What Makes the Big Island Activities and Big Island Tours So Special?

What Makes the Big Island Activities and Big Island Tours So Special?


The Big Island delivers primordial experiences, and these experiences translate easily into Big Island tours and Big Island activities as you will shortly see.  There are many things that make the Big Island so special and this all begins with the volcanic activity that began millenniums ago and still occurs to this day. 

You can sense the island emerging from a rupture in the ocean floor. The elements have been continuously at work over eons to dismantle and refurbish the landscape and, in recent times, impact its inhabitants. Unmerciful ocean waves. Torrential rains. Massive amounts of crushed rock. Rock surfaces that gave way and formed rivers and streams. Lava flowing on lava. No other Hawaiian island offers the Big Island’s diversity and range of landscapes and climates.

Kauai and Ni’ihau came first. Then, less than a million years ago, Hawai’i emerged. Kilauea and Mauna Loa went to work making the BigIsland even bigger. All the while seeds struggled to colonize volcanic rock. Marine creatures sought havens and homes in the ocean. Animals floated in with debris. Lucky (or perhaps unlucky) birds blew off course and onshore with storms. An amazing range of climates and landscapes made survival of the species both possible and yet unpredictable.

The Big Island actually inherited 10 of the planets 15 climatic zones. Climate and weather together probably are more diverse than any other chunk of land in the world. Weather patterns set the stage for activities and tours throughout the island. Kona and Kohala, for example, have clear mornings and afternoon clouds created by thermal heating. Most of the infrequent rainfall comes in summer afternoons or evenings.

Hilo has earned the title of the wettest city in the nation. Most rains fall at night. Day-time showers are short. But that makes Hilo really green – a haven for tropical plants, a mecca of waterfalls. In complete contrast, the Kohala resort area is very dry. Sunshine is almost guaranteed. But a combination of air heating up over lava fields and air flowing in from the ocean creates breezy afternoons. The Kona side also has the calmest, clearest water. Hence watersports are unmatched on the island.

The Big Island is a paradise for bird species and bird lovers. Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park has been (and hopefully still is) a place for birders to see `Oma`o, `Apapane, `Amakihi, `Elepaio, `Io (Hawaiian Hawk) and the White-tailed Tropicbird and the Nene (Hawaiian Goose) on roadsides. ‘Apapane birds flourished in what became Volcano Park. Their crimson feathers with black details on wings and tails were easy to spot among ‘öhi‘a trees, sipping nectar from the lehua blossoms and emitting trills, whistles, clicks and squeaks.

Like other forest birds that once filled the islands with the trills and peeps, habitat loss and climate change forced the ‘Apapane  to move to higher elevations. Some of the best locations to see upland and grassland birds at these higher elevations are difficult to reach, like Pu`u La`au, a good location to see the Pueo (Hawaiian Owl) and the forest birds, Palila, `Amakihi, `Elepaio, and possibly even the `Akiapola`au. Forestbirds can be seen more easily in the Hakalau National Wildlife Refuge, but only on weekends and holidays, with permission.

Almost everyone has seen images of double-hulled canoes propelled by sails landing somewhere in the Hawaiian Islands. For reasons unknown, in about the fifth century AD these masters of celestial navigation left the Marquesas Islands, 2500 miles away. They arrived at the most isolated island chain in the world. No edible plants or animals awaited them. Their own taro and local fish sustained them. Five hundred years later colonists arrived from Tahiti. Contact with and memories of Tahiti had vanished by the time Captain Cook arrived in 1778.

By the end of the 18th century, the Big Island’s Kamehameha the Great had conquered the other islands. Hawaii was in disarray. Captain George Vancouver brought long-horned cattle to Kamehameha as a gift in 1793. Fierce wild herds of the cattle hid in valleys and canyons. To shoot them, Kamehameha hired a gutsy New Englander, John Parker, who had jumped ship near the Big Island and married Kamehameha the Great’s grand-daughter. Parker kept the best of them and, in 1847, founded Parker Ranch. Today, on one of the nation's oldest, most historic and largest (125,000 acres!) ranches, Hawaii’s cowboys (Paniolos) tend to nearly 250 horses and over 35,000 cattle and provide horseback rides.

