There are few places on earth that have a landscape as diverse as the one you will find on the Big Island of Hawaii. The Big Island contains almost every kind of climate zone on earth (11 of the 13 to be precise). Here you can experience climates ranging from "Wet Tropical" to "Polar Tundra". The hiking that you can find here is some of the best in the world and today we decided to go out with Hawaiian Walkways to see some of the rain forested areas of the island, as well as the Volcanoes National Park.
We stayed in Hilo the night before our excursion at a place called Uncle Billy's. It was slightly rustic, but the facilities were more than adequate to fit our needs. We woke up early so we had enough time to go through the breakfast buffet before we were picked up out front. We showed up to the lobby a few minutes early and were pleased to see that our guide was already there waiting for us.
Our guide explained that the trips that they offer are very much customized. He went further to say that the majority of the trips have about 5 people and at the beginning of each trip he likes to go over what everyone would like to see during the day. He asked each person what they wanted to see and everyone said either "a waterfall" or "the volcano". After we had all given our requests he calmly smiled and said that he didn't see any reason why we shouldn't be able to see both of those things before the day was over. The first thing we were going to see was a waterfall.
He steered the van up the Hamakua Coast and within about ten minutes he turned off of the main highway onto a much smaller road that wound its way along the coastline. Eventually he pulled the van to a stop in front of a locked gate that blocked a narrow dirt road that led off into the jungle. He turned the van off and pulled his massive key ring out of the ignition unlocked and opened the gate. A few minutes later we were parking the van right near the top of a very large waterfall. We got out of the van and took a hike that was about 10 minutes long down to the pool at the base of the waterfall. It was an absolutely beautiful place!
When we were done at the waterfall we got back in the van and headed back towards Hilo en route to Volcanoes National Park. When we arrived our guide issued us backpacks, walking sticks, and foul weather gear before we set out on the trail. Once we got underway I was impressed by how much we got to see. We got to see steam vents, all kinds of varieties of volcanic rocks, very rare plants and even an enormous flume of exhaust coming up from the erupting volcano. What amazed me even more than the sights was more the wealth of information our guide shared with us along the way. Being born and raised in Hawaii it feels like a lot of the time when I do trips like this I'm learning about things I already know........but this trip was different, at the end of the day I felt like I had learned an enormous amount about the culture, history and unique geology of the Big Island. It was great!
The morning we went on the Body Glove I woke up and looked out the window and was delighted to see that there was not a breath of wind in the sky and the ocean was completely calm...... Perfect weather for snorkeling!
This morning we checked in for our days snorkel excursion down at boat ramp at Keauhou Bay, which is located on the southern end of Kona Town. As we pulled into the parking lot we could see the large blue shape of the Fair Wind II tied up to the pier.
Today we went out on a smaller sized sailing catamaran named the "Kamanu". We met the boat down at Honokohau Harbor to check in for the trip. As I entered their office I noticed some amazing pictures of Manta Rays on the walls that the receptionist told me were taken on the evening "Manta" snorkel, I was impressed.
After spending most of the day down in Kona snorkeling we had worked up quite an appetite. During the drive up to Waikoloa all I could think about was the huge luau buffet that was waiting for us once we got there.
The Navatek is not your normal boat. When it was built (and in many ways even to this day) it stood on the absolute pinnacle of maritime technology. It is a SWATH style vessel which is a design that is essentially a cross between a hydrofoil and a catamaran.
When we pulled into the parking lot at the Keauhou Bay we could immediately see that the day's ocean conditions were absolutely perfect for kayaking. We selected our two person kayak from a group of kayaks that were lined up on the shore.
If you would like to get out in nature when you're in Hawaii then you should definitely consider adding a hiking tour to your vacation's itinerary. While many of the trails in Hawaii are publicly accessible, many are not and are located on private lands.
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