snorkel or diving experience