Visiting just a few places can reveal a great deal about the Big Island’s distinctiveness. In Hilo, the Earth Heritage exhibit in the Lyman Museum displays key feature of Hawaiian geology, plant, animal and fish life as well as Hawaiian history. Ancient Hawaiians lived under a very strict set of sacred laws that even their Ali’i or royalty were obligated to obey. Punishment for breaking one of these laws (kapu) was death. The only means to escape was to reach what was called the Pu'uhonua or Place of Refuge. The Pu'uhonua o Honaunau NationalHistorical Park is the largest of the surviving places of refuge. Maintained by the National Park Service, there is a small fee to enter the Park.

Past history is all around the Big Island and offers marvelous adventures. Waipi'o Valley, for example, is steeped in the history and culture ofHawaii and also is one of the most beautiful places in the world. On both sides of the valley, cliffs reach almost 2000 feet with hundreds of cascading waterfalls, including fabulous Hi'ilawe.

The size and diversity of the Big Island are great assets for visitors. The two sides of the Big Island are quite different and always seem to be changing. Beaches seem to shift to other locations. Nature engulfs trails. The Kona side has the sunshine and the calmest, clearest water inHawaii. Water sports are unmatched. It has the best beaches. Just above Kailua-Kona lies a beautiful ‘oh’a cloud forest on a mountain that creates its own rain through convection.

Above Kailua-Kona is the “artist community” of Holualoa and small farmers growing coffee and offering tours. In addition to visiting theKona Coffee Living History Farm, Coffee lovers will want to visit Greenwell Farms before heading to Kealakekua Bay where history resides in the Place of Refuge and the Captain Cook Monument (1874). Spinner dolphins and lots of fish inhabit the crystal clear waters around the monument that are a favorite snorkeling spot on the Big Island. Not easy to get to, this snorkeling spot is a favorite of kayakers and the destination of several very popular trips by both large and small boats.

The beaches on the Kona side of the island are among the best in Hawaii. The water is clear and warm and often calm, thanks to the shape of the island and prevailing current. As for beaches, Hapuna Beach is unsurpassed with Mauna Kea Beach a close second. WaialeaBeachManini’owali, Makalawena, Makole’a Beach, Old Kona Airport Beach Park, Kahalu’u Beach Park, Kiholo Bay, Kahalu’u andHonaunau all include attractions for snorkelers. Beautiful beaches on the south coast, like Honomalino BayRoad to the SeaGreen Sand Beach and Punalu’u Black Sand Beach, including secluded black sand beaches, will delight and surprise visitors.

Waters on the Kona side of the Big Island, calm, clear and teaming with fish, definitely have many of the best beaches and offer some of the best snorkeling in the state, but also be sure to check out Kealakekua Bay near Captain Cook Monument, Pu’uhonua o HanaunauPapawai BayMahukona, and Puako. Divers will want to try Kohala beaches such as Kapa’a Beach Park and Mahukona. The Kona side also has sunset or nighttime snorkeling with manta rays, watching the graceful creatures roll, glide and feed.

Kona also is most famous for big game fishing. Waters off the Kona coast drop to great depths very quickly. Kona’s waters are home to every billfish found in the Pacific: blue marlin, black marlin, striped marlin, sailfish, shortbill spearfish and broadbill swordfish. In addition to blue marlin, visitors catch ahi tuna, ono, spearfish, mahi mahi and more. Big blues of all sizes are available year-round.  Like manta ray snorkeling, most boats leave from Honokohau Harbor, just a little north of Kona, troll nonstop and most passengers are novices. Another way to see coral reefs and just about everything beneath Kona’s coastal waters is by submarine.

