Big Island Adventures: Our Epic Four Day Vacation
From lava adventures, climbing waterfalls, and relaxing at a coffee farm, our four day trip to Big Island was a non-stop fun!
Day 1: Waterfalls. Rock Climbing. Fish & Chips
After arriving at Hilo Airport, we quickly picked up our 4×4 and headed into Hilo Town for a highly recommended lunch at Jackie Reys.The food was AH-mazing! Best Fish & Chips. Ever.
Jackie Rey’s Hilo
After lunch, we set out for a long drive to our hotel in Waikoloa. Since we needed to venture from one side of the island to the other, we opted to explore the sights along the way.
Our first stop…
Waipio Vally is quite a sight to see. If you have a 4×4 vehicle, you’re able to drive down to the black sand beach there or, you can hike down the three-mile trek.
After Waipio valley, we ventured a short trip over to Rainbow Falls where along the way, we met some farm friends…
How cute are they?! This little goat was so playful! I totally wanted a pet goat after meeting this guy…lol.
Rainbow falls was a blast! We climbed rocks, took video at the falls, and soaked in the incredible beauty of it all. Another short drive away is Boiling Pots. Once we arrived, we settled in for a delightful picnic in the park…
Lunch at Boiling Pots was such a treat! The falls here are much smaller than Akaka and Rainbow, but the park was uncrowded and perfect for a quiet picnic.
Next stop was Akaka Falls. I might have cried a little when I saw this. It was truly marvelous….
After a very long day of chansin’ waterfalls, we finally arrived at our hotel, grabbed some groceries, and on the way back, we got to witness this beautiful sunset…
Day 2: Mauna Kea
While planning your trip to Mauna Kea, you may consider enjoying a relaxing morning before making your descent to the top. Sunset hour is the best time to go, however, the temperatures get crazy low as the sun goes down so be sure to gear up and don’t forget phone/camera chargers! The perfectly warm climate of Hawaii does not exist atop Mauna Kea so be prepared with gloves, jacket, hat, and layers. Seriously, the wind chill is killer.
*Tip: Along with winter gear, you will also need a 4×4 vehicle. If you don’t plan to rent a 4×4, you can always take a tour up to the top. We highly recommend the Mauna Kea Volcano Tour.
Our trek up the mountain, from bottom to top and top to bottom took about two hours, but we stayed on the mountain for another two hours watching the sunset before making our way back down to the visitor center.
After we came down the mountain, we stopped at the visitor center for spicy cup-ramen and astronaut ice cream while learning about the galaxies. It was a pretty unique experience…
Here are some captures from our journey to the top:
-Driving up the lava-covered mountain
-Our Red-Dragon Wagon
-The perfect example of appropriate Mauna Kea attire (and don’t you love her shaka?)
-Snow is showing (even in April)
-Catching the Vanilla Sky
-Love is in the clouds
-Firey, Pele Sunset
-Sharing the view with Facebook friends
-Shaka-cicles (at this hour, our little pinkies were frosted from our lack of gloves)
-Sundown on the mountaintop
Day 3: Lava Lava
On day three, we took a little lava tour with Kapohokine Adventures Volcano Tour to catch the essence of Pele (aka, lava from Kilauea). We were picked up in downtown Hilo and taken all over the volcano territory. We ventured out to the edge of Mount Kilauea to see the volcano in action, took a journey inside Thurston lava tubes, visited one of Big Island’s newest black sand beaches, and finally, ended the tour with a delicious dinner at Volcano Winery. Our tour guide, Eric, was incredibly knowledgeable and gave us a thorough history lesson with a dash of entertainment.
Here are some pics from the tour:
–Living on Lava: It was really interesting seeing people live on top of Zone One properties, or properties that have been covered by lava and will likely be again.
-The toxic, volcanic steam comes up from the water where Kilauea erupts off in the distance
-Life in Lava
Thurston Lava Tube
-Thurston Lava Tubes: Lave tubes are created from hardening tops of the lava flow. After so many years, you can venture through the tubes. It’s not the safest activity, but it’s really fascinating to walk where lava once flowed
-How can you resist the light play in a lava tube? That’s me with my canon having too much fun!
Black Sand Beach
-One of Big Island’s newest black-sand beaches, Kaimu Bay, formed when lava covered shoreside in the early 1990’s
-Pele’s Breath (lava steams beneath the earth)
-Wine Tasting at Volcano Winery
-Volcano Wine Vineyards
-A little ambiance on the gloomy, Volcano day
-Dinner at the Winery
-Photographers at the Jaggar Muesum, where at night you can see the red glow of Mt. Kilauea and learn the history of the volcano
Day 4: Kona Town & Coffee Farm
The last day of the trip, we spent the morning scouting out Kona town before visited the lovely Aniko at Anikona Coffee Farm .
The lava rock beaches in Kona were really neat to see, especially considering people surf off of these dangerously pores and sharp, rocky shores.
The trip to the Anikona farm was incredible! We learned so much about the coffee growing process, ate lots of delicious food, and shared interesting stories. It was definitely one of my favorite parts of the trip!
Here are some photos from our Kona adventures:
-Driving from Waikoloa to Kona, we passed this adorable church on the hill
-Wes, Sam, & Bryan at a very long stoplight
-Kona Town Surf Spot
-In the garden, we found a Jackson Chameleon
Day 5: Aloha Big Island!
*Tip: if you’re flying out of Hilo, there’s no need to arrive more than an hour in advance…
Unless you’re like us and enjoy hanging out for an hour or two before your flight. This airport is incredibly charming, the terminal being about 1/4 the size of Oahu’s airport. Therefore, there aren’t too many people boarding with you.
All that to say, you’ll likely be safe to arrive a little later than usual if you are flying out of Hilo. So sleep in if you have a morning flight!
Takeaway #1: Big Island is BIG! You need a comfortable vehicle for roaming
Coming from tiny Oahu (about 600 sm), Big Island is about 6x the size! When you hit the road for adventure, be prepared with water, chargers, extra batteries, snacks, and keep your gas tank full. If you’re heading to Mauna Kea, consider packing or renting snow gear (again, the wind chill and cold temps there are no joke).
*Tip: For transport, we definitely recommend renting a comfortable, 4-door, 4×4. With all the stops you’ll be making and rocky roads you’ll travel, we highly recommend considering these elements when selecting your vehicle.
We had a ton of fun with our 90’s Wrangler but next time, I think we’ll take our own advice.
Takeaway #2: Hawaiian heritage is incredibly important to Big Island folk
When visiting Big Island, it’s key to be respectful of Hawaiian culture. The island considers every resource on Big Island to be the essence of Tutu (grandma) Pele. In ancient Hawaiian culture, Pele is the goddess of fire, lightning, dance, wind, volcanoes and violence. The volcano Kilauea is believed to be the life-force of Pele.
*Tip: Taking home sand, rock, or any element from the island is totally off limits. Apparently, sickness awaits those who attempt to remove “souvenirs.” We highly advise respecting the island and looking with your eyes only…with Aloha.
Big Island Packing List
What to Pack for Visiting Big Island:
- Car Charger
- Close-toed Shoes (Toms or Sneakers)
- Non-Drowsy Claritin (if you have vog allergies)
*Keep all of your jewelry and fancy clothes at home. Two reasons: one, Hawaii is not a place to wear flashy anything and two, you’ll be really active and likely to loose something. As for cameras- bring them along! The risk of damage is worth it in this case.
What to Pack When Visiting Mauna Kea:
- Thick Jacket
- Warm Pants
Any questions on traveling to Big Island? Comment below!
With Joy & Aloha,