If you follow me on instagram, you might have realized that I was somewhere exotic a week or so ago. I spent 8 days on the Big Island of Hawaii. I had previously visited all the other islands and this was my very first time to the Big Island. On the whole, I really love Hawaii. It’s one of those places that you hear is beautiful and relaxing and wonderful but you wonder if it’s all just because it’s a popular travel spot. I have found in my travels that some places are touristy just to be touristy (Vegas anyone?) and some places are touristy because they are truly spectacular (the grand canyon anyone?).
Hawaii is one of those truly wonderful places. Not only is it beautiful with absolutely perfect weather, Hawaii has a culture and spirit that is impossible to ignore. The people are the absolute nicest that you will find anywhere. They call it the “aloha spirit” and it is very real. The Hawaiian people and the people that have made Hawaii their home are just genuinely nice, good hearted people. But they are not just nice, they go out of their way to be nice to you and help you out. They have the opposite of a “big city mentality”. They are not in a rush, they are not trying to get ahead of you. They want more than anything to share their glorious island with you.
By the end of my trip, I had decided that the Big Island may be my favorite of them all. Let me share it with you now.
1. AKAKA FALLS: The falls are on the rainy/Hilo side of the island. There is a paved path through lush greenery that eventually leads you to the stunning Akaka Falls. They are supposedly the best falls on the island and since they are so easy to get to, they are not to be missed.
2. WAIPI’O VALLEY: This picture is from the Waipi’o Valley lookout which is on the north eastern side of the island. From this lookout, you can drive down into the valley and then to the beach or further into the valley. But you have to have four wheel drive. Really. And since we did not, we walked down which many people do. It is not easy. It is a very strenuous hike both ways. But the reward at the bottom is so worth it. There are just a few families that live in the valley and they are very isolated from the rest of society and that is the way they want it. They are the least friendly people on the island but we found them to still give us a smile as we went by. If you walk into the valley and not towards the beach, you will find a double waterfall. We even saw horses walking around freely.
3. PAINTED CHURCH: There is a lovely little church that is in what they call the “captain cook” area of the island, because he is buried there, south of Kona. The church was erected and painted in 1899 by Father John Velghe. The grounds around the church were some of the most beautiful on the island.
4. TEX DRIVE IN: This local spot is in Honoka’a which is the last stop before you get to Waipi’o Valley. You can get traditional hawaiian food like rice with meat, and egg and gravy. They also specialize in Malasadas which are a doughnut that is traditionally portuguese. It’s all so good and so not good for you. But it is a great place to fuel up before your hike into Waipi’o Valley.
5. WHAT’S SHAKIN: Another food spot that we found on our way up the northwest coast from Hilo. The little smoothie and sandwich shop is located on a farm just north of the famous botanical garden. The fruit is straight from their farm and the smoothies are so good. They were perfect for tiding us over on our way to Tex.
6. WELCOME TO KONA: We stayed in Kona and it is beautiful, sunny and quant. The water is so calm and clear that you can snorkel, swim or kayak with ease. It’s a great home base for your trip.
7. POLOLU VALLEY: We drone from Kona north all the way until we couldn’t drive any further. This brings you to this beautiful, majestic lookout. Just like Waipi’o Valley, you can hike down to the beach. While this hike isn’t quite as strenuous at the hike down Waipi’o, it was pretty steep and I was glad I had my hiking boots on.
8. STACKED ROCKS: Once we reached the beach in Pololu Valley, we saw many stacked rocks. While this is a very popular tradition among visitors, the Hawaiian people consider it tampering with nature and view it as a sign of disrespect.
9. PUUHONUA O HONAUNAU NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK: This historical site was once the home of royalty and a refuge for lawbreakers. You can take a self guided tour and you might get a chance to see their famous green sea turtles.
10. BEACHES OF THE BIG ISLAND: The big island isn’t known for it’s white sandy beaches. It is known for rocky or quickly disappearing beaches. But when you do find a sandy beach, no matter how small, it is a minor triumph.
11. HAWI: One of the best things about the big island is the tiny towns you come across while driving around. They are quaint, sweet, old and charming. Hawi is definitely one of the best. We stopped for lunch and ice cream on our way to Pololu Valley.
12. KONA, AGAIN: Just another beautiful day in Kona.
13. THE RAINY SIDE: Trees on the eastern side of the island where it rains most days and creates a rainforest like climate complete with waterfalls.
14. BIG EMPTY ISLAND: Something I really loved about this island is all the empty space. It really is a big island (all the other Hawaiian islands can fit inside of it twice) and there is a ton of empty space. When you are driving from town to town, you are likely to go miles and miles without seeing anything. I just loved riding around see seemingly endless empty land.
15. PAINTED CHURCH: The exterior of the Painted Church.
16. DON THE BEACHCOMER: This bar is located inside the Royal Kona Resort and claims to have invented the Mai Tai. While the internet seems to dispute this, the Mai Tai’s are great and only $5.50 during happy hour. You can also catch an amazing sunset or see dolphins frolicking from the ocean front bar. And after all that, who cares if they invented the drink or not?
17. MORE TOTEMS: Another view at the Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park.
18. CHURCH NEAR HAWI: The churches in Hawaii are all so quaint and simple.
19. HUT: At the Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park.
20. ROCKY COAST: The best part about a largely rocky coast is the waves crashing ashore.
And now for my very favorite video from the trip of waves crashing. This was taken at Laupahoehoe Point Beach Park which is famous for getting hit by a tsunami in 1946. Don’t mind the squealing, that’s me having a good time.