In contrast to the Kona side, the Hilo side has green abundance, and adjoins Kilauea. Northward from Hilo are a very scenic route to AkakaFalls, the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, the nature paths of Botanical World and its ziplining, and the marvelous Hamakua Coast leading to Waipi’o Valley. Six miles deep and the largest of seven valleys on the windward side of the Kohala Mountains, tours by wagon and horseback are the best ways to get down to and see the beauties of Waipio Valley.

Especially in recent times, the Big Island of Hawaii is famous for its Kilauea Volcano. In 1983 Kilauea started an eruption that continued to 2018. One of the most active volcanoes in the world, Kilauea also is the most invisible. You can’t see it from anywhere on the island. Many people think of it as part of Mauna Loa. But Mauna Loa is a separate volcano, the second youngest and second-most active volcano on the Big Island. Mauna Loa should be much more famous. It is also the largest volcano on the face of the earth, covering the entire southwest part of the island. Most people don’t know that Mauna Loa has erupted at least once every decade.

Kilauea’s recent eruption has been a vivid reminder that the Big Island was formed entirely by volcanic activity. Three of the island’s five volcanoes are still active, one is extinct and one dormant. Kilauea Volcano, on the south-east side of the Big Island, has been erupting nearly continuously since 1983, destroying the town of Kalapana in 1990 and Vacationland Hawaii more recently. An earthquake in May 2018, measuring 6.9 on the Richter Scale, caused nearly 2,000 residents to be evacuated from the Leilani Estates subdivision and surrounding area.

Extinct Kohala Volcano, oldest of the volcanoes on the Big Island, emerged from the sea more than 500,000 years ago. Over 200,000 years ago an enormous landslide removed the volcano's northeast flank forming the amazing sea cliffs that every visitor should see. Kohala’s two much larger neighbors, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, have buried the southern part of the volcano.

Dormant Mauna Kea (which in Hawaiian means "White Mountain" because of snow in its summit), tallest of Hawaii's volcanoes, in fact is the tallest mountain in the world if measured from the floor of the ocean to its summit. The famous summit of Mauna Kea is home to 13 world-class telescopes and numerous observatories, including the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy. One of the best places on earth to view the heavens, trips to the summit to view sunset on the stars are a special treat. 90% of all the stars visible from the earth can be seen from the summit of Mauna Kea.

Hualalai, on the western side of the Big Island of Hawaii, is the third youngest and third-most active volcano on the island. The mountain has not seen significant volcanic activity since the 1700s. Six different vents erupted lava, two of which produced lava flows that reached the sea. The Kona International Airport is built atop one of the lava flows that reached the sea. Businesses, homes, and roads have been built on the slopes and flows of Hualalai.

Along with Mauna Loa, Kilauea forms part of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. As a result of recent eruptions, sections of the park closed but now have reopened, including the Kilauea Visitor Center, back country trails and camp sites. There is no more active lava in the park. The lava lake in Halemaumau Crater has completely drained. Halemaumau itself, however, has grown.

Established more than 100 years ago, as the 13th US national park, the park is full of historical significance, volcanic wonders, Hawaiian petroglyphs, walk-through lava tubes, lava trails, giant pits, luscious rain forests, plenty of wildlife and offers marvelous vistas. The entirety of the Chain of Craters Road with its scenic viewpoints can be driven.  Crater Rim Drive and Chain of Craters Road make visiting the park easy by car.

Visit Steam Vents, Sulphur Banks, Kilauea Iki Overlook, Pu?u Pua?i Overlook and other sightseeing. At the Steam Vents, rain that has seeped into the ground is heated by Kilauea and comes out as steam. A nearby path leads to the Sulphur Banks where hydrogen sulphide gas and steam form sulphur deposits on the ground. Past Kilauea Overlook is Jagger Museum and the Hawaii Volcano Observatory. The road leads to Kilauea Iki Overlook (“little Kilauea”), Thurston Lava Tube, Pu’u Pua’i Overlook, and Devastation Trail, worth a short walk.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park contains some of the island’s best hiking, including Keanakako'i Crater and guided hikes like the Pu’u Kahuku Trail where the earliest Hawaiians lived in native forests and worked on ranches. Chain of Craters Road leads 19 miles to the shore, with a turnoff to Hilina Pali Lookout and a great view of the shoreline. Another great view opens up at the Holei Pali Lookout near mile marker 15. A mile further on is the Pu’u Loa Petroglyph Trail, the largest petroglyph field in Hawaii.

