OK, it took me forever to get this first post up about our trip to Hawaii. I’m not sure why. Life? Laziness? Longing to go back?
Anyway, we did a lot while we were on the Big Island but, rather than just give you a rundown of everything we did and whether we’d do it again if we had it to do all over again, I thought I’d put together a list of the favorite things that we did. These aren’t in any particular order.
1. Mauna Kea Beach. It seems that some seem to think that Hapuna Beach is the better (best!) beach on the island. We went to both and, while they were both spectacular and perfect with amazing turquoise water and white sand, we actually preferred Mauna Kea Beach to Hapuna Beach. In this photo (pardon the reflection of my pants), Hapuna Beach is the beach off to the left and Mauna Kea is the beach off to the right.
Mauna Kea is a bit smaller and more intimate. It was also significantly less crowded, which almost certainly has something to do with the fact that they only have approximately 40 parking spots for the public. This makes getting in a bit of a challenge because the parking lot fills up early and stays full. We lucked out on our first attempt and just happened to find a parking spot, but came up empty-handed on our second try later in the week. Rumor is that you can also park at Hapuna Beach and walk from there to Mauna Kea. We understand that it is about a 1-mile walk.
The snorkeling at Mauna Kea was pretty good. There’s a little cove off to the left that’s full of fish.
2. Blue Hawaiian Helicopter Tour. When I went to Kaui when I was a kid, we took a helicopter tour. Even though I was only 7 years old, every minute of that amazing tour is emblazoned in my memory. I wanted my kids and my husband to have a similar experience, so I booked us a tour of the Kohala Coast on Blue Hawaiian Helicopter Tours.
The truth is that these tours are expensive. So expensive that you are going to be tempted to not do it. But, believe me when I say that it is worth every penny. You get to see things that you can only see from a helicopter. And the things that you will see will blow your mind. It was the highlight of everyone’s trip. Seriously.
Our ride was about an hour. And I think that was the right length of time with our kids at 4 and 7. Much longer and I think the awe of it all would have worn off and they would have been ready to be back on the ground. Just my two cents.
Here are a few (or, well, more than a few) of the shots I took from the helicopter. I was an idiot and wore light-colored pants, so you’ll see my pants in most of the shots. They told us to wear dark colors, but I failed to follow the rules. Not intentionally. I just forgot. Helicopter tour fail. Regardless, you get the gist of how awesome it was.
3. South Point. This is the southernmost point in the United States. It’s along the road down to Volcano National Park from Kona, and is well worth the 10-12 mile drive off the main road to check it out. Make sure you go all the way out to the point (where the disgusting toilets are) and not just to the windmills. It’s a pretty spectacular view.
We didn’t know before we got there, but you can jump off the cliff into the water from the boat cranes. We wish we had brought bathing suits, and seriously contemplated doing it in our clothes and just suffering in wet clothes for the rest of the day. It’s not for the faint of heart, for sure. The folks we saw did it said the hardest part was using the very rickety ladder on the cliff to get back up.
4. Devil’s Throat. We had a great time at Volcano National Park, and saw a lot of neat things. However, the coolest thing we saw wasn’t even marked on the Park map. It was mentioned in my tour book, the Big Island Revealed (best tour book ever, by the way) and we decided to check it out. You have to find a small unmarked trail, and then walk in a few minutes. You come upon this monstrous, deep hole in the ground – without any railings or protection – so you can get right up close and see it firsthand. It was scary, for sure, and I was completely paranoid that one of the kids was going to fall in. But it was amazing and spectacular and awe-inspiring. I left my camera in the car, so I don’t have any photos of it, but I took this photo from the US Geological Society that gives you a sense of it from above and this photo that gives you a sense of what it looks like when you are right up next to it.
5. Laupahoehoe Point. As we were driving around one day, we saw a sign for Laupahoehoe Point. We didn’t really know what it was but we decided to take the road down and check it out. And we’re so glad we did. It was this amazingly beautiful little area with impressive rocks and cliffs and insanely blue water. We ended up staying there for a couple of hours and taking a million photographs and watching the waves crash. There weren’t many tourists down there, but a lot of locals just hanging out.
6. Honomu Town. On the way to Akaka Falls, there is a little town called Honomu. We stopped there for lunch, and ended up spending an hour or so wondering through the shops and chatting with the people. We fell in love with the little town, which seemed quintessentially small-town Hawaii and sweet and not overrun by tourists. Everyone there was so nice, including a man who worked at the beauty shop and ran out to help our daughter when she fell down on the road and skinned her knee. We ended up stopping in Honomu again on our way out of Akaka Falls for a cup of coffee because we didn’t want to leave it behind. I don’t have any photos of it but trust me when I saw it’s worth a stop.