The Most Popular Activities and Tours on the Big Island

ATV Tours. ATV tours are a fun way to explore beautiful but difficult to access places such as the wild forests and cliffs on the Kohala coast. These tours typically take you on a 10+ mile drive through private lands with stops on the way at scenic points, historic sites, and waterfalls.

Helicopter Tours. The Big Island includes, and often hides, many of its awe-inspiring wonders that are difficult or impossible to see except from the air and hovering over them. In the past volcano + Hamakua coast helicopter tours have been the most popular. The best places to see waterfalls and dramatic cliffs on the BigIsland are on the north (Kohala) and east (Hilo + Hamakua) side of the island to Waipi’o valley and its cliffs and waterfalls.

Horseback Riding. Several ranches around Waimea offer opportunities to explore their pastures with spectacular views of the coastline and peaks. Rides also are offered along the ridge and floor of Waipi’o Valley.

Luau Shows. A Luau show is a memorable way to experience local food, Hawaiian and Polynesian culture and entertainment at a Kohala resort.

Scenic Tours and Ziplining. Scenic tours on the Big Island reveal places that you might otherwise miss. Some of these tours also include ziplining experiences high above scenic ravines, jungles, meadows, and forests.

Snorkeling and Swimming with Dolphins. Hawaii is famous for its warm tropical waters and diverse marine life. Waters around the Big Island are teeming with tropical fish of every size and color and snorkeling is the perfect way to explore this beautiful underwater world that includes swimming with the dolphins.

Helicopter Tours

Mother Nature and history have made the Big Island an incredibly diverse collection of fantastic sights by helicopter: volcanic landscapes, black sand beaches, jagged cliffs, tropical rain forests, waterfalls and rivers, and very dramatic landscape changes from windward to leeward sides.

Most of the excited chatter about the Big Island’s helicopter tours understandably has focused on Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and the Kilauea volcano, before and after its eruption. Within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park’s more than 330,000 acres, Kilauea had been erupting since January 3, 1983, producing 250,000–650,000 cubic yards of lava per day. Beginning in May, 2018, however, the lava lake that existed inside Halema‘uma‘u crater disappeared and lava flows from Pu?u ?O?o crater ceased. As a result there is no molten lava or lava glow to see anywhere in or out of the park or from the air.

The Park still remains a unique collection of volcanic vistas from a helicopter that you can’t see any other way. In addition to the incredible new forms of landscape in the Park on the southeast side of the Big Island, there are other fantastic sights up north over the Kohala and Waikoloa areas and Hamakua with its beautiful shorelines. In less than an hour, from a helicopter you can view the awesome beauty of the Kohala Mountains and the deep winding valleys of Waimanu, Pololu and Waipio.

Visitors also can combine helicopter and land tours that include some of the most unique and beautiful landscapes on the Big Island. TheWaikoloa-Kohala Coast is a favorite for seacliffs, valleys, waterfalls, and can include the option of landing near a gorgeous 1200-ft. waterfall on the Kohala Coast. Departing from Hilo, you can fly over Hualalai, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa and then take a land tour that includes the black sand beach of Punalu'u.

For another combination of experiences, fly to Hilo, visit the historic downtown and its museums and landmarks before heading north to Botanical World Adventures for ziplining through the rainforest or a fun Segway tour through tropical gardens. At the northern tip of the island, a helicopter and land tour can last as long as 8 hours and even include a swim beneath a waterfall and a walk along a historic forest trail.

Leaving from Honokohau Marina, a few miles north of Kailua-Kona, you can head south for a swim with the dolphins and snorkeling atKealakekua Bay, Honaunau, Ho’okena Beach and Kahalu?u Bay. The water is almost always calm and has exceptional visibility most of the year in Honaunau bay, often referred to as the “City of Refuge” (Puuhonua O Honaunau National Historic Park). Often you can see pods of dolphins swimming close to shore.

You can hike down into Kealakekua Bay to the Capt. Cook monument for the marvelous snorkeling. But the distance is 1.9 miles from your car to water entry points and over 1300′ in elevation. After snorkeling you have to hike up again. A better option might be one of several tour operators that will take you on a morning or afternoon snorkeling cruise to Kealakekua Bay. These cruises take between 3 hours and half a day and provide cultural, nature and historical information pertaining to Kealakekua Bay.

Explore the majestic Kona coastline while you sail through the rich history of this sacred island on board the Noa Noa,  a 50-foot sailing catamaran.  Venture to “secret spots” to snorkel lush coral gardens.  Watch for tropical fish, turtles, dolphins, manta rays and whales (seasonal).  Delight in tropical fruit platters, pastries, a deli-style lunch and an exotic cocktail from the full bar.  Enjoy the cool island breezes from the shaded cabin or suspended over the ocean in a trampoline net on the morning, afternoon and sunset adventures.

Ever dreamed of swimming with free dolphins in their natural habitat?  Or swimming with manta rays at night?  Manta rays have a wing span of up to 16 feet in length. They feed primarily on plankton which is attracted to light. Snorkeling at sunset or in moonlight with mantas is unlike any other snorkeling experience. The difference between a snorkeling and diving tour to see mantas is that on a snorkeling tour you will stay near the water surface, probably holding on to a flotation device that also has lights attached to it to attract plankton and thus the manta rays. If you go on a diving tour, you would be sitting on the ocean floor and see the manta rays looking up.

Manta village located off the coast from of the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort & Spa in Keauhou, about 7 miles south of Kona, offshore of the Kona International Airport, and near Waikoloa village and Kawaihae harbor are the best manta snorkeling and diving locations. 

Luaus

A Luau is a traditional Hawaiian party including food and a Polynesian show with music, dance and stories. The history of the Luau traces back to the year 1819 when King Kamehameha II removed the religious law mandating that men and women ate their meals separately. Soon afterwards the king performed the symbolic act of eating together with women, thus holding the first Luau.

The Big Island has many choices of Luaus. Each location has its own very special scenery, entertainment and dining experience that combine the lighting of torches, blowing conch shells, and Polynesian dances. One of the most unique combinations of experiences is a submarine journey to view coral reefs followed by a luau. Choices of Luaus on the Big Island include: The Island Breeze Luau at the Marriott King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel; The Royal Kona Luau at the Royal Kona Resort; and the Sunset Luau at the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa.

Sightseeing Tours

Hilo was virtually destroyed by a tsunami in 1946. The Pacific Tsunami Museum covers Hilo’s history and the nature of tsunamis in detail through exhibits, photography and artifacts. Just 8.5 miles north of Hilo, visit Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden on the Hamakua Coast, more than 2000 species of tropical plants in a beautiful 40-acre garden with waterfalls overlooking Onomea Bay.

All day tours from Hilo to Volcano National Park have included stops at Rainbow Falls, Kilauea Iki and the Kealakomo Overlooks along scenic Chain of Craters Road,  and then through lush Puna and its black sand beach to the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Factory, the famous Big Island Candies, and the Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo & Gardens on the outskirts of historic Hilo. The Lyman Museum in Hilo is where you can learn all about Hawaiian geology, plant and animal life and contains an exceptional collection of historic artifacts.

The Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens in Hilo features over 2,000 species of tropical plants all inside a 40-acre valley. Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo & Botanical Gardens includes over 100 types of palm and many varieties of vireya (tropical rhododendron), bamboo, orchids, and bromeliads. There also is a small native forest of trees and plants and an agro-forest of edible varieties. The Nani Mau gardens cover 20 acres and include an anthurium grove, a Japanese-style bell tower, a botanical museum, a butterfly house, a European garden, a fruit orchard, a ginger garden, a hibiscus garden, Japanese gardens, an orchid display, palms and coconut trees, and a water garden.

Some short (two-hour) tours start in Botanical World Gardens north of Hilo and combine zipline, Segway and tours of the Hamakua Coast. The World Botanical Gardens are commercial botanical gardens with a 100 ft on-property waterfall, the Kama?e?e Falls. The gardens are situated on 300 acres of former sugarcane fields on the Big Island and are home to a 10-acres maze and many specialized garden areas.

Near Waimea town, the Parker Ranch Visitor Center houses the Parker Ranch Museum which displays items that have been used throughout six generations of Parker family history. The paniolo (cowboy) tradition in North Kohala began here in 1809 when John Parker, a 19-year-old New England sailor, jumped ship and rounded up wild cows for King Kamehameha. Two historic homes are on the ranch include the 8,000-square-foot Victorian home, Puuopelu, with a fine art gallery, and Mana Hale, a New England saltbox built from koa wood over 140 years ago.

From the Waimea-Parker Ranch tours head on scenic Kohala Mountain Road (250) to Hawi and then on to the Pololu Valley Lookout. Hapuna Beach off Hwy 19, Pauko/Malama Petroglyph Trail of ancient Hawaiian lava carvings, back on Hwy. 19 to Mauna Lani Bay Hotel for a stroll, the fishpond at ‘Anaeho’omalu Beach and on to Kailua-Kona, Kamakahonu Beach where the Ironman Triathlon starts every year, and the museum in the Hulihe’e Palace along Ali’i Drive.

The Big Island can be seen in an all-day Grand Circle Tour covering 260 miles or in various sections that include Kailua-Kona town, coffee plantations, Kealakekua Bay overlook, Punalu'u Black Sand Beach, VolcanoesNational Park, Hilo and surroundings, the Hamakua Coast toWaipioValley, Waimea and the Parker Ranch, and the Kohala Coast. It’s important to know the distances between sightseeing destinations. The drive from Kona to Hilo takes about 3 hours. Hilo to Volcano is about a 45 minute drive.

South Kohala Coast sightseeing extends from Kailua-Kona to Mauna Kea Beach and the beaches and resorts along the way, perhaps all the way up North Kohala to Hawi and Kap’au and the end of the highway at Polulu Valley Lookout, returning via the Kohala Mountain Road and Waimea and then back via the Mamalahoa Highway is a very full-day trip. Other  tours cover Kailua-Kona south to Kealakekua Bay and Place of Refuge (Pu’uhonua o Hanaunau, then the Painted Church and the Paleaku Peace Gardens provide very special experiences, unique to Hawaii (including the snorkeling at the Captain Cook Monument). Some tours of only one destination, like one to the 13,800ft. summit of Maua Kea, are all-day trips because they leave from Kailua-Kona and require a long drive to the mountain and back.

Air Tours (fixed wing airplanes)

Big Island terrain -- remote lush valleys, hidden waterfalls, and five volcanoes at different stages of life and death -- is largely inaccessible by land vehicle or even on foot. It is perfect for small craft planes in expert hands making eco-friendly tours that offer countless photo ops. Knowledgeable pilots share their wealth of cultural lore, geography, and historical facts while flying from Kona Airport over the waterfall-laced Hamakua Coast, the west shore’s pristine white-sand beaches, over the north coast jungles and dramatic sea cliffs of Kohala.

ATV

Easy to operate, ATVs are one of the best ways to see coastal scenery, waterfalls, a ranch or the vicinity (not really the rim) of Waipi’o Valley and its black sand beach, the tallest single-drop waterfall in the state, Hiilawe Falls, a lava tube, and much more. Ride along the beautiful Kohala coastline, cruise through a 220-acre ranch on a variety of terrains, and elsewhere on the Big Island.

Horseback Riding

Depending on the kind of type of riding and terrain that you’re looking for, the Big Island provides excellent choices of rides in and on the upper edge of Waipi’o Valley and on working ranches. Rides provide spectacular panoramic views of mountains and coastlines and lush pastures dotted with grazing sheep and cattle. Canter, trot or walk, there also are nose-to-tail walking rides.

Rides ranging from 1½ to 4 hours are safe, fun, and full of Aloha spirit, cover miles of beautiful ranch lands and no riding experience is necessary. First-timers are as welcome as experienced horsemen. Experience an unforgettable open range ride on a 12,000-acre working cattle and sheep ranch in North Kohala that stretches from rain forest to the ocean. Ride on another 8,500-acre ranch located on the western slope of the Kohala Mountains, 3000 feet above sea level, that provides a marvelous variety of landscapes.

Experienced guides from will take you on an unforgettable horseback journey in Waipi’o Valley on jungle trails, across fresh water streams, past taro fields and magnificent waterfalls, revealing incredible vistas.

From rides in either North Kohala or Waipi’o Valley, head for Waimea and the Parker Ranch Visitor Center that houses the Parker Ranch Museum which displays items that have been used through six generations of Parker family history. The paniolo (cowboy) tradition in North Kohala began here in 1809 when John Parker, a 19-year-old New England sailor, jumped ship and rounded up wild cows for King Kamehameha.

Dinner Cruises

A memorable 3-hour dinner cruise begins at the Kailua Pier for a 12-mile journey down the Kona coastline to the Captain Cook Monument, home of spinner dolphins, turtles, and manta rays. In addition to the Ahu’ena Heiau, located on a small artificial island across fromKamakahonuBeach and King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel in Kailua. The Ahu'ena Heiau was built by King Kamehameha I (1812) to honor Lono, the god of fertility and served as the king's refuge and home for the last years of his life. In addition to providing ambience and relaxation, the dinner cruise provides explanations of coastal history and geography.

Fishing

Kona is famous for its big game fishing. Its waters drop to great depths quickly and, thanks to freshwater springs, the harbor is flushed clean every day. Fish are plentiful year-round but most numerous in the summer. Striped and blue marlin are most talked about but the waters teeming with fish include speedy ono (wahoo), mahi mahi (dorado), ahi (yellowfin tuna), and spearfish. Most boats leave from Honokohau Harbor just north of Kona and troll nonstop for a half-day or full-day. The size of boats range from 25-60 feet.

In addition, for people who just want to take their tackle box to places where fish are abundant, the Big Island also offers Keahou Harbor (full of eels, angelfish, manini, yellow tang, and more), Anaeho’omalu Bay near Waikoloa (barracuda, mahi mahi, and triggerfish), Spencer Beach Park, and Kona's old airport.

Hiking

The Big Island has an abundance of very diverse hiking possibilities. Many of the best one have been in and around Volcanoes National Parkbut you’ll have to check on the current conditions at Devastation Trail, Pu’u Loa Petroglyph Trail, Thurston Lava Tube, Kilauea Iki, Napau Crater Trail, Crater and Rim Trail.

The Kohala, Hawi and Hilo areas have wonderful hiking trails and nature areas that are easily accessible on hiking tours and also by tours that combine helicopter flights, hiking and perhaps even a swim under a waterfall. The Hilo area and northward is a favorite for hikes and touring that combine tropical vegetation, waterfalls, coastal scenery, and historic landmarks.

The other best hikes on the BigIsland include: PololuValley in North Kohala, Kiholo Bay, beach hiking at Makalawena Beach, around KeakakekuaBay, WaimanuValley, KalopaState Park, the Puna Trail to Ha’ena Beach, and the hike to Papakolea Green Sand Beach. Some hiking trails, like Makahi Trail, up Hualalai through cloud forest, don’t show up on maps. Some “hikes” only take about ten minutes to get to an idyllic waterfall, like Wai’ale Falls, or 20 minutes to get to a dip in a beautiful tidepool, Leleiwi, both of which are near Hilo